Electromagnetic hypersensitivity (EHS) is a claimed sensitivity to electromagnetic fields, to which negative symptoms are attributed. EHS has no scientific basis and is not a recognised medical diagnosis. Claims are characterized by a “variety of non-specific symptoms, which afflicted individuals attribute to exposure to electromagnetic fields”.
Those who are self-described with EHS report adverse reactions to electromagnetic fields at intensities well below the maximum levels permitted by international radiation safety standards. The majority of provocation trials to date have found that such claimants are unable to distinguish between exposure and non-exposure to electromagnetic fields. A systematic review of medical research in 2011 found no convincing scientific evidence for symptoms being caused by electromagnetic fields. Since then, several double-blind experiments have shown that people who report electromagnetic hypersensitivity are unable to detect the presence of electromagnetic fields and are as likely to report ill health following a sham exposure as they are following exposure to genuine electromagnetic fields, suggesting the cause in these cases to be the nocebo effect.
As of 2005 the WHO recommended that people presenting with claims of EHS be evaluated to determine if they have a medical condition that may be causing the symptoms the person is attributing to EHS, that they have a psychological evaluation, and that the person’s environment be evaluated for issues like air or noise pollution that may be causing problems. Cognitive behavioral therapy may be helpful in managing the condition.
Some people who feel they are sensitive to electromagnetic fields may seek to reduce their exposure or use alternative medicine. Government agencies have enforced false advertising claims against companies selling devices to shield against EM radiation.
- 1 Signs and symptoms
- 2 Causes
- 3 Diagnosis
- 4 Management
- 5 Prevalence
- 6 Society and culture
- 7 See also
- 8 References
1 Signs and symptoms
There are no specific symptoms associated with claims of EHS, and the reported symptoms range widely between individuals. They include headache, fatigue, stress, sleep disturbances, skin prickling, burning sensations and rashes, pain and ache in muscles and many other health problems. In severe cases such symptoms can be a real and sometimes disabling problem for the affected person, causing psychological distress. There is no scientific basis to link such symptoms to electromagnetic field exposure.
The prevalence of some reported symptoms is geographically or culturally dependent and does not imply “a causal relationship between symptoms and attributed exposure”. Many such reported symptoms overlap with other syndromes known as symptom-based conditions, functional somatic syndromes, and IEI (idiopathic environmental intolerance).
Those reporting electromagnetic hypersensitivity will usually describe different levels of susceptibility to electric fields, magnetic fields, and various frequencies of electromagnetic waves. Devices implicated include fluorescent and low-energy lights, mobile, cordless/portable phones, and Wi-Fi. A 2001 survey found that people self-diagnosing as EHS related their symptoms most frequently to mobile phone base stations (74%), followed by mobile phones (36%), cordless phones (29%), and power lines (27%). Surveys of electromagnetic hypersensitivity sufferers have not been able to find any consistent pattern to these symptoms.
Most blinded conscious provocation studies have failed to show a correlation between exposure and symptoms, leading to the suggestion that psychological mechanisms play a role in causing or exacerbating EHS symptoms. In 2010, Rubin et al. published a follow-up to their 2005 review, bringing the totals to 46 double-blind experiments and 1175 individuals with self-diagnosed hypersensitivity. Both reviews found no robust evidence to support the hypothesis that electromagnetic exposure causes EHS, as have other studies. They also concluded that the studies supported the role of the nocebo effect in triggering acute symptoms in those with EHS.
Electromagnetic hypersensitivity is not an accepted diagnosis; medically there is no case definition or clinical practice guideline and there is no specific test to identify it, nor is there an agreed-upon definition with which to conduct clinical research.
Complaints of electromagnetic hypersensitivity may mask organic or psychiatric illness . Diagnosis of those underlying conditions involves investigating and identifying possible known medical causes of any symptoms observed. It may require both a thorough medical evaluation to identify and treat any specific conditions that may be responsible for the symptoms, and a psychological evaluation to identify alternative psychiatric/psychological conditions that may be responsible or contribute to the symptoms.
Symptoms may also be brought on by imagining that exposure is causing harm, an example of the nocebo effect. Studies have shown that reports of symptoms are more closely associated with belief that one is being exposed than with any actual exposure.
