Mobile phone base stations are low-power multi-channel two-way radios. A mobile phone (cell phone) is a low-power, single-channel, two-way radio. When you talk on such a mobile phone, you (and perhaps dozens of other people around you) are talking to a nearby base station. From that base station your phone call goes into the regular land-line phone system.
Because mobile phones and their base stations are two-way radios, they produce radio-frequency (RF) radiation (that's how they communicate), and they expose people near them to RF radiation. However, because both the phones and the base stations are low power (short range), the RF radiation exposure levels from them are generally very low.
The consensus of the scientific community, both in the US and internationally, is that the power from these mobile phone base station antennas is far too low to produce health hazards as long as people are kept away from direct access to the antennas (see Q13 and Q14 ).
It is critical to be aware of the difference between antennas, the objects that produce RF radiation; and towers or masts, the structures that the antennas are placed on. It is the antennas that people need to keep their distance from, not the towers that hold the antennas.
It is also important to be aware that there are many different designs of mobile phone base stations that vary widely in their power, their characteristics, and their potential for exposing people to RF radiation.
Not really. There are some reasons to be concerned about human health effects from the hand-held mobile (cellular) phones themselves (although it is not certain that any risks to human health actually exist). These concerns exist because the antennas of these phones deliver much of their RF energy to very small volumes of the user's body . Base station antennas do not create such "hot spots" (unless you are standing directly in front of one), so the potential safety issues concerning the phones have no real applicability to the base station antennas.
For further discussion of health issues related to hand-held phones see:
No. There are many technical differences between different types of "mobile" phones [2, also see international note 2]; but for evaluation of possible health hazards, the only distinction that matters is that they operate at slightly different frequencies. The RF radiation from some base stations (e.g., those for the older 800 MHz mobile phones used in the U.S.) may be absorbed by humans somewhat more than the RF radiation from other types of base stations (e.g., those for the 1800-2000 MHz "PCS" phones used in the U.S.) . However, once the energy is absorbed the effects are the same.
Yes and no. The RF radiation from some antennas (particularly FM and VHF-TV broadcast antennas) are absorbed more by humans than the RF radiation from other sources (such as mobile phone base station antennas); but once the energy is absorbed the effects are basically the same.
FM and TV antennas send out 100 to 5000 times more power than base station antennas, but are usually mounted on much higher towers (typically 800-1200 ft or 250-400 meters).
Yes. Mobile (cellular) phones and their base station antennas are two-way radios, and produce radiofrequency (RF) radiation ; that's how they work. This RF radiation is "non-ionizing", and its biological effects are fundamentally different from the "ionizing" radiation produced by x-ray machines [see Q6].
No. The interaction of biological material with an electromagnetic source depends on the frequency of the source . X-rays, RF radiation and "EMF" from power lines are all part of the electromagnetic spectrum, and the parts of the spectrum are characterized by their frequency. The frequency is the rate at which the electromagnetic field changes direction and is given in Hertz (Hz), where one Hz is one cycle (wave) per second, and 1 megahertz (MHz) is one million cycles (waves) per second.
Electric power in the US is at 60 Hz. AM radio has a frequency of around 1 MHz (1 MHz = 1,000,000 Hz), FM radio has a frequency of around 100 MHz, microwave ovens have a frequency of 2450 MHz, and X-rays have frequencies above one million MHz. Cellular (mobile) phones operate at a variety of frequencies between about 800 and 2200 MHz [also see international note 2].
At the extremely high frequencies characteristic of X-rays, electromagnetic particles have sufficient energy to break chemical bonds (ionization). This is how X-rays damage the genetic material of cells, potentially leading to cancer or birth defects. At lower frequencies, such as RF radiation, the energy of the particles is much too low to break chemical bonds. Thus RF radiation is "non-ionizing". Because non-ionizing radiation cannot break chemical bonds, there is no similarity between the biological effects of ionizing radiation (x-rays) and nonionizing radiation (RF radiation) .
The Electromagnetic Spectrum
No. Power lines produce no significant non-ionizing radiation, they produce electric and magnetic fields. In contrast to non-ionizing radiation, these fields do not radiate energy into space, and they cease to exist when power is turned off. It is not clear how, or even whether, power line fields produce biological effects; but if they do, it is not in the same way that high power RF radiation produces biological effects [4, 53]. There appears to be no similarity between the biological effects of power line "EMF" and the biological effects of RF radiation.
Yes. There are national and international safety guidelines for exposure of the public to the RF radiation produced by mobile phone base station antennas. The most widely accepted standards are those developed by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers and American National Standards Institute (ANSI/IEEE) [5, 247b], the International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection (ICNIRP) , and the National Council on Radiation Protection and Measurements (NCRP) .
These RF standards are expressed in "plane wave power density", which is measured in mW/cm-sq (milliwatts per square centimeter) [8, 247b]. For base stations that operate in the 1800-2000 MHz range (for example, PCS base stations in the USA), the 1992 ANSI/IEEE exposure standard for the general public is 1.2 mW/cm-sq. For antennas that operate around 900 MHz (for example, base stations for analog phones in the USA), the ANSI/IEEE exposure standard for the general public is 0.57 mW/cm-sq . The ICNIRP standards are slightly lower and the NCRP standards are essentially identical .
In 1996 the U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) released RF guidelines for the frequencies and devices they regulate, including mobile phone base station antennas . The FCC standards for mobile phone base station antennas are essentially identical to the ANSI/IEEE standard .
The public exposure standards apply to power densities averaged over relatively short periods to time, 30 minutes in the case of the ANSI/IEEE, NCRP, and FCC standards (at mobile phone frequencies). Where there are multiple antennas, these standards apply to the total power produced by all antennas .
See international note 12 and Erdreich and Klauenberg .
Yes. When scientists examined all the published literature on the biological effects of RF radiation they found that the literature agreed on a number of key points [see 5, 6, 7, 53, 83, 90, 95, 96, 99, 164, 212, 230, 232, 247a, 262 for details]:
Based on this scientific consensus, different agencies and countries took different approaches to setting safety guidelines. A typical approach was that used by ANSI/IEEE [5, 247b] and ICNIRP ]:
No. There are differences between the standards. ANSI/IEEE, ICNIRP, NCRP and FCC all use the same biomedical data, and the same general approach to setting safety guidelines. However, there are differences in the models used by the different groups, and hence there are slight differences in the final numbers [17, 164, 247b]. No biological significance should be associated with these slight differences.
A number of countries have their own regulations for public exposure to RF radiation from mobile phone base station antennas. While most of these regulation follow the same patterns and rationales used by ANSI/IEEE  and ICNIRP , they do differ. See International note 12 and Erdreich and Klauenberg  for details.
Some countries (e.g., Switzerland and Italy) have adopted regulations for public exposure to RF radiation that are dramatically lower than the ANSI/IEEE  and ICNIRP  guidelines. In general these lower numbers are based on political considerations rather than on different interpretations of the science.
Yes. Until 1996 the U. S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) used an 1982 version of the IEEE/ANSI standard. In 1996 the FCC adopted a new standard  that was based on a combination of the 1992 ANSI standard [5, 247b] and the 1986 NCRP guidelines .
The new FCC standard for mobile phone base stations is 0.57 mW/cm-sq at 900 MHz and 1.0 mW/cm-sq at 1800-2000 MHz. This 1996 FCC standard applied to all new transmitters licensed after 15-Oct-97, but pre-existing facilities had until 1-Sep-2000 to demonstrate compliance.
The FCC power-density standards described above apply to whole-body public exposure to RF radiation from mobile phone base stations; they do not apply to exposure from the phones themselves or to occupational exposure. For a discussion of exposure from the phones or a discussion of occupational RF radiation exposure see FCC OET Bulletin 56 , the FCC guideline itself , and Foster and Moulder .
Yes. With proper design, mobile phone base station antennas can meet all safety guidelines by a wide margin.
A mobile phone base station antenna, mounted 10 meters (33 ft) above publicly-accessible areas and operated at the maximum intensity, might produce a power density as high as 0.01 mW/cm-sq in publicly-accessible areas near the antenna site; but power densities in publicly-accessible areas will more often be in the 0.00001 to 0.0005 mW/cm-sq range [57, 77, 123, 130]. These power densities are far below all the safety guidelines, and the standards themselves are set far below the level where potentially hazardous effects have been seen.
Within about 200 meters (650 ft) of the base of the antenna site, the power density may be greater at elevations above the base of the antenna site (for example, at the second floor of a building or on a hill). Even with multiple antennas on the same tower, power densities should be less than 5% of the FCC guidelines at all heights and at all distances of more than 40 meters (130 ft) from an antenna site.
Further than about 200 meters (650 ft) from the antenna site power density does not rise with increased elevation.
Power density inside a building will be lower by a factor of 3 to 20 than outside [54, 130].
Petersen et al  measured power densities around mobile phone base stations. The measurements were for antennas radiating 1600 W ERP (see Q14C for a discussion of antenna power) on towers that ranged from 40 to 83 meters (130 to 275 ft) in height. The maximum power density on the ground was 0.002 mW/cm-sq, and the maximum was at 20 to 80 meters (65-265 feet) from the base of the towers. Within 100 meters (330) feet of the base of the towers, the average power density was less than 0.001 mW/cm-sq. These maximum RF power densities are all less than 1% of the FCC, ANSI/IEEE and ICNIRP standards for public exposure.
