There is still no “convincing” evidence that mobile phone technologies pose a risk to health, concludes a comprehensive review of the evidence by the Health Protection Agency (HPA).
But kids should not use mobiles to excess, until the evidence has built up for longer than the current 15 years, says the HPA.
The report, which updates the Agency’s independent Advisory Group on Non-ionising Radiation (AGNIR) review published in 2003, considers the scientific evidence on exposure to radiofrequency electromagnetic fields, which are produced by mobile phone technologies and other wireless devices, such as Wi-Fi, as well as television and radio transmitters.
It finds that although a substantial amount of research has been conducted, there is no convincing evidence that exposure below internationally agreed guideline levels, which are applied in the UK, is harmful to the health of adults or children.
It also found that the presence of radiofrequency electromagnetic fields cannot be detected by people, including those who report being sensitive to them.
A large number of studies have now been published on cancer risks in relation to mobile phone use. Overall, the results of studies have not shown that the use of mobile phones causes brain tumours or any other type of cancer.
But it warns that as mobile phone technology has only been in widespread public use relatively recently, there is little information on risks beyond 15 years from first exposure. It is therefore important to continue to monitor the evidence, including that from national brain tumour trends.
Although studies of other electromagnetic field exposures, such as those at work and from radiofrequency transmitters, have been more limited, there is no evidence that they cause cancer either, says the report.
Research on other potential long-term effects of radiofrequency electromagnetic field exposures is sparse, admit the authors, but the results provide no substantial evidence that they harm cardiovascular or reproductive health.
Professor Anthony Swerdlow, Chairman of the Group, concluded: “There are still limitations to the published research that preclude a definitive judgment, but the evidence overall has not demonstrated any adverse effects on human health from exposure to radiofrequency fields below internationally accepted guideline levels.”
Dr John Cooper, director of the HPA's Centre for Radiation, Chemical and Environmental Hazards, said: “There has been considerable new scientific evidence published since the last AGNIR report in 2003, and this report further consolidates the evidence base on which the HPA issues its advice.”
The HPA’s position on mobile phone technologies is in line with the AGNIR’s findings, he said.
But he cautioned: “As this is a relatively new technology, the HPA will continue to advise a precautionary approach and keep the science under close review. [We] recommend that excessive use of mobile phones by children should be discouraged and mobile phone Specific Energy Absorption Rates (SAR) values should be clearly marked in the phone sales literature.”
SAR values are a measure of the maximum energy absorption rate of radio energy that can occur in a user’s head and are limited to 2 watts per kg averaged over any 10g of tissue.