Mobile phones and health
At Telstra, we want everyone to have up-to-date and relevant information about using mobile phones. This includes all matters of mobile phone safety.
View our Mobiles and Health video including exposure reduction options
What do we know?
Telstra relies on the expert advice of a number of national and international health authorities, including the World Health Organisation (WHO) for overall assessments relating to health and safety. Research into electromagnetic energy (EME), mobile phones and health has been going on for many years. In October 2014, the WHO updated its fact sheet on mobile phones and health and reaffirmed its current position. The Fact Sheet says:
Q: “Are there any health effects?
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.”
The WHO also lists the following key facts on mobile phones and health:
Mobile phone use is ubiquitous with an estimated 6.9 billion subscriptions globally.
The electromagnetic fields produced by mobile phones are classified by the International Agency for Research on Cancer as possibly carcinogenic to humans.
Studies are ongoing to more fully assess potential long-term effects of mobile phone use.
WHO will conduct a formal risk assessment of all studied health outcomes from radiofrequency fields exposure by 2016.
In terms of brain tumours and long term effects the WHO says:
“While an increased risk of brain tumors is not established, the increasing use of mobile phones and the lack of data for mobile phone use over time periods longer than 15 years warrant further research of mobile phone use and brain cancer risk. In particular, with the recent popularity of mobile phone use among younger people, and therefore a potentially longer lifetime of exposure, WHO has promoted further research on this group. Several studies investigating potential health effects in children and adolescents are underway.”
Read the IARC RF Classification Announcement here.
Q: What research is the WHO advice based on?
The WHO maintains an extensive database of scientific research into the effects of EME, including studies on the effects of radio frequency (RF) on health. This database is available on the WHO website and contains more than 1900 published scientific articles on the biological and health effects of RF EME and more than 630 studies on RF specifically used by mobile networks.
Steps to reduce exposure to RF EME
The WHO provides information on how to reduce mobile phone exposure:
"In addition to using 'hands-free' devices, which keep mobile phones away from the head and body during phone calls, exposure is also reduced by limiting the number and length of calls. Using the phone in areas of good reception also decreases exposure as it allows the phone to transmit at reduced power."
At Telstra we are committed to providing you with any further updates from the WHO as they become available.
Telstra takes all matters of safety very seriously and only sells mobile phones that meet national and international safety requirements and standards.
There are many sources of information on mobile phones and health. As well as our web site, you can go directly to some of the authorities and organisations we rely on for expert advice or general information:
You can also check your device manufacturer's handbook, guide or web site.
Or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
In Australia, the EME safety standard for mobile phones is set by Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency (ARPANSA), and regulated by the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) - the Federal Government regulator for the telecommunications industry.
All mobile phones sold in Australia must comply with the ACMA's Radio Communications (Electromagnetic Radiation - Human Exposure) Standard 2003.
The safety standard operates by limiting the Specific Absorption Rate (SAR), or the rate at which the mobile phone user absorbs energy from the handset. The SAR is measured in watts per kilogram (W/Kg), and in Australia the maximum SAR allowable for any mobile phone is 2 watts per kilogram (averaged over 10 grams).
This is the standard recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO). It is based on guidelines from the International Commission for Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection (ICNIRP), and a careful analysis of all of the scientific literature (both thermal and non-thermal effects). It is designed to offer protection against identified health effects of EME with a large in-built safety margin.
Since 1999, all mobile phones and devices sold in Australia must display the Federal Government compliance sticker known as the Regulatory Compliance Mark (RCM) to show that they comply with the EME safety standard. Prior to 2014 the RCM was known as the A-Tick compliance sticker. Mobile phones bought in Australia prior to 1999 were still made in accordance with the EME safety standard but were not required to bear the sticker.
Regulatory Compliance Mark
People should make sure when buying a new mobile phone that it bears the Federal Government RCM compliance sticker, usually found behind the battery or on the box or packaging.
Example Regulatory Compliance Mark and A-Tick EME Compliance stickers
Example A-Tick located on the product information label under the battery of a mobile phone
Example RCM located on the product label on the box of a tablet
The "RCM or A-Tick" is the triangle on the top left hand side of the at the top of the white bar code sticker with a black tick inside.
Further information on the regulatory compliance requirements is available from the Australian Communication and Media Authority (ACMA)
From October 2001, mobile phone manufacturers began providing SAR values and SAR information with all new release mobile phone models. This followed the development of a methodology to test mobile phones for their SAR level, introduced by the European Committee for Electrotechnical Standardisation (CENELEC), which allows for consistent reporting of SAR values worldwide.
Telstra supports the mobile phone manufacturer's initiative to provide information on mobile phone exposure levels.
The maximum stated SAR level of a mobile phone is a maximum. This level does not represent an accurate indication of every day exposure because operational power levels vary considerably during normal use.
The variations in the maximum SAR measurements between the different models of mobile phones should not be seen as a measure of differences in safety. Although mobile phones sold in Australia may vary slightly in their measured exposure levels at maximum power output, they are regarded as equally safe because they all comply with the EME safety standard.
There are many ways to find SAR information for mobile phones. We have listed some easy tips below.
- Check the phone handbook or user manual - look under safety or specifications.
- Search the manufacturer's web site for your phone model and SAR - it is usually listed under safety, or product specifications.
- Check the Mobile Manufacturers Forum web site.
- Use a web search engine like Google to search for your phone model and SAR.
- Contact the manufacturer and ask for the SAR information.
- Check the Telstra.com web site – look under the specifications tab for your mobile device
- Email us at: email@example.com
While the maximum SAR values provide an indication of the highest power level that a mobile phone is capable of, mobile phones are designed to operate at the minimum power necessary to connect and maintain a quality call, and so they regularly operate at levels well below the maximum SAR.
In fact, both mobile phones and mobile base stations are designed to operate at the lowest possible power. The minimum power level required depends on a variety of factors, such as, the specific network, the user's proximity to base stations and the radio frequency band being used.
Once a call has been established, the base station and the mobile handset reduce their power automatically to the lowest level required to maintain a signal connection. This is referred to as adaptive power control.
One of the key factors affecting the operating power of a mobile phone is the user's distance to the nearest network base station. A mobile phone that is close to a base station will usually require less power to operate than the same mobile phone that is transmitting a call from further away.
If base stations are placed closer to users, the power levels required for communications usually decreases, and so too does the EME from base stations and mobile phones. This is why the location of a base station relative to the mobile phone users is important.
Further information on how mobile phones work is available at EMF Explained.