April 2012 – GSMA Health & Environment Newsletter

GSMA Health & Environment Newsletter


April 2012
Welcome to the GSMA Health & Environment Newsletter. This e-newsletter provides regular updates on developments on science and policy issues and GSMA activities related to mobile communications health and environmental issues.

We welcome feedback on the content.

Editorial – Calls to ban mobile phone masts near schools unnecessary

Calls for mobile phone masts to be banned from within a mile of schools and nurseries in the UK to protect children’s health, are unnecessary because the concept of buffer zones around base stations is fundamentally flawed says Dr Jack Rowley.

Calls to ban mobile phone masts next to schools and nurseries to reduce exposure to children are unnecessary and they misunderstand how mobile phone networks operate.

Recently Neurophysiologist Dr Keith Baxendale told the Daily Mail that mobile phone masts should be banned from within a mile of all schools, nurseries and residential areas to protect children’s health.

However, masts create exposures in public areas that are only 0.002-2% of the exposure limit in international safety guidelines because masts are low power with output dependent on the number of calls they are handling.

Dr Baxendale’s call for one mile buffer zones around homes or schools is based on the mistaken belief that the further a base station is away from people the less they would be exposed to the radio wave emissions it uses to communicate.

The UK Health Protection Agency concluded in 2004:

“The measurements also demonstrate that there is no scientific basis for establishing minimal distances between base stations and areas of public occupancy, as has been suggested in some countries. There are many sources of exposure to RF fields, and it would in practice have little impact on people’s overall exposure.”

If a mast was placed further from a school the facility (and phones used in the school) may in fact need to operate at a higher power level to operate effectively and this could result in higher exposures at the school.

In most cases the best location to mast in order to minimise exposure is closest to where those services are required including schools and residential areas.

There are also claims that some countries, such as Australia, have adopted buffer zones as a precaution, but this is incorrect. Australia does not have a buffer zone policy, although operators take into account sites the public might be sensitive about, such as schools, when deciding where to place masts as part of their voluntary code of conduct.

Dr Baxendale says he wants buffer zones as an added precaution for any health problems that might be discovered in ten or 20 years’ time, but international safety guidelines have been developed using conservative assumptions and already include large safety factors as a precaution to address any scientific uncertainties.

Therefore, the most consistent precautionary approach is to allow operators to build base stations in the most effective locations for network coverage.

In addition to the selection and design of sites and to minimise exposure, the mobiles industry also supports health research, provides up-to-date information to consumers and the general public, and ensures that base station are deployed with an effective consultation program – which are all additional precautionary actions.

Dr Jack Rowley
Director of Research and Sustainability for the GSMA

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Final report on largest brain cancer study reconfirms no link with mobiles

The largest ever study on mobile phones’ possible link with brain cancer is complete says the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) and a final report on the 19.2-million Euro study has now been published.

The major results of the ten-year study across 13 nations involving nearly 6000 participants with the most common types of brain cancer – glioma and meningioma – were first published in May 2010 and found no overall evidence mobile phone use is associated with an increased risk of brain cancers.

IARC have now set up a separate webpage for the INTERPHONE study and announced the final report has been submitted to the Union for International Cancer Control (UICC) who independently co-ordinated the project.

The final report clarified the overall conclusion of the study which continues to get misinterpreted in the media as finding a solid link with long-term mobile phone use and brain tumours.

“Overall, no increase in risk of glioma or meningioma was observed with use of mobile phones,” the final report concluded.

The report also explained that some of the data indicating a link was disregarded by the study authors, because it was biased.

“There were suggestions of an increased risk of glioma at the highest exposure levels, but biases and error prevent a causal interpretation. The possible effects of long-term heavy use of mobile phones require further investigation,” the final report concluded.

However, only recently the medical reporter from the Telegraph in the UK reported that:

“A small number of individual studies have found evidence of a link between heavy mobile phone use and increased brain tumour incidence. Two years ago the INTERPHONE study reported that the heaviest users could be at a 40 per cent increased risk of developing glioma, a common type of brain cancer.”

While the researchers expressed uncertainty about the possible effects of long-term heavy use in the press release announcing the initial results they also asked that “rather than focus on the most extreme values, the interpretation should rest on the overall balance of evidence.”

