This section provides answers to common questions about the mobile phones and other wireless devices. Mobile communications devices include handsets, wireless data cards for laptop computers and other specialised low powered radio transmitters. Wireless devices are designed to comply with international safety guidelines, which the WHO states provide protection against all known health hazards.
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There are a number of national and international standards bodies that 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. For specific information you should contact the authorities your country.
Compliance for mobile phones and other wireless devices intended for use close to the head or body is based on satisfying a specified Specific Absorption Rate (SAR)
limit, stated in units of watts per kilogram (W/kg). The SAR is directly related to the amount or power that would be absorbed in body tissues. It is measured by using a robot to precisely position a probes in phantom humans containing tissue simulating liquids.
There is no convincing scientific evidence that the use of mobile phones can cause brain tumours or other cancers in humans. It is the consensus
of the scientific community that the low powered radio signals produced by a mobile phone do not have sufficient intrinsic energy to affect genetic material.TheWorld Health Organization states that current international safety recommendations
are protective for all persons against all established health hazards.
The GSMA is not aware of any scientific evidence to indicate that mobile phone use is not safe during lightning. Somebody who is outside increases their risk of being struck if they are on high ground, in an open space, near water or near large metallic structures or trees. If you are outside, find shelter in a substantial building or in a fully enclosed metal vehicle with the windows completely shut. If this is not possible, you should follow the instructions of responsible safety organisations.
Some preliminary scientific studies have reported a link, however, these studies have generally not properly accounted for lifestyle factors, for example, diet, smoking, etc. The consensus view of expert public health bodies, including the WHO, is that there are no adverse health effects associated with the radio signals used by mobile phones or base stations.
Parents may be concerned about possible health risks when children use mobile phones and authorities in some countries (for example, Germany and theUK) have recommended restrictions on phone use by younger children in case there is an unrecognised health risk. Health authorities in other countries, such as Australia, the Netherlands and the USA have concluded that current scientific evidence does not justify specific measures. The World Health Organization examined evidence in a 2004 workshop and has concluded that that present international safety recommendations are protective of all persons, including children. Mobile phones do provide important safety benefits to children who can use them in times of distress or emergency situations.
The GSMA encourages parental supervision in the selection and use of mobile communication technologies for children their children.
In 2008, a study was reported as showing that the children born to mothers who used mobile phones during pregnancy had more behavioural difficulties and hyperactivity. The researchers said that 'the results were unexpected and should be interpreted with caution'. A commentary for the British National Health Service concluded that: 'This study doesn't offer convincing evidence that there is a link between exposure while in the womb or after and neurological performance in children.'
The World Health Organization advises that present scientific information does not indicate the need for any special precautions for use of mobile phones. If individuals are concerned, they might choose to limit their own RF exposure by limiting the length of calls, or using "hands-free" devices to keep mobile phones away from the head and body.
Some people report a variety of symptoms (such as headaches, burning sensations, tiredness, concentration difficulties and dizziness) that they attribute to exposure to radio signals from mobile phones or wireless networks. This is sometimes termed electromagnetic hypersensitivity
(EHS). There have been several studies of exposures similar to mobile phones (Rubin et al, 2006; Kleinlogel et al., 2008; ) or base stations (Regel et al., 2006; Eltiti et al.,2007; Furubayashi et al., 2009; Eltiti et al., 2009;). A 2009 review identified 46 blind or double-blind provocation studies involving 1175 self-reported EHS individuals and concluded that overall there was no relation between electromagnetic field exposures and reported symptoms.
The World Health Organization (WHO) concluded that while the symptoms are real there is no scientific basis to link the symptoms to exposure to electromagnetic fields
. Furthermore the WHO says that treatment of affected individuals should focus on management of the health symptoms and the clinical picture, and not on the person's perceived need to reduce or eliminate electromagnetic fields in the workplace or home. In addition it should be noted that the Swedish authorities do not recognise a medical diagnosis of sensitivity to electromagnetic fields.
Driving safely is of paramount importance to everyone on today's busy roads, and mobile phones should be used responsibly while on the move. The industry has developed a wide range of equipment and features to help you do this and the use of a professionally installed car-kit is recommended. (Note: it is an offence in many countries to hold a mobile phone to the head while driving.) However, the GSMA advises that it may be sensible to pull over during difficult traffic conditions or when calls are likely to be long, complex or emotional. The GSMA advises
drivers at all times to obey the national laws of the country in which they are travelling and to follow common-sense advice to avoid distractions.
SCENIHR, the scientific committee advising the European Commission, has concluded that the listening habits of most users of personal music players (and mobile phones including a music playing function) are unlikely to cause harm. However, some people may put their hearing at risk because they set the volume control very high or listen to music at high levels for many hours per day. The US National Hearing Conservation Association advises that damage to hearing can result from exposure to brief bursts of loud noise or continuous exposure to high-volume sound.
The risk of hearing loss increases as sound is played louder and for longer durations. Mobile phone users can limit the risk of hearing damage by keeping the handset volume down, avoiding prolonged, continuous listening and making calls away from background noise.
