NRPB INFORMATION SHEET 20th Dec 1999
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Background 'Information' on Mobile Phones
(according to the UK National Radiological Protection Board <NRPB> - a government agency that also takes 'consultancy' jobs from industry -   Ft P comments in red)



Mobile Phones and Human Health - An Overview

Mobile phones are radio devices that transmit and receive microwave radiation at frequencies of about 900 Megahertz (MHz) and 1800 MHz. There are many other sources of radio waves (at different frequencies, transmitted from antennas that are constructed a reasonable distance from homes and schools). Television broadcasts in the UK operate at frequencies between 400 MHz and 860 MHz and microwave communication links (dishes) operate at frequencies above 1000 MHz.

Cellular radio systems involve communication between mobile telephones and fixed base stations. Each base station provides coverage of a given area, termed a cell. While cells are generally thought of as regular hexagons, making up a 'honeycomb' structure, in practice they are irregular due to site availability and topography. Depending on the base station location and mobile phone traffic to be handled, base stations may be from only a few hundred metres apart in major cities, to several kilometres apart in rural areas. If a person with a mobile phone moves out of one cell and into another, the controlling network hands over communications to the adjacent base station. The use of mobile phones is developing rapidly and at present there are about 14 million users in the UK with about 20,000 base stations.

Exposure guidelines are set to prevent adverse health effects caused by either whole or partial body heating ( that's a useful documentation of the limit of NRPB perception of reality, but this bogus 'standard' is persistently used by dot gov and industry apologists, to perpetrate de-facto misrepresention of the fuller picture - which includes non cooking effects, namely serious physiological/biological effects on mammalian systems - by failing/refusing to admit that they are writing about cooking effects only - there are jurisdictions that recognise the existence of non cooking effects and consequently impose more intelligent "guidelines").

Some of the energy in the radio waves emitted by mobile phones is absorbed in the head of the user, mostly in superficial tissues. Exposure guidelines relevant to mobile phones are therefore expressed in terms of absorbed energy in a small mass of tissue in the head. The limit for exposure of the head, recommended by NRPB and adopted by the Government for use in the UK, is 0.1 watt of power absorbed in any 10 g of tissue (time averaged over 6 minutes). Calculations suggest this could result in a maximum rise in temperature of less than one degree centigrade in the head, even after prolonged exposure.

In practice, the output from mobile phones used in the UK results in only a fraction of this amount of energy being deposited in the tissues of the head, and therefore the rise in temperature would only be a fraction of a degree. This is similar to the normal daily fluctuations in body temperature and such small changes in heat load are considered to be too low to cause adverse effects.

At positions where the public are normally exposed to fields from base stations antennas, exposure is likely to be more uniform over the whole body. The (cooking effect) restriction averaged over the whole body mass is 0.4 watts per kilogram (time averaged over 15 minutes   (in other words the duration of exposure in homes and schools is a relevant factor)). The radio waves produced by transmitters used for mobile phones are sufficiently weak that the ( cooking effect) guidelines can only be exceeded if a person is able to approach to within a few metres directly in front of the antennas (read about the bizarre site survey reported below).

Radio wave strengths at ground level and in regions normally accessible to the public (the Ft P report below, about a patently bogus site 'survey', includes a 'measurement' of radiation level in a position, allegedly "not normally accessible to the public" but actually used as a play area by children") are many times below hazard levels and no heating effect could possibly be detected (Shucks - what began three paras up as "one degree", became "a fraction of a degree" in the next para, and now it's "no heating effect".  Numbers that vanish are a common characteristic of industry apologists - by the way there was an interesting news report not so long ago, about how NRPB does well paid 'consulting' work for commercial phone giants) . NRPB staff have made many measurements to support this view.

