The GSMA recognises that there is public concern about the siting of antennas and the use of mobile devices. These are low powered radio services and it is the GSMA opinion based on expert scientific reviews that there are no established health risks from exposures to radio frequency signals from wireless communications up to the levels recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO).
Radio signals are a form of electromagnetic energy (or electromagnetic radiation – EMR); electric and magnetic fields moving together through space. Radio signals are non-ionising, which means that they cannot directly impart enough energy to a molecule to break or change chemical bonds. This is in contrast to ionising radiation, such as x-rays, which can strip electrons from atoms and molecules, producing changes that can lead to tissue damage and possibly cancer.
We encourage an internationally harmonised approach to national exposure and compliance policies based on the human exposure recommendations of the WHO and compliance methods developed by the IEC, ITU, CENELEC and IEEE.
“A large number of studies have been performed over the last two decades to assess whether mobile phones pose a potential health risk. To date, no adverse health effects have been established as being caused by mobile phone use.”
World Health Organization (WHO), 2011
The view of the WHO is that the international exposure recommendations are protective of all persons and that no special precautions are needed for mobile phone use.
FAQs & myths
I’ve read that mobile phones can cause cancer. Is this true?
There are no established health risks from the radio signals used by mobile phones. Some studies have suggested increased brain cancer risk for long-term users but there are limitations to the studies and a lack of evidence of cancer increase in national health registries. Due to these uncertainties, the WHO recommends that research should continue.
What does the classification of radio signals as a possible carcinogen mean?
In May 2011 a specialist cancer agency of the WHO concluded that there was a possible cancer hazard from radio signals based on limited evidence from human and animal studies. Health authorities advise that more research is needed and remind mobile phone users that they can take practical measures to reduce exposure such as use of a hands-free kit.
I live close to a base station. Am I at risk?
The consensus scientific view is that there are no health risks from living near a base station. Mobile phone base stations use low power radio transmitters to reduce interference to nearby sites. Recent measurement surveys show that exposures to base station radio signals range from 0.002% to 2% of the levels of international exposure guidelines, depending on a variety of factors such as the proximity to the antenna and the surrounding environment. This is lower or comparable to RF exposures from radio or television broadcast transmitters. It is only in areas close to the antennas that the recommended limits may be exceeded and the network operator prevents public access to these areas by placing the antennas near the top of the mast or high on a building.
I’ve read stories claiming that mobile phones can affect male fertility and sperm quality, is this true?
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.