The secret inside your cellphone (CBC Marketplace)

The secret inside your cellphone (CBC Marketplace)

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♪ ♪ >> Wendy Mesley: This is a special edition of marketplace. Most of us carry our phones next to our body. And why wouldn't we? Science, tests and the hidden message in your cell phone. >> I can't find it. >> Such information about health cannot become a fine print. >> Wendy: We test the top-selling brands. So the results are in? >> We got the results.
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>> Surprised? >> I don't think I'll carry it the same way I have been. >> Now I'm a little bit worried. >> Wendy: This is your marketplace. There's a secret inside our phones. >> Really? >> Wendy: Some would even call it a warning. >> Where would I be able to find it? >> Wendy: It's a message that cell phone makers are required to share, but most have never seen it and can't
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even find it when they try. >> Control centre. General. >> I can't find it. I'm going to be honest. >> That's how it looks? >> The message in my phone says, "To reduce exposure to RF energy "use a hands free option "such as speakerphone, "to carry the phone at least "five millimetres away "from your body, to ensure
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"exposure levels remain at or below the as-tested levels." ♪ ♪ >> So don't leave it in your pocket. >> I never hold my cell phone 1.5 centimetres from my body, ever. >> What does that mean? >> Exactly what that message means is what I'm trying to figure out. Why are we being told to keep our phones away from our body? I did my first story on
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cell phones almost 20 years ago. Is your study something that the cell phone industry was watching? >> Yes, of course. >> Wendy: There wasn't a lot of science back then. >> A thimble full of research is what we have now. >> Wendy: But suspicions were starting to grow that cell phone use had some health risks. >> When did you start to think this had something to do with a cellular phone? >> I think when I saw the first MRI and saw
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the location of the tumour. >> Wendy: Also growing was the suspicion that we're not being told the whole story. >> Industry can be really truly malignant. >> There are no adverse health effects in fields of this nature. >> The industry clearly is hands off. >> Shouldn't we know the answer by now? All these years later, I'm still asking the same questions-- are cell phones safe
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and are being told enough to make that decision for ourselves? There is a city in California that doesn't think we are. Berkley is a great example of the battle between the people who think that the public needs to know more about cell phones and the cell phone industry that thinks that people have been told enough. City council actually passed something called an ordinance
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ordering all of the phone stores in the city to put up a sign. >> Hi there. I'm good. How are you? >> Wendy: So when you walk in, you see the message that is inside your phone actually up on the counter. So they do have it here. And then they think that people will have more information. >> Hi there. >> Wendy: They might change their behaviour
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or they might choose not to change their behaviour. ♪ [dramatic] >> The city is in a new battle over what it can say about cell phones and your cancer risk. >> Wendy: Berkley has got the message out, but those signs have stirred up a lot of controversy. >> For now, this law is in effect. >> Wendy: The cell phone industry wants them to come down. >> Face off today between
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two very high-profile attorneys over the issue of cell phone radiation warnings. >> Wendy: On the cell phone industry's side, the same lawyer who fought for big tobacco. >> There are no link between cell phones and any known health problems. >> Wendy: They're arguing that the signs are alarmist. >> The total effect, Your Honour, is watch out. >> Wendy: But Berkley is standing their ground.
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>> All we've done is to make sure that consumers are aware of this basis. >> Wendy: The fight is expected to go all the way to the supreme court. >> We will let you know when he issues his ruling. >> Did you have any idea that this would lead to this? >> I did. You know, cities have been trying to educate consumers about the effect of RF radiation and safe use guidelines
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for years. >> Wendy: Mayor Jesse Arreguín is on the front lines in this battle over the right to know more. >> They say that that message is baseless. That you have no scientific proof that there's any safety concern. >> All we are asking that stores do is provide the same information that the federal government mandates and that's already supposed
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to be disclosed. >> There's less than 20 mobile stores here. Why is it such a big case for the wireless industry? >> I think the concern on the part of the telecommunications industry if we can do it in Berkley, then other cities will do it as well. >> You're going to stick with it? >> We're going to stick with it. >> Wendy: At the heart of the message the cell phone industry
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doesn't want displayed, information on how to make sure you are not exposed to radiation levels above the government safety limit. Whether it suggests carrying the phone at five, ten, or 15 millimetres away from the body depends on how it was tested. >> I would say these are the bestsellers out of all three brands. >> Wendy: So before
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leaving Berkley, I pick up a few phones to find out what that testing is about. >> Here you are. Thank you very much. >> Have you ever seen the testing before? >> All these stories about cell phones, I've never actually seen the testing. The lab we're going to is one of many that's hired to test and certify the phones before they are allowed out on the market.