Whatever the cause of symptoms attributed to EHS, there is no doubt that they can be a debilitating condition that benefits from treatment or management. Cognitive behavioral therapy has shown some success helping people cope with the condition.
As of 2005, WHO recommended that people presenting with claims of EHS be evaluated to determine if they have a medical condition that may be causing the symptoms the person is attributing to EHS, that they have a psychological evaluation, and that the person’s environment be evaluated for issues like air or noise pollution that may be causing problems.
In 1997 (prior to wifi & Blustooth & 3G) technology a group of scientists attempted to estimate the number of people reporting “subjective symptoms” from electromagnetic fields for the European Commission. They estimated that electromagnetic sensitivity occurred in “less than a few cases per million of the population” (based on centres of occupational medicine in UK, Italy and France) or up to “a few tenths of a per cent of the population” (based on self-aid groups in Denmark, Ireland and Sweden).
In 2005, the UK Health Protection Agency reviewed this and several other studies for prevalence figures and concluded that “the differences in prevalence were at least partly due to the differences in available information and media attention around electromagnetic hypersensitivity that exist in different countries” and that “Similar views have been expressed by other commentators”. The authors noted that most of the studies focused on computer monitors (VDUs), as such the “findings cannot apply in full” to other forms of EMF exposure such as radio waves from mobile phones/base stations.
In 2007, a UK survey aimed at a randomly selected group of 20,000 people found a prevalence of 4% for symptoms self-attributed to electromagnetic exposure.
A 2013 study using telephone surveys in Taiwan concluded that the rates of IEI-EMF were in decline within the country, despite previous expectations of a rise in prevalence as electronic devices became more widespread. Rates declined from 13.3% in 2007 to 4.6% in 2013. The study also referred to apparent declines in the Netherlands (from 7.0% in 2009 to 3.5% in 2011) and in Germany (from 10.0% in 2009 to 7.0% in 2013). More women believed to be electromagnetically hypersensitive than men.
6 Society and culture
In 2010, a cell tower operator in South Africa revealed at a public meeting that the tower that nearby residents were blaming for their current EHS symptoms had been turned off over six weeks prior to the meeting, thus making it a highly unlikely cause of EHS symptoms.
In February 2014, the UK Advertising Standards Authority found that claims of harm from electromagnetic radiation, made in a product advertisement, were unsubstantiated and misleading.
People have filed lawsuits to try to win damages due to harm claimed from electromagnetic radiation. In 2012, a New Mexico judge dismissed a lawsuit in which one person sued his neighbor, claiming to have been harmed by EM radiation from his neighbor’s cordless telephones, dimmer switches, chargers, Wi-Fi and other devices. The plaintiff brought the testimony of his doctor, who also believed she had EHS, and a person who represented himself as a neurotoxicologist; the judge found none of their testimony credible. In 2015, parents of a boy at a school in Southborough, Massachusetts alleged that the school’s Wi-Fi was making the boy sick.
In November 2015, a depressed teenage girl in England committed suicide. Her suicide was attributed to EHS by her parents and taken up by tabloids and EHS advocates.
Some people who feel they are sensitive to electromagnetic fields self-treat by trying to reduce their exposure to electromagnetic sources by avoiding sources of exposure, disconnecting or removing electrical devices, shielding or screening of self or residence, and alternative medicine. In Sweden, some municipalities provide disability grants to people who claim to have EHS in order to have abatement work done in their homes even though the public health authority does not recognize EHS as an actual medical condition; towns in Halland do not provide such funds and this decision was challenged and upheld in court.
The United States National Radio Quiet Zone is an area where wireless signals are restricted for scientific research purposes, and some people who believe they have EHS have relocated there seeking relief.
Gro Harlem Brundtland, former prime minister of Norway and Director general of the World Health Organization, claims to suffer from EHS. In 2015 she said that she had been sensitive for 25 years.
In the fictional television crime drama Better Call Saul, the character Charles “Chuck” McGill is depicted as experiencing the symptoms of EHS. In the episode Alpine Shepherd Boy, a skeptical doctor surreptitiously operates a switch controlling the electronics in Chuck’s hospital bed. This does not affect his symptoms, suggesting that his electromagnetic hypersensitivity is not genuine. A similar instance of Chuck’s symptoms being objectively psychosomatic is seen on the episode Chicanery. Although a fully charged cellphone battery is planted on his person without his knowledge, Chuck experiences no adverse effects by having an electronic device on his body for close to two hours. When this fact is revealed to him, he is profoundly shaken, and comes to see “beyond a shadow of a doubt” that his symptoms are an indication of mental disease spurred on by past emotional trauma, rather than EHS.
