Mobiles, masts and health FAQ's

Is using a mobile phone harmful for children?

Children and mobile devices

Having a mobile device can improve children’s personal security, as they can maintain contact with their parents and get help in emergencies.

Some parents are concerned their children’s health may be affected by using mobiles. They may choose to consider what experts say about children’s use of mobiles, as well as the security benefits. The majority of scientific opinion, supported by the World Health Organisation (WHO), is that from the research undertaken to-date there is no clear evidence that mobile phones or base stations present adverse risks to human health and that there is no evidence that children are at special risk. However, with the likelihood of today’s younger population using mobile phones over a longer period, the WHO has identified further research into the use of mobiles by children of different ages as a priority and further research into use by children and long term use is underway. Vodafone closely monitors the results of such research and the views of organisations such as the WHO. To help parents make an informed decision about their children’s mobile use, we provide information and advice from the WHO and its linked organisations. In its factsheet, Electromagnetic fields and public health: mobile phones, published in June 2011, the WHO states that “no adverse health effects have been established as being caused by mobile phone use”. It provided the following information on how to reduce RF exposure from using a mobile phone: “In addition to using "hands-free" devices, which keep mobile phones away from the head and body during phone calls, exposure is also reduced by limiting the number and length of calls. Using the phone in areas of good reception also decreases exposure as it allows the phone to transmit at reduced power". We also provide information from the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) and the International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection (ICNIRP, see boxes below), both of whom are part of the WHO.

Information from International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC)

In May 2011, IARC classified radiofrequency (RF) fields as possibly carcinogenic to humans, and stated that more research is needed in this area. A number of studies are already underway under the WHO’s research agenda priorities.

The results of one such study, the CEFALO study into mobile use in children, were published in July 2011. The study involved nearly 1,000 children in Denmark, Sweden, Norway and Switzerland. The study compared mobile use by children and adolescents aged 7-19 years, who were diagnosed with a brain tumour between 2004 and 2008, with that of a randomly selected group of the same age range. The study found no overall evidence of increased risk of brain cancer, concluding that: “The absence of an exposure–response relationship either in terms of the amount of mobile phone use or by localization of the brain tumor argues against a causal association”.

Information from International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection (ICNIRP)

ICNIRP produces guidelines governing radio frequency (RF) exposure from mobile devices and base stations, and these are designed to protect the whole population, including children. All phones and devices sold by Vodafone; and all base stations operated by Vodafone, are designed to comply fully with ICNIRP guidelines. In August 2009, ICNIRP released a statement confirming there is no scientific evidence to suggest that using a mobile device poses adverse health risks for adults or children.

ICNIRP also published a review of the scientific evidence concerning RF exposure in 2009. This states that: “The experimental data do not suggest so far that children are more susceptible than adults to RF radiation, but few relevant studies have been conducted” and that “Overall, there is no robust evidence of any effect of mobile phone type RF on children or adolescents”.

In May 2011, the WHO and ICNIRP held an international health expert meeting on children and non-ionizing radiation. The meeting aimed: “to determine if the ICNIRP guidelines are adequate to protect children – who are different in terms of physiology, anatomy and lifestyle”.

Following the meeting, the Chairman of ICNIRP concluded: “From the scientific results of the workshop, we can conclude that our guidance is adequate. For UV radiation, we do know that people are at risk and now we have even more evidence for this position. In contrast, for EMF, and mobiles in particular, there is no evidence that children are at special risk. This means that there is no reason to change current guidelines. Nevertheless we will continue to review the science, and the outcome of this workshop has contributed to that.”

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