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Mobile Phones, Base Stations and Health

Useful information can be found by searching ‘mobile phones’ on the Health Protection England website.

Key information on mobile phones.

• Radiate powers up to around ¼ watt.
• Typically held with their antenna around 2cm from the users head.
• Mostly expose the tissues of the head nearest to the phones antenna.
• Localised exposure is measured as the Specific Absorption Rate (SAR) of energy in the head.
• Guidelines advise localised SAR should not exceed 2watts per kilogram when averaged over any 10grams of tissue and any 6 minute period.
• All phones sold in the UK produce SAR values below 2watts per kilogram.

Key information on base stations.
• Radiate powers up to around 100watts.
• Antennas are typically tens of metres away from the general public.
• Exposure is more even over the body but at a very much lower level than with a mobile phone (because of greater distances from the antennas and inverse square dependence of exposure on distance).
• The power density of the radio waves incident on the body is a good measure of whole body exposure.
• Guidelines advise reference levels of either 4.5 or 9 watts per square metre depending on frequency band.
• In addition to their obligations under UK safety law, the Network Operators have voluntarily agreed to comply with lower international guidelines.
• Typical exposures at locations accessible to the public are thousands of times lower than guidelines

Mobile phones at work.

The Health and Safety Executive advises employers that they should instruct staff not to use mobile phones while driving or doing anything where safety is important and their use might interfere with concentration. Where employers require staff to use mobile phones and concerns about possible health risks are raised, employers could respond by, for example:
(a) explaining that mobile phones operate within international guidelines.
(b) discussing with concerned staff ways to reduce mobile phone use.

On construction site, use of mobile phones must be restricted to site cabins, compounds or other areas where safety will not be compromised. Mobile phones must not be used by workers or supervisory staff on scaffolding, areas where equipment, cranes or hoists are being used overhead, confined spaces or areas where there are potentially explosive atmospheres.