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The antennas contained in mobile phones, including smartphones, emit radiofrequency (RF) radiation (non-ionizing "radio waves" such as microwaves); the parts of the head or body nearest to the antenna can absorb this energy and convert it to heat. Since at least the 1990s, scientists have researched whether the now-ubiquitous radiation associated with mobile phone antennas or cell phone towers is affecting human health.Mobile phone networks use various bands of RF frequency, some of which overlap with the microwave range. Other digital wireless systems, such as data communication networks, produce similar radiation.
In response to public concern, the World Health Organization established the International EMF Project in 1996 to assess the scientific evidence of possible health effects of EMF in the frequency range from 0 to 300 GHz. They have stated that although extensive research has been conducted into possible health effects of exposure to many parts of the frequency spectrum, all reviews conducted so far have indicated that, as long as exposures are below the limits recommended in the ICNIRP (1998) EMF guidelines, which cover the full frequency range from 0–300 GHz, such exposures do not produce any known adverse health effect. In 2011, International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), an agency of the World Health Organization, classified wireless radiation as Group 2B – possibly carcinogenic. That means that there "could be some risk" of carcinogenicity, so additional research into the long-term, heavy use of wireless devices needs to be conducted. The WHO states that "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."
International guidelines on exposure levels to microwave frequency EMFs such as ICNIRP limit the power levels of wireless devices and it is uncommon for wireless devices to exceed the guidelines. These guidelines only take into account thermal effects, as non-thermal effects have not been conclusively demonstrated. it is a sensible precautionary approach ... to keep the situation under ongoing review ...". In a 2018 statement, the FDA said that "the current safety limits are set to include a 50-fold safety margin from observed effects of Radio-frequency energy exposure".The official stance of the British Health Protection Agency (HPA) is that "[T]here is no consistent evidence to date that WiFi and WLANs adversely affect the health of the general population", but also that "...
A mobile phone connects to the telephone network by radio waves exchanged with a local antenna and automated transceiver called a cellular base station (cell site or cell tower). The service area served by each provider is divided into small geographical areas called cells, and all the phones in a cell communicate with that cell's antenna. Both the phone and the tower have radio transmitters which communicate with each other. Since in a cellular network the same radio channels are reused every few cells, cellular networks use low power transmitters to avoid radio waves from one cell spilling over and interfering with a nearby cell using the same frequencies.
Mobile phones are limited to an equivalent isotropic radiated power (EIRP) output of 3 watts, and the network continuously adjusts the phone transmitter to the lowest power consistent with good signal quality, reducing it to as low as one milliwatt when near the cell tower. Tower channel transmitters usually have an EIRP power output of around 50 watts. Even when it is not being used, unless it is turned off, a mobile phone periodically emits radio signals on its control channel, to keep contact with its cell tower and for functions like handing off the phone to another tower if the user crosses into another cell. When the user is making a call, the phone transmits a signal on a second channel which carries the user's voice. Existing 2G, 3G, and 4G networks use frequencies in the UHF or low microwave bands, 600 MHz to 3.5 GHz. Many household wireless devices such as WiFi networks, garage door openers, and baby monitors use other frequencies in this same frequency range.
Radio waves decrease rapidly in intensity by the inverse square of distance as they spread out from a transmitting antenna. So the phone transmitter, which is held close to the user's face when talking, is a much greater source of human exposure than the tower transmitter, which is typically at least hundreds of metres away from the user. A user can reduce their exposure by using a headset and keeping the phone itself farther away from their body.
Next generation 5G cellular networks, which began deploying in 2019, use higher frequencies in or near the millimetre wave band, 24 to 52 GHz. Millimetre waves are absorbed by atmospheric gases so 5G networks will use smaller cells than previous cellular networks, about the size of a city block. Instead of a cell tower, each cell will use an array of multiple small antennas mounted on existing buildings and utility poles. In general, millimeter waves penetrate less deeply into biological tissue than microwaves, and are mainly absorbed within the first centimeter of the body surface.