In 1999 in Vancouver Canada, Thansandote et al  measured RF levels in five schools, three of which had base stations on them or near them. All schools met Canadian, US and international RF standards by a wide margin. The maximum readings are shown in the following table.
|School||Base Station Location||Maximum RF Level|
|1||PCS base station across street||0.00016 mW/cm-sq|
|2||analog base station on roof||0.0026 mW/cm-sq|
|3||analog base station across street||0.00022 mW/cm-sq|
|4 and 5||no antennas nearby||less than 0.00001 mW/cm-sq|
|Canadian Standard||less than 0.57 mW/cm-sq|
In 2000, the U.K. National Radiation Protection Board  measured RF radiation levels at 118 publicly-accessible sites around 17 mobile phone base stations. The maximum exposure at any location was 0.00083 mW/cm-sq (on a playing field 60 meters from a school building with an antenna on its roof). Typical power densities were less than 0.0001 mW/cm-sq (less than 0.01% of the ICNIRP public exposure guidelines). Power densities indoors were substantially less than power densities outdoors. When RF radiation from all sources (mobile phone, FM radio, TV, etc.) was taken into account the maximum power density at any site was less than 0.2% of the ICNIRP public exposure guidelines. Details are shown in the following figure.
RF Radiation Levels Near Mobile Phone Base Stations in the UK
|The relationship between the RF power density and distance from the base of the tower or building on which the mobile phone base antenna was located. Adapted from Mann et al. .|
In 2001, the Radiocommunications Agency of the UK Department of Trade and Industry measured RF radiation levels at 100 schools that had mobile phone base stations on (or near) them. The maximum RF level measured at any school was less than 1% of the ICNIRP standard  for public areas; the maximum in most schools was less than 0.05% of that standard. The results of this audit are summarized in the figure below and the details are on the web at: http://www.radio.gov.uk/topics/mpsafety/school-audit/audit.htm.
RF Radiation Levels
in Schools Near Mobile Phone Base Stations in the UK
|Maximum RF radiation levels (in comparison to the ICNIRP standard for public areas) in UK schools that have mobile phone base stations near them. Adapted from . http://www.radio.gov.uk/topics/mpsafety/school-audit/audit.htm/.|
A 2000 survey of GSM base stations by the Australian Radiation
Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency found that public exposures to
RF radiation were less than 0.1% of their standard . The highest exposure level they found was
less than 0.0002 mW/cm-sq (less than 0.01% of the ICNIRP public
exposure guidelines), and the average exposure level was less than
0.0001 mW/cm-sq. At most of the 13 sites they measured, there were
other types of RF radiation signals that were more powerful than the
base station signal (AM radio was more powerful in 12 cases, FM radio
in 6 cases, and TV in 3 cases). At all sites measured the total RF
radiation from all sources combined (mobile phone base stations, AM
radio, FM radio, VHF TV, UHF TV, paging) was less than 0.1% of the
Australian (or the ICNIRP or FCC) RF safety guidelines.
The Australian report is on line at: http://www.arpansa.gov.au/pubs/eme_comitee/rfrep129.pdf
The relationship between the RF levels required to produce known biological effects, the RF levels specified in the FCC safety guidelines, and the RF levels found around mobile phone base stations is shown in the following figure.
Standards for Mobile Phone Base Stations
|The relationship between the RF power density level required to produce known biological effects, the RF power density levels specified in the safety guidelines, and the RF power density levels actually measured around mobile phone base stations. Because the RF power density required to produce biological effects is dependent on frequency, this figure only applies to frequencies between 800 and 2200 MHz (that is, those currently used by mobile phones).|
Yes. There are some circumstances under which an improperly designed (or inadequately secured) mobile phone base station site could fail to meet safety guidelines.
Safety guidelines for uncontrolled (public) exposure could be exceeded if antennas were mounted in such a way that the public could gain access to areas within 8 meters/25 feet (horizontal) of the radiating surface(s) of the antennas themselves . This could arise for antennas mounted on or near the roofs of buildings. For example, Petersen et al  found that 2-3 feet (1 meter) from a roof-top antenna radiating 1600 W ERP, the power density was as high as 2 mW/cm-sq (compared to the ANSI  public exposure standard of 0.57-1.2 mW/cm-sq).
For antennas mounted on towers, it is somewhat difficult to imagine a situation that would not meet the safety guidelines. However, there are reports (principally from outside North America and Europe) of mobile phone base station antennas facing directly at nearby buildings. Whether these antennas would meet FCC, ANSI/IEEE or ICNIRP safety guidelines would depend on the ERP, the exact geometry and the degree of shielding provided by the building.
While specific recommendations require a detailed knowledge of the site, the antenna, and the mounting structure, some general criteria can be described.
If there are questions about whether these guidelines are met, compliance should be verified by measurements done after the antennas are activated.
The FCC guidelines  require detailed calculations and/or measurement of RF radiation for some types of base stations . In June 2003, the FCC proposed some significant changes in these rules (see note 19).
In general, the above guidelines will usually be met when antennas are placed on their own towers. Problems, when they exist, are generally confined to:
There are many different types of base station antennas, and the RF radiation patterns from them can be quite different. The most basic difference is between high-gain antennas and a low-gain antennas. Because siting and safety issues for high- and low-gain antennas are different, it is important to be able to tell them apart (see Q14B for a discussion of antenna gain). In the early days of mobile phones, you could usually tell by looking. Unfortunately, the development of newer antenna designs and the variety of different ways to stealth (hide) antennas now often makes it impossible to determine what kind of antenna has been installed just by looking,
The power of a mobile phone base station is usually described by its effective radiated power (ERP) which is given in watts (W). Alternatively, the power can be given as transmitter power (in watts) and the antenna gain.
Transmitter power is a measure of total power, while ERP is a measure of the power in the main beam. If an antenna were omni-directional and 100% efficient, then transmitter power and ERP would be the same. But mobile phone base station antennas (like all antennas) are not omni-directional; they are moderately (low-gain antennas) to highly (high-gain antennas) directional. The fact that they are directional means that they concentrate their power in some directions, and give out much less power in other directions. Antenna gain is a measure of how directional an antenna is, and it is measured in decibels. Depending on the antenna gain, a 20-50 W base station transmitter could produce an ERP of anywhere from about 50 watts to over 1000 watts.
The concept of "gain" and "ERP" are best explained by analogy to light bulbs. Compare a regular 100 W light bulb to a 25 W spot light. The spot light has less total power than the regular light, but is much brighter when you are in its beam and much weaker when you are outside its beam. A mobile phone base antenna (particularly a high-gain sector antenna) is like the spot light, and ERP is equivalent tothe effective power in the spot light's main beam.
For a more complete technical discussion of these issues see Section 2.2.11 of NCRP Report No. 119 .
The RF patterns for different types of antennas are very different. For a low-gain antenna with a 1000 W ERP (see Q14C for a discussion of antenna power and gain) of the type formerly used by many mobile phone base stations, the pattern can look like this:
RF Radiation from a 1000 W ERP Low-Gain Antenna on a 15 m Tower
For a high-gain (sector) antenna of the type used in many of the newer base stations, the pattern can look like this:
RF Radiation from a Single 1000 W ERP High-Gain Antenna Mounted 2 m above the Roof of a 13 m Building
Keep in mind that mobile phone base station that use high-high-gain sectored antennas will usually use 3 (or occasionally 4) of these transmission antennas, all pointing in different directions.
The data for the above figure were adapted (with permission) from drawings provided by UniSite Inc. of Tampa, Florida.
In general this will not be a problem.
RF safety guidelines do not require either setbacks or use restrictions around mobile phone base station antenna sites, since power levels on the ground are never high enough to exceed the guidelines for continuous public exposure (see Q8 and Q12).
As discussed in Q13 and Q14, there may be circumstances where use restrictions will have to be placed around the antennas themselves.
The "Minimum Safe Distance" from a mobile phone base antenna is described by the FDA/FCC  as follows:
"To be exposed to levels at or near the FCC limits for cellular or PCS frequencies an individual would essentially have to remain in the main transmitted radio signal (at the height of the antenna) and within a few feet from the antenna... In addition, for sector-type antennas RF levels to the side and in back are insignificant."
Note that the above quote about safe distances applies to the actual radiating antenna, not to the tower (or building or structure) the antenna is on. For a mobile phone base station antenna mounted on tower that is 5+ meters high, there should be no areas that will come anywhere close to the RF radiation safety guidelines, so the concept of a "minimum safe distance" really doesn't mean anything.
Some people have argued that base stations should be kept some distance away from "sensitive" areas. There is little logic to this argument:
In addition, moving base antennas away from an area where there are mobile phone users may:
A detailed discussion of RF radiation occupational safety guidelines is beyond the scope of this FAQ.
In a detailed discussion of guidelines for telecommunications antenna installation, Tell  makes the following recommendations:
Specific Antenna Installation Guidelines (from Tell )
Work Practices for Reducing RF Radiation Exposure (from Tell )
Also see Bernardi et al  for an analysis of actual exposure levels to a person on a roof near a base station antenna.
Compliance can be assessed through measurements or calculations. Both methods require a solid understanding of the physics of RF radiation. Measurements require access to sophisticated and expensive equipment. Calculations require detailed knowledge about the power, antenna pattern and geometry of a specific antenna.
Nothing as simple as distance from an antenna site is adequate for assessing compliance or estimating exposure levels [130, 171]. As discussed and illustrated in Q12, RF radiation exposure may not even increase as you get closer to an mobile phone base station site.
Calculation: If the effective radiated power (ERP), the antenna pattern and the height of the base station antenna are known (see Q14C for a discussion of ERP and gain), then "worst case" calculations of ground level power density can be made. However, the calculation method is not simple and the ERP and antenna pattern are often unknown. See Barbiroli et al  for an example of how exact calculations can be made if all relevant technical specifications are known.