7 See also
- Wireless electronic devices and health
- Electromagnetic radiation and health
- Bioelectromagnetics – the study of the interaction between electromagnetic fields and biological entities
- List of questionable diseases
- Radiophobia – the fear of ionizing radiation and radio (RF) waves, originating in the early 1900s
- Arthur Firstenberg – author, EHS sufferer and activist
- Microwave auditory effect – the human perception of audible clicks, or even speech, induced by pulsed or modulated
- radio frequencies
- Tinfoil hat – a popular stereotype and byword for paranoia, persecutory delusions, pseudoscience and conspiracy theories
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Key Information 2
Electromagnetic radiation and health
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
This article is about the health effects of non-ionizing radiation. For the negative health effects of ionizing radiation, see alternative sources.
At sufficiently high flux levels, various bands of electromagnetic radiation have been found to cause deleterious health effects in people. Electromagnetic radiation can be classified into two types: ionizing radiation and non-ionizing radiation, based on the capability of a single photon with more than 10 eV energy to ionize oxygen or break chemical bonds. Extreme ultraviolet and higher frequencies, such as X-rays or gamma rays are ionizing, and these pose their own special hazards: see radiation and radiation poisoning. The last quarter of the twentieth century saw a dramatic increase in the number of devices emitting non-ionizing radiation in all segments of society, which resulted in an elevation of health concerns by researchers and clinicians, and an associated interest in government regulation for safety purposes. By far the most common health hazard of radiation is sunburn, which causes over one million new skin cancers annually in United States.
- 1.2.1Low-level exposure
- 2Effects by frequency
- 2.1Extremely-low frequency
- 2.3Radio frequency field
- 2.4Millimeter waves
- 2.6Visible light
Sufficiently strong electromagnetic radiation (EMR) can cause electric currents in conductive materials that is strong enough to create sparks (electrical arcs) when an induced voltage exceeds the breakdown voltage of the surrounding medium (e.g. air at 3.0 MV/m). These can deliver an electric shock to persons or animals. For example, the radio emissions from transmission lines have occasionally caused shocks to construction workers from nearby equipment, causing OSHA to establish standards for proper handling.
EMR-induced sparks can ignite nearby flammable materials or gases, which can be especially hazardous in the vicinity of explosives or pyrotechnics. This risk is commonly referred to as Hazards of Electromagnetic Radiation to Ordnance (HERO) by the United States Navy (USN). United States Military Standard 464A (MIL-STD-464A) mandates assessment of HERO in a system, but USN document OD 30393 provides design principles and practices for controlling electromagnetic hazards to ordnance. The risk related to fueling is known as Hazards of Electromagnetic Radiation to Fuel (HERF). NAVSEA OP 3565 Vol. 1 could be used to evaluate HERF, which states a maximum power density of 0.09 W/m² for frequencies under 225 MHz (i.e. 4.2 meters for a 40 W emitter).
Dielectric heating from electromagnetic fields can create a biological hazard. For example, touching or standing around an antenna while a high-power transmitter is in operation can cause severe burns. These are exactly the kind of burns that would be caused inside a microwave oven. The dielectric heating effect varies with the power and the frequency of the electromagnetic energy, as well as the distance to the source. The eyes and testes are particularly susceptible to radio frequency heating due to the paucity of blood flow in these areas that could otherwise dissipate the heat buildup.
Radio frequency (RF) energy at power density levels of 1-10 mW/cm2 or higher can cause measurable heating of tissues. Typical RF energy levels encountered by the general public are well below the level needed to cause significant heating, but certain workplace environments near high power RF sources may exceed safe exposure limits. A measure of the heating effect is the specific absorption rate or SAR, which has units of watts per kilogram (W/kg). The IEEE and many national governments have established safety limits for exposure to various frequencies of electromagnetic energy based on SAR, mainly based on ICNIRP Guidelines, which guard against thermal damage.
