Radiofrequency Fields

Radiofrequency (RF) energy or fields are a part of everyday life. They are produced by sources such as radio and television broadcasting, mobile radiocommunication transmitting facilities, cell phones and radar.

The remarkable growth of RF technology over the last few years has raised public concerns about possible associations between RF energy and adverse health outcomes. Canada, in fact, was one of the first industrialized countries to recognize the need for RF exposure guidelines. Health Canada developed its first RF exposure limit guideline, known as Safety Code 6, in 1979. Since then, Safety Code 6 has been updated several times with the most recent revision in 2015. The exposure limits outlined in Safety Code 6 are set far below the lowest level of RF exposure that could produce potentially harmful effects in humans.

Safety Code 6 is referenced in regulations written under the Canada Labour Code and used as a standard by federal government departments, crown corporations, and other organizations. In addition, Canadian provinces and territories have generally adopted these exposure recommendations.

Safety Code 6 offers the best protection for Canadian workers and the general public for several reasons:

  • It is based on the weight of evidence, including most recent science, from hundreds of peer-reviewed RF studies;
  • It has been reviewed and recommended by independent third parties such as the Royal Society of Canada; and
  • Its limits, based on established biological effects, are among the most stringent in the world.

In Canada, broadcasting and telecommunications devices are regulated by Industry Canada. Industry Canada conducts compliance assessments on these devices to ensure that they operate in accordance with Health Canada's Safety Code 6. Industry Canada also requires operators of radiocommunication and broadcast facilities to follow Safety Code 6. For more information regarding standards and regulations for these devices, visit Industry Canada's "Official Publications on Spectrum Management and Telecommunications."

For additional information consult the following:

  • Safety of Cell Phones and Cell Phone Towers
    With the growing popularity of cell phones, concern has been raised about the safety of exposure to RF energy. This document addresses these concerns and outlines the respective responsibilities of Health Canada and Industry Canada for the safety of these devices.
  • Radiofrequency in Five Vancouver Schools: Exposure Standards not Exceeded
    This article presents the findings of a survey of RF energy in and around five schools, three of which had cell phone tower antennas on or near the school property. The measured levels were found to be millions of times below the exposure limits specified in Health Canada's Safety Code 6.
  • Potential Health Risks of Radiofrequency Fields from Wireless Telecommunications Devices, 1999
    At the request of Health Canada, the Royal Society of Canada appointed an Expert Panel to review the potential health risks associated with RF fields. The Panel's conclusion was as follows: "Because of the low field strengths associated with public exposure to RF fields from wireless telecommunications base station transmitters, neither biological nor adverse health effects are likely to occur."
  • Measurement Of Cellular Base-Station Emissions Using A Newly Developed RF Field Mapping System, 2003
    This document introduces an instrumentation system developed by Health Canada for measuring ground level RF emissions from cell base stations (cell phone towers). It also includes data representing exposure levels in an urban environment. Results show that worst-case exposure levels are typically thousands of times below the recommended exposure limits in Health Canada's Safety Code 6.
  • Electromagnetic Hypersensitivity
    This fact sheet includes a description of electromagnetic hypersensitivity (EHS) and whether or not reported symptoms are related to EMF exposure. It suggests possible factors contributing to these health problems, as well as possible treatment options for affected individuals. Current scientific findings in this area are also summarized.

For guidelines related to RF exposure:

To make an inquiry regarding RF exposure guidelines, contact Health Canada's Consumer and Clinical Radiation Protection Bureau.

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