Measurement: Actual measurement of power density from mobile phone base stations requires sophisticated and expensive equipment and considerable technical knowledge. The instruments designed to measure power line fields and the instruments designed to test microwave ovens are not suitable for measuring base stations. Determining that base stations meet ANSI/IEEE, FCC, or ICNIRP guidelines is "relatively easy", but the instruments required cost well over US$ 2000. Actual measurement of the power-density from a base station antenna is much more difficult, as there are many other sources of RF radiation at a typical site (see Mann et al  and Line et al ).
For a technical discussion of measurement techniques and instrumentation see Mann et al , NCRP Report No. 119  and Line et al .
This section will deal with what other scientists, scientific organizations and governmental review groups are saying about RF radiation safety and mobile phone base stations. Occasionally this section will also deal with reports on RF radiation safety and mobile phones base stations that appear in the mass media.
The EPA asked the FCC to adopt parts of the 1986 NCRP guidelines  rather than the entire 1992 ANSI guidelines . This the FCC did , and EPA has formally endorsed the FCC safety guidelines.
In a 30-April-1999 letter to the FCC, Robert Brenner (EPA Acting Deputy Assistant Administrator for Air and Radiation) stated:
"The FCC guidelines expressly take into account thermal effects of RF energy, but do not directly address postulated non-thermal effects, such as those due to chronic exposure. That is the case largely because of the paucity of scientific research on chronic, non-thermal health effects. The information base on non-thermal health effects has not changed significantly since the EPA's original comments in 1993 and 1996. A few studies report that at non-thermal levels, long term exposure to RF energy may have biological consequences. The majority of currently available studies suggests, however, that there are no significant non-thermal human health hazards. It therefore continues to be EPA's view that the FCC exposure guidelines adequately protect the public from all scientifically established harms that may result from RF energy fields generated by FCC licensees."
In the summer and fall of 1999 (and repeated in 2000 and possibly in 2001), programs on British, American and French TV claimed that there was new data suggesting that RF radiation from mobile phones could cause injury to humans. Four sources of "new" information were generally cited:
The last two of these "new" studies were only vaguely described in the TV reports, but they appear to be references to studies sponsored by the mobile phone industry in the US (under the program called WTR).
The WTR epidemiology study was presented at a meeting in June of 1999, and has now been published in the peer-reviewed literature [138,188]. The published version reports no significant association between malignant  or benign  brain cancer and the use of hand-held mobile phones. See further discussion of the study in Q16E.
The WTR genotoxicity study was presented at a meeting in March of 1999 [102, 103]. Parts of this WTR study were published in early 2002 . The published version  reports that RF radiation at 5 or 10 W/kg was capable of causing a one specific type of genotoxic injury (increased micronucleus formation); but did not enhance DNA strand breaks. Vijayalaxmi et al , Bisht et al , McNamee et al [207, 208] and Koyama et al  have reported that they cannot replicate the micronucleus findings. The authors of the WTR genotoxicity study speculate that their reported effect on micronucleus formation may be due to heating.
In 2000, a special committee in the U.K., the Independent Expert Group on Mobile Phones (also known as the "Stewart Commission") issued a report on mobile phone safety issues . The full text is available at: http://www.iegmp.org.uk/report/text.htm.
Follow-up reports were issued in December, 2003  and March 2004 . The
full text of the 2003 report is at is available at:
and the 2004 report is at:
On the general issue of RF radiation safety, the Expert Group concluded in 2000 that:
"The balance of evidence to date suggests that exposures to RF radiation below NRPB and ICNIRP  guidelines do not cause adverse health effects to the general population..."
And in 2003, the Expert Group concluded that:
"In aggregate the research published since the  IEGMP report does not give cause for concern. The weight of evidence now available does not suggest that there are adverse health effects from exposures to RF fields below guideline levels, but the published research on RF exposures and health has limitations, and mobile phones have only been in widespread use for a relatively short time. The possibility therefore remains open that there could be health effects from exposure to RF fields below guideline levels; hence continued research is needed."
With respect to mobile phone base stations, the 2000 Expert Group concluded that:
"The balance of evidence indicates that there is no general risk to the health of people living near to base stations on the basis that exposures are expected to be small fractions of guidelines."
And in 2003, the Expert Group concluded that:
"Exposure levels from living near to mobile phone base stations are extremely low, and the overall evidence indicates that they are unlikely to pose a risk to health."
With respect to RF radiation and cancer, the 2003 Expert Group concluded that:
"The biological evidence suggests that RF fields do not cause mutation or initiate or promote tumour formation, and the epidemiological data overall do not suggest causal associations between exposures to RF fields, in particular from mobile phone use, and the risk of cancer"
An Expert Panel assembled by the Royal Society of Canada issued a report on mobile phone safety in 1999 . The report is online at: http://www.rsc.ca/english/RFreport.pdf.
Regarding mobile phone base stations, the Expert Panel concluded:
"Surveys conducted in proximity to base stations operating in Canada indicate that the public is exposed to extremely low intensity RF fields in the environment. These exposures are typically thousands of times lower than the recommended maximum exposure in Safety Code 6."
In 2001 the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) published a statement on mobile phone base stations . The report is on-line at: http://ewh.ieee.org/soc/embs/comar/base.htm.
The statement concluded that:
"In nearly all circumstances, public exposure to RF fields near wireless base stations is far below recommended safety limits... Consequently, wireless base stations are not considered to present a risk to the general population including aged people, pregnant women, and children"
In a website ( http://www.fda.gov/cellphones/) that went on-line in May 2002, the US Food and Drug Administration and the Federal Communications Commission states that:
"The electromagnetic RF signals transmitted from base station antennas stations travel toward the horizon in relatively narrow paths... Therefore, RF exposure on the ground is much less than exposure very close to the antenna and in the path of the transmitted radio signal. In fact, ground-level exposure from such antennas is typically thousands of times less than the exposure levels recommended as safe by expert organizations. So exposure to nearby residents would be well within safety margins."
"Measurements made near cellular and PCS base station antennas mounted on towers have confirmed that ground-level exposures are typically thousands of times less than the exposure limits adopted by the FCC. In fact, in order to be exposed to levels at or near the FCC limits for cellular or PCS frequencies an individual would essentially have to remain in the main transmitted radio signal (at the height of the antenna) and within a few feet from the antenna..."
"When cellular and PCS antennas are mounted on rooftops, RF levels on that roof or on others near by would probably be greater than those typically encountered on the ground. However, exposure levels approaching or exceeding safety guidelines should be encountered only very close to or directly in front of the antennas..."
In 2002, the Health Council of the Netherlands issued a report on the safety of mobile phones . The report is on-line at: http://www.gr.nl/pdf.php?ID=377.
On the general issue of mobile phone safety, the Health Council concluded that:
"The electromagnetic field of a mobile telephone does not constitute a health hazard, according to the present state of scientific knowledge."
With respect to mobile phone base stations, the Health Council reaffirmed their earlier (2000) conclusion  that:
"The chance of health problems occurring among persons living and working below bases stations as a result of exposure to electromagnetic fields originating from the antennas is, in the Committee's opinion, negligible. The field levels are always considerably below the exposure limits."
In 2001, the Directeur Général de la Santé issued a report on the safety of mobile phones and their base stations (Les Téléphones Mobiles, leurs Stations de Base et la Santé) . An English-language summary is on-line at: http://www.sante.gouv.fr/htm/dossiers/telephon_mobil/conclus_uk.htm.
On the general issue of mobile phone safety, the French report concluded that:
"The risk of accident and fatality associated with the use of mobile telephones when driving has definitely been established. In the current state of knowledge, this is the only known health risk, albeit a very serious one."
With respect to mobile phone base stations, the report concluded that:
"There is considerably less personal exposure in the vicinity of base stations with the exception of exclusion areas than there is when making a call with a mobile phone...In view of the exposure levels observed, the group of experts does not back the hypothesis that there is a health risk for populations living in the vicinity of base stations."
In a supplement to their 2002 RF radiation protection standard  the Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency (ARPANSA) wrote:
"Radiofrequency radiation (RFR) from mobile phone towers makes only a minor contribution to the total environmental RFR that arises primarily from other communications sources. Depending on location the RFR from mobile phone towers is generally less than 3% of all RFR from other contributing sources including AM and FM radio, television, paging systems and emergency services.
Further, the exposure levels from all combined radiofrequency sources as measured adjacent to the mobile phone towers are generally much less than 2 microwatts per square centimeter [0.002 mW/cm-sq]. Such RFR levels are below 1% of the maximum allowable public exposure levels."
Elsewhere in that document ARPANSA wrote:
"Significant safety factors are incorporated into the exposure limits -- that is, the limits are set well below the level at which adverse health effects are known to occur. Current data does not establish the existence of adverse heath effects for exposure levels below the limits of the ARPANSA."
Note that with respect to public exposure to RF radiation from mobile phone base stations the Australian standard is largely (if not completely) in agreement with the ICNIRP Guidelines.
Yes and no. While there have been no epidemiology studies of cancer and mobile phone base stations, there have been epidemiology studies of cancer and other types of exposure to RF radiation. For summaries, see the 2000 review by Rothman , the 2002 review by Boice and McLaughlin , and the 2003 review by Elwood [247e].
Epidemiology studies of RF radiation from base stations have generally been concluded to be "infeasible, as there is no possibility to estimate individual exposure accurately enough" .
