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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Media reports in April 2007 claimed that a small German study reporting effects on bee behaviour when a digital cordless phone was placed near hives, was an indication that mobile communications might be a possible cause of Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD). CCD is being studied by a working group of the Mid Atlantic Apiculture Research and Extension Consortium (MAAREC)
. A FAQ produced by the working group and dated 9 March 2007 lists base stations as one cause that is not currently being investigated.
In April 2007 a spokesperson for the British Trust for Ornithology was quoted as saying: "I can't think of any reason mobile phone masts would affect them [birds]." In 1999, the WHO International EMF Project, the ICNIRP and the German Federal Office for radiation Protection (BfS) hosted a seminar on the effects of electromagnetic fields in the environment. A review produced after the seminar concluded that: 'Overall, it appears that the human EMF exposure limits recommended by the International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation (ICNIRP, 1998) would also be protective of the environment.'
Some people have been concerned about reports
of possible increased rates of disease near to radio transmitters. These reports are sometimes described as clusters. Diseases such as cancer are distributed randomly in the community and this means that there will be chance instances
of apparent increases in diseases occurring close to radio transmitters. Independent health authorities in Australia
, Northern Ireland
and the USA
have investigated suspected clusters near base station and other radio transmitters by found no evidence to link illness with either proximity to or exposure from radio transmitters.
The ICNIRP has published a review
of existing research and the WHO
concluded that 'Considering the very low exposure levels and research results collected to date, there is no convincing scientific evidence that the weak RF signals from base stations and wireless networks cause adverse health effects.'
Laboratory studies (e.g., Regel et al., 2006; Eltiti et al., 2007
) involving exposure to base station
signals under controlled conditions have found no consistent effects on well-being, cognitive performance or symptoms. There are many technical challenges to conducting studies
of people living near base stations, for example, in 2004 the ICNIRP
stated that: '… the relation between distance and exposure is very weak' so actual measurements of RF levels are needed not distances from antennas. In September 2007, a UK Mobile Telecommunications and Health Research Programme (MTHR)
report concluded that it was not yet possible to conduct a study that could provide a meaningful outcome.
There are some studies in the WHO's EMF research database
that report effects, however, this database contains both published and non-peer reviewed studies. It is not the quantity of experiments but the quality of the study that is important. Independent health experts have criticised
many of the other base station studies for technical flaws such as poor exposure assessment, symptom-reporting bias or inadequate control of confounders such as age. In another example, an Austrian study
from 2008, has since been withdrawn as it was reported that no base station was active during the period of the claimed cancer increase.
The UK Health Protection Agency advises that on the basis of current scientific information WiFi equipment satisfies international guidelines and, therefore, there is no reason why schools and others should not use WLAN
In addition, the WHO concluded in May 2006 that '...there is no convincing scientific evidence that the weak RF signals from base stations
and wireless networks cause adverse health effects.' If you want to know more, the WiFiAlliance and the Health Physics Society have produced specific information on this topic. In May 2007, the Panorama program made a number of allegations about the safety of WiFi . However, in November 2007 the BBC Editorial Complaints Unit ruled that the program '...gave a misleading impression of the state of scientific opinion on the issue.'
The World Health Organization (WHO) and the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) recommend adoption of standards
based on the guidelines developed by the International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection (ICNIRP). These standards protect all persons against all established health hazards. In public areas, typical exposures
are a small fraction of the ICNIRP guidelines. For specific information please consult national regulatory authorities