1.2.1 Low-level exposure
The World Health Organization began a research effort in 1996 to study the health effects from the ever-increasing exposure of people to a diverse range of EMR sources. After 30 years of extensive study, science has yet to confirm a health risk from exposure to low-level fields. However, there remain gaps in the understanding of the biological effects, and more research needs to be performed. Studies are being run to examine cells and determine if EM exposure can cause detrimental effects. Animal studies are being used to look for effects impacting more complex physiologies that are similar to humans. Epidemiological studies look for statistical correlations between EM exposure in the field and specific health effects. As of 2019, much of the current work is focused on the study of EM fields in relation to cancer.
There are publications which support the existence of complex biological and neurological effects of weaker non-thermal electromagnetic fields (see Bioelectromagnetics), including weak ELF electromagnetic fields and modulated RF and microwave fields. Fundamental mechanisms of the interaction between biological material and electromagnetic fields at non-thermal levels are not fully understood.
2 Effects by frequency
Warning sign next to a transmitter with high field strengths.
While the most acute exposures to harmful levels of electromagnetic radiation are immediately realized as burns, the health effects due to chronic or occupational exposure may not manifest effects for months or years.
2.1 Extremely-low frequency
High-power, extremely-low-frequency RF with electric field levels in the low kV/m range are known to induce perceivable currents within the human body that create an annoying tingling sensation. These currents will typically flow to ground through a body contact surface such as the feet, or arc to ground where the body is well insulated.
Shortwave (1.6 to 30 MHz) diathermy can be used as a therapeutic technique for its analgesic effect and deep muscle relaxation, but has largely been replaced by ultrasound. Temperatures in muscles can increase by 4–6 °C, and subcutaneous fat by 15 °C. The FCC has restricted the frequencies allowed for medical treatment, and most machines in the US use 27.12 MHz. Shortwave diathermy can be applied in either continuous or pulsed mode. The latter came to prominence because the continuous mode produced too much heating too rapidly, making patients uncomfortable. The technique only heats tissues that are good electrical conductors, such as blood vessels and muscle. Adipose tissue (fat) receives little heating by induction fields because an electrical current is not actually going through the tissues.
Studies have been performed on the use of shortwave radiation for cancer therapy and promoting wound healing, with some success. However, at a sufficiently high energy level, shortwave energy can be harmful to human health, potentially causing damage to biological tissues. The FCC limits for maximum permissible workplace exposure to shortwave radio frequency energy in the range of 3–30 MHz has a plane-wave equivalent power density of (900/f2) mW/cm2 where f is the frequency in MHz, and 100 mW/cm2 from 0.3–3.0 MHz. For uncontrolled exposure to the general public, the limit is 180/f2 between 1.34–30 MHz.
2.3 Radio frequency field
See also: Mobile phone radiation and health
The designation of mobile phone signals as “possibly carcinogenic to humans” by the World Health Organization (WHO) (e.g. its IARC, see below) has often been misinterpreted as indicating that some measure of risk has been observed – however the designation indicates only that the possibility could not be conclusively ruled out using the available data.
In 2011, International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) classified mobile phone radiation as Group 2B “possibly carcinogenic” (rather than Group 2A “probably carcinogenic” nor the “is carcinogenic” Group 1). That means that there “could be some risk” of carcinogenicity, so additional research into the long-term, heavy use of mobile phones needs to be conducted. The WHO concluded in 2014 that “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.”
Since 1962, the microwave auditory effect or tinnitus has been shown from radio frequency exposure at levels below significant heating. Studies during the 1960s in Europe and Russia claimed to show effects on humans, especially the nervous system, from low energy RF radiation; the studies were disputed at the time.:427–30
In 2019 reporters from the Chicago Tribune tested the level of radiation from smartphones and found it to exceed safe levels. The federal communications commission begun to check the findings.
2.4 Millimeter waves
In 2009, the US TSA introduced full-body scanners as a primary screening modality in airport security, first as backscatter x-ray scanners, which the European Union banned in 2011 due to health and safety concerns, followed by Millimeter wave scanners . Likewise WiGig for personal area networks have opened the 60 GHz and above microwave band to SAR exposure regulations. Previously, microwave applications in these bands were for point-to-point satellite communication with minimal human exposure.
Infrared wavelengths longer than 750 nm can produce changes in the lens of the eye. Glassblower’s cataract is an example of a heat injury that damages the anterior lens capsule among unprotected glass and iron workers. Cataract-like changes can occur in workers who observe glowing masses of glass or iron without protective eyewear for prolonged periods over many years.
