your questions on mobile phones

Does using a mobile phone constitute a health risk?
Mobile phones have been the subject of over 1,000 scientific studies over twenty years. The World Health Organization (WHO) and health experts groups have analysed all these scientific studies. In May 2011, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) classified radiofrequency electromagnetic fields as “possibly carcinogenic for humans”. In June 2011, recalling the IARC classification, WHO Fact Sheet No. 193 “Electromagnetic fields and public health: mobile phones” concluded: « To date, no adverse health effects have been established as being caused by mobile phone use”. This applies to all mobile and cordless phones, whether GSM (2G), UMTS (3G), LTE (4G), DECT and Wi-fi. Pending the results of other studies in progress, WHO and health expert groups support this conclusion with very simple-to-implement recommendations to limit exposure to radio waves, such as phoning with an earpiece or in areas where reception is good.

If there is no « adverse health effect », why continue with research?
WHO and expert groups recommend further research on the mobile phone for three reasons. Firstly, because they consider that the hindsight available from fifteen years is insufficient. Secondly, because some studies have suggested a risk to health but they are too small in their numbers, and potential methodological bias does not permit establishing a definitive conclusion. Finally, because the mechanisms of action of electromagnetic waves on living organisms need further study.

How to know the SAR of one’s mobile phone?
The value of the specific absorption rate (SAR) must be provided by the manufacturers of the devices and must be lower than 2W/kg. This information can be found in the instructions, on the manufacturers’ websites and on the portal created for this purpose by the association of mobile phone manufacturers.

How can exposure to waves be reduced when using a mobile phone?
There are several ways, such as using the mobile phone in areas where reception is good, using a « hands-free » kit (corded or Bluetooth).

What exposure reduction factor is provided by « hands-free » kits?
Studies have shown that, on average, the actual SAR of a « hands-free » kit is at least 10 times lower than for a phone used without the kit. That of a Bluetooth earpiece is even about 100 times lower.

When an electronic medical device is worn (such as pacemakers, stimulators, etc.), are there special precautions to respect with a mobile phone?
Health authorities recommend that mobile phones be carried at a minimum distance of 15 cm from the medical device. It is also recommended to first consult the instructions of the medical device and talk to one’s doctor.

Does the use of a mobile phone pose a risk to a pregnant woman?
The limits of exposure for the public from wireless equipment have been established by the International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection (ICNIRP), a body recognised by the World Health Organization and composed of scientists and physicians. Starting with all the existing literature, they took into account the adverse effects (e.g. an increase in body temperature of more than one degree Celsius). The threshold level at which the first effects appear was divided by 50 to determine the exposure limit values – a safety factor that fully takes into account any particular sensitivities of the population. Nevertheless, as a precaution for unborn children, some national health authorities recommend the distancing of mobiles from the stomach.

Are children more sensitive to radio waves?
There is no current evidence that children are more sensitive to electromagnetic fields emitted by mobile phones. However, there is ongoing experimental work including exposure modelling. This is to verify whether there are issues specific to children in this area. Pending the results of all this work, some health authorities recommend moderate use of mobiles by children and adolescents.

Are there specific recommendations related to the use of business mobiles?
No: phones used for business are identical to those sold to the general public, and have a SAR lower than 2 W/kg. The recommendations for use are the same as for the general public.

Do access points (« boxes », public Wi-fi terminals, femtocell, etc.) represent a health risk?
These devices are designed to improve the use of mobile terminals in everyday life, they are very low power – around a few tens of milliwatts (mW). As indicated in WHO Fact Sheet No. 304 published in May 2006: “there is no convincing scientific evidence of possible adverse effects from base stations and wireless networks for health”.
Furthermore, the proximity of a Femto box guarantees perfect indoor reception for a mobile (inside the home). In this way the power control in the mobile can play its role to the full and, in this case, it functions at much lower levels than its maximal power. Exposure due to the mobile is reduced by a similar ratio.

Are there any recommendations related to the use of equipment other than my mobile, such as 3G dongles, dominoes, etc. ?
Regarding the equipment which might be used close to the body, the recommendations for use and safety are the same as those applicable to mobile phones. In all cases, please consult the manufacturer’s instructions.