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So they're going to show us how that testing works, but also we've asked them to do an extra test for us, because we want to see what happens, what results they get when they test the phone the way people actually use them, right up against the body. So the chief engineer at this lab, his name is Jay Moulton, and he's going to do the test for us today. So I've got three phones
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here for testing. >> Okay. >> From the top three manufacturers. And the big sellers are the Samsung Galaxy, the LG 5... >> Okay. >> and the iPhone 7. >> Okay. >> So this is it? >> This is it. >> Wendy: Moulton was part of an international committee
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that designed this testing standard. What are you going to start with? >> Well, we'll start with the head measurement. >> What is the wand actually looking for? >> It's looking for the highest amount of electric field coming into the tissue. >> This is supposed to represent what happens inside the brain? >> Yes. >> Wendy: Just like for the manufacturers, our phones
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will be tested at the highest power level possible. >> So it will be transmitting as if you were as far away from a base station as you can get and still make a call. >> My phone is trying extra hard. >> This is the worst case it can ever get to be for a cell phone. Put it into the holder. Move it up close to the head. And then I just, at this point I'm going to adjust so that the speaker
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is right at the edge of the ear. >> Wendy: That plastic ear is six millimetres thick and positions the phone at the distance it's assumed we hold it. And if you are thinking that head looks big, it's because it is. >> The head was designed based on a 1950s army study of all the army men and they came up with an average-sized head. >> This idea was devised
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before little kids starting using phones. >> Yes. >> Wendy: This one size fits all model is just one of the reasons critics say it's time for the testing to change. I'm in Washington, DC to see Devra Davis. She's a toxicologist, a senior epidemiologist. When I first met her about 10 years ago, she told me that the testing method
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doesn't at all take into effect the size of a child's brain. >> You see here this side showing you the brain of an adult. >> So this is where the cell phone would sit, and this is the radiation that's absorbed? >> Yes. >> This is the one we're most concerned about. This is the head of a five-year-old. >> She was a big part of the fight to get lead out of drinking water.
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She fought against tobacco. And now for-- actually, for many years now, she's been fighting to tell people that they should be concerned about cell phones. When I first interviewed you many years ago, you were persuaded there was a problem. You are still persuaded. >> Oh, more than ever unfortunately. >> Why? >> Well the science has progressed. Without any question. We have more experimental data
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on animals. Unfortunately, we have more data on people. >> How much more science is there now? >> I'd say it has doubled since I first really became aware and wrote about this in 2007. >> Wendy: Among the recent research, a $25 million study on rats by the US government, the largest they've ever done. The findings were
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released just last year. >> It was set up to answer the question whether or not there was any effect on health from low levels of radiation like those from cell phones. The scientists running the study thought it would find nothing. They were astonished when they showed this increase in highly malignant, aggressive tumours of the brain and the heart. >> Wendy: Astonished because
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some rats were exposed to radiation levels below the safety limit that cell phones have to meet. The findings were deemed so important, those heading it wasted no time letting the regulators know. Canada was looped in, too. But when we ask Health Canada about it, they say... Health Canada isn't the only one with questions. For many it comes down to this.
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If cell phones are a problem, where are all the brain tumours in humans? >> This is one of the worst tumours we have ever seen in a guy who said he lived on his phone. >> Wendy: In Edmonton, neuro-oncologist Dr Jay Easaw recently helped launch a brain tumour registry... >> It seems the tumour is growing. It's putting pressure on the skull.
