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 services.

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 aid;
  • 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 stations?
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 country.
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 threshold level.
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 Western guidelines.
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.