Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Canadian Conflict-of-Interest Follies: Anything Goes Except Non-Disclosure

Canadian Conflict-of-Interest Follies:Anything Goes Except Non-Disclosure

Featuring Dan Krewski, the Royal Society and Health Canada

April 23, 2014
Last updated 
April 24, 2014

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?
The answer was to commission a review of SC6 by the Royal Society of Canada (RSC) —many call it the equivalent of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences— and to have a trusted colleague, Daniel Krewski of the University of Ottawa chair the panel. This was an encore performance for the RSC and for Krewski. Fifteen years earlier, Health Canada had asked the Society to evaluate a previous revision of SC6. Krewski had chaired that first RF panel which issued its report in 1999.1 The RSC was now asking Krewski to do it again.
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