Studies have identified that mobile phones and other common items, such as clothes, stethoscopes, neck ties, pens and jewellery, worn and used by doctors can carry bacteria. While the main contribution to transmission of infection is inadequate hand hygiene, the Board of Science of the British Medical Association recommends that healthcare professionals should wear clothes that minimise the spread of infection; refrain from wearing functionless clothing items (such as neck ties) and, where possible, change clothes when leaving the clinical setting. Similar cautions could be applied to mobile phones carried by healthcare professionals.
Repetitive Strain Injury (RSI) is used as an umbrella term to refer to various kinds of injuries to muscles, tendons or nerves caused by repetitive movement of a part of the body. It has not been medically established that texting and playing games on a mobile phone can cause RSI. If you are concerned, we recommend that when using a mobile phone for texting or playing games:
- Do not grip the phone tightly
- Press the buttons lightly
- Try to use both hands to spread the load
- Keep your hands close to your body when holding the phone
- Hold the phone up in front of you to reduce flexing of the neck
- Make use of the special features in the handset which minimise the number of buttons which have to be pressed, such as message templates and predictive text
- Take lots of breaks to stretch and relax
If you experience symptoms such as persistent or recurring discomfort, pain, throbbing, aching, tingling, numbness, burning sensation, stiffness, promptly see a qualified health professional. Further information on RSI is available from NHS Direct
and the UK Chartered Society of Physiotherapy
has issued tips for persons texting or playing games.
Mobile phones are designed to comply with scientifically based safety standards that provide protection against all established health risks. The US Federal Trade Commission cautions that '...there is no scientific proof that the so-called shields significantly reduce exposure from electromagnetic emissions...' and it has successfully challenged a number of promoters of such products.
Batteries and other devices are also being promoted that claim to produce a 'noise field' that will 'neutralise' potential harmful effects of mobile phone signals. The scientific basis of those claims is not accepted by the consensus of scientific opinion. In addition, related studies were not confirmed by independent European laboratories. In August 2007 the UK Advertising Standards Authority upheld complaints against company that sells cosmetics for marketing claims that electromagnetic waves could damage the skin and making undue appeal to consumers fear of harm. The World Health Organization (WHO) states:
'Scientific evidence does not indicate any need for RF-absorbing covers or other "absorbing devices" on mobile phones. They cannot be justified on health grounds and the effectiveness of many such devices in reducing RF exposure is unproven.'
The US Food and Drug Administration
(FDA) has a similar view:
Since there are no known risks from exposure to RF emissions from cell phones, there is no reason to believe that accessories that claim to shield the head from those emissions reduce risks. Some products that claim to shield the user from RF absorption use special phone cases, while others involve nothing more than a metallic accessory attached to the phone. Studies have shown that these products generally do not work as advertised. Unlike "hand-free" kits, these so-called "shields" may interfere with proper operation of the phone. The phone may be forced to boost its power to compensate, leading to an increase in RF absorption.
The US Federal Trade Commission
(FTC) has successfully pursued companies making claims about so-called shields and issued a consumer alert in 2002 concluding:
According to the FTC, there is no scientific proof that the so-called shields significantly reduce exposure from electromagnetic emissions. In fact, says the agency, products that block only the earpiece — or another small portion of the phone — are totally ineffective because the entire phone emits electromagnetic waves. What's more, these shields may interfere with the phone's signal, cause it to draw even more power to communicate with the base station, and possibly emit more radiation.
Mobile Phone Shields and Patents (pdf)
Lithium ion (Li Ion) batteries are the preferred rechargeable battery for many consumer applications. They also are used in commercial, industrial, and military applications. While it is highly unusual, there have been reports of overheating
, fire, or ruptures in connection with the use of lithium ion batteries. The billions of lithium ion batteries in use today and the exceptionally small number of cases in which a battery malfunction has occurred demonstrates that these batteries are safe and reliable when used according to manufacturers’ guidelines.
To promote the safe use of cell phones, batteries and chargers, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC)
and CTIA-The Wireless Association, recommend the following:
- Do not use incompatible cell phone batteries and chargers. Some Web sites and second-hand dealers, not associated with reputable manufacturers and carriers, might be selling incompatible or even counterfeit batteries and chargers. Consumers should purchase manufacturer or carrier recommended products and accessories. If unsure about whether a replacement battery or charger is compatible, contact the manufacturer of the battery or charger.
- Do not permit a battery out of the phone to come in contact with metal objects, such as coins, keys or jewellery.
- Do not crush, puncture or put a high degree of pressure on the battery as this can cause an internal short-circuit, resulting in overheating.
- Avoid dropping the cell phone. Dropping it, especially on a hard surface, can potentially cause damage to the phone and battery. If you suspect damage to the phone or battery, take it to a service center for inspection.
- Do not place the phone in areas that may get very hot, such as on or near a cooking surface, cooking appliance, iron, or radiator.
- Do not get your phone or battery wet. Even though they will dry and appear to operate normally, the circuitry could slowly corrode and pose a safety hazard.
- Follow battery usage, storage and charging guidelines found in the user's guide.