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Mobile Operators respond to MobileWise report

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The MOA notes the publication of a ‘new’ report by the activist group, Mobile Wise, alleging links between mobile phone use and health problems.

The overwhelming body of scientific evidence has not established any adverse health effects from the use of mobile phone technology. The Mobile Wise report is not based on any new studies, but simply cites a selection of the research, which has already been reviewed by independent, scientific bodies, and taken into account in their advice.

In the UK, the Department of Health and Health Protection Agency both issue guidance to the public on mobile telephony and health. This confirms that no adverse health effects have been established, but that if parents are concerned about their children’s use of mobiles, they can encourage them to keep calls short or send texts. This advice actually goes with the grain of how young people are increasingly using their mobiles. Parents will also want to weigh up the tangible security benefits provided by this technology against the possibility of future, unknown health effects.

 The World Health Organisation reassuringly stated in June 2011 - after the classification of radio waves by the International Agency for Cancer Research as a possible carcinogen -: “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.”

 The charity Cancer Research UK also noted this year that: “if mobile phones increase the risk of brain cancer, the rates of this disease should be skyrocketing since mobile phone use has risen dramatically over the last few decades. But studies in the US, New Zealand, Denmark, Norway, Sweden and Finland have found no such trends. In the UK, the incidence of brain cancer has been flat for the past few decades.”

 All mobile phone handsets sold in the United Kingdom are subjected to rigorous testing to comply with EU legislation and relevant standards before they can be sold to customers. 

 The safety guidelines applied to mobile phones are developed by the International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection (ICNIRP). They have been endorsed in the UK by the Health Protection Agency since they were first recommended as part of a precautionary approach by the Stewart Report in 2000.  These guidelines are based on an analysis of all relevant scientific literature and have not been changed, despite regular reviews. The last review was in 2009, when ICNIRP concluded; "it is the opinion of ICNIRP that the scientific literature published since the 1998 guidelines has provided no evidence of any adverse effects below the basic restrictions and does not necessitate an immediate revision of its guidance on limiting exposure to high frequency electromagnetic fields." The guidelines have been developed to include a safety margin, designed to ensure the safety of all persons, regardless of age and health.

 Further research is needed in this area, and is being supported by the industry, but the current weight of scientific evidence is reassuring, and has become increasingly so over time.

49% 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 2012) 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 over 82.7 million mobile subscriptions in the UK. In Q1 2013 49 per cent of UK adults used their mobile phones for internet access. Tablet ownership more than doubled to 24% 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.