In general, epidemiology studies of RF radiation and cancer have not found significant correlations between exposure and cancer. The studies include:
Geographic correlation studies estimate the strength of RF radiation in geographic areas and correlate these estimates with disease rates in these areas. Even when the design of geographic correlation studies is optimal, they are considered exploratory and are not generally used for determining causality.
The geographical correlation studies done to date show no consistent relationship between exposure to RF radiation and either adult of childhood cancer. See Elwood  for a detailed discussion of these studies.
The best known geographical correlation studies are those of cancer in people living near TV or FM radio broadcast towers.
The major steps in evaluating reports of "cancer clusters" are:
The above steps have not generally been followed in studies of RF radiation, and the reports of "cancer clusters" are of essentially no value in determining whether exposure to RF radiation is a cause of cancer (see Elwood  for details of these studies).
The majority of the occupational studies of RF radiation exposure have deficiencies in exposure assessments because occupation or job title was used as an estimate of exposure; that is, actual RF radiation exposure levels are not known.
There are five epidemiological studies of occupational exposure to RF radiation that are generally considered to have acceptable design and analysis, adequate sample size, and sufficient follow-up time: Robinette et al , Hill , Milham , Morgan et al  and Groves et al . These five studies do not show consistent associations between exposure to RF radiation and either cancer in general or any specific kind of cancer. The most recent of these studies are summarized below.
2000: Morgan and colleagues  studied all major causes of mortality (with emphasis on brain cancer, lymphoma and leukemia) in employees of Motorola, a manufacturer of wireless communication products. Based on job titles, workers were classified into high, moderate, low, and background RF exposure groups. For workers with moderate or high RF radiation exposure no elevation in rates of brain cancer, leukemia and lymphoma were found. Actual peak and/or average RF radiation exposure levels are not known.
2002: Groves and colleagues  reported that exposure to RF radiation from US Navy radar during the Korean War is not associated with a subsequent increase in cancer rates. In comparison with navy men who served at the same time, but who had "low radar exposure potential", the sailors with "high radar exposure potential" showed less overall cancer and brain cancer than expected. The rate of nonlymphocytic leukemia was elevated, but the authors note that this increase was statistically significant in only one of the three high exposure occupations. This is a follow-up study to Robinette et al .
The other studies of acceptable design (Lilienfeld et al [70 and Q16D], Lagorio et al , Muhm , Tynes et al , Grayson et al , and Thomas et al ) have more limitations in exposure assessment, case ascertainment, or follow-up time; but they also do not suggest that RF radiation exposure increases the risk of either cancer in general or any specific kind of cancer.
Szmigielski  studied Polish military personnel who may have had RF radiation exposure. The incidence of cancer of all types, brain cancer, leukemia and lymphoma are reported to be elevated in exposed personnel. Because the methods of data collection and analysis are inadequately described or unsuitable, and because assessment of RF radiation exposure is very deficient, the report does not meet basic epidemiological criteria for acceptability. Elwood  concludes that the methods used in the Szmigielski study may have created a systematic bias "that would be expected to produce an increased relative risk for all types of cancer".
There have been claims (by Goldsmith , for example) that microwave irradiation of the US Embassy in Moscow caused cancer and other injuries to people working there. This exposure to RF radiation occurred, but there is no real evidence that it caused any health effects.
From 1953 to 1976, low-intensity microwaves were aimed at the American Embassy building in Moscow. Lilienfeld et al  performed a comprehensive survey of the health experience of 1827 foreign service employees who had been assigned to work at the embassy (and their dependents). Their health experience was compared to 2561 foreign service workers assigned to other East European embassies (and their dependents). Measurements of several different exposed areas of the Moscow embassy in three time periods indicated the maximum exposure was at 0.015 mW/cm-sq (at 0.5 to 9 GHz) for 18 hours/day. For most of the exposure period, the maximum level was lower. The embassies of the comparison population were said to be at background levels.
Lilienfeld et al  found no evidence that individuals in the Moscow group experienced higher mortality for any cause, or higher mortality from cancer in general or from any cancer subtype. Although this study was well-designed, the relatively small cohort size and short follow-up time limited its power. The power of this study is also limited by the extremely low RF radiation levels, although it should be noted that the RF levels are larger than those found near most mobile phone base station antennas. Thestudy concluded that:
"Personnel working in the American Embassy in Moscow suffered no ill effects from the microwaves beamed at the Chancery"
In 1996, Rothman et al.  published a study that reviewed health records of more than 250,000 mobile phone users. They found no difference in mortality between the users of hand-held portable phones (where the antenna is placed close to the head) and car-mounted mobile phones (where the antenna is mounted on the vehicle). In a 1999 follow-up study , the same group examined specific causes of death among nearly 300,000 mobile phone users in several U.S. cities. The investigators found no difference in overall cancer rates, leukemia rates, or brain cancer rates between the users of hand-held portable phones and the users of car-mounted mobile phones. The only specific cause of death that correlated with use of hand-held mobile phones was death from motor vehicle collisions.
In 1999-2001, four studies evaluated brain cancer in users of hand-held mobile phones: the first by Hardell et al , the second by Muscat et al , the third by Inskip et al , and the fourth by Johansen et al . These studies found no consistent associations between mobile phone use and brain cancer (see figure below), and none found exposure-response trends. In general, the temporal lobe of the brain gets the highest RF radiation exposure in users of hand-held mobile phones; Hardell et al  reported a non-significant excess of temporal lobe tumors, but Muscat et al , Inskip et al  and Johansen et al  reported a non-significant decrease of these tumors. Hardell et al  reported a non-significant excess of tumors on the side of the head where the patients reported using their phones, but Muscat et al  and Inskip et al  reported non-significant trends in the opposite direction (see details below).
In the first of these studies, Hardell et al  analyzed mobile phone use in 233 Swedish brain tumor patients, some of whom has used hand-held mobile phones for as long as 10 years. This was done as part of a larger study of possible causes of brain cancer (other possible causes evaluated included occupation, radiation therapy for cancer, exposure to diagnostic radiation, and exposure to a wide variety of chemicals). Exposure was assessed by questionnaires, and analyses were based on use of hand-held mobile telephones (use of "hands-free" devices and use in a car with a fixed antenna were not considered to be "exposure"). No elevation of brain tumor incidence was found in users of either digital or analog phones, and no exposure-response trend was observed (see figure below). When analysis was restricted to temporal lobe (or temporal, occipital plus temporoparietal lobe) tumors on the same side of the brain where the mobile phone was reported to have been used, a non-significant excess incidence of brain cancer was found. This "handedness" was seen for use of analog phones, but not for the use of digital phones.
In 2002-2003 Hardell and colleagues published four separate analyses of a followup study of 1617 brain tumor patients [198, 209, 221, 222]. It is not clear whether patients from the earlier report  are included in this new study, or why this study has been published in four different formats. This study included both benign and malignant brain tumors, and both mobile phones and cordless phones. Benign (non-cancerous) brain tumors made up 55% of the total, and 35% on the phones used were cordless rather than "cellular".
It is very difficult as assess the significance of the 2002-2003 Hardell reports [198, 209, 221, 222]:
None of the three versions of the study by Hardell and colleagues that looked at malignant brain tumors [198, 209, 221] appear to show significant elevations in the incidence of malignant brain tumors in users of analog mobile phones, digital mobile phones and cordless phones (see Fig below). In fact, the incidence of malignant temporal lobe tumors were slightly decreased in users of both analog and digital mobile phones in some analyses (see Fig below). In the second analysis , Hardell et al report that the incidence of brain tumors was increased on the side of the head where the phone was used and decreased on the other side, with no statistically-significant overall increase in the incidence of brain cancer.
The three versions of the study by Hardell and colleagues that looked at benign brain tumors [198, 221, 222] appear to show that the incidence of acoustic neuromas was elevated in users of analog phones, but whether the increase is statistically significant after correction for multiple comparisons is unclear. The only other study of acoustic neuromas (Muscat et al, 2002 ) reported that use of mobile phones was not associated with an increased risk (see below). Note that "acoustic neuroma" , "acoustic neurinoma"  and "vestibular schwannoma"  are different names for the same type of benign brain tumor.
The studies done by Hardell and colleagues [100, 198] were rather harshly criticized in a 2002 review commissioned by the Swedish Radiation Protection Authority . That review concluded:
"Because only living cases were interviewed and well over 500 cases were excluded and because there is evidence for selection and information bias, this study of cancer survivors cannot provide the basis for causal inferences. The health risks for cordless telephones which operate at power levels up to 100 times lower than analogue [mobile] telephones in Sweden indicate a reporting bias. The increase for ipsilateral (same side) phone use is balanced by a decrease for contralateral (opposite side) phone use, suggesting a reporting bias... There was no evidence of a dose-response... Because of the above listed shortcomings and the large number of comparisons made, over 200, bias and chance are the most likely explanations of the associations reported."
Malignant Brain Cancer in Users of Hand-Held Mobile Phones
|Relative risk of malignant brain cancer (with 95% confidence interval) in users of hand-held mobile phones from the epidemiological studies of Hardell et al [100,198,209], Muscat et al , Inskip et al , and Johansen et al . The number of exposed cases in the overall analysis, and the sub-analyses are shown in parentheses. The top set of relative risks looks at the least restrictive definition of "mobile phone use" reported by each group, the middle set of relative risks looks at the group with the longest use analyzed by each group, and the bottom group looks at tumors in the lobe of the brain expected to get the highest exposure to RF radiation.|
In December 2000, Muscat et al  published a case-control study of 469 brain tumor patients in the US, some of whom has used hand-held mobile phones for as long as 4 years. Exposure was assessed on the basis of in-hospital interviews. No elevation of brain tumor incidence was found in users of hand-held phones, and no exposure-response trend was observed (see figure above). The incidence of temporal lobe tumors (where RF radiation exposure should be the greatest in users of hand-held phones) was not elevated. There was a non-significant trend for tumors to be on the side of the head where the patients reported using their phones; but when analysis was confined to the temporal lobe tumors, there were fewer tumors than expected on the side of the head where the phones were used.
