Canadians will change cell phone habits to avoid cancer risk

Canadians aren’t all that concerned about the risk of cancer posed by cell phone use, but the vast majority of them are willing to change their behaviours to reduce the risk of ill effects, according to a poll.

For a long time, people have speculated over the possibility of adverse health risks from cell phone use. Since cell phones emit radio-frequency (RF) electromagnetic fields and are held directly against the head, many are concerned about the long term effects of use. Still a relatively recent phenomenon, cell phone usage has seen rampant growth to the point where an estimated 5 billion mobile phone subscriptions are now active around the world.

Brian Jackson, associate editor,

This rapid growth, paired with the lack of knowledge about the long term health effects, is the main cause for concern. Regulators have put in place standards to measure the specific absorption rate (SAR) of cell phones, measuring the amount of radiation absorbed by the human body. The North American standard is 1.6 watts per kilogram averaged over one gram of body tissue, and the European standard is 2 watts per kilogram averaged over 10 grams of body tissue.

Related Post: Magnetic fields have undeniable effect on the brain

Recently the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) tackled the question of just how much risk we’re taking when using cell phones. On May 31, it announced its conclusions to research conducted by 31 scientists from 14 countries working in Lyon, France. It rates RF fields as “possibly carcinogenic to humans” based on an increased risk of malignant brain cancer associated with wireless phone use.

To give a better sense of context, one study cited by the report of cell phone use up to 2004 showed a 40 per cent increased risk for gliomas for those using a cell phone an average of 30 minutes a day over a 10-year period. The same organization has given pesticides the same risk rating.

Given this news, Canadian’s aren’t fretting too much. In a poll conducted by Delvinia’s AskingCanadians for, half of Canadians were only “somewhat concerned” about the risk of cancer from cell phone use and one-third of Canadians were not concerned at all. Just 11 per cent of Canadians were “very concerned” and slightly less than six per cent were “extremely concerned.”

Pie graph showing Canadian concern for cell phone cancer risk
Courtesy of Delvinia's AskingCanadians.

This AskingCanadians™ poll of 1064 respondents was conducted for The data was collected from June 7th to June 9th. AskingCanadians™ is a full-service online data collection firm dedicated to helping market researchers gather high quality information from Canadian consumers.

Despite the apparent lack of concern, most Canadians would consider changing their cell phone use behaviour to lower the risk of ill effects from using a cell phone. The most popular method to reduce risk was to “use a cell phone less often” at 42 per cent. One third of Canadians would text instead of calling, and 29 per cent would wear a headset. One third of Canadians would also buy a cell phone with a lower SAR rating. Only 17 per cent responded they wouldn’t consider doing any of these.

bar graph showing how Canadians would reduce cancer risk from cell phone use
Courtesy of Delvinia's AskingCanadians.

While they are perhaps skeptical that there’s a real risk of cancer from using a cell phone, Canadians are taking a cautious and safe approach. That’s exactly what IARC director Christopher Wild recommends. “It is important that additional research be conducted into the long-term, heavy use of mobile phones. Pending the availability of such information, it is important to take pragmatic measures to reduce exposure such as hands-free devices or texting.”

The SAR rating of a cell phone can be found in its user manual, or online. The U.S. Federal Communications Commission has a directory linking to the ratings for many manufacturers. SAR Shield, a company that makes RF reducing cases for cell phones, also offers a chart showing SAR ratings for many phones.

Delvinia owns and manage the AskingCanadians™ online research community, and its French counterpart Qu’en pensez vousMC, which includes a panel of more than 160,000 demographically representative and profiled Canadians who have opted-in to participate in online surveys that significantly influence today’s leading brands. AskingCanadians™ and Qu’en pensez vousMC are built through incentive partnerships with Hbc Rewards and Aeroplan. The result is an average response rate that eclipses the industry. For more information, please visit


Brian Jackson
Brian Jackson
Editorial director of IT World Canada. Covering technology as it applies to business users. Multiple COPA award winner and now judge. Paddles a canoe as much as possible.

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