The final report also confirmed the less publicised results of another part of the INTERPHONE study on acoustic neuroma – a rare benign tumour of the ear nerve – possibly linked with mobiles use because of its proximity to the phone’s emissions when making a call.

“There was no increase in risk of acoustic neuroma with ever regular use of a mobile phone or for users who began regular use 10 years or more before the reference date,” the final report concluded.

Similarly the final report also explains the possible biases in some parts of the results.

“Elevated odds ratios observed at the highest level of cumulative call time could be due to chance, reporting bias or a causal effect. As acoustic neuroma is usually a slowly growing tumour, the interval between introduction of mobile phones and occurrence of the tumour might have been too short to observe an effect, if there is one.”

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‘No brain tumour risk for kids using mobiles’ study was wrong say critics

Scientists from the Environmental Health Trust have called into question the conclusions of a study published last year that found no evidence mobile phone use increased the brain cancer risk of children and teens in Northern Europe.

The scientists, including vocal mobile phone opponent Dr Devra Davis, claim the CEFALO study’s data actually showed that mobile phone use more than doubles the risk of brain tumours in children and begins growing sooner than in adults.

They claim the CEFALO researcher’s, led by Denis Aydin, also failed to include the most common form of brain tumour – pilocytic astrocytoma in their research and that their conclusions were influenced by industry funding.

“Aydin et al. contradict their widely publicized conclusion that there is no relationship between cell phone use and brain tumors,” a letter from EHT scientists Lloyd Morgan, Ronald Herberman, Alasdair Philips and Devra Davis in the Journal of The National Cancer Institute said.

“They conclude that there is ‘The absence of an exposure-response relationship… in terms of the amount of mobile phone use.’ Yet they also report an increased brain tumor risk.”

“Overall, the findings of Aydin et al. are supportive of a positive relationship between cell phone use in children and increased risk for brain tumors with shorter latency than those that have generally been found for adults.”

In response to the criticism the CEFALO researchers said that although a small subset of the data showed a doubling of brain tumour risk, the results were implausible when compared with overall cancer rates in Nordic countries.

“This twofold increased risk after approximately 3 years of regular mobile phone use is inconsistent with observed brain tumor incidence rate trends in the Nordic Countries,” the CEFALO researchers said.

“Assuming a short latency of a few years, increased brain tumor risks should be detectable in the incidence data that are already available because of the steep increase in wireless phone use among adolescents during the last two decades.”

The researchers also said that pilocytic astrocytoma tumours were included in the study “as clearly stated in the Methods” and that all potential conflicts of interest were declared.

“No cell phone company was involved in this study nor provided any funding,” the CEFALO researchers said.

In response to further criticism of the study’s data by Samuel Milham the CEFALO researchers highlighted the importance of looking at the study as a whole rather than using specific segments of the data out of context.

“One needs to carefully interpret the study results by focusing on the pattern of the risk estimates instead of highlighting single findings out of context,” the CEFALO researchers said.

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Strict emission limits in Belgium aimed at mobiles could stop digital radio

New regulations in Belgium which lower public exposure limits to the radio frequency emissions from mobile phone base stations by 200 times could also stop digital audio broadcasting (DAB) in the country.

A study conducted for Brussels Institute of Environmental Management, has found the regulations cover “pulsed” radio waves and therefore include digital radio services, not just mobile phone base stations.

The arbitrarily stricter regulations were recommended by the Superior Health Council (CSS) as an application of the precautionary principle to take into account any uncertainties related to the radio signals transmitted by base stations in 2007.

The exposure limits were introduced in 2009 and are much lower than the international safety guidelines used throughout Europe and recommended by the EU and World Health Organization says the GSMA and will increase the number of mobile phone base stations in Belgium.

In response to several questions put to Mrs Evelyne Huytebroeck, the Brussels Region Minister for Environment, Energy and Urban Renewal in Parliament, she commissioned a study to identify when electromagnetic waves should be described as pulsed or, not pulsed.

The regulations were aimed at mobile phone base stations on the basis that they transmitted pulsed radio waves. Many other radio services were excluded. However, mobile phone operators warned the Government at the time that other services also belong to this category and there was no scientific basis for the laws.

According to Minister Huytebroeck, the legislator chose to include pulsed waves “due to the fact that pulsed waves are presumed to have a greater impact on health” rather than target mobile phone technologies.