When Muscat et al  analyzed tumors by histopathological type, there was no excess of gliomas (the most common and deadly form of brain tumors); but there was an excess of neuroepitheliomas. This increase was not statistically significant. Hardell et al. [100, 198] did not explicitly analyze this histopathological subtype of tumor, but Inskip et al  found a decreased incidence of neuroepitheliomas.
As soon as Muscat et al  was published, NEJM rushed a similar study onto their website that had been scheduled for publication in January of 2001. Inskip et al  studied 782 brain tumor patients in a different part of the US, some of whom had used hand-held mobile phones for as long as 5 years. They found no elevation of brain tumor incidence in users of hand-held phones, and observed no exposure-response trend (see figure above). The incidence of temporal lobe tumors (where RF radiation exposure should be the greatest in users of hand-held phones) was not elevated. There was a non-significant trend for tumors to be on the side of the head opposite to where the patients had reported using their phones. When Inskip et al  analyzed tumors by histopathological type, there was no significant excess of any types of malignant or benign brain tumors.
In early 2001, Johansen et al  published a retrospective cohort study of all types of cancer in Danish mobile phone users, some of whom has used mobile phones as long as 5 years. This included 154 brain cancer patients. Mobile phone use was associated with a significantly decreased overall risk of cancer that was attributable largely to less smoking-related cancer. No increased risk of brain cancer, leukemia, lymphoma, ocular cancer or melanoma was found in mobile phone users. No significant increase in any types of cancer were found in mobile phone users. No exposure response trends in leukemia or brain cancer incidence were seen in mobile phone users. There was no increase in temporal or occipital lobe tumors in mobile phone users (see figure above).
In early 2001, Stang et al  reported that the use of "radio sets, mobile phones, or similar devices at [the] workplace for at least several hours per day" was associated with uveal (intraocular) melanoma. Of 118 individuals with intraocular melanoma, 6 (5.1%) reported that they were "probable or certain" to have "ever been exposed" to mobile phones at work. According to the authors, this occupational mobile phone use is 4 times higher than expected. Mobile phone use outside of work was not assessed, and other risk factors (for example, UV exposure and light skin color) were not assessed. In the only other comparable study, Johansen et al  found less melanoma and ocular cancer than expected in mobile phone users.
In 2002 Muscat et al  reported that use of mobile phones was not associated with an increased risk of acoustic neuromas (a benign brain tumor). This study parallels Muscat's earlier report  on malignant brain tumors and the use of hand-held mobile phones. The tumors that were found in mobile phone users were more likely to be on the side opposite where the phone was used, than on the side where the phone was reported to have been used. Note that the 2002 Hardell et al study  does report an excess of acoustic neuromas in users of analog phones.
In 2002, Auvinen et al  reported that there was no statistically-significant association of mobile phone use with the overall incidence of brain cancer or the incidence of salivary gland cancer. When brain cancers were subdivided by type, a weak association was seen for gliomas and use of analog phones -- for digital phones, there was no association.
In 2004, Christensen et al  reported that use of mobile phones was not associated with an increased risk of acoustic neuromas (a benign brain tumor) in Denmark. These results are similar to those in the 2002 Muscat et al study  except that the Danish Study is slightly larger and includes more people with 5+ years of mobile phone use.
The lack of associations between exposure to RF radiation and total cancer, and the lack of consistent associations between exposure to RF radiation and any specific type of cancer, suggests that RF radiation is unlikely to have a strong causal influence on cancer.
In a 2000 review of the RF radiation epidemiology literature, Rothman  concluded that:
"Based on the epidemiological evidence available now, the main public health concern is clearly motor vehicle collisions, a behavioral effect rather than an effect of RF exposure as such. Neither the several studies of occupational exposure to RF nor the few of cellular telephone users offer any clear evidence of an association with brain tumors of other malignancies. Even if the studies in progress were to find large relative effects for brain cancer, the absolute increase in risk would probably be smaller than the risk stemming from motor vehicle collisions."
In a 2002 review of the mobile phone epidemiology, Boice and McLaughlin  concluded that:
"In our view, a consistent picture has emerged from these studies that appear to rule out, with a reasonable degree of certainty, a causal association between cellular [mobile] telephones and cancer to date. No consistent evidence was observed for increased risk of brain cancer, meningioma, acoustic neuroma, ocular melanoma or salivary gland cancer, examined over a wide range of exposure measures...Complementing the human data are the emerging results of experimental studies which have failed to confirm earlier reports of possible adverse outcomes from RF [radiation] exposure. Moreover, there is no biologically plausible mechanism to support a carcinogenic effect of non-ionizing RF waves."
In a 2003 review of the RF radiation epidemiology literature, Elwood [247e] concluded that:
"Epidemiological studies of radio frequency (RF) exposures and human cancers include studies of military and civilian occupational groups, people who live near television and radio transmitters, and users of mobile phones. Many types of cancer have been assessed, with particular attention given to leukemia and brain tumors. The epidemiological results fall short of the strength and consistency of evidence that is required to come to a conclusion that RF emissions are a cause of human cancer. Although the epidemiological evidence in total suggests no increased risk of cancer, the results cannot be unequivocally interpreted in terms of cause and effect. The results are inconsistent, and most studies are limited by lack of detail on actual exposures, short follow-up periods, and the limited ability to deal with other relevant factors. In some studies, there may be substantial biases in the data used. For these same reasons, the studies are unable to confidently exclude any possibility of an increased risk of cancer."
In a 2003 review of the RF radiation epidemiology literature, Breckenkamp et al  concluded that:
"In most of the studies, an increased risk for various types of cancer was found in exposed study participants, although in different organs. The overall results were, however, inconsistent. The most important limitations of the studies were the lack of measurements referring to past and current exposures and, thus, the unknown details of actual exposure, the use of possibly biased data as well as the lack of adjustment for potential confounders, and the use of indirect standardization techniques. Due to these limitations and the inconsistencies of the results it has to be concluded that the studies give no evidence of [RF radiation or microwaves] causing cancer."
In a 2003 review of the RF radiation epidemiology literature, an independent expert group formed by the Swedish Radiation Protection Authority  concluded that:
"Only a small number of epidemiological studies on mobile phone use and cancer risk are available. Overall, the majority of the studies have found no indication of increased risks, although some positive findings are reported in two studies. There are, however, methodological considerations that limit the interpretability of these few positive findings. Limitations are also obvious in the studies that are reporting no effects, primarily because of short follow-up periods. Thus, current evidence is inconclusive regarding cancer risk following RF exposure from mobile phones."On a related issue [206, 210], a US federal judge ruled in September 2002 that the plaintiffs in one of the major mobile phone - brain cancer law suits had presented "no sufficiently reliable and relevant scientific evidence to support either general or specific causation." The ruling may result in the dismissal of most of (or all of) the US law suits claiming that mobile phones cause brain cancer. The plaintiffs relied heavily on the epidemiological studies of Hardell et al [100,198,209] and the laboratory studies of Lai and Singh . The actual ruling is on-line at: http://www.mdd.uscourts.gov/Opinions152/Opinions/newman0902.pdf. In October 2003, this ruling was upheld by the Court of Appeals .
On-line at: http://www.ssi.se/english/EMF_exp_Eng_2003.pdf.
Possibly, but there is no replicated evidence for such effects. It has been suggested that amplitude-modulated (AM) and pulse-modulated RF radiation might have different effects than continuous-wave (CW, unmodulated) RF radiation (see for example Hyland  and d'Ambrosio et al ). This could be important, since mobile phones and their base stations produce a modulated signal, and much of the research has been done with unmodulated RF sources.
The issue of amplitude modulation was reviewed in 1998 by Juutilainen and de Seze  who concluded that:
The literature relevant to the possible biological effects of AM radiofrequency radiation consists of scattered observations using a wide variety of experimental models and exposure parameters... Several studies have reported findings consistent with effects on the nervous system and cancer-related biological processes. However, the methods and exposure parameters vary widely, and no independent replications of the positive finds have been reported. The results available today fail to support the existence of well-defined modulation-specific bioeffects from exposure to radiofrequency radiation.
In Dec 2004 the US National Council on Radiation Protection and Measurements (NCRP), issued a report on the issue of amplitude modulation  and concluded:
The literature related to modulation-dependent effects of RF energy is a small part of the total scientific literature with relatively few experimental studies of animals that were designed to examine biological effects of electromagnetic fields as a function of modulation... The results are mixed, but suggest that pulsed RF energy can be more effective in producing biological effects under some circumstances than continuous wave energy of the same average incident power density. Some questions concerning extremely low frequency amplitude modulation also remain unanswered. Most studies of pulsed RF energy involved exposures consisting of short (microsecond) pulses of comparatively high intensity, and time-averaged exposure levels that are considerably above the contemporary exposure limits. These studies do not suggest a hazard that might be present under exposure conditions allowed by the current limits.
There is some evidence, both theoretical and experimental, that very intense RF pulses, which increase the temperature of tissue by several degrees within a second, can lead to adverse effects through a mechanism that relates to the rate of heating. Exposures to such pulses are, in principle, permissible under some contemporary exposure guidelines. However, such exposures are associated with specialized military weapon systems. Human beings are very unlikely to experience inadvertent exposures to such intense pulsed RF energy.
