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MOA responds to Tom Watson MP

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Tom Watson MP has, ahead of his adjournment debate in Parliament, published an article on the Guardian website on the issue of the effects of mobile phones on human health, particularly in relation to brain cancers.

Mr Watson is correct in pointing out that many studies have been published on the health effects of mobile phones over the past decade. It is important to note that these studies have been reviewed more than 30 times by independent health agencies in the UK and internationally. These reviews have consistently concluded that there is no evidence to suggest using mobile phones causes adverse health effects.

The most recent review undertaken by the World Health Organisation resulted in the publication of an updated fact sheet on mobile phones and public health in May 2010. It provides information on and summaries of health concerns, protection standards and WHO initiatives.

The Fact Sheet concludes: "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 for mobile phone use."

The fact sheet can be found at http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs193/en/index.html

It is also worth noting that, according to Cancer Research UK, brain tumour incidence rates have remained steady in the UK in the past two decades.

There is a long-standing internationally acclaimed research programme in the UK – the Mobile Telecommunications Health Research (MTHR) programme. This is part funded by the industry and Government and a firewall is in place to ensure that there is no external interference in either the studies that are funded within the programme, or the results that are published.

The first phase of the programme has been completed and the MTHR programme management committee published a report in September 2007 summarising the results of the research. The overall conclusion of the report is that, “None of the research supported by the Programme and published so far demonstrates that biological or adverse health effects are produced by radiofrequency exposure from mobile phones."

Further information on the MTHR programme can be found at http://www.mthr.org.uk/research_projects/research.htm

A second round of research is underway, which includes a long-term epidemiological study of mobile phone users, which will look, in greater detail than has been achieved before, for any possible health issues arising from long-term use of a mobile phone. The COSMOS (Cohort Study of Mobile Phone Use and Health) study was successfully piloted in the first MTHR programme and Imperial College launched the main study in April 2010.

Mr Watson’s article suggests that children are most at risk from using mobile phones. This has not been established by science, which has consistently found no evidence of adverse health effects from mobile phones operating within international health and safety guidelines on exposure to radio waves. These guidelines are designed to protect all members of the public, including children.

Some countries have suggested additional precautionary measures for children when using mobile phones, such as texting or using hands-free kits. This advice is not, however, based on any established evidence and is precautionary. There is, in fact, evidence to suggest that introducing precautionary advice which is not supported by scientific evidence can actually increase rather than address concern. Therefore, we do not believe further precautionary measures are warranted.

The Mobile Operators Association and the UK mobile network operators continue to support independent research in the UK and believe it is important to address concerns regarding the use of mobile telecommunications openly and transparently. It is also important to note the reassuring advice of the UK Health Protection Agency, the World Health Organisation, and similar organisations around the world.

61% of UK adults access the internet from mobiles

Mobile phones cannot work without a network of base stations (masts). There are approximately 52,500 base station sites (excluding microcells) in the UK. Only a third of these are large, free standing masts. A YouGov survey for MOA (Sept 2014) showed that nearly 8 out of 10 people recognise the link between masts and good mobile coverage. Mobile telecommunications are vital for the UK’s economic competitiveness and in promoting social inclusion. There are now 89.9 million mobile subscriptions in the UK. In Q1 2015 61 per cent of UK adults used their mobile phones for internet access. Tablet ownership is 54% of UK households.

No Established Health Effects

Mobile phones operate by using radio waves, similar to those that have been widely used for decades, for example in radio, TV and radar signals. A large number of studies over the last two decades have found no clear evidence of adverse health effects from the use of mobile phones or from phone masts.