The HPA also says that due to the mobile phone's adaptive power ability, a DECT cordless phone's radiation could actually exceed the radiation of a mobile phone. The HPA explains that while the DECT cordless phone's radiation has an average output power of 10 mW, it is actually in the form of 100 bursts per second of 250 mW, a strength comparable to some mobile phones.
Most wireless LAN equipment is designed to work within predefined standards. Wireless access points are also often close to people, but the drop off in power over distance is fast, following the inverse-square law.However, wireless laptops are typically used close to people. WiFi had been anecdotally linked to electromagnetic hypersensitivity but research into electromagnetic hypersensitivity has found no systematic evidence supporting claims made by sufferers.
Users of wireless networking devices are typically exposed for much longer periods than for mobile phones and the strength of wireless devices is not significantly less. Whereas a Universal Mobile Telecommunications System (UMTS) phone can range from 21 dBm (125 mW) for Power Class 4 to 33 dBm (2W) for Power class 1, a wireless router can range from a typical 15 dBm (30 mW) strength to 27 dBm (500 mW) on the high end.
However, wireless routers are typically located significantly farther away from users' heads than a phone the user is handling, resulting in far less exposure overall. The Health Protection Agency (HPA) says that if a person spends one year in a location with a WiFi hot spot, they will receive the same dose of radio waves as if they had made a 20-minute call on a mobile phone.
The HPA's position is that "... radio frequency (RF) exposures from WiFi are likely to be lower than those from mobile phones." It also saw "... no reason why schools and others should not use WiFi equipment." In October 2007, the HPA launched a new "systematic" study into the effects of WiFi networks on behalf of the UK government, in order to calm fears that had appeared in the media in a recent period up to that time". Michael Clark of the HPA says published research on mobile phones and masts does not add up to an indictment of WiFi.
A 2010 review stated that "The balance of experimental evidence does not support an effect of 'non-thermal' radio frequency fields" on the permeability of the blood-brain barrier, but noted that research on low frequency effects and effects in humans was sparse.A 2012 study of low-frequency radiation on humans found "no evidence for acute effects of short-term mobile phone radiation on cerebral blood flow".
There is no strong or consistent evidence that mobile phone use increases the risk of getting brain cancer or other head tumors. The United States National Cancer Institute points out that "Radiofrequency energy, unlike ionizing radiation, does not cause DNA damage that can lead to cancer. Its only consistently observed biological effect in humans is tissue heating. In animal studies, it has not been found to cause cancer or to enhance the cancer-causing effects of known chemical carcinogens." The majority of human studies have failed to find a link between mobile phone use and cancer. In 2011 the IARC, a World Health Organization working group, classified mobile phone use as "possibly carcinogenic to humans".The IARC summed up their conclusion with: "The human epidemiological evidence was mixed. Several small early case–control studies were considered to be largely uninformative. A large cohort study showed no increase in risk of relevant tumours, but it lacked information on level of mobile-phone use and there were several potential sources of misclassification of exposure. The bulk of evidence came from reports of the INTERPHONE study, a very large international, multicentre case–control study and a separate large case–control study from Sweden on gliomas and meningiomas of the brain and acoustic neuromas. While affected by selection bias and information bias to varying degrees, these studies showed an association between glioma and acoustic neuroma and mobile-phone use; specifically in people with highest cumulative use of mobile phones, in people who had used mobile phones on the same side of the head as that on which their tumour developed, and in people whose tumour was in the temporal lobe of the brain (the area of the brain that is most exposed to RF radiation when a wireless phone is used at the ear)" The CDC states that no scientific evidence definitively answers whether mobile phone use causes cancer.
In a 2018 statement, the US Food and Drug Administration said that "the current safety limits are set to include a 50-fold safety margin from observed effects of radiofrequency energy exposure".
On 1 November 2018, the US National Toxicology Program published the final version (after peer review that was performed through March 2018) of its "eagerly anticipated" study using rats and mice, conducted over some ten years. This report concludes after the review with an updated statement that "there is clear evidence that male rats exposed to high levels of radio frequency radiation (RFR) like that used in 2G and 3G cell phones developed cancerous heart tumors.... There was also some evidence of tumors in the brain and adrenal gland of exposed male rats. For female rats, and male and female mice, the evidence was equivocal as to whether cancers observed were associated with exposure to RFR".
