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Students at York University make use of WiFi-enabled classrooms. (Fred Lum/Fred Lum/The Globe and Mail)
Students at York University make use of WiFi-enabled classrooms. (Fred Lum/Fred Lum/The Globe and Mail)

MPs to hear arguments on microwave exposure levels Add to ...

Cellphone towers, cordless telephones and the wireless networks that link home computers send out microwaves that pose myriad human health risks, say witnesses who will tell federal politicians Tuesday that existing exposure limits are too high.

Magda Havas, a professor of environmental and resource studies at Trent University in Peterborough, Ont., works with people she says are "electrically sensitive."

"When they are exposed to this microwave energy from an ordinary cordless phone, their heart goes crazy," said Dr. Havas, who will appear at a meeting of the Commons health committee. "They simply cannot survive in our normal urban environment any more. They either seclude themselves in their homes [where]they have special paint that they put on their walls and fabric for their windows to keep the radiation out," or they move to rural areas.

Microwaves have also been linked to cancer, an inability to control diabetes, sleeping disorders and a range of neurological ailments. Dr. Havas and others who fear the effects of electromagnetic energy want the allowable exposure levels reduced, and they want the government to publicize the dangers they perceive in the communication devices that exist in most Canadian homes.

But for every study that says the waves are dangerous, there is another that says they are perfectly safe.

Health Canada, which sets the guidelines for microwave exposure, says that as long as the recommended limits are respected, the department has no scientific reason to consider exposure to low-level radiofrequency fields, such as those from cell towers, dangerous to the public.

Bernard Lord, the former New Brunswick premier who is now the president of the Canadian Wireless Telecommunications Association, will also appear before the Commons Health committee on Tuesday.

"The wireless industry fully complies with the regulations that are in place," Mr. Lord said. "Not only do they fully comply, the members also believe that they are safe. We are all users of this technology. Not only do we use it on a day-to-day basis with our own wireless devices in our hands, but many of us have WiFi networks at home. And you have Internet cafés with WiFi waves. It's all around you. It's everywhere."

François Therrien, a spokesman for Save Our Children From Microwaves who will also appear before the committee, said the members of his group understand that cellphones are here to stay.

"But we want to make them safer," Mr. Therrien said. "We want warnings on cellphones and we want the cellphone companies to stop selling these products to children."

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