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Mobile operators note IARC classification of radiowaves

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MOA notes today’s announcement from the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) that, following a review of the scientific evidence, radio frequency emissions, including those used by mobile phone networks, have been classified as a possible carcinogen.

Dr Jonathan Samet, Chairman of the Working Group, said that "the conclusion means that there could be some risk, and therefore we need to keep a close watch for a link between cell phones and cancer risk."

In the press release accompanying the announcement, Dr Christopher Wild, Director of the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) said, "it is important that additional research be conducted into the long term, heavy use of mobile phones. Pending the availability of such information, it is important to take pragmatic measures to reduce exposure such as hands free devices or texting. "

John Cooke, Executive Director of the Mobile Operators Association, said: “The IARC classification is the outcome is the result of a week-long review of the scientific evidence. IARC has concluded that radiowaves are a possible carcinogen to humans. The full IARC report will be published in due course.”

“It is important to note that IARC has not established a direct link between mobile phone use and cancer. It has, however, concluded that there is the possibility of a hazard. Whether or not this represents a risk requires further scientific investigation. The UK Advisory Group on Non Ionising Radiation (AGNIR) is currently reviewing the science and is scheduled to report in the next 12 months. In the meantime, the measures to reduce exposure mentioned by Dr Wild are consistent with current advice from health agencies in the UK.”

“It is also important to note that the ICNIRP guidelines (established by an independent committee of international experts who carefully review all the relevant scientific literature) remain unchanged. The public exposure guidelines for mobile phones and base stations are protective for all people including children.”

The mobile phone industry takes all questions regarding the safety of mobile phones seriously, and is strongly committed to supporting ongoing scientific research. The UK network operators are supporting the international COSMOS study (Cohort Study on Mobile Phone Use and Health) into long-term use of mobile phones and health.

All mobile phones sold in the UK comply with international health and safety exposure guidelines.

Note to Editors

1. The Mobile Operators Association (MOA) was set up to represent the four UK mobile phone network operators – Everything Everywhere (Orange and T-Mobile) O2, Three and Vodafone – on radio frequency health and planning issues. The MOA website is:

2. The independent Advisory Group on Non-Ionising Radiation (AGNIR) is currently conducting a further comprehensive review of the health risks from radiofrequency radiation, which will take into account findings from relevant research that has been published since its last review in 2003. This new review is expected to be completed over the next 12 months. AGNIR’s first report is available from:

3. Further information on previous IARC classifications and the classification process can be found on the IARC website -

4. IARC has investigated almost 1,000 substances to date. Over a half (508) are ‘not classifiable’, and a quarter (266) are classed ‘possibly carcinogenic to humans’.

Some 107 agents have been classed as carcinogenic to humans (Group 1) and 59 are classed as probably carcinogenic to humans (Group 2A). Only one substance has been classed as probably not carcinogenic to humans (Group 4).  

The IARC Monographs process identifies cancer ‘hazards’ i.e. agents capable of causing cancer under some circumstances. They do not in themselves identify cancer ‘risks’. The distinction between hazard and risk is important, and the IARC Monographs identify cancer hazards even when risks are very low at current exposure levels.

A link to those agents previously reviewed by IARC is:

5. For more information please contact Christine Jude 0207 331 2029, 07736 110787, email This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

61% of UK adults access the internet from mobiles

Mobile phones cannot work without a network of base stations (masts). There are approximately 52,500 base station sites (excluding microcells) in the UK. Only a third of these are large, free standing masts. A YouGov survey for MOA (Sept 2014) showed that nearly 8 out of 10 people recognise the link between masts and good mobile coverage. Mobile telecommunications are vital for the UK’s economic competitiveness and in promoting social inclusion. There are now 89.9 million mobile subscriptions in the UK. In Q1 2015 61 per cent of UK adults used their mobile phones for internet access. Tablet ownership is 54% of UK households.

No Established Health Effects

Mobile phones operate by using radio waves, similar to those that have been widely used for decades, for example in radio, TV and radar signals. A large number of studies over the last two decades have found no clear evidence of adverse health effects from the use of mobile phones or from phone masts.