Another important factor is the distance between the worker and the source of radiation. In the case of arc welding, infrared radiation decreases rapidly as a function of distance, so that farther than three feet away from where welding takes place, it does not pose an ocular hazard anymore but, ultraviolet radiation still does. This is why welders wear tinted glasses and surrounding workers only have to wear clear ones that filter UV.
2.6 Visible light
Photic retinopathy is damage to the macular area of the eye’s retina that results from prolonged exposure to sunlight, particularly with dilated pupils. This can happen, for example, while observing a solar eclipse without suitable eye protection. The Sun’s radiation creates a photochemical reaction that can result in visual dazzling and a scotoma. The initial lesions and edema will disappear after several weeks, but may leave behind a permanent reduction in visual acuity.
Moderate and high-power lasers are potentially hazardous because they can burn the retina of the eye, or even the skin. To control the risk of injury, various specifications – for example ANSI Z136 in the US, EN 60825-1/A2 in Europe, and IEC 60825 internationally – define “classes” of lasers depending on their power and wavelength. Regulations prescribe required safety measures, such as labeling lasers with specific warnings, and wearing laser safety goggles during operation (see laser safety).
As with its infrared and ultraviolet radiation dangers, welding creates an intense brightness in the visible light spectrum, which may cause temporary flash blindness. Some sources state that there is no minimum safe distance for exposure to these radiation emissions without adequate eye protection.
Sunlight includes sufficient ultraviolet power to cause sunburn within hours of exposure, and the burn severity increases with the duration of exposure. This effect is a response of the skin called erythema, which is caused by a sufficient strong dose of UV-B. The Sun’s UV output is divided into UV-A and UV-B: solar UV-A flux is 100 times that of UV-B, but the erythema response is 1,000 times higher for UV-B. This exposure can increase at higher altitudes and when reflected by snow, ice, or sand. The UV-B flux is 2–4 times greater during the middle 4–6 hours of the day, and is not significantly absorbed by cloud cover or up to a meter of water.
Ultraviolet light, specifically UV-B, has been shown to cause cataracts and there is some evidence that sunglasses worn at an early age can slow its development in later life. Most UV light from the sun is filtered out by the atmosphere and consequently airline pilots often have high rates of cataracts because of the increased levels of UV radiation in the upper atmosphere. It is hypothesized that depletion of the ozone layer and a consequent increase in levels of UV light on the ground may increase future rates of cataracts. Note that the lens filters UV light, so if it is removed via surgery, one may be able to see UV light.
Prolonged exposure to ultraviolet radiation from the sun can lead to melanoma and other skin malignancies. Clear evidence establishes ultraviolet radiation, especially the non-ionizing medium wave UVB, as the cause of most non-melanoma skin cancers, which are the most common forms of cancer in the world. UV rays can also cause wrinkles, liver spots, moles, and freckles. In addition to sunlight, other sources include tanning beds, and bright desk lights. Damage is cumulative over one’s lifetime, so that permanent effects may not be evident for some time after exposure.
Ultraviolet radiation of wavelengths shorter than 300 nm (actinic rays) can damage the corneal epithelium. This is most commonly the result of exposure to the sun at high altitude, and in areas where shorter wavelengths are readily reflected from bright surfaces, such as snow, water, and sand. UV generated by a welding arc can similarly cause damage to the cornea, known as “arc eye” or welding flash burn, a form of photokeratitis.
Fluorescent light bulbs and tubes internally produce ultraviolet light. Normally this is converted to visible light by the phosphor film inside a protective coating. When the film is cracked by mishandling or faulty manufacturing then UV may escape at levels that could cause sunburn or even skin cancer.
In the United States, nonionizing radiation is regulated in the Radiation Control for Health and Safety Act of 1968 and the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970.
