Maintaining the highest
standards of health and safety for GSM technology is a global issue.
The GSM Association has initiated a program
to promote communications with national governments and the World Health
Organization as guardians of public health; technical standard setting
bodies as assessors of scientific knowledge and the public as consumers of
innovative mobile communications.
I've read that mobile phones can cause
cancer. Is this true?
There is no convincing scientific evidence that the use of mobile phones
can cause brain tumours or other cancers in humans. It is the consensus of
the world wide scientific community that the low powered radio signals
produced by a mobile phone do not have sufficient intrinsic energy to
affect genetic material.
What about other health risks?
Independent scientific institutions around the world review relevant
research as it is published. The consensus of these expert groups is that
there is no demonstrable evidence of a risk to human health from mobile
phone use. The GSM Association however, continues to support international
quality research into this question.
How can we be sure that this research is accurate?
Sophisticated and sensitive research methods using well-tried models for
assessing health risks from other agents have been applied to investigate
the safety of mobile phones. Many research institutions and the safety
standards and guidelines according to which such research is conducted,
are controlled by government and independent bodies around the world.
Research results are continually reviewed at an international level by
organisations such as the International Commission on Non-Ionizing
Radiation Protection (ICNIRP) and the World Health Organisation (WHO).
I live close to a base station. Am I at risk?
Where members of the public have access to the area around a base station
the radio signal levels are typically much lower than even the most
stringent internationally adopted safety guidelines. It is only in areas
close to the antennas that the recommended limits may be exceeded. The
network operator will take steps to prevent public access to these areas
by placing the antennas near the top of the mast or high on a building.
GSM base stations operate with low radio signal powers to reduce
interference to nearby sites that could affect call quality. For the
typical GSM base station that is mounted on a building or a pole the
typical maximum signal strength in publicly accessible areas will be less
than 1% of most national RF exposure standards. In many cases, the GSM
signal strength will be comparable to existing broadcast radio and TV
My friend wears a hearing aid - can he
use a mobile phone?
Most new models of hearing aids are immune to radio frequency interference
from GSM phones that are more than 2 metres away. Some are also immune to
interference when the phone is brought up to the same ear as the hearing
aid. The result depends on the level of immunity designed into the hearing
aid, the nature of the hearing loss and the type of mobile phone.
Unfortunately many types of older hearing aids may be susceptible to
interference making it very difficult to use a mobile phone. Should
interference be experienced, there are several things that can be done
which may improve the situation:
- If possible use the mobile phone at the
non aided ear;
- Use a different, more immune hearing
- Use a hands free accessory. Different
accessories can be coupled to the hearing aid by either using the
Microphone or T-Coil position.
- Vibrating batteries are also available.
The GSM Association has produced further
information in conjunction with the European Hearing Instrument
Manufacturers Association (EHIMA) to answer questions in more detail
regarding this issue.
Will my pacemaker be affected by the signal from a mobile phone?
Brands and models of cardiac pacemakers exhibit a wide range of immunity
levels to GSM and other types of radio signals. Therefore, people who wear
cardiac pacemakers and who want to use a GSM phone should seek the advice
of their cardiologist. If, as a pacemaker user, you are still concerned
about interaction with mobile phones, it has been suggested by national
health authorities that you:
- maintain a 15 cm (6 inch) separation
between the phone and your pacemaker;
- do not hold your phone to your chest,
e.g., don't carry the phone in a breast pocket;
- refer to your pacemaker product
literature for information on your particular device; and
- refer to your phone product literature
for the technical parameters of your phone.
My car has an on-board computer. If I
make calls whilst driving, will my phone disrupt the computer?
Tests conducted by vehicle manufacturers show no interference effects on
airbags, automatic braking or cruise control systems during normal phone
use, despite some media reports to the contrary. It is possible that a
mobile phone could cause an interference with vehicle audio and remote
locking systems, but only if held close to the devices. You should
remember that care needs to be taken - and in some countries it is against
the law - to use a hand-held mobile whilst driving a vehicle. A
professionally installed hands-free kit is recommended. It is also
recommended that you pull over if the call is likely to be long, stressful
or complex. Safe driving should be the highest priority.
Why can't I use my mobile phone when I fly?
It is standard practice on aircraft to turn off all types of radio
transmitters and certain other electrical devices such as CD players
during flight. When airborne, the radio signals from mobile phones can
travel for hundreds of kilometers and this could interfere with the
operation of ground based phones. It is therefore highly recommended that
you obey the airline's instructions to switch off your mobile phone.
Why are there so many restrictions on using mobile phones in hospitals?
At short range, the radio signal from a mobile phone may cause
interference with electronic medical devices. At distances greater than 2m
the possibility is substantially reduced. It is possible for mobile phones
to be used in designated areas of hospitals, however, you should obey any
warning signs and the instructions of hospital staff. If you use
electrical medical equipment in your home, we recommend that you seek the
advice of your doctor or equipment supplier.
What about mobile phone use while driving?
Driving safely is of paramount importance to everyone on today's busy
roads, and mobile phones should be used responsibly while on the move. The
industry has developed a wide range of equipment and features to help you
do this and the use of a professionally installed car-kit is recommended.
(Note: it is an offence in many countries to hold a mobile phone to the
head while driving.) However, the GSM Association advises that it may be
sensible to pull over during difficult traffic conditions or when calls
are likely to be long, complex or emotional. The GSM Association advises
drivers at all times to obey the national laws of the country in which
they are travelling.
I've heard reports of mobile phones causing explosions at petrol
stations, is this true?
As far as the GSM Association is aware none of the media stories has ever
been traced to a real event, however, speculation has been encouraged by
the notices produced by petroleum companies. Mobile phone user guides also
frequently advise that phones should be switched off in the vicinity of
petrol forecourts. This is not due to the radio signals transmitted by the
phone but because of the theoretical risk that if a handheld phone is
dropped and the battery separates from the phone it may cause a spark
across the contacts. This is also true of other battery-powered devices
such as torches, walkman, CD players, etc. There may be more tangible
hazards associated with the distraction of using a mobile phone while
operating a petrol pump. Therefore, the GSM Association position is that
mobile phone users should respect the prohibitions of the fuel companies,
and follow any relevant advice given in their mobile phone user guides.
What are the safety standards that apply to mobile phones and base
There are a number of national and international standards bodies that
have developed safety standards that apply to mobile phones and base
stations. These committees are usually composed of persons with expertise
in key areas and representatives of major stakeholder groups. For specific
information you should contact the telecommunications regulator in your
The majority of Western standards are quite similar in their basic
approach to limit setting, in that by reviewing available research they
determine the threshold dose for an established biological hazard and then
incorporate safety factors to define the allowable level. The safety
factors are intended to account for uncertainty in establishing the
The radio safety standards applied in some former east European countries
take a different approach to setting of allowable levels and in many cases
appear substantially more conservative than western standards. However,
the rationale for such standards is less well documented and with the
political changes in Eastern Europe some of these countries have adopted
Under the umbrella of the World Health Organization (WHO) International
EMF Project efforts are being made to achieve standards harmonisation
between east European and Western standards.