The study confirmed analogue radio and digital television are not pulsed, but digital radio is without a doubt pulsed and would be unlikely to meet the strict limits.

It also found that analogue TV signals are regarded as pulsed due to their synchronisation pulses and these have been around for about 50 years.

Furthermore, the study also concluded that, while the radiation of the 2G and 4G (LTE) mobile phone networks are considered pulsed, the regulations do not apply to 3G technologies (UMTS/HSDPA) because they do not emit pulsed radio waves.

Consequently the mobile phone operators in Belgium have asked for the Minister to justify why the regulations unfairly and inconsistently target mobile phone technologies.

“The 3 V/m limit is more than 200 times more restrictive than the recommendations of the World Health Organization and therefore it is not based on science-based rationale,” Dr Jack Rowley, Director of Research and Sustainability for the GSMA, said.

“Such measures provide no additional health protection for the community and will only serve to increase the level of concern. Reducing limits is interpreted by the public as evidence there is something to be concerned about regarding the safety of base stations.”

Dr Rowley said the GSMA have released a discussion paper on the implications for mobile communications infrastructure of arbitrary radio frequency exposure limits.

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Wireless smart meter exposures more like AM/FM radio than mobile phones

Exposure to signals from new digital smart meters that relay your homes energy use to the supplier using mobile phone technology, are the same as the exposures from AM/FM radio broadcasts which humans have been exposed to for more than 50 years independent health authorities have found.

While smart meters send signals like mobile phones, because they only send information intermittently and at a distance the typical exposures to humans are well below international safety standards the Canadian health department said.

“As with any wireless device, some of the RF energy emitted by smart meters will be absorbed by anyone who is nearby. The amount of energy absorbed depends largely on how close your body is to a smart meter,” Health Canada said.

“Unlike cellular phones, where the transmitter is held close to the head and much of the RF energy that is absorbed is localised to one specific area, RF energy from smart meters is typically transmitted at a much greater distance from the human body. This results in very low RF exposure levels across the entire body, much like exposure to AM or FM radio broadcast signals.”

Utility companies around the world looking to improve the efficiency of their electricity, power or water networks with the new meters have recently been inundated by concerned residents claiming the devices wireless signals are making them sick. On the other side, the Environmental Defense Fund has stated that the smart grid could save thousands of lives through cutting air pollution from the electric utility sector as much as 30% by 2030.

One Australian woman has resorted to coating her house in led paint to block the signals she says give her heart palpitations and cause fainting, and insomnia, while in the US residents have locked cages over their old meters to stop them being replaced and in Canada citizens groups have attempted to have the meters banned.

A common concern of residents is that the cumulative exposure to wireless radiation from the large number of smart meters in the urban environment will result in exposure levels greater than international standards.

But the Australian radiation protection agency has said exposures remain low even when multiple devices are transmitting.

“The combination of the relatively low power of the transmitters, their location on the outside of buildings and the very short time spent transmitting means that the overall exposure from smart meters is very low and well below exposure limits, even when a number of devices are communicating simultaneously,” ARPANSA said.

Also, an independent Australian study that measured exposures from 16 smart meter sites around Melbourne found RF exposures from single meters and groups of meters were only a tiny fraction of the safe exposure guidelines.

The study found all 16 exposures measured 30 cm away from meters were less than one per cent of the safety standard and exposure levels inside homes ranged from 0.000001 per cent to 0.0113 per cent.

“The results show that the RF EMF levels from the Meters, even when measured just 30 cm away, are lower than the levels from other common household items. The actual EMF levels from a meter inside the house are very low compared to the levels from such devices as wireless modems, mobile phones and microwave cookers,” the study concluded.

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GSMA energy efficiency project identifies 1.8m Euro saving for German mobile operator

The first mobile operator to take part in the GSMA’s new project to reduce the carbon footprint of mobile phone networks could save an additional 1.8 million Euro a year on top of their current green efforts, a detailed analysis of their network equipment has found.

Telefonica Germany (TDE), one of Germany’s top three mobile network operators, became the first to go under the microscope of experts from the GSMA and Nokia Siemens Networks to identify cost-effective ways to reduce the energy consumption of their expansive mobile phone network across Germany.