- Background radiation
- Bioinitiative Report
- Biological effects of radiation on the epigenome
- Central nervous system effects from radiation exposure during spaceflight
- Cosmic ray
- COSMOS cohort study
- Electromagnetic hypersensitivity
- EMF measurements
- Health threat from cosmic rays
- Light ergonomics
- Magneto biology
- Mobile phone radiation and health
- Personal RF safety monitors
- Specific absorption rate
- Wireless electronic devices and health
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Wireless device radiation and health
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Part of a series on Antennas
Safety and regulation
• Mobile phone radiation and health
• Wireless electronic devices and health
• International Telecommunication Union
• World Radiocommunication Conference
Radiation sources / regions[show]
The antennas contained in mobile phones, including smartphones, emit radiofrequency (RF) radiation (non-ionizing “radio waves” such as microwaves); the parts of the head or body nearest to the antenna can absorb this energy and convert it to heat. Since at least the 1990s, scientists have researched whether the now-ubiquitous radiation associated with mobile phone antennas or cell phone towers is affecting human health. Mobile phone networks use various bands of RF frequency, some of which overlap with the microwave range. Other digital wireless systems, such as data communication networks, produce similar radiation.
In response to public concern, the World Health Organization established the International EMF Project in 1996 to assess the scientific evidence of possible health effects of EMF in the frequency range from 0 to 300 GHz. They have stated that although extensive research has been conducted into possible health effects of exposure to many parts of the frequency spectrum, all reviews conducted so far have indicated that, as long as exposures are below the limits recommended in the ICNIRP (1998) EMF guidelines, which cover the full frequency range from 0–300 GHz, such exposures do not produce any known adverse health effect. The WHO states that “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.”
International guidelines on exposure levels to microwave frequency EMFs such as ICNIRP limit the power levels of wireless devices and it is uncommon for wireless devices to exceed the guidelines. These guidelines only take into account thermal effects, as non-thermal effects have not been conclusively demonstrated. The official stance of the British Health Protection Agency (HPA) is that “[T]here is no consistent evidence to date that WiFi and WLANs adversely affect the health of the general population”, but also that “… it is a sensible precautionary approach … to keep the situation under ongoing review …”. In a 2018 statement, the FDA said that “the current safety limits are set to include a 50-fold safety margin from observed effects of Radio-frequency energy exposure”.
In 2011, International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), an agency of the World Health Organization, classified wireless radiation as Group 2B – possibly carcinogenic. That means that there “could be some risk” of carcinogenicity, so additional research into the long-term, heavy use of wireless devices needs to be conducted.
- 1.1Mobile phones
- 1.2Cordless phones
- 1.3Wireless networking
- 2Effects studied
- 2.1Blood–brain barrier
- 2.3Male fertility
- 2.4Electromagnetic hypersensitivity
- 2.5Glucose metabolism
- 2.6Effects on children
- 3Base stations
- 4Safety standards and licensing
- 6.1Precautionary principle
- 6.2Precautionary measures and health advisories
- 6.3Bogus products
- 7See also
- 9External links
See also: Non-ionizing radiation
There is no strong or consistent evidence that mobile phone use increases the risk of getting brain cancer or other head tumors. The United States National Cancer Institute points out that “Radiofrequency energy, unlike ionizing radiation, does not cause DNA damage that can lead to cancer. Its only consistently observed biological effect in humans is tissue heating. In animal studies, it has not been found to cause cancer or to enhance the cancer-causing effects of known chemical carcinogens.” The majority of human studies have failed to find a link between mobile phone use and cancer. In 2011 the IARC, a World Health Organization working group, classified mobile phone use as “possibly carcinogenic to humans”. The IARC summed up their conclusion with: “The human epidemiological evidence was mixed. Several small early case–control studies were considered to be largely uninformative. A large cohort study showed no increase in risk of relevant tumours, but it lacked information on level of mobile-phone use and there were several potential sources of misclassification of exposure. The bulk of evidence came from reports of the INTERPHONE study, a very large international, multicentre case–control study and a separate large case–control study from Sweden on gliomas and meningiomas of the brain and acoustic neuromas. While affected by selection bias and information bias to varying degrees, these studies showed an association between glioma and acoustic neuroma and mobile-phone use; specifically in people with highest cumulative use of mobile phones, in people who had used mobile phones on the same side of the head as that on which their tumour developed, and in people whose tumour was in the temporal lobe of the brain (the area of the brain that is most exposed to RF radiation when a wireless phone is used at the ear)”  The CDC states that no scientific evidence definitively answers whether mobile phone use causes cancer.
In a 2018 statement, the US Food and Drug Administration said that “the current safety limits are set to include a 50-fold safety margin from observed effects of radiofrequency energy exposure”.