An early analysis of preliminary results issued by the National Toxicology Program had indicated that due to such issues as the inconsistent appearances of "signals for harm" within and across species and the increased chances of false positives due to the multiplicity of tests, the positive results seen are more likely due to random chance. The full results of the study were released for peer review in February 2018.
A decline in male sperm quality has been observed over several decades.Studies on the impact of mobile radiation on male fertility are conflicting, and the effects of the radio frequency electromagnetic radiation (RF-EMR) emitted by these devices on the reproductive systems are currently under active debate. A 2012 review concluded that "together, the results of these studies have shown that RF-EMR decreases sperm count and motility and increases oxidative stress". A 2017 study of 153 men that attended an academic fertility clinic in Boston, Massachusetts found that self-reported mobile phone use was not related to semen quality, and that carrying a mobile phone in the pants pocket was not related to semen quality.
Some users of mobile phones and similar devices have reported feeling various non-specific symptoms during and after use. Studies have failed to link any of these symptoms to electromagnetic exposure. In addition, EHS is not a recognized medical diagnosis.
According to the National Cancer Institute, two small studies exploring whether and how mobile phone radiation affects brain glucose metabolism showed inconsistent results.
A report from the Australian Government's Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency (ARPANSA) in June 2017 noted that:
The 2010 WHO Research Agenda identified a lack of sufficient evidence relating to children and this is still the case. ... Given that no long-term prospective study has looked at this issue to date this research need remains a high priority. For cancer in particular only one completed case-control study involving four European countries has investigated mobile phone use among children or adolescents and risk of brain tumour; showing no association between the two (Aydin et al. 2011). ... Given this paucity of information regarding children using mobile phones and cancer ... more epidemiological studies are needed.
Experts consulted by France considered it was mandatory that the main antenna axis should not to be directly in front of a living place at a distance shorter than 100 metres. as of 2009 [update] , says that there is no demonstrated short-term effect of electromagnetic fields on health, but that there are open questions for long-term effects, and that it is easy to reduce exposure via technological improvements. A 2020 study in Environmental Research found that "Although direct causation of negative human health effects from RFR from cellular phone base stations has not been finalized, there is already enough medical and scientific evidence to warrant long-term liability concerns for companies deploying cellular phone towers" and thus recommended voluntary setbacks from schools and hospitals.This recommendation was modified in 2003 to say that antennas located within a 100-metre radius of primary schools or childcare facilities should be better integrated into the city scape and was not included in a 2005 expert report. The Agence française de sécurité sanitaire environnementale
To protect the population living around base stations and users of mobile handsets, governments and regulatory bodies adopt safety standards, which translate to limits on exposure levels below a certain value. There are many proposed national and international standards, but that of the International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection (ICNIRP) is the most respected one, and has been adopted so far by more than 80 countries. For radio stations, ICNIRP proposes two safety levels: one for occupational exposure, another one for the general population. Currently there are efforts underway to harmonize the different standards in existence.
Radio base licensing procedures have been established in the majority of urban spaces regulated either at municipal/county, provincial/state or national level. Mobile telephone service providers are, in many regions, required to obtain construction licenses, provide certification of antenna emission levels and assure compliance to ICNIRP standards and/or to other environmental legislation.
Many governmental bodies also require that competing telecommunication companies try to achieve sharing of towers so as to decrease environmental and cosmetic impact. This issue is an influential factor of rejection of installation of new antennas and towers in communities.
The safety standards in the US are set by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). The FCC has based its standards primarily on those standards established by the National Council on Radiation Protection and Measurements (NCRP) a Congressionally chartered scientific organization located in the WDC area and the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE), specifically Subcommittee 4 of the "International Committee on Electromagnetic Safety".
Switzerland has set safety limits lower than the ICNIRP limits for certain "sensitive areas" (classrooms, for example).
