Mobile base stations and health
How Base Stations Operate?
Mobile phones and wireless devices rely on a network of base stations and small cells that send and receive calls and provide other mobile services such as wireless broadband, video calling, and mobile TV. Base stations need to be located close to users in order to provide a reliable service and good quality reception.
Find out how mobile networks and base stations work at the EMF Explained website.
Base stations and small cells operate at relatively low power, with independent surveys demonstrating that the background EME level in the community from base stations is very low, and similar to environmental EME levels from broadcast radio and television.
The Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency (ARPANSA) provides the following information on base station safety "Health authorities around the world, including ARPANSA and the World Health Organization, have examined the scientific evidence regarding possible health effects from base stations. Current research indicates that there are no established health effects from the low exposure to the RF EME from mobile phone base station antennas"
The ACMA recently measured electromagnetic energy at 59 small cell sites across Australia. In all cases, the measured EME levels were less than 1% of the Australian Standard exposure limit for the general public. You can read ACMA's report here.
The Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency (ARPANSA) adopts the radiofrequency safety exposure guidelines recommended by the International Commission for Non-Ionising Radiation Protection (ICNIRP) and are endorsed by the World Health Organization (WHO).
The safety standards are developed using all available scientific literature and are designed to offer protection against identified health effects of EME with a large in-built safety margin.
Radiofrequency transmitters, including mobile network base stations and commercial radio and TV broadcast towers, are regulated for their environmental EME levels. Specifically, regulations are in place to limit the strength or level of the radiofrequency signals in the environment from all radio transmitters including Telstra's mobile network base stations. They are not based on distance, or creating "exclusion zones" for residential or other sensitive areas.
That is why, from a public health perspective, telecommunications facilities are permissible in any environment, including on apartment buildings and hospitals, and even within schools grounds.
The safety standard limits the network signal strength to a level low enough to protect all people, in all environments, 24-hours a day. The safety limit itself, recommended by the WHO, has a significant safety margin, or precautionary approach built into it.
Telstra and all other mobile network carriers in Australia must demonstrate that they comply with national RF EME safety limits when proposing a new base station or small cell.
The Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency (ARPANSA) has developed an Environmental EME Report that all carriers must produce for each proposed new base station. These reports are publicly available on the Radio Frequency National Site Archive. You can search for base stations here.
The Environmental EME Report predicts the maximum signal strength from the proposed facility - assuming that it is handling the maximum number of phone calls and data connections possible 24-hours a day. The maximum EME level from the proposed base station is presented as a percentage of the standard.
In reality, mobile base stations and small cells are designed to operate at the lowest possible power - lower than the maximum capacity demonstrated in the Environmental EME report. Once a connection has been established, the base station and device reduce their power automatically to the lowest level required to maintain a connection.
However, ARPANSA requires all network carriers to show the maximum signal strength of a proposed new facility to give the community peace of mind about the greatest possible impact that the antennas could have on the environment.