Concerns about other possible, so-called (use of that one word in relation to, and against a background of,   the amount of well documented non thermal physiological/biological effects of exposure of mammalian systems to non ionising radiation, available in the public domain at the end of 1999, is sufficient to damn NRPB as throughly disreputable on account of gross incompetence or wilful negligence) athermal, effects arising from exposure to mobile phone frequencies have also been raised. These include suggestions of subtle effects (there's nothing "subtle" about the effect on lives of genetic and paragenetic effects, to name only two of many) on cells that could (correction, they do) have an effect on (both) cancer development or influences on electrically excitable tissue that could influence (and) the function of the brain and nervous tissue (and raise blood pressure,  disrupt functioning of blood/brain barrier, reduce sperm count, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera... !).

Radio waves do not have sufficient energy to damage genetic material (DNA) in cells directly and cannot therefore cause cancer (that's an unscrupulous half-truth that pretends ignorance of genetic/paragenetic effects of relatively low energy, non ionising radiation, on mammalian systems). There have been suggestions that they may be able to increase the rate of cancer development (ie influence cancer promotion or progression). The NRPB Advisory Group on Non-ionising Radiation (unsurprisingly) concluded, however, at a meeting in May 1999 '... that there was no human evidence of a risk of cancer resulting from exposure to radiations that arise from mobile phones'.

Furthermore, the evidence from biological studies on possible effects on tumour promotion or progression, including work with experimental animals, is not convincing (to the sufficiently prejudiced, incompetent, wilfully negligent). The lack of evidence does not, however, prove the absence of a risk and more specific research is warranted.

There has also been concern about whether there could be effects on brain function, with particular emphasis on headaches and memory loss. Few studies have yet investigated these possibilities, but the evidence does not suggest the existence of an obvious health hazard  (to the sufficiently prejudiced, incompetent, or wilfully negligent - note however that NRPB stops short, this year, of actual denial that there are any "effects on brain function").

In view of the limited amount of high quality experimental and epidemiological studies published to date, NRPB has supported the need for further research as outlined by an Expert Group, which reported to the European Commission (EC) in 1996. This recommended a comprehensive programme covering cellular studies, experimental investigations in animals together with human volunteer studies and epidemiology. The Group stressed the need to replicate studies suggesting the possibility of effects. This programme is being developed within the Fifth Framework Programme of EC.

Summary: Despite the rather limited epidemiological and experimental data available, NRPB concludes that the totality of the evidence available does not suggest that the use of mobile phones have any detrimental effect on human health . Nevertheless, there does remain a need for further research. (repeat of above, prudent, avoidance of denial of existence of physiological effects that in the opinion of many reputable researchers, have "detrimental effect on human health" - in any case, even if detrimental effect were not yet proven, would YOU want YOUR children to be the testbed, and would YOU wish to have YOUR physiological system disrupted without your permission?)

June 1999


Mobile Phones
(Ft P leaves comments on this section to others - Ft P interest is the physiological effects on children, of inappropriately sited and operated base stations - please scroll down to the base stations section)

The following summarises the NRPB position on the issue of the safety of mobile phones. NRPB advice is based on critical appraisal of epidemiological (human health) evidence, biological studies and an examination of the physical interaction of electromagnetic fields with the human body.

There is a consensus among national and international expert bodies concerned with radiation protection that standards for the protection of people should be based on sound scientific evidence relating to established effects on human health. Recommended limits of exposure for radiofrequency radiation (which includes microwave radiation) in the United Kingdom and elsewhere are based on restricting whole and partial body cooking. NRPB has published guidelines1 advising restrictions on the rate at which energy is absorbed in the body. Compliance with the guidelines will ensure that temperature rises are sufficiently small not to be harmful.

Mobile telephones are radio devices that transmit and receive microwave radiation. Exposure limits relevant to mobile phones are expressed in terms of absorbed energy in small masses of tissue in the head. In the UK, the limit recommended by NRPB is 0.1 watt of power absorbed in any 10 g of tissue in the head. The responsibility for complying with the recommended exposure limit lies with manufacturers. Calculations using an anatomically realistic mathematical model of the human head indicate that mobile phones currently used in the UK comply with the exposure limit.