Some animal studies have reported biological effects of RF energy modulated sinusoidally or by long- or short-duration pulses, sometimes at low average power levels. Unfortunately, the research on animals and cell and tissue systems exposed under these conditions is sparse and scattered over a variety of waveforms, experimental designs, animal species, and reported biological effects. Most reports have no clear relation to possible health hazards and do not suggest possible hazards from modulated RF energy at levels below present limits...
Biophysical considerations do not suggest a plausible basis for hazards from electromagnetic fields at exposure levels below present limits that are associated with modulation, with the possible exception of very intense RF pulses.
This Commentary concludes that the scientific literature related to modulation-dependence of biological effects of RF energy is not sufficient to draw any conclusions about possible modulation-dependent health hazards of RF fields, nor is there any apparent biophysical basis from which to anticipate such hazards apart from exposure to very intense RF pulses produced by some specialized military equipment.
Possibly. Some groups in the general population might be more sensitive to the effects of RF radiation than others, but no such groups have actually been found. The possible existence of such sensitive individuals is one of the main reasons that an additional 5-fold safety margin is added to the public exposure guidelines (see Q9).
Although the public's principal health concern about mobile phone base station antennas appears to be the possibility of a cancer connection (see Q21 and Q23A-Q23C), other health-related issues come up periodically. Particularly common are questions about interference with heart pacemakers (covered in Q19A). This section will also cover less common issues. The possibility of a connection with miscarriages and birth defects is covered in Q22.
No. There is no evidence that mobile phone base station antennas will interfere with cardiac pacemakers or other implanted medical devices as long as exposure levels are kept within the ANSI guideline for uncontrolled exposure (see Q8 and Q12).
It is possible that digital mobile phones themselves might interfere with pacemakers if the antenna is placed directly over the pacemaker. This problem is reported to occur with only some types of digital phones and some types of pacemakers [46, 137].
No, but it is possible that use of mobile phones causes headaches.
In 1998, Frey  reported anecdotal evidence that mobile phones cause headaches.
In 2000, Oftedal et al  found that users of mobile phones commonly report having headaches, but since the study contains no data on non-users it is not known whether the rate of headaches reported by these mobile phone users is unusual. An extension of the study by Sandström et al  reported that headaches and other symptoms were higher in users of analog (NMT 900) phones than users of digital (GSM) phones.
In 2000, Chia et al  reported that headaches were significantly more common among users of hand-held mobile phones than among non-users (65% vs 54%). Headache prevalence increase significantly with duration of use, and the use of hand-free equipment eliminated the increase.
No one has claimed that there is scientific evidence that base stations cause headaches, and there are no biophysical or physiological bases for expecting such an effect.
There are unreplicated reports of such effects. There are some studies that suggest that RF radiation from hand-held mobile phones or mobile phone base stations might cause subtle biochemical, physiological or behavioral changes. However, none of the studies provides substantial evidence that mobile phone base stations might pose a health hazard.
Recent (post-1999) reports about such effects include:
Yes. If exposure is sufficiently intense, RF radiation can cause biological effects (for a review, see Dewhirst et al. ). Possible injuries include cataracts, skin burns, deep burns, heat exhaustion and heat stroke. Most, if not all, of the known biological effects from exposure to high-power RF sources are due to heating . The effects of this heating range from behavioral changes to eye damage (cataracts) [for details, see 5, 6, 7, 53, 83, 90, 99, 232, 235, 247c, 247d, 247h,247i]. Except possibly within a few feet of the antennas themselves , the power produced by mobile phone base station antennas is too low to cause heating.
There have been scattered reports of effects  that do not appear to be due to heating, the so called non-thermal effects [20, 25, 158]. None of these effects have been independently replicated, and most have no obvious connections to human health risks [247a].
The lack of biological effects from exposures to RF radiation that do not produce biologically-significant temperature changes is not surprising, as there are no known biophysical mechanisms that would suggest that such effects were likely [25, 124, 158, 165, 215, 247a].
In a 2001 review, Pickard and Moros  conclude that:
"The prospects of UHF (300-3000 MHz) irradiation producing a nonthermal bioeffect are considered theoretically and found to be small... This supports previous arguments for the improbability of biological effects at UHF frequencies unless a mechanism can be found for accumulating energy over time and space and focusing it. Three possible mechanisms are then considered and shown to be unlikely... Finally, it is concluded that the rate of energy deposition from a typical fields and within a typical tissue is so small as to make unlikely any significant nonthermal biological effect."
in a 2003 review, Adair  concluded that:
"Continuous radiofrequency (RF) and microwave radiation with intensity less than 10 mW/cm-sq are unlikely to affect physiology significantly through athermal mechanisms. Biological systems are fundamentally noisy on the molecular scale as a consequence of thermal agitation and are noisy macroscopically as a consequence of physiological functions and animal behavior. If electromagnetic fields are to significantly affect physiology, their direct physical effect must be greater than that from the ubiquitous endogenous noise. Using that criterion, I show that none of a set of interactions of weak fields... can affect biology on the molecular scale. Moreover, I conclude that such weak fields are quite unlikely to generate significant effects in their interactions with larger biological elements such as cells."
No. Even at high levels of exposure, there is no substantial evidence that RF radiation can either cause or contribute to cancer (for a review, see Dewhirst et al. ). Although research in this area has been extensive, there is no replicated laboratory or epidemiological evidence that RF radiation at the power levels associated with public exposure to RF radiation from mobile phone base station antennas are associated with cancer [for details, see 5, 6, 7, 74, 83, 95, 99, 128, 234, 247e, 247f, 247g, 247m, 262].
There are two laboratory reports that exposure to RF radiation might produce cancer, or cancer-related injuries in animals. These studies are discussed in Q23A and Q23C. Both studies use RF levels far above those found in publicly-accessible area near base station antennas, and both studies have failed confirmation attempts.
The epidemiological studies of RF show no consistent association with total cancer, or with any specific type of cancer (see Q16).
Indirectly, yes. Exposure to levels of RF radiation sufficient to cause whole body heating can cause miscarriages or birth defects [247k]. The power produced by mobile phone base station antennas is far too low to cause such heating. There is no laboratory or epidemiological evidence at all that RF radiation at the power levels associated with public exposure to RF radiation from mobile phone base station antennas are associated with miscarriages or birth defects [see refs in 5, 6, 7, 247k, 262 for details].
There is a constant flow of new information. Studies which attract major attention will often get their own sections, such as the mouse and rat cancer studies discussed in Q23A and Q23B, and the DNA strand break studies discussed in Q23C.
A 1997 Australian study by Repacholi et al  reported that lymphoma-prone mice exposed for 18 months to strong, but intermittent, RF radiation of the type used by digital mobile phones have an increased incidence of lymphomas. No increases in the incidence of other types of tumors were found. The field intensities used are above the guidelines for public exposure recommended in the ANSI/IEEE guideline (Q8), and are far above those that exist in publicly-accessible areas near mobile phone base station antennas .
In 2002, Utteridge et al  reported that they could not replicate this increase in lymphoma in either normal mice or in the same lymphoma prone mice.
The original Repacholi et al  study was criticized on a number of grounds:
The Utteridge et al [197,216] replication study was designed to address the above criticisms:
In the 1997 Repacholi et al  study, 100 lymphoma-prone mice were exposed to pulsed 900 MHz RF radiation for 1 hour per day for 18 months at an SAR that varied between 0.01 and 4.2 W/kg. Lymphoma incidence was raised by a factor of 2.4 compared to a similar group of mice that had been sham-exposed.
In the 2002 Utteridge et al [197,216] study, 480 normal and 480 lymphoma-prone mice were exposed to 898 MHz GSM-modulated RF radiation for 1 hour per day for 24 months at SARs of 0.25, 1.0, 2.0 and 4.0 W/kg (120 mice of each type at each SAR). No statistically-significant increase in lymphoma incidence were found and no statistically-significant dose-response trend was observed.
Five letters to the editor concerning the Utteridge et al report and the authors' responses appeared in 2003 .
Note that there are at least 20 other studies of long-term exposure of rodents to RF radiation. None of these studies used lymphoma-prone mice and none have reported excess lymphoma. See Q23B for details.
There are more than 20 other studies of long-term exposure of rodents to RF radiation. These studies find that long-term exposure of rodents to RF radiation does not appear to induce or promote lymphoma (see Q23A), or brain cancer (see Q23C) or tumors in general. Life time exposure of rodents also does not appear to cause any decrease in life span. The studies are summarized below.
1971: Spalding el al  published a study of mice that had been exposed to 800-MHz RF radiation for 2 hr/day, 5 days/wk, for 35 wks at a SAR of 13 W/kg. The average life span of the RF-exposed group was slightly, but not significantly, longer than that of the sham-exposed group.
1982: Szmigielski et al  published a study of mice that were exposed to 2450-MHz RF for 2 hr/day, 6 days/wk, for up to 6 months. Exposures were at 2-3 and 6-8 W/kg. Controls included both sham-irradiated animals and animals subject to "confinement stress" (see Stagg et al ). Both RF exposure and confinement stress significantly accelerated the appearance of both chemically-induced skin and breast tumors. The dosimetry in this study is questionable, and seems likely that the mice exposed at the higher dose were subjected to physiologically-significant heating.
