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Getting smart about smartphone’s risks at school

January 24th,2024 | Valley Voices

By Margreet van den Berg

In the Jan. 10 Low Down, Grade 10 student Autumn Valiquet [made] the case for allowing adolescents to learn how to responsibly and safely use a smartphone without a ban at school (“Getting smart without a smartphone ban at schools”). 

Valiquet finds that the “talk about bans is shining a negative light on phones,” which “are not necessarily good or bad.” Would Valiquet have made this claim about not good nor bad if our government, Health Canada and Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada (ISED) would have informed her about the risks of using mobile phones?

In 2015, the Standing Committee on Health in the House of Commons was asked to do a comprehensive study of Canada’s Safety Code 6 on human exposure to radiofrequency electromagnetic energy. This led to the committee’s report called, “Radiofrequency electromagnetic radiation and the health of Canadians”. Two of the report’s 12 recommendations relate to the school environment: number 8, “…to limit the exposure of vulnerable populations, including infants, and young children in the school environment,” and number 9, “That the Government of Canada develop an awareness campaign relating to the safe use of wireless technologies, such as cellphones and wi-fi, in key environments such as the school and home to ensure that Canadian families and children are reducing risks related to radio frequency exposure.” Neither recommendation has been followed up. So, is it any wonder Valiquet does not know about the risks of cellphone use?

Canada’s Safety Code 6 is based on the assumption that, if this type of radiation does not heat tissue it does not harm. However, research shows biological effects may manifest such as reproductive dysfunction, neurodevelopmental harm, neurodegeneration, DNA-damage, oxidative stress, immune dysfunction, changes in the brain, sleep and memory disturbances and (brain) tumours.

The [U.S.] Federal Communications Commission (FCC) holds on to the same outmoded scientific premise. In 2021, the federal court called the commission’s attitude “arbitrary and capricious” and ordered it to explain why it ignored scientific evidence showing harm from wireless radiation. The court also found the commission failed to address in particular the following issues: impacts of long-term wireless exposure, impacts to children, the testimony of people injured by wireless radiation, impacts to wildlife and the environment, and impacts to the developing brain and reproduction.

The plaintiffs are still waiting for the FCC to follow up. And so are Canadians. When will Valiquet, her fellow-students and their parents be adequately informed about the risk of cellphone use? As Valiquet argues, the internet is a great learning resource. Fortunately, the internet can be accessed in healthier, safer and faster ways: through corded connections. Information can be found here: www.techsafeschools.org/.   

Margreet van den Berg is a resident of Chelsea, QC

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