Concerns about possible adverse health effects of exposure to electromagnetic fields, including cancer, have been raised. NRPB takes such concerns seriously and has committed resources to addressing this general scientific issue. The NRPB Advisory Group on Non-ionising Radiation (AGNIR), chaired by the eminent epidemiologist Professor Sir Richard Doll, has reviewed the scientific evidence on exposure to electromagnetic fields and the risk of cancer. The conclusion of the Group was that there is no firm evidence that electromagnetic fields cause cancer but that there is a need for further good quality research to be carried out. The AGNIR continues to review the published literature.

Scientific data relating to other effects arising from exposure to electromagnetic radiation at frequencies similar to those of mobile phones are few and inconsistent. Some studies in rodents have suggested that extended exposure to high levels of microwave radiation can influence the function of the brain. The studies are not however, representative of human exposure conditions arising from the use of mobile phones. Effects on memory and other brain functions in people using mobile phones under normal conditions of use are not expected. There is a need, however, for further research, including replication of those studies where effects have been reported.

In 1996 the European Commission (EC) set up an Expert Group mandated to draw up a 'blueprint for research' into possible health effects relating to the use of mobile telephony. The Expert Group comprised experts in the fields of biology, medicine, epidemiology, dosimetry, telecommunications and radiation protection drawn from eight of the member states of the European Communities. The Head of the NRPB Non-ionising Radiation Department, Dr Alastair McKinlay, chaired the Expert Group, which reported to EC at the end of September 1996. The Group reviewed the published scientific literature, examined research needs and identified appropriate studies to be carried out. It recommended a comprehensive research programme covering cellular studies, experimental investigations in animals, human volunteer studies and epidemiology. The proposed work programme includes studies on any mechanisms of interaction of microwave radiation with cells and tissues, an examination of possible effects on DNA, brain cells, physiology, behaviour and cancer-related processes, as well as epidemiological studies on the risk of brain and other cancers. The Group also provided an overview of a research management infrastructure to ensure the independence and quality of the research work.

NRPB endorses the call for research in this area and fully supports the EC initiative.

Reference

  1. NRPB. Restrictions on human exposure to static and time varying electromagnetic fields and radiation. Documents of the NRPB, 4, No. 5, 7-63 (1993). ISBN 0-85951-366-1.

Information Sheet No 2/98
12 February 1998


Mobile Phone Base Stations

The use of radio waves to carry information is an integral part of modern life and there are many different types of radio transmitter in the environment. These include the broadcast transmitters used for radio and television, the radio equipment used by the emergency services, mobile telephones and their associated base stations.

Mobile telephone base stations are radio transmitters with antennas mounted on either free-standing towers or on buildings. Radio signals are fed through cables to the antennas and then launched as radio waves into the area, or cell, around the base station. Two types of antennas are used for the transmissions; pole-shaped antennas are used to communicate with mobile telephones and dish antennas communicate to other base stations and link the network together.

There is a consensus among national and international expert bodies concerned with radiation protection that exposure guidelines for the protection of people should be based on sound scientific evidence relating to established effects on human health (there is notable and scandalous implication in the wording of that sentence, to the effect of a lie about the existence "sound scientific evidence" - and of The Maastricht Precautionary Principle in areas awaiting outcomes of "sound scientific" research being carried out because of suspected/predicted/reported health effects) . Recommended limits on exposure to radiowaves (including radiofrequency and microwave radiation) in the United Kingdom and elsewhere are based on restricting whole and partial body cooking. NRPB has published guidelines1-3 advising restrictions on the rate at which energy is absorbed in the body. Compliance with the guidelines will ensure that temperature rises (not, for example, genetic/paragenetic effects and many other biological consequences of intermittent or chronic exposure to non ionising radiation at these frequencies) are sufficiently small not to be harmful.

The transmissions from any particular base station are variable (that's a useful disclosure, but the radiation is not quite as variable as was suggested by the patently bogus site 'survey' reported below by Ft P) and dependent upon the number of calls and the number of transmitters in operation. In general, the following points are relevant to the exposure of people to radio waves emitted by base stations.

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