Canadian Conflict-of-Interest Follies: Anything Goes Except Non-Disclosure
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In 2011, Health Canada found itself in a tough spot. The public was becoming more and more uneasy over exposure to RF radiation from the proliferating number of cell phones, cell towers and Wi-Fi routers. After holding hearings in the spring and fall of 2010, Parliament asked the health agency to investigate whether its exposure limits —the national RF standard known asSafety Code 6 (SC6)— were too lenient and needed strengthening. Soon afterwards, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) added urgency to the assignment by classifying RF radiation as a possible human cancer agent, or, in the vernacular, a 2B carcinogen.
Health Canada’s dilemma was that it had no interest in tightening SC6. Yet IARC’s 2B designation could not be easily ignored, especially after France and Belgium, among other European countries, had responded by adopting precautionary policies. Last year, for instance, Belgium banned the sale of cell phones to children. How would Health Canada find a way to stick with the status quo?