In March 2020, for the first time since 1998, ICNIRP updated its guidelines for exposures to frequencies over 6 Ghz, including the frequencies used for 5G that are over 6 Ghz. The Commission added a restriction on acceptable levels of exposure to the whole body, added a restriction on acceptable levels for brief exposures to small regions of the body, and reduced the maximum amount of exposure permitted over a small region of the body.
In the US, personal injury lawsuits have been filed by individuals against manufacturers (including Motorola,NEC, Siemens, and Nokia) on the basis of allegations of causation of brain cancer and death. In US federal courts, expert testimony relating to science must be first evaluated by a judge, in a Daubert hearing, to be relevant and valid before it is admissible as evidence. In a 2002 case against Motorola, the plaintiffs alleged that the use of wireless handheld telephones could cause brain cancer and that the use of Motorola phones caused one plaintiff's cancer. The judge ruled that no sufficiently reliable and relevant scientific evidence in support of either general or specific causation was proffered by the plaintiffs, accepted a motion to exclude the testimony of the plaintiffs' experts, and denied a motion to exclude the testimony of the defendants' experts.
Two separate cases in Italy, in 2009and 2017, resulted in pensions being awarded to plaintiffs who had claimed their benign brain tumors were the result of prolonged mobile phone use in professional tasks, for 5–6 hours a day, which they ruled different from non-professional use.
In 2000, the World Health Organization (WHO) recommended that the precautionary principle could be voluntarily adopted in this case.It follows the recommendations of the European Community for environmental risks.
According to the WHO, the "precautionary principle" is "a risk management policy applied in circumstances with a high degree of scientific uncertainty, reflecting the need to take action for a potentially serious risk without awaiting the results of scientific research." Other less stringent recommended approaches are prudent avoidance principle and as low as reasonably practicable. Although all of these are problematic in application, due to the widespread use and economic importance of wireless telecommunication systems in modern civilization, there is an increased popularity of such measures in the general public, though also evidence that such approaches may increase concern. [ citation needed ] Overall, public information remains a challenge as various health consequences are evoked in the literature and by the media, putting populations under chronic exposure to potentially worrying information.They involve recommendations such as the minimization of usage, the limitation of use by at-risk population (e.g., children), the adoption of phones and microcells with as low as reasonably practicable levels of radiation, the wider use of hands-free and earphone technologies such as Bluetooth headsets, the adoption of maximal standards of exposure, RF field intensity and distance of base stations antennas from human habitations, and so forth.
In May 2011, the World Health Organization's International Agency for Research on Cancer announced it was classifying electromagnetic fields from mobile phones and other sources as "possibly carcinogenic to humans" and advised the public to adopt safety measures to reduce exposure, like use of hands-free devices or texting.
Some national radiation advisory authorities, including those of Austria,France, Germany, and Sweden, have recommended measures to minimize exposure to their citizens. Examples of the recommendations are:
The use of "hands-free" was not recommended by the British Consumers' Association in a statement in November 2000, as they believed that exposure was increased.However, measurements for the (then) UK Department of Trade and Industry and others for the French Agence française de sécurité sanitaire environnementale showed substantial reductions. In 2005, Professor Lawrie Challis and others said clipping a ferrite bead onto hands-free kits stops the radio waves travelling up the wire and into the head.
Several nations have advised moderate use of mobile phones for children.A journal by Gandhi et al. in 2006 states that children receive higher levels of Specific Absorption Rate (SAR). When 5- and 10-year olds are compared to adults, they receive about 153% higher SAR levels. Also, with the permittivity of the brain decreasing as one gets older and the higher relative volume of the exposed growing brain in children, radiation penetrates far beyond the mid-brain.
In the beginning of the year 2020 Slovenia stopped the deployment of the 5G technology as a precaution due to health concerns.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, misinformation circulated claiming that 5G networks contribute to the spread of COVID-19.
Products have been advertised that claim to shield people from EM radiation from mobile phones; in the US the Federal Trade Commission published a warning that "Scam artists follow the headlines to promote products that play off the news –and prey on concerned people."