The team took 20 representative base stations from locations around the country and used wireless smart meter technology to monitor their data requirements and found by switching to more energy efficient components and software the operator could make significant energy savings.

“The project identified overall estimated annual savings of up to €1.8 million in TDE’s radio network,” a GSMA case study of the project said.

“The energy and carbon savings identified were up to 9 GWh [Gigawatt Hours] and 4 KTCO2 [Kilotons of Carbon Dioxide] respectively. These savings would be in addition to the measures that TDE is currently implementing, which include switching more cell sites to free cooling.”

TDE has been part of the GSMA’s Mobile Energy Efficiency (MEE) Benchmarking service since its launch in 2010, which has helped lower their energy costs and carbon footprint by 14 per cent per connection.

MEE Benchmarking, now adopted by 35 mobile network operators who run more than 200 networks across 145 countries, helps mobile operators lower their energy costs and carbon footprint by benchmarking network energy efficiency across their portfolio and anonymously comparing them with their global peers.

The service helps to identify areas where an operator’s mobile network can reduce power consumption. This can include recommending the adoption of renewable green energy and improving the design of base stations to rely less on air conditioning by using techniques like free air cooling and applying insulation paint.

Due to the success of the MEE service the GSMA launched the new service, MEE Optimisation in 2011, which undertakes a more detailed analysis of mobile networks to find inefficiencies and provide operators with a cost-benefit analysis of specific solutions.

“At Telefonica we are fully committed to improving our energy efficiency and have defined public improvement targets and dedicated efforts for over a decade to this area, as part of Telefonica Group’s energy and carbon strategy,” said Gabriel Bonilha, Head of Energy Efficiency, Telefonica Group.

“Being a MEE pioneer has helped us to quantify the opportunity ahead of us and this optimisation exercise, supported by the GSMA and Nokia Siemens Networks, is an important step in seizing that opportunity.”

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mEducation boom to revolutionise learning for more than a billion students

Sales of learning apps and digital books will drive a boom in mobile-phone based education over the next decade as smartphone and tablet devices continue to grow in popularity, a new GSMA report has predicted.

“The market for mEducation products and services today is worth approximately USD 3.4 billion – a sliver of the USD 4 trillion spent on education globally. But students, educators and e-learning players are warming up to the potential of mEducation,” the report Transforming learning through mEducation said.

The report predicts massive growth in the industry over the next decade as a range of mobile- based learning games and programs hit the market and governments recognize the advantages of mEducation and continue to invest in new devices for schools.

“We expect the total annual market opportunity for mEducation to reach USD 70 billion by 2020. mEducation products represent USD 38 billion of this figure, while the remaining USD 32 billion will come from the sale of devices.”

The Turkish government has shown its support for mEducation announcing a project to bring 15 million Wi-Fi tablets to students across 40,000 schools and the South Korean government has plans to digitize all educational materials by 2015, making them accessible by computers, tablets and smartphones.

The biggest growth will come from digital books and courses available over mobile devices and game or simulation-based learning apps that integrate learning and virtual reality to help students learn in exciting ways, the report said.

“E-books and e-courses delivered over mobile networks and accessed on portable devices will continue to represent the biggest product segment on the back of strong growth in developing regions.”

“This will be followed by game- and simulation-based tools, which will emerge as the second significant category, on the back of strong growth in developed regions. Together, these two will account for almost 80% of the market.”

Early trials of mobile-based learning with students and teachers from diverse backgrounds have highlighted the exciting potential of mEducation and as previous GSMA research has shown the widespread use of mobile devices by children, even in developing countries, means mEducation products are often easily adopted.

“Many [children] are as comfortable accessing educational material through tablets and smartphones as they are with paper books,” the report said.

“In India, primary schools used mobile-phone games to help students from rural, low-income households learn English. Aided by local teachers, researchers devised a simple game to develop listening comprehension, word recognition, sentence construction and spelling. Test scores of students using the mobile-phone games improved by nearly 60%,” the report said.

“In a school in New Mexico, for example, teachers are using mobile computing devices to regularly assess kindergarteners’ reading progress and tailor instruction to help them develop oral fluency. Within the first 3 years of use, the share of students reading at benchmark levels rose from 29% to 93%.”