1988: Saunders et al  published a study of male mice that were exposed to 2450-MHz RF radiation (power density of 10 mW /cm-sq and SAR of 4 W/kg) for 6 hrs/day for a total of 120 hr over an 8-week period. At the end of the treatment the mice were mated with unexposed females. There was no significant reduction in pregnancy rate, so that there had been no increase in dominant lethal mutations. Examination of spermatogonia showed no increase in chromosome aberrations. The authors conclude that "there is no evidence in this experiment to show that chronic exposure of male mice to 2450-MHz microwave radiation induces a mutagenic response".
1994: Liddle et al  published a study that examined the effects of life-time 2450-MHz RF exposure in mice. Mice were exposed for 1 hr/day, 5 days/week throughout their life at either 2 or 6.8 W/kg. Life span was significantly shortened in mice exposed at 6.8 W/kg (median of 572 days vs 706 days in the sham-exposed group). However, at 2 W/kg, the RF-exposed animals lived slightly, but not significantly longer (median of 738 days) than the sham-exposed group. The authors suggested that the heating from exposure at 6.8 W/kg was stressful enough to decrease life span.
1992: Chou et al  published a study of 100 normal rats that were exposed to pulsed 2450 MHz RF at 0.15-0.40 W/kg  for 21.5 hrs/day and 25 months. No effects were observed on life-span or cause of death. An increase in total cancer was seen in exposed group, with no effect on survival. The malignancy rates in the controls was unusually low for this strain, and no increase in benign tumors were observed. Two primary lymphomas were seen in the exposed animals, and two in the controls. No benign or malignant brain tumors were seen in either exposed or control rats. The authors concluded that: "The findings of an excess of primary malignancies in exposed animals is provocative. However, when this single finding is considered in light of other parameters, it is conjectural whether the statistical difference reflects a true biological influence. The overall results indicate that there are no definitive, biologically significant effects…"
1994: Wu et al  published a report on 26 mice that were exposed to a chemical carcinogen plus 2450 MHz RF at 10 mW/cm-sq (10-12 W/kg). Exposure continued for 3 hrs/day, 6 days/week for 5 months. The chemical carcinogen is one that causes colon cancer. No difference in colon cancer rates were seen between animals treated with the carcinogen alone and the animals treatedwith the carcinogen plus RF.
1997: Toler el  published a report on 200 mammary-tumor-prone mice exposed to pulsed 435 MHz RF at 1.0 mW/cm-sq (0.32 W/kg). Exposure continued for 22 hrs/day, 7 days/week for 21 months. The authors reported no differences in survival or mammary tumor incidence. The authors reported that there was no difference in the rates of any types of tumors between the exposed and the control group. Of particular note, there was no difference in the lymphoma, leukemia or brain tumor rate between the exposed and the control group.
1998: Frie et al  published a report on 100 mammary-tumor prone mice that were exposed to 2450 MHz RF at a SAR of 0.3 W/kg. Exposure was for 20 hrs/day, 7 days/week for 18 months. The study found no difference in tumor incidence or survival between the exposed and the control group.
1998: Frie et al  published a second study using the same mouse model and the same exposure regimen, but a higher SAR of 1.0 W/kg. Again, the study found no difference in tumor incidence or survival between the exposed and the control group. There were no differences in lymphoma, leukemia or brain tumor incidence between the exposed and the control group in either study.
1998: Imaida et al [63a] published a report on 48 rats that were given a chemical carcinogen that cause liver cancer, and were then exposed to 929 MHz RF an a SAR of 0.6-0.9 W/kg. Exposure was for 90 min/day, 5 days/week for 6 weeks. No difference in liver cancer rates were seen between RF-exposed rats and rats given only the chemical carcinogen.
1998: In a second paper, Imaida et al [63b] reported a similar lack of liver cancer promotion in rats exposed to 1500 MHz RF at a SAR of 2.0 W/kg. Again, exposure was for 90 min/day, 5 days/week for 6 weeks.
1999: Adey et al  reported that exposure to pulse-modulated 837 MHz RF did not induce or promote brain tumors in rats. RF exposure started with continuous whole-body far-field exposure of pregnant rats and continued through weaning. At 7 weeks of age, localized near-field exposure of the head was begun, and this exposure continued for 22 months (2 hrs/day, 7.5 min on - 7.5 min off, 4 days/wk). Some rats were also treated with a chemical brain tumor carcinogen (ethylnitrosourea, ENU). Brain SARs ranged from 0.7 to 1.6 W/kg, and whole-body SAR ranged from 0.2 to 0.7 W/kg; the range of SARs was due to changes in weight and variability in animal positioning. The number of brain tumors was less in the RF-exposed groups than in the sham-exposed groups, but the difference was not statistically significant. This non-significant decrease was seen in both rats treated with RF alone, and in rats treated with RF plus the chemical brain tumor carcinogen.
1999: Chagnaud et al  reported that exposure of rats to a pulsed mobile phone RF radiation (GSM) did not promote chemically-induced breast cancer. At various times after exposure to a chemical carcinogen, rats were exposed for 2 weeks at 2 hours per days to a 900-MHz GSM signal at 0.075 or 0.27 W/kg. No effects on tumor incidence, tumor growth or animal survival were observed.
1999: Higashikubo et al  reported that exposure of rats that had brain tumors to RF radiation had no effect on the growth of these brain tumors. Rats were exposed to either 835 MHz continuous wave RF radiation or 848 MHz pulsed RF radiation at SARs of 0.75 W/kg. Exposure was for 4 hrs/day, 5 days per week, starting 28 days prior to tumor implantation and continuing for 150 days after tumor implantation.
2000: Adey et al  reported that exposure to continuous wave 837 MHz RF did not induce or promote brain tumors in rats. Other than the difference in modulation, the 2000 study used the same design and exposure protocol as the 1999 study .
2001: Zook and Simmens  reported the absence of an effect on brain tumor incidence in rats exposed to continuous-wave or pulsed 860-MHz RF radiation at 1.0 W/kg. Exposure was for 6 hrs/day, 5 days/week for 22 months, starting when the rats were 2 months old. Zook and Simmens also reported that the same RF protocols did not promote chemically induced brain cancer. No statistically-significant RF-related increases in overall cancer or any specific types of cancer (including lymphoma) were found.
2001: Jauchem et al  reported that there were no significant effects on mammary tumor development or animal survival in mammary tumor-prone mice exposed to pulses composed of an ultra-wideband (UWB) of frequencies, including those in the RF range. Histopathological evaluations revealed no significant effect on the numbers of neoplasms in any tissue studied (including lymphomas).
2001: Heikkinen et al  reported that exposure of mice to RF radiation of the type used by analog or digital mobile phones did not increase the incidence of cancer (particularly lymphoma) induced by ionizing radiation. Mice were exposed to ionizing radiation and then to pulsed (GSM-type) or continuous wave (NMT-type) RF radiation. RF radiation exposure was at 1.5 W/kg (analog signal) or 0.35 W/kg (digital signal) for 1.5 hrs/days for 78 weeks. No increase in any types of cancer were observed in the animals exposed to RF radiation.
2001: Imaida et al  reported that pulsed RF radiation of the type used by Japanese digital mobile phones did not increase the incidence of chemically-induced skin cancer in mice. Imaida et al  tested both promotion and co-promotion (with TPA) protocols, and found no promotion in either.
2001: Mason et al  reported the absence of promotion or co-promotion of chemically-induced skin cancer in mice exposed to 94 GHz RF radiation.
2002: Bartsch et al  reported that exposure of rats to mobile phone RF radiation does not promote chemically-induced breast cancer. The rats were exposed to a chemical breast cancer carcinogen and for life-time to pulsed 900 MHz RF radiation at 0.1 mW/cm-sq (SAR of 0.018-0.070 W/kg). No effect on latency or incidence of benign or malignant breast cancer were found. Interesting, prior to publication it had been widely claimed (although not by the authors) that this study would show significant effects on breast cancer development.
2003: Heikkinen et al  reported that exposure of mice to mobile phone RF radiation did not promote skin cancer induced by ultraviolet (UV) radiation. Mice were exposed for 52 weeks to UV radiation or to UV radiation plus pulsed RF radiation. RF exposure was to 849 MHz (DAMPS-type) or 902 MHz (GSM-type) RF radiation at 0.5 W/kg for 1.5 hrs/day. UV radiation alone caused an increase in skin tumors, but the addition of RF radiation did not significantly increase the skin tumor incidence.
2003: LaRegina et al  reported that exposure of rats to mobile phone RF radiation had no effect on cancer incidence (including brain cancer and lymphoma) or on life span. Rats were exposed to 836 MHz continuous wave (FDMA) or 848 MHz pulsed (CDMA) RF radiation for 4 hrs/day, 5 days/wk for two years. Exposure began when the rats were 6 weeks old and continued for two years. The brain SAR was 1.3 W/kg.
2003: Anane et al  exposed rats to a breast cancer carcinogen (DMBA) and/or to a 900-MHz GSM mobile phone signal. Exposure was 2 hr/dy, 5 dy/wk for 9 wks at 6 SARs ranging from 0.1-3.5 W/kg. Statistically significant promotion of chemically-induced breast cancer was observed at 1.4 W/kg in one experiment, but no such increase was found in a second experiment or at higher or lower SARS. There was no dose-response relationship.
Agents that can damage the DNA of cells are presumed to have carcinogenic potential . Agents that can damage DNA are called genotoxins, or are referred to as having genotoxic activity. In general, studies of cells exposed to RF have not found evidence for genotoxicity unless the SAR was high enough to cause thermal (heat) injury [5, 6, 7, 247f, 247m, 262].