According to the FTC, "there is no scientific proof that so-called shields significantly reduce exposure from electromagnetic emissions. Products that block only the earpiece –or another small portion of the phone –are totally ineffective because the entire phone emits electromagnetic waves." Such shields "may interfere with the phone's signal, cause it to draw even more power to communicate with the base station, and possibly emit more radiation." The FTC has enforced false advertising claims against companies that sell such products.
A wireless network is a computer network that uses wireless data connections between network nodes.
At sufficiently high flux levels, various bands of electromagnetic radiation have been found to cause deleterious health effects in people. Electromagnetic radiation can be classified into two types: ionizing radiation and non-ionizing radiation, based on the capability of a single photon with more than 10 eV energy to ionize atoms or break chemical bonds. Extreme ultraviolet and higher frequencies, such as X-rays or gamma rays are ionizing, and these pose their own special hazards: see radiation and radiation poisoning. The last quarter of the twentieth century saw a dramatic increase in the number of devices emitting non-ionizing radiation in all segments of society, which resulted in an elevation of health concerns by researchers and clinicians, and an associated interest in government regulation for safety purposes. By far the most common health hazard of radiation is sunburn, which causes between approximately 100,000 and 1 million new skin cancers annually in the United States.
Radio waves are a type of electromagnetic radiation with wavelengths in the electromagnetic spectrum longer than infrared light. Radio waves have frequencies as high as 300 gigahertz (GHz) to as low as 30 hertz (Hz). At 300 GHz, the corresponding wavelength is 1 mm ; at 30 Hz the corresponding wavelength is 10,000 km. Like all other electromagnetic waves, radio waves travel at the speed of light in vacuum. Radio waves are generated by charged particles undergoing acceleration, such as time-varying electric currents. Naturally occurring radio waves are emitted by lightning and astronomical objects.
Base station is – according to the International Telecommunication Union's (ITU) Radio Regulations (RR) – a "land station in the land mobile service."
A cell site, cell tower, or cellular base station is a cellular-enabled mobile device site where antennas and electronic communications equipment are placed—typically on a radio mast, tower, or other raised structure—to create a cell in a cellular network. The raised structure typically supports antenna and one or more sets of transmitter/receivers transceivers, digital signal processors, control electronics, a GPS receiver for timing, primary and backup electrical power sources, and sheltering.
Specific Absorption Rate (SAR) is a measure of the rate at which energy is absorbed per unit mass by a human body when exposed to a radio frequency (RF) electromagnetic field. It can also refer to absorption of other forms of energy by tissue, including ultrasound. It is defined as the power absorbed per mass of tissue and has units of watts per kilogram (W/kg).
Bioelectromagnetics, also known as bioelectromagnetism, is the study of the interaction between electromagnetic fields and biological entities. Areas of study include electromagnetic fields produced by living cells, tissues or organisms, the effects of man-made sources of electromagnetic fields like mobile phones, and the application of electromagnetic radiation toward therapies for the treatment of various conditions.
Electromagnetic hypersensitivity (EHS) is a claimed sensitivity to electromagnetic fields, to which negative symptoms are attributed. EHS has no scientific basis and is not a recognised medical diagnosis. Claims are characterized by a "variety of non-specific symptoms, which afflicted individuals attribute to exposure to electromagnetic fields".
Arthur Robert Firstenberg is an American author and activist on the subject of electromagnetic radiation and health. He is the founder of the independent campaign group the Cellular Phone Task Force. His 1997 book Microwaving Our Planet: The Environmental Impact of the Wireless Revolution was published by the group. He is the author of The Invisible Rainbow: A History of Electricity and Life.
A mobile phone, cellular phone, cell phone, cellphone, handphone, or hand phone, sometimes shortened to simply mobile, cell or just phone, is a portable telephone that can make and receive calls over a radio frequency link while the user is moving within a telephone service area. The radio frequency link establishes a connection to the switching systems of a mobile phone operator, which provides access to the public switched telephone network (PSTN). Modern mobile telephone services use a cellular network architecture and, therefore, mobile telephones are called cellular telephones or cell phones in North America. In addition to telephony, digital mobile phones (2G) support a variety of other services, such as text messaging, MMS, email, Internet access, short-range wireless communications, business applications, video games and digital photography. Mobile phones offering only those capabilities are known as feature phones; mobile phones which offer greatly advanced computing capabilities are referred to as smartphones.