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>> Wendy: ..to track what we're seeing in Canada. So you're looking for answers. >> 100 per cent. >> What are your suspicions? >> I believe that we're going to see more and more studies that show a correlation between cell phone use and the incidents of brain tumours. There's no question that we're seeing more young people coming into clinic
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with brain tumours, and the question is why. >> But your message is not reflected by Health Canada. >> Yeah. >> What do you think of that? >> [sighs] You know, I understand why because the data that are out there are so controversial. And in Health Canada's position, they have to look at the data and they have to come
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to a conclusion. And truthfully, the data are inconclusive. >> Why is there not more data? >> Do you know why? I'll tell you, even in our own clinic, we've tried to keep track of this. And when we ask a patient about their cell phone use, we're asking them to remember. And that's just not reliable. And that's why it's important
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to get the message out now. We need to at least get young people and adults to start thinking about their use. And doing things that potentially can help protect them. >> Have you ever done that test for anyone else? >> No I haven't. Because it's not a requirement, so the manufacturers don't do it very often. >> Wendy: New tech, old safety rules? This is your marketplace.
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>> Wendy: Science, tests, and your phone on your marketplace. Questions around cell phone safety have now spanned decades. As the science mounts on both sides, so do criticisms over how much we're being told. >> Such information about health cannot become a fine print. >> I do think that information should be made more available. ♪ ♪ >> Why the concern?
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>> It's constantly emitting microwave radiation. And that radiation, if it's right next to your body, gets into you. Whether it's your breast or your pants pocket. Reality is, every millimetre closer to the head or body you keep a phone, you can get more radiation. >> Wendy: So why does the government allow phones to be tested at a distance?
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>> Okay, so this is where we do the body measurements, is on the flat phantom. >> Wendy: And what will happen when we test them the way you actually wear them? So first, you're going to do it with the distance. >> Yeah. >> Wendy: Chief engineer Jay Moulton is helping us find out. >> First measurement, what I'll do is at, with a five millimetre gap, which this is a five millimetre distance.
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>> Because that's how they test it, with a five millimetre distance? >> This is how Apple did the original test. >> Wendy: Apple tests closer than many at five millimetres; LG does their testing at 10; Samsung tests this phone at 15. That's a full centimetre and a half away from the body. The maximum allowed. >> That seems like-- who wears their phone 15 millimetres away?
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>> It's big gap. >> Wendy: A gap that was designed in the day of holsters. >> When was the last time you saw somebody with a phone in there who wasn't under age 70? >> Why don't they test the way that people use it, like next to the body? >> I think if phones were tested the way people use them, none of them would pass. >> Wendy: Results from the first test, the way manufacturers do it,
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are in. All three phones come within the safety limit. >> Okay, so that's no surprise to you? >> That's no surprise. >> Wendy: Time to start our test-- the way most of us carry them. >> We'll roll this thing all the way up until it touches and has a zero gap. >> Wendy: have you ever done that test for anyone else? >> No, I haven't. Because it's not a requirement
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so the manufacturers don't do it very often. >> Wendy: Not required even though most people we talked to say this... >> Yes, I definitely would not carry it five millimetres from my body. I would have it very close to me. >> It's in my jean pocket over here or it's in my back pocket. >> Wendy: But what harm could that do? >> We have known now for more than 10 years that men
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who keep phones in their pocket have lowered sperm count, they have poorer sperm quality. >> Young women sometimes wear their phones in their bra. >> Correct. >> This is an MRI that was shared with us by our colleague Dr John West of a 21-year-old. These are tumours in her breast. The hot spot right here,
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right under where the phone was kept. >> But how do you know that could be caused by a cell phone? >> We don't know, but what we know is this-- it's extraordinary unusual for a young woman to have one breast cancer. To have two, three, or four and they all develop as separate tumours under the antenna
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of the phone, that's beyond coincidence. >> Wendy: A link between breast cancer and phones hasn't been proven, but for Davis, case reports like this are worrisome. >> We think this is enough of a concern that we're telling people, please be aware of this. >> Wendy: This is why she argues phones should be tested the way we wear them.
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So what happens when they are? So the tests are all done. >> Tests are all finished. >> And? >> The number exceeded the limit. It went up significantly with each one of the phones. >> Wendy: That's right. The phones exceeded the safety limit when they were moved right against the body. The radiation absorbed increased three to four times.
