Radiofrequencies (RFs) are all around us. They are produced by telecommunication devices like radio and television broadcasting, cell phones, cell phone towers, and Wi-Fi. Some devices that you may not think of as telecommunication devices, like water meters, smart meters, baby monitors and garage door openers also emit RFs.
Unconfirmed health effects
Health Canada regularly reviews studies on the link between low level exposure to RFs and cancer and has not found research to suggest that RF levels emitted by cell phones cause health effects. Research studies have not found any cancer risks from use of cell phones for a short time (less than 10 years) but there are still questions about risks from heavy use of a phone for more than 10 years. In 2011, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) concluded that RFs, including those from cell phones, should be classified as "possibly carcinogenic".
Are children more likely to experience health effects from cell phone RFs than adults?
The existing evidence of RF exposure, absorption and impacts on children is very limited and does not clearly confirm that children are more susceptible. However, in light of the limitations of the research, we cannot rule out the possibility that children require greater protection from RF exposure.
What we know:
- Children are often more susceptible to environmental exposures than adults.
- Children have started to use cell phones at a younger age so their lifetime exposure is greater than past generations.
- Health Canada encourages parents to reduce their children's RF exposure from cell phones.
RF exposure from cell towers is very low.
- Every time you double your distance from a tower, your exposure to RFs decreases by a factor of four.
- Trees, buildings and other objects screen RF waves and decrease levels.
- Exposure inside a building is about ten times lower than outside.
Cell towers regulations and policies
- Industry Canada regulates and approves the location of cell phone towers and antennas that are 15m or higher.
- The City of Toronto Prudent Avoidance Policy for new telecommunications towers recommends that exposure to RFs for the general public be kept 100 times below Health Canada's guidelines (Safety Code 6) because of the uncertainty in the available research.
- Technical report (PDF) This policy only applies when Industry Canada requires that the cell phone provider consult with the City of Toronto.
RF exposure associated with the use of Wi-Fi is very low.
RF exposure associated with Wi-Fi use is not likely to lead to health effects in the general population, including children and seniors. There is no health reason to avoid the use of Wi-If.