On 1 November 2018, the US National Toxicology Program published the final version (after peer review that was performed through March 2018) of its “eagerly anticipated” study using rats and mice, conducted over some ten years. This report concludes after the review with an updated statement that “there is clear evidence that male rats exposed to high levels of radio frequency radiation (RFR) like that used in 2G and 3G cell phones developed cancerous heart tumors…. There was also some evidence of tumors in the brain and adrenal gland of exposed male rats. For female rats, and male and female mice, the evidence was equivocal as to whether cancers observed were associated with exposure to RFR”.
An early analysis of preliminary results issued by the National Toxicology Program had indicated that due to such issues as the inconsistent appearances of “signals for harm” within and across species and the increased chances of false positives due to the multiplicity of tests, the positive results seen are more likely due to random chance. The full results of the study were released for peer review in February 2018.
A decline in male sperm quality has been observed over several decades. Studies on the impact of mobile radiation on male fertility are conflicting, and the effects of the radio frequency electromagnetic radiation (RF-EMR) emitted by these devices on the reproductive systems are currently under active debate. A 2012 review concluded that “together, the results of these studies have shown that RF-EMR decreases sperm count and motility and increases oxidative stress”. A 2017 study of 153 men that attended an academic fertility clinic in Boston, Massachusetts found that self-reported mobile phone use was not related to semen quality, and that carrying a mobile phone in the pants pocket was not related to semen quality.
Main article: Electromagnetic hypersensitivity
Some users of mobile phones and similar devices have reported feeling various non-specific symptoms during and after use. Studies have failed to link any of these symptoms to electromagnetic exposure. In addition, EHS is not a recognized medical diagnosis.
According to the National Cancer Institute, two small studies exploring whether and how mobile phone radiation affects brain glucose metabolism showed inconsistent results.
Effects on children
A report from the Australian Government’s Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency (ARPANSA) in June 2017 noted that:
The 2010 WHO Research Agenda identified a lack of sufficient evidence relating to children and this is still the case. … Given that no long-term prospective study has looked at this issue to date this research need remains a high priority. For cancer in particular only one completed case-control study involving four European countries has investigated mobile phone use among children or adolescents and risk of brain tumour; showing no association between the two (Aydin et al. 2011). … Given this paucity of information regarding children using mobile phones and cancer … more epidemiological studies are needed.
Cellular Mobile and UHF Antenna Tower with multiple Antennas
Experts consulted by France considered it was mandatory that the main antenna axis should not to be directly in front of a living place at a distance shorter than 100 metres. This recommendation was modified in 2003 to say that antennas located within a 100-metre radius of primary schools or childcare facilities should be better integrated into the city scape and was not included in a 2005 expert report. The Agence française de sécurité sanitaire environnementale as of 2009, says that there is no demonstrated short-term effect of electromagnetic fields on health, but that there are open questions for long-term effects, and that it is easy to reduce exposure via technological improvements. A 2020 study in Environmental Research found that “Although direct causation of negative human health effects from (radio frequency radiation) from cellular phone base stations has not been finalized, there is already enough medical and scientific evidence to warrant long-term liability concerns for companies deploying cellular phone towers” and thus recommended voluntary setbacks from schools and hospitals.
Safety standards and licensing
To protect the population living around base stations and users of mobile handsets, governments and regulatory bodies adopt safety standards, which translate to limits on exposure levels below a certain value. There are many proposed national and international standards, but that of the International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection (ICNIRP) is the most respected one, and has been adopted so far by more than 80 countries. For radio stations, ICNIRP proposes two safety levels: one for occupational exposure, another one for the general population. Currently there are efforts underway to harmonize the different standards in existence.
Radio base licensing procedures have been established in the majority of urban spaces regulated either at municipal/county, provincial/state or national level. Mobile telephone service providers are, in many regions, required to obtain construction licenses, provide certification of antenna emission levels and assure compliance to ICNIRP standards and/or to other environmental legislation.
Many governmental bodies also require that competing telecommunication companies try to achieve sharing of towers so as to decrease environmental and cosmetic impact. This issue is an influential factor of rejection of installation of new antennas and towers in communities.
