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Comment on certain issues raised in NRPB Mobile Phones and Health 2004 Report and media coverage

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1 February 2005

Exclusion zones around base station antennas

All base station antenna installations are designed to comply with International Commission on Non Ionising Radiation Protection (ICNIRP) public and occupational exposure guidelines. This is achieved by careful antenna positioning and signs and barriers where required in order to ensure the general public cannot be inadvertently exposed above the public exposure guidelines.

Occupational limits protect all workers and, where it is possible these could be exceeded, there are procedures in place to ensure the transmitters are switched off before work commences.

Mobile phone use by children

The health and safety of children is paramount. In line with the Stewart Report's precautionary approach, the operators reviewed their marketing policies to ensure they do not actively market mobile phones to the under-16s. The operators continue to support ongoing research programmes both in the UK and internationally.

Siting base stations on and near schools

The operators attempt to find the most appropriate sites for new base stations to meet customer demand, taking into account the views of local communities and technical requirements.

The UK mobile phone network operators follow the Government Guidance (Planning Policy Guidance No. 8) on pre-application consultation with schools or colleges where they are submitting an application to the local planning authority for planning permission or prior approval for the installation, alteration or replacement of a mobile phone base station either on or near a school or college. They provide evidence to the local planning authority that they have consulted the relevant body of the school or college as required by the guidance. The planning process allows objections to planning applications to be made that the planning authority can take into account when making its decision.

The criteria to determine what is “near to” a school or college are set out in the ODPM Code of Best Practice on Mobile Phone Network Development. Proximity to a school may affect the traffic light rating as set out in the Code.

The MOA/operators note that the NRPB recognises in its 2004 report “Mobile Phones and Health” that decisions on health matters should be dealt with nationally.

The NRPB 2004 report said that measurements on radio wave emission levels from base stations “demonstrate that there is no scientific basis for establishing minimal distances between base stations and areas of public occupancy”. The report went on to say that “there are many sources of public exposure, and (minimal distances) would in practice have little impact on people’s overall exposure”. This conclusion supports the findings of a large number of independent scientific reviews from 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.