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Does that concern you? >> No. Primarily because this is a worst case test to where everything is at max power, maximum worst conditions. >> Wendy: We shared our results with all three manufacturers. LG told us they take the responsibility of producing safe products seriously and test according to the guidelines. Samsung says their phones
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meet or exceed all regulatory standards. As for Apple, they have no comment and refer us back to that message in our phones. Health Canada-- on track or behind the times? >> They don't want to investigate this. I think they are not -- they are looking for any excuse they can find to continue with the status quo. >> Wendy: The former head
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of Microsoft Canada speaks out. This is your marketplace. >> Wendy: This is your marketplace. Seven out of ten people say they carry their phones in their pocket or against their bodies. But when we tested three popular brands the way you wear them, all went over Canada's limits on radiation exposure. >> It's kind of scary. >> I don't think I'll carry it the same way I have been.
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>> Now I'm a little bit worried. >> Wendy: He may be worried, but Health Canada says it's not because their safety... They're saying that the testing is so safe that there is no way that we could be at harm. >> The system is out of date. It's testing something that's not relevant to how we use phones or to the ways that we know phones can affect our health. >> Just keep it 15 millimetres
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away from your body. >> Wendy: Canadian groups have been urging Health Canada to reassess those safety limits too since science now shows possible harm below the level that phones are tested for. >> We're stuck in this quagmire of believing this science that is decades old. >> Wendy: Frank Clegg is an engineer and the former president of Microsoft Canada;
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now, he heads a group advocating for safer use of technology. >> There are dozens and dozens of studies that we presented to Health Canada that show harm at levels below Canada's guidelines. >> Wendy: He thought they were making headway when a couple of years ago, the government agreed to review the issue. Over 200 studies were submitted by Clegg's group. Research on humans and animals
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suggesting potential harm, everything from behaviour changes to DNA damage and sperm abnormalities. All at radiation levels below what phones are tested for. Clegg was told many don't meet Health Canada's bar. He wants to know why. >> I think they are looking for any excuse they can find to continue with the status quo.
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>> Wendy: We asked repeatedly to speak with Health Minister Jane Philpott, but she declined our request for an interview. So we took our questions to cancer epidemiologist Paul Demers. >> The evidence that comes out, I believe, is still mixed. >> Wendy: Demers was asked to review the science on cell phones for Health Canada. >> So what is your
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bottom line then? Are-- the way that we use cell phones now, are we safe? >> I believe we are. The fact is we don't have, at least when I looked at the evidence last, we don't have the evidence to say that there are adverse health effects. There are other scientists that I respect who are more convinced. >> What do you do
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with your phone? >> I keep it in my pants pocket so it's handy. It hasn't concerned me to that level. >> Wendy: As for Health Canada's bottom line, they say... They add... >> So how do you explain that? >> Health Canada's track record is atrocious. How long did it take to figure out tobacco? So the fact that Health Canada is behind isn't news. The fact that they're not doing anything about it
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to me is unforgivable. >> Wendy: Clegg wants change, but for now says information should be out in the open so people can decide for themselves. >> I think there's an opportunity for Canada to be among the leaders in the world like Berkley, California, to get the manufacturers' warnings out to say, look, be careful how you use the technology, there is a safe way to use it and there's a potentially harmful way.
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>> When I first started covering this, manufacturers were saying there's no science showing any concern. Then it became there's no conclusive evidence. Now it seems, the totality of science doesn't-- the lingo is changing. >> Yeah, the lingo is changing but they can't make it all go away. We should not insist on proof
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that we have made people sick before taking steps to protect others. >> Wendy: While Health Canada says you shouldn't be concerned, they do provide tips in case you are. >> So do you feel like you're any closer to the answer? >> Well, it's been 20 years of asking two questions-- one, are cell phones safe? I still don't know the answer to that. And two, are people being
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given enough information to decide for themselves? And on that I think I've discovered, I think we've proven that people, most people have no idea that message is in their phone, a message the government requires. So I think it's kind of obvious that they could be more upfront with that information. So I'm going to keep pushing for more information and I'll report back in 20 years.
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>> Okay. Thank you. >> Asha: Join us for our season finale on April 7th. >> Team Asha versus... >> Team Charlsie. >> Let's do this. >> Asha: Charlsie and I are going head-to-head. Investigating the wedding industrial complex. >> The minute you say wedding, the money bells go off. ding-a-ling-a-ling! >> Everything is marketed to brides as like, you need this or your wedding will suck. >> Asha: But are you paying extra just because of one word? >> You'd be looking at $452. >> You're looking at $800.
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>> Wow. It's a wedding war you won't want to miss.

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