Monday, 17 June 2019

Expert replaced on Canadian safety standard review panel after conflict of interest claims

RSCThe panel of experts elected to review Canada’s safety standards for wireless signals have been forced to find a new lead researcher after the group’s Chair voluntarily stepped down due to conflict of interest allegations.

The Royal Society of Canada (RSC) announced a new Chair in September to lead the Expert Panel tasked with assessing whether Health Canada should update Safety Code 6 - the 2009 safety guidelines for human exposure to electromagnetic emissions from wireless devices, regulated by Industry Canada.
“A new chair, as well as two new members have been confirmed for the expert panel reviewing
Safety Code 6,” the RSC said in a statement.
“The new Chair of the Panel, effective immediately, is Dr. Paul Demers, Professor with the Dalla Lana School of Public Health at the University of Toronto and Clinical Professor
with the University of British Columbia.”
The RSC also replaced two researchers on the panel who were unable to continue with the project for personal family reasons and academic commitments.
In July, Professor Daniel Krewski from the University of Ottawa, resigned as Chair of the expert panel after it was reported that he failed to disclose a position he held as a contractor with the Canadian government.
Professor Krewski said he told the RSC he had consulted for the Canadian government, but did not disclose a specific $126,000 contract from Industry Canada between 2008–2009 to provide “advice in how to communicate” the risks associated with mobile phone antennas.
“Effective July 5, 2013, Professor Daniel Krewski has voluntarily stepped down from the Expert Panel,” the RSC said in a statement.
The Society had earlier thrown its support behind its eight panel members from Canada, the United States, the United Kingdom and the Netherlands after the Canadian Medical Association Journal (CMAJ) and activist group Canadians For Safer Technology first reported the potential for a conflict of interest in June.
The CMAJ has also raised concerns about another panel member’s “close industry ties”.
“These suggested conflicts of interest were largely known to the Society’s Scientific Advisory
Committee for Expert Panels when it made its recommendations about panel membership,” the RSC said in response to the claims.
“It is almost inevitable that experts in a field will have expressed conclusions based on existing evidence.”
“But these views are not immutable. Scientists are accustomed to assessing new evidence and changing their conclusions as required by an objective review of all the available evidence.”
“We are confident that the existing panel, working with a wide variety of inputs and benefitting from comments made by the peer reviewers of its report, will make a balanced and fair assessment of SC6 and make sensible recommendations for changes wherever it feels these are needed.”
According to a public tender document, Krewski’s contract with Industry Canada was to “assist in addressing what the Department believes is opposition often based on misperception and misinformation” about the inadequacy of safety standards for protecting the public from exposures from mobile phone towers.
“The aim was not to reinforce Industry Canada’s positions, but to help it communicate complex scientific issues,” Professor Krewski said.
The RSC convened its Expert Panel for the Review of Safety Code 6: Potential Health Risks of Radiofrequency Fields from Wireless Telecommunications Devices, in March at the request of Health Canada, which provided $100,000 in funding for the review.
 Published 6 November 2013

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