Despite the momentum behind mobile based learning, the report outlined a number of barriers in both developed and developing countries including: the perceived extra burden for IT departments, cultural resistance from some teachers who are reluctant to integrate new teaching methods and negative perceptions that still exist around the introduction of smartphones and tablets to the classroom.

The report predicts more than a billion students will be using mobile based education by 2020.

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Editorial – Calls to ban mobile phone masts near schools unnecessary

Final report on largest brain cancer study reconfirms no link with mobiles

‘No brain tumor risk for kids using mobiles’ study was wrong say critics

Strict emission limits in Belgium aimed at mobiles could stop digital radio

Wireless smart meter exposures more like AM/FM radio than mobile phones

GSMA energy efficiency project identifies 1.8m Euro saving for German mobile operato

mEducation boom to revolutionise learning for more than a billion students

News Roundup

Latest Research

Austria: Poor-to-moderate agreement between self and proxy interviews of mobile phone use, Hutter et al., Bioelectromagnetics, Published online 11 April 2012.

France: Specific Absorption Rate Assessment Using Simultaneous Electric Field and Temperature Measurements, Ticaud et al., IEEE Antennas and Wireless Propagation Letters, 11:252-255, published 5 March 2012.

Portugal: Comparison of specific absorption rate induced in brain tissues of a child and an adult using mobile phone, Lu et al., Journal of Applied Physics, 111(07B311), Published online 24 February 2012.

Turkey: 2.45-Gz Wireless Devices Induce Oxidative Stress and Proliferation Through Cytosolic Ca2+ Influx in Human Leukemia Cancer Cells, Naziroglu et al., International Journal of Radiation Biology, Published online 10 April 2012.

Related Resources
GSMA video comments on health and environment topics related to mobile communications.
Events Calendar
9-11 May 2012:7th ICNIRP International NIR Workshop,
Edinburgh, United Kingdom.
13-18 May 2012: 13th International Congress of the International Radiation Protection Association, Glasgow, Scotland.
17-22 June 2012: BEMS Annual Meeting, Brisbane, Australia.
News Roundup

Australia:Government website provides information on funding EME research

The Australian National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) have updated their website to provide more information on EME research funding in Australia.

Australia:Greens target mobile tower emission audits

Greens senator Bob Brown has slammed government bodies for failing to independently audit mobile phone towers to determine their electromagnetic emissions on surrounding communities.

Australia:Householders shielding homes from smart meter radiation

Hundreds of householders fearing ill effects from controversial smart meters have resorted to coating their homes in electromagnetic shielding paint.

Canada:Town considers reduction of cell tower buffer

Many who attended a March 19 council meeting said they were worried about a staff recommendation in the protocol to reduce the 200-metre setback between cell towers and all sensitive land uses (including homes), to a 20-metre setback from schools and day-care centres.

Germany: Electromagnetic shielding is tax deductible

The cost of shielding your house from high-frequency emissions can be deducted from income tax as exceptional costs, according to judgement by a Cologne court.

Global: ICNIRP release 2011 annual report

The International Commission on non-ionizing radiation protection (ICNIRP) have released their annual report outlining their activities between January and December 2011.

New Zealand: Petition calls for review of base station health standard

A petition concerning the health effects of mobile phone towers has been received in New Zealand Parliament.

Norway:Former WHO head created fear for mobile users

The former long-standing leader of the WHO program for EMF and health has accused the former WHO chief Gro Harlem Brundtland of creating fear in the population because of her openness about her being sick from mobile radiation.

UK:A close call: Why the jury is still out on mobile phones

Anthony Swerdlow, professor of epidemiology at the Institute of Cancer Research and chair of the HPA’s Advisory Group on Ionizing Radiation – behind next week’s report, said: ‘Individual results from particular studies have shown there is a link but in order to believe there is an established effect, it needs to be shown consistently across the literature.

UK:Scots Tories’ concern over new mobile phone masts

The Scottish government has been accused by Scottish Conservatives of showing a “blatant disregard” for local decision-making. Research carried out by the Tories indicates that council decisions on mobile phone masts are twice as likely to be overturned on appeal as upheld.

USA:Electronics most distracting for teen drivers

New naturalistic research on, Distracted Driving Among Newly Licensed Teen Drivers, released by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, has found the use of electronic devices was the number-one distraction among teenage drivers.


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