healthfaqs

Health FAQs

The GSMA understands that people are concerned about possible health risks from the use of mobile phones and living near wireless network antennas. We believe in the importance of providing clear answers based on established scientific research.
 
For more information please see the GSMA booklet Mobile Communications and Health available in Arabic, Brazillian Portuguese, Chinese (simplified), English, French, German, Russian and Spanish.
 
To provide comment on the content send an email to: health@gsma.com
 
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The consensus of expert groups is that there are no established health risks from the radio signals used by mobile phones or networks. Some studies have suggested increased brain cancer risk for long-term users of mobile phones but there are limitations to the studies and a lack of supporting evidence of cancer increase in national health registries. In May 2011 the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) classified radiofrequency electromagnetic fields as possibly carcinogenic to humans (Group 2B), a category used when a causal association is considered credible, but when chance, bias or confounding cannot be ruled out with reasonable confidence. The WHO has identified areas for continuing research to support future health risk assessments. For more information please see the GSMA booklet Mobile Communications and Health available in Arabic, Brazillian Portuguese, Chinese (simplified), English, French, German, Russian and Spanish.
Independent scientific and public health institutions around the world review relevant research as it is published. The consensus of these expert groups is that there is no demonstrable evidence of a risk to human health from radio signals that comply with the current international safety recommendations. Some studies have shown small physiological changes that are not regarded as harmful to health.
Sophisticated and sensitive research methods using well-tried models for assessing health risks from other agents have been applied to investigate the safety of mobile communications. The scientific process follows a distinct path from hypothesis (idea) to established knowledge. Key steps include peer review and confirmation by other laboratories. The total body of science then contributes to the risk assessments by independent experts such as the International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection (ICNIRP) and the World Health Organisation (WHO).
A number of national and international standards bodies have developed safety and compliance standards for wireless devices and network antennas. These committees are usually composed of persons with expertise in key areas and representatives of major stakeholder groups. Standards are developed by examining scientific evidence to determine the threshold for an established health hazard and then incorporating safety factors to define the allowable level. The safety factors are intended to account for uncertainty in establishing the threshold level and variation among people For specific information you should contact the regulator in your country.
The World Health Organization (WHO) states: Large disparities between national limits and international guidelines can foster confusion for regulators and policy makers, increase public anxiety and provide a challenge to manufacturers and operators of communications systems who need to tailor their products to each market. These factors have motivated the World Health Organization (WHO) to build a Framework for developing health-based EMF exposure standards using a rational scientifically-driven process. The WHO encourages international standards harmonisation based on the ICNIRP guidelines. The WHO warns that 'arbitrary cautionary approaches', such as '...if limit values were lowered to levels that bear no relationship to the established hazards or have inappropriate arbitrary adjustments to the limit values to account for the extent of scientific uncertainty' could undermine public confidence.
The GSMA understands that people may be concerned by such claims, however, they are based on selective reviews of existing research and do not present a balanced analysis considering the relative scientific quality of different studies. Specifically, the BioInitiative reports were criticised for these failings by the Danish government Sundhedsstyrelsens (National Board of Health), the German Bundesamt für Strahlenschutz (BfS - Federal Office for Radiation Protection), the IEEE Committee on Man and Radiation (COMAR) and the Dutch Kennisplatform Elektromagnetische Velden. In a specific review report the Health Council of the Netherlands concludes:
'In view of the way the BioInitiative report was compiled, the selective use of scientific data and the other shortcomings mentioned above, the Committee concludes that the BioInitiative report is not an objective and balanced reflection of the current state of scientific knowledge. Therefore, the report does not provide any grounds for revising the current views as to the risks of exposure to electromagnetic fields.' There have been many independent scientific and public health authority reviews and the consensus position, as summarised by the World Health Organization, is that current international recommendations incorporate large safety factors and are protective of all persons.
Independent reviews from more than 30 countries and the WHO have concluded that present international safety recommendations are protective for all persons against all established health risks.
Several of the studies relied upon to support claims of increased risk have been criticised for scientific weaknesses. Importantly, studies of brain cancer trends show no increase since mobile phone use began (Deltour et al., 2012; de Vocht et al., 2011; Little et al, 2012).  These studies are limited in their ability to detect possible small risks so research continues. The COSMOS study plans to follow the health of up to 250,000 European mobile phone users for 20-30 years.
There is a large body of existing scientific research at frequencies above and below those used for mobile services and a growing body of science using these particular signals. Expert groups have not established any signal (or modulation) specific effects, so the scientific consensus is that compliance with current international safety standards provides protection against all known health effects.
Mobile phones use adaptive power control to reduce the transmitted power to the minimum possible whilst maintaining good call quality. This prolongs talk time and minimises interference to other callers. For example, when coverage is good, such as close to a base station, the output level may be similar to that of a home cordless phone.

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