The BioInitiative Report is a report on the relationship between the electromagnetic fields (EMF) associated with powerlines and wireless devices and health. It was self-published online, without peer review, on 31 August 2007, by a group "of 14 scientists, researchers, and public health policy professionals". The BioInitiative Report states that it is an examination of the controversial health risks of electromagnetic fields and radiofrequency radiation. Some updated BioInitiative material was published in a journal in an issue guest-edited by one of the members of the group, and a 2012 version of the report was released on 7 January 2013. It has been heavily criticized by independent and governmental research groups for its lack of balance.
COSMOS is a cohort study of mobile phone use and health. The study will investigate the possible health effects of long-term use of mobile phones and other wireless technologies. It is an international study being conducted in five European countries – UK, Denmark, Sweden, Finland, the Netherlands and France. In the UK Imperial College London is carrying out this research.
Non-ionizingradiation refers to any type of electromagnetic radiation that does not carry enough energy per quantum to ionize atoms or molecules—that is, to completely remove an electron from an atom or molecule. Instead of producing charged ions when passing through matter, non-ionizing electromagnetic radiation has sufficient energy only for excitation, the movement of an electron to a higher energy state. In contrast, ionizing radiation has a higher frequency and shorter wavelength than non-ionizing radiation, and can be a serious health hazard; exposure to it can cause burns, radiation sickness, cancer, and genetic damage. Using ionizing radiation requires elaborate radiological protection measures, which in general are not required with non-ionizing radiation.
Problematic smartphone use is proposed by some researchers to be a form of psychological or behavioral dependence on cell phones, closely related to other forms of digital media overuse such as social media addiction or internet addiction disorder. Other researchers have stated that terminology relating to behavioral addictions in regards to smartphone use can cause additional problems both in research and stigmatisation of users, suggesting the term to evolve to problematic smartphone use. Problematic use can include preoccupation with mobile communication, excessive money or time spent on mobile phones, and use of mobile phones in socially or physically inappropriate situations such as driving an automobile. Increased use can also lead to increased time on mobile communication, adverse effects on relationships, and anxiety if separated from a mobile phone or sufficient signal.
Henry Lai is a scientist, researcher and bioengineering Professor Emeritus at the University of Washington and Editor-in-chief of Electromagnetic Biology and Medicine. Lai published research in 1995 that concluded that low-level microwave radiation caused DNA damage in rat brains.
Ronald B. Herberman was a physician, immunologist, oncologist, researcher, and professor of medicine and pathology who founded the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute (UPCI), a National Cancer Institute (NCI)-designated Comprehensive Care Center in 1984. He helped discover natural killer cells capable of killing cancer. He became well known outside the medical community in 2008 for his public warning about the potential health impacts of mobile telephones and recommending a reduction in their use.
Pong Research Corporation was a cell phone accessories company that invented the Pong Case, a cell phone case with an embedded antenna that reduces exposure to cell phone radiation.
Lennart Hardell, is a Swedish oncologist and professor at Örebro University Hospital in Örebro, Sweden. He is known for his research into what he says are environmental cancer-causing agents, such as Agent Orange, and has said that cell phones increase the risk of brain tumors.
Ionizing radiation can cause biological effects which are passed on to offspring through the epigenome. The effects of radiation on cells has been found to be dependent on the dosage of the radiation, the location of the cell in regards to tissue, and whether the cell is a somatic or germ line cell. Generally, ionizing radiation appears to reduce methylation of DNA in cells.
Joel M. Moskowitz is a researcher on the faculty of the School of Public Health at the University of California, Berkeley. He has worked on public health issues that include cell phone risk, tobacco control, and alcohol abuse. He helped the city of Berkeley, California to draft an ordinance mandating safety warnings on cell phones. In 2018, Moskowitz won the James Madison Freedom of Information Award for his work in bringing to light previously publicly unknown California Department of Public Health guidance documents about cell phone safety.