Mobiles, masts and health FAQ's

How do you know that mobile phones are safe?

Are mobiles devices and masts safe?

There have been thousands of scientific studies into the effects of radio frequency (RF) fields on health. Scientists know more about this than they do about most chemicals. Authorities including the World Health Organization (WHO) agree that there is no evidence that convinces experts that exposure to RF fields from mobile devices and base stations operated within guideline limits has any adverse health effects. Their opinions are based on the entire body of scientific evidence available.

There are international guidelines on safe levels of RF exposure, including that from mobile devices and base stations. Independent expert reviews have concluded that – provided mobile devices and base stations are operated within these guidelines – the absorption of energy from them poses no threat to human health.

There are still some gaps in scientific knowledge and further research is needed. For example, although current evidence is reassuring, it is difficult to assess whether there may be health risks associated with using a mobile device for 10 years or more. Vodafone and Vodacom acknowledge this uncertainty and supports ongoing research recommended by the WHO, such as long-term cohort studies. The Vodafone Group reviews all major research into mobile devices and health and has undertaken to update its policies and practices if one of the following bodies advises that the findings change the overall weight of scientific evidence:

The World Health Organization’s International EMF Project, established in 1996, records global research into mobile devices, masts and health and prioritises research needs. In 2006, they identified the main areas for additional research. These are:

  • The WHO (including the International Agency for Research on Cancer)
  • A reference review
  • A body which has previously prepared a reference review
  • An external expert review commissioned by Vodafone and the EMF Board

Why are some people concerned?

Vodafone Group surveys conducted in December 2009 have shown that there is an underlying perception that mobile devices and base stations present a health risk. In the UK, research shows that 13% of people list mobile phones and masts as a health concern when prompted.

Human exposure to RF fields is not new. But over the last 70 years, developments in information and communications technology have meant that many of us are exposed daily to more artificial sources of these fields – at work, at home and elsewhere.

The human body absorbs a small amount of energy from the RF fields given off by some electrical items, including mobile devices and base stations. This is converted to heat. Our normal biological processes are very good at cooling us down, and prevent any significant temperature rise in our bodies.

However, some individual research studies have suggested that using a mobile device could affect people’s health, and possibly even cause cancer. This has led to articles in the media questioning whether mobile devices are safe, which has increased public concern about the issue. Although most scientists agree that the energy levels emitted by mobile devices and base stations are too low to cause cancer, we do recognise these concerns and take them seriously. There are still gaps in scientific knowledge and we support independent, good quality research that investigates whether low-level RF exposure has any effect on health.

The World Health Organization’s International EMF Project, established in 1996, records global research into mobile devices, masts and health and prioritises research needs. In 2006, they identified the main areas for additional research. These are:

  • Long-term (more than 10 years) exposure to low-level RF field
  • Potential health effects of mobile use by children
  • Dosimetry, or the way the level of absorbed RF fields are calculated or measured.

Frequently asked questions