- Vodafone Foundation
- Media Centre
Mobile devices, and the base stations that make them work, operate well within international and national safety limits.
According to the World Health Organization and others, there is no established evidence to convince experts that the use of mobile devices and base stations has adverse health effects.
Research continues into mobile devices, base stations and health. And we consider all available scientific evidence when managing health issues in order to ensure we safeguard our customers, employees and the public.
Vodafone relies on and recommends the advice of independent scientific experts, including the World Health Organization (WHO), to give consumers accurate information to assist them in making informed choices about mobile technology, health and Electromagnetic Energy (EME).
We refer to mobile phones throughout this section of our website, but the information applies equally to other wireless items such as wireless-enabled computers, tablets, and handheld email devices.
A large number (or network) of base stations are needed to allow more people to make calls, send emails and videos and connect to the internet from more locations. When a mobile phone is used, the body absorbs some of the RF field and some scientists have suggested that this might be harmful.
The International Commission for Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection (ICNIRP) has issued guidelines on levels of exposure to RF fields, including that from mobile phones and base stations. These guidelines have a safety margin built into them. Australia has adopted the ICNIRP levels in the ARPANSA Standard RPS3.
All mobile phones sold by Vodafone meet strict national and international safety standards. The A-Tick mark on your phone, usually found under the battery, is your guarantee that the telecommunications product meets the safety and technical standards set by the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA).
Before using a mobile device it is important that you read all safety, compliance and "how to use" information in the user guide as each device is different.
Compliance tests for RF safety (SAR test) are done with the phone at the maximum power. Each mobile device has different design characteristics and when operating the mobile the level of RF you receive depends on things such as how much data is being transferred, for how long; where the phone is in relation to the base station; and the distance of the phone from the head or body.
In the recommendations from its mobile phones and health fact sheet, the Australian Radiation Safety and Nuclear Science Agency states:
"Concern has been expressed with regard to mobile telephone use by children. At present, there is insufficient evidence in the science to substantiate the hypothesis that children maybe more vulnerable to RF EME emissions from mobile phones than adults.”
It's recognised that parents provide mobile phones to their children for different reasons, including their child's personal security as well as the assurance of their child being constantly contactable.
It is recommended that if individuals are concerned, they should choose to limit their own or their children's RF EME exposure by limiting the number and length of calls, or using "hands-free" devices to keep mobile phones away from the head and body. Users should pay attention to manufacturers' advice regarding spacing from the body if phones are to be attached to belts or placed in pockets.
The May 2011 WHO/ICNIRP international health expert meeting on children and non-ionizing radiation was held "to determine if the ICNIRP guidelines are adequate to protect children “who are different in terms of physiology, anatomy and lifestyle." At the press conference 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."
From the World Health Organization Fact Sheet No 193:
"While an increase of brain tumours is not established, the increasing use of mobile phones and the lack of data for mobile phone use over time periods longer than 15 years warrant further research of mobile phone use and brain cancer risk. In particular, with the recent popularity of mobile phone use among younger people, and therefore potentially longer lifetime exposure, WHO has promoted further research on this group. Several studies investigating potential effects in children and adolescents are underway."
Published research relevant to the use of mobile phones by children includes:
Overall this research found that the range of absorption in children's heads is within the variation of the adult population and no consistent evidence of harmful effects from exposure at levels below internationally recognized guidelines.
Despite no specific scientific justification, some expert groups, in reviewing the question of whether there should be restrictions on children using mobile phones, have recommended that there should be a "precautionary" approach. Others, including the WHO, acknowledge that there is no present evidence that children are at special risk but advocate pragmatic measures for all to reduce exposure whilst additional research is being conducted into long-term heavy use of phones. For example, Director Christopher Wild from the International Agency for Cancer (IARC), a part of the WHO said:
"It is important that additional research be conducted into the long-term, heavy use of mobile phones. Pending on the availability of such information, it is important to take pragmatic measures to reduce exposure such as hands-free devices or texting."
The full findings of the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), a specialist agency within the World Health Organization (WHO), evaluating the carcinogenic hazard of radiofrequency electromagnetic fields (RF EMF) to humans, were published on 19 April 2013.
The IARC Working Group originally met in May 2011 to classify the cancer hazard of RF-EMF, including those from broadcast and mobile communications, microwaves and radar. This process resulted in RF-EMF being classified as "possibly carcinogenic to humans (Group 2B), based on an increased risk for glioma, a malignant type of brain cancer, associated with wireless phone use." A summary of their findings was published in The Lancet Oncology, which concluded that there is "limited evidence in humans" for the carcinogenicity of RF-EMF. The full report, Monograph 102, confirms the 2B classification, which was originally made in May 2011.
The IARC classification only considers whether there is a possible link between long-term heavy mobile device use and cancer, it does not assess the likelihood of this link arising. To understand the likelihood and therefore the potential risk posed, the WHO will carry out a wider health risk assessment, which will take into account all the available science relating to RF and health, including the IARC classification and work done by ICNIRP.
Mobile devices cannot work without base stations. Our comprehensive network of base stations allows us to keep improving our coverage and services to meet customer demand.
While most people welcome more improved service, we at Vodafone recognise that some people are concerned about possible health effects of base stations and we are committed to addressing these concerns.
The World Health Organization (WHO) is the peak Organization on EME and health. Their fact sheet on base stations and wireless technologies states that "there is no convincing scientific evidence that the weak RF (radio frequency) signals from base stations and wireless networks cause adverse health effects.”
Radio frequency fields (RF) are radio waves. They are a form of electromagnetic (EM) field - energy transmitted as waves through space. To place a call from our mobile handset, both our handset and the base station antenna send and receive RF fields. RF fields are the medium carrying the traffic, be it voice or data.
In the environment there are many sources of electromagnetic fields (often called electromagnetic radiation). They occur naturally as well as having artificial sources. The majority of electromagnetic waves are invisible, and travel at the speed of light. Only one part of this type of radiation can be detected by the human eye, and that is the visible light, which produces various colours.
Natural sources of EM fields include light from the sun, lightning and the earth's magnetic field. Even the human body has its own natural EM fields, which carry messages along the nervous system. When operating refrigerators, hairdryers and computers also produce EM fields while TVs, radios, mobile phones, WiFi, remote control devices, emergency services systems, baby monitors and microwave ovens not only generate EM fields but also rely on them to function.
Most of the radio frequency (RF) fields spread out from a high base station antenna, like a beam of light from a lighthouse. There is a "shadow area" where the RF field strength is low close to and directly below the base station. At ground level, the RF field strength initially increases to a small peak at 50 - 150 metres depending on the tilt of the antenna and then reduces rapidly as the distance increases.
This means that, when a base station is placed on a rooftop, be it on a residential unit block, school or office, the people in the building directly below receive very low exposure. In addition roof materials such as timber, steel and concrete reduce the strength of the radio signal as it passes through. This means that the exposure levels inside the building are many times lower than on the rooftop itself. The panel antennas on buildings usually point outwards often on the edge of the roof to service the required coverage area. As a result the area behind the panel antenna has a low RF field strength.
On the rooftop itself, if the antennas are not mounted on the outer edge of the building, they are mounted high enough to ensure that the RF strength in all publically accessible areas meets the ARPANSA public exposure standard. Very close to the front of the antennas, there is an area or volume where it is possible that the ARPANSA public exposure levels could be exceeded. For these areas, measures are taken in the form of signage and physical barriers (e.g. locked access), to prevent inadvertent access to this area by the public.
All our base stations comply with the ARPANSA public exposure standard.