The safety standards in the US are set by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). The FCC has based its standards primarily on those standards established by the National Council on Radiation Protection and Measurements (NCRP) a Congressionally chartered scientific organization located in the WDC area and the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE), specifically Subcommittee 4 of the “International Committee on Electromagnetic Safety”.
Switzerland has set safety limits lower than the ICNIRP limits for certain “sensitive areas” (classrooms, for example).
In March 2020, for the first time since 1998, ICNIRP updated radiation requirements for mobile phones using 5G. Admitting that the network is generally safe, the Commission, at the same time, restricted the exposure of the whole body and greater exposure of small parts of the body to frequencies above 6 GHz.
In the US, personal injury lawsuits have been filed by individuals against manufacturers (including Motorola, NEC, Siemens, and Nokia) on the basis of allegations of causation of brain cancer and death. In US federal courts, expert testimony relating to science must be first evaluated by a judge, in a Daubert hearing, to be relevant and valid before it is admissible as evidence. In a 2002 case against Motorola, the plaintiffs alleged that the use of wireless handheld telephones could cause brain cancer and that the use of Motorola phones caused one plaintiff’s cancer. The judge ruled that no sufficiently reliable and relevant scientific evidence in support of either general or specific causation was proffered by the plaintiffs, accepted a motion to exclude the testimony of the plaintiffs’ experts, and denied a motion to exclude the testimony of the defendants’ experts.
Two separate cases in Italy, in 2009 and 2017, resulted in pensions being awarded to plaintiffs who had claimed their benign brain tumors were the result of prolonged mobile phone use in professional tasks, for 5–6 hours a day, which they ruled different from non-professional use.
In 2000, the World Health Organization (WHO) recommended that the precautionary principle could be voluntarily adopted in this case. It follows the recommendations of the European Community for environmental risks.
According to the WHO, the “precautionary principle” is “a risk management policy applied in circumstances with a high degree of scientific uncertainty, reflecting the need to take action for a potentially serious risk without awaiting the results of scientific research.” Other less stringent recommended approaches are prudent avoidance principle and as low as reasonably practicable. Although all of these are problematic in application, due to the widespread use and economic importance of wireless telecommunication systems in modern civilization, there is an increased popularity of such measures in the general public, though also evidence that such approaches may increase concern. They involve recommendations such as the minimization of usage, the limitation of use by at-risk population (e.g., children), the adoption of phones and microcells with as low as reasonably practicable levels of radiation, the wider use of hands-free and earphone technologies such as Bluetooth headsets, the adoption of maximal standards of exposure, RF field intensity and distance of base stations antennas from human habitations, and so forth. Overall, public information remains a challenge as various health consequences are evoked in the literature and by the media, putting populations under chronic exposure to potentially worrying information.
Precautionary measures and health advisories
In May 2011, the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer announced it was classifying electromagnetic fields from mobile phones and other sources as “possibly carcinogenic to humans” and advised the public to adopt safety measures to reduce exposure, like use of hands-free devices or texting.
Some national radiation advisory authorities, including those of Austria, France, Germany, and Sweden, have recommended measures to minimize exposure to their citizens. Examples of the recommendations are:
- Use hands-free to decrease the radiation to the head.
- Keep the mobile phone away from the body.
- Do not use telephone in a car without an external antenna.
The use of “hands-free” was not recommended by the British Consumers’ Association in a statement in November 2000, as they believed that exposure was increased. However, measurements for the (then) UK Department of Trade and Industry and others for the French Agence française de sécurité sanitaire environnementale [fr] showed substantial reductions. In 2005, Professor Lawrie Challis and others said clipping a ferrite bead onto hands-free kits stops the radio waves travelling up the wire and into the head.
Several nations have advised moderate use of mobile phones for children. A journal by Gandhi et al. in 2006 states that children receive higher levels of Specific Absorption Rate (SAR). When 5- and 10-year olds are compared to adults, they receive about 153% higher SAR levels. Also, with the permittivity of the brain decreasing as one gets older and the higher relative volume of the exposed growing brain in children, radiation penetrates far beyond the mid-brain.
See also: Misinformation related to the 2019–20 coronavirus pandemic § 5G
In the beginning of the year 2020 Slovenia stopped the deployment of the 5G technology as a precaution due to health concerns.
During the 2019–20 coronavirus pandemic, misinformation circulated claiming that 5G networks contribute to the spread of COVID-19.