In 1995 and 1996, Lai and Singh  reported that RF caused DNA damage in rats. In these experiments, rats were exposed to pulsed 2450 MHz RF at 0.6 and 1.2 W/kg for 2 hrs. After exposure, the animals were killed, and their brain cells were analyzed for DNA injury. The authors reported an increase in DNA stand breaks 4 hours after exposure.
The work of Lai and Singh  has failed numerous independent attempts at confirmation, including:
Other recent (post-1999) studies on the genotoxic potential of RF have also reported no evidence for genotoxicity (damage to DNA):
In contrast, a few recent (post-1999) studies have reported some evidence for RF exposure might be genotoxic:
In a review published in late 2003, Meltz [247m] concluded that:
"The weight of evidence available indicates that, for a variety of frequencies and modulations with both short and long exposure times, at exposure levels that do not (or in some instances do) heat the biological sample such that there is a measurable increase in temperature, RF exposure does not induce (a) DNA strand breaks, (b) chromosome aberrations, (c) sister chromatid exchanges (SCEs), (d) DNA repair synthesis, (e) phenotypic mutation, or (f) transformation (cancer-like changes). While there is limited experimental evidence that RF exposure induces micronuclei formation, there is abundant evidence that it does not. There is some evidence that RF exposure does not induce DNA excision repair, suggesting the absence of base damage. There is also evidence that RF exposure does not inhibit excision repair after the induction of thymine dimers by UV exposure, as well as evidence that indicates that RF is not a co-carcinogen or a tumor promoter."
This claim has been made, and while it is true in a narrow technical sense, the comparison is rather misleading.
For example, in a 2003 Consumer Fact Sheet, the Australian Communications authority wrote:
"All objects with a temperature above -273° C radiate [electromagnetic radiation] of all wavelengths, which is called blackbody radiation. Part of this radiation occurs in the microwave spectrum. The microwave component of the blackbody radiation from the human body is calculated to be around 0.3 [microW/cm-sq]. When the average measured emission levels at a distance of 200 metres from a 3G base station are compared with human body blackbody emissions, they are about 0.015 [microW/cm-sq], or twenty times less."
The above calculation is only correct if you add up all the blackbody radiation produced by the human body below 300 GHz (300,000 MHz). What makes the comparison misleading is that almost all of the blackbody radiation is produced at the upper end of that frequency range, far above the frequencies used by mobile phones.
The actual blackbody radiation produced by a human over the frequency range used by mobile telecommunications (0.5-2.4 GHz, 500-2400 MHz) is less than 0.00001 microW/cm-sq.
The documentation of the various RF standards [5, 6, 7 and 262] contain extensive references. Reasonably up-to-date reviews of this area include:
This FAQ sheet was written by Dr. John Moulder, Professor of Radiation Oncology, Radiology and Pharmacology/Toxicology at the Medical College of Wisconsin. Dr. Moulder has taught, lectured and written on the biological effects of non-ionizing radiation and electromagnetic fields since the late 1970's.
The original version of this FAQ was written in 1995 under a contract with the City of Brookfield, Wisconsin. The FAQ has been maintained and expanded since 1995 as a teaching aid at the Medical College of Wisconsin. The web server and web management is provided by the General Clinical Research Center at the Medical College of Wisconsin. The development and maintenance of this document is not supported by any person, agency, group or corporation outside the Medical College of Wisconsin.
Parts of this FAQ are derived from the following peer-reviewed publications:
Dr. Moulder maintains similar "FAQ" documents on "Powerlines and Cancer" and "Static EM Fields and Cancer".
2. PCS (Personal Communication Systems) phones are hand-held two-way radios that use a digital, rather than the analog transmission system used by older "cell phones". In the U.S., most of the older mobile phones operate at 860-900 MHz, while PCS phones operate at 1800-2200 MHz. In appearance, cellular and PCS phones and their base station antennas are similar. In the U.S., "cordless" phones operate at frequencies ranging from 45 to 2500? MHz, and "citizens band (CB)" two-way radios operate at about 27 MHz. Some cordless phones operate at power levels that equal or exceed some mobile phones.
Around the world a variety of other frequencies are used for both
analog and digital hand-held transceivers and mobile radios, and
other names are given to the systems (see Table 1 in Stuchly  for details). The most common frequencies for
"cellular" systems are 800-900 MHz (analog and digital) and
1800-2200 MHz (digital); but hand-held transceivers exist that use
frequencies from as low as 45 MHz to as high as 2500 MHz. Power
output from hand-held units seldom exceeds 2 W, but power output from
vehicle-mounted units such as those used by law enforcement personnel
can be as high as 100 W.
Canada: Analog and digital phones operate around 800-900 MHz, and there is a new 2000 MHz digital system (similar or identical to PCS service in the US).
Australia: The analog AMPS phones operate around 800-900 MHz and the digital GSM phones operate around 900-1000 MHz.
Europe: Analog systems at about 900 MHz; digital (GSM) systems at around both 900 and 1800 MHz.
3. The specific frequencies used by mobile (cellular) phones can be called either microwaves (MW) or radiofrequencies (RF) or RF radiation (RFR) or radiowaves. For the discussion of health effects the distinction between radiowaves and microwaves is semantic, and the term "RF radiation" is used in this document for all frequencies between 3 kHz and 300 GHz.
4. For a detailed discussion of the biological
effects of power-frequency fields, see:
- JE Moulder and KR Foster: Biological effects of power-frequency fields as they relate to carcinogenesis. Proc Soc Exper Biol Med 209:309-324, 1995;
- JE Moulder: Power-frequency fields and cancer. Crit Rev Biomed Engineering 26:1-116, 1998.
5. IEEE standard for safety levels with respect to human exposure to radio frequency electromagnetic fields, 3 kHz to 300 GHz, IEEE Std C95.1-1991 (1999 Edition), The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, New York, 1999.
6. International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection: Guidelines for limiting exposure to time-varying electric, magnetic and electromagnetic fields. Health Physics 74:494-522, 1998.
7. National Council on Radiation Protection and Measurements: Biological effects and exposure criteria for radiofrequency electromagnetic fields. NCRP Report No. 86, 1986.
8. The biological effects of RF radiation depend on the rate at which power is absorbed [247b, 247c]. This rate of energy absorption is called the Specific Absorption Rate (SAR) and is measured in watts/kilogram (W/kg). SARs are difficult to measure on a routine basis, so what is usually measured is the plane wave power density. Average whole body SARs can then be calculated from the power density exposure (see Stuchly  for details).
In this document power density is given in mW/cm-sq (milliwatts per square centimeter). Power density can be expressed in several other ways:
9. The power density guidelines are stricter for some frequencies than for others because humans absorb RF radiation more at 860 MHz than at 1800 MHz, and it is the amount of power absorbed that really matters .
10. Specifically, the ICNIRP standard is 0.40 mW/cm-sq at 800 MHz and 0.90 mW/cm-sq at 2000 MHz, while the NCRP guidelines are 0.57 mW/cm-sq and 1.00 mW/cm-sq for these same frequencies.
11. Guidelines for Evaluating the Environmental Effects of Radiofrequency Radiation (FCC 96-326), Federal Communications Commission, Washington, D.C., 1996. Available from the FCC web page.
12. International note -- Standards for public exposure to RF radiation from mobile phone base station antennas in countries other than the U.S. This list is not comprehensive or necessarily up-to-date; the information should be checked with the appropriate regulatory authorities in each country. Also see Erdreich and Klauenberg .
13. Where there are multiple transmitting antennas at different frequencies, the method for assuring adherence to the ANSI  or FCC  standards is complex. However, there is also an easy way to check adherence under these conditions: add the power densities of all the antennas and apply the strictest power density standard. Anything which passes this easy check will pass the more stringent and complex test. Something that fails this easy check must be analyzed by the more stringent and complex method described in the ANSI standard.
14. National Radiation Protection Board: Restrictions on human exposure to static and time varying electromagnetic fields and radiation. Doc NRPB 4:1-69, 1993. Now superceded, see .
15. The 1992 ANSI standard , for example, is based on the review of 321 papers from the peer-reviewed literature; and the NCRP guidelines  are based on a review of nearly 1000 reports. The 13 "white papers" published by the IEEE International Committee on Electromagnetic Safety in Dec 2003  are based on a review of "more than 1300 relevant research papers" [247a] and contain more than 650 references.
16. Specifically, no potentially-hazardous effects
have been consistently shown below a SAR of 4 W/kg [247a].
- At mobile phone frequencies it would require a power density of 20-100 mW/cm-sq to achieve a SAR as high as 4 W/kg.
- Under worst-case assumptions (multiple low-gain, high-ERP antennas), the SAR of a human in publicly-accessible locations near a FCC-compliant base station would be less than 0.01 W/kg.
- Under realistic conditions the SAR to a human near such a base station would be less than 0.0005 W/kg.
17. ANSI, ICNIRP and NCRP all agree that whole body exposure of the general public should be kept below a whole body SAR of 0.08 W/kg. Where the standards disagree is about the specific relationship of SAR to power-density, a relationship that is determined from a combination of dosimetry and biophysical modeling.
18. For the high-gain sector antennas used by most newer base stations, the area of concern is only at the front of the antennas. For the low-gain antennas used in many older base stations, the area of concern would be in all directions. This differences becomes clearer after an examination of the RF patterns from each type of antenna (see Q14D). Unfortunately, the RF radiation pattern and gain for an antenna cannot always be determined from looking at it.
These general statements about minimum safe distances assume that total ERPs per sector for base station antennas will not exceed 2000 W. In the U.S., this is generally the case; and under the U.S. FCC guