Mobile phone safety

Since mobile phones started to become widely used in the 1990s, there have been some safety concerns regarding the potential effects of the radio waves they produce.

These radio waves are a type of low energy 'non-ionising' radiation – a type of radiation that also includes visible light, microwaves and infrared radiation – and concerns have been expressed that prolonged or frequent exposure to this radiation may increase a person's risk of health problems such as cancer.

Most current research suggests it is unlikely mobile phones or base stations increase the risk of health problems, but it is acknowledged this evidence is based on use of mobile phones over the last 20 years. There is still some uncertainty about possible health effects from using a phone for longer than this.

Therefore as a precautionary measure, you may wish to follow some simple recommendations for mobile phone safety to lower your exposure to radio waves if you have any concerns.

For now, using a mobile phone while driving is considered the biggest health risk posed by mobile phones. It's estimated that you are around four times more likely to have an accident when using a hand-held mobile phone, which is why it is now illegal to do so. It is also safer not to use a hands-free phone while driving.

Read more about the risks of mobile phone use.

Mobile phone use in the UK

Ofcom, the independent regulator for the communication industry, says around 94% of adults in the UK own or use a mobile phone.

Mobile phones are more than just a business tool. They are now a popular means of communication, a safety aid and an essential part of many people's lives.

There are around 54,000 mobile phone base stations in the UK according to figures from 2011. Base stations are transmitters (sometimes called masts) that use radio waves to communicate with mobile phones.

What research has been done into their safety?

There has been a huge amount of scientific research into health effects of mobile phone use since the 1990s.

Large reviews of published research by the Advisory Group on Non-Ionising Radiation (AGNIR; part of Public Health England) and research carried out as part of the Mobile Telecommunications and Health Research Programme (MTHR) have not found convincing evidence that radio waves from mobile phones cause health problems.

However, further research is still needed as there is not currently enough evidence concerning any potential health impact from long-term exposure (using a mobile phone for more than 20 years).

Read more about this research in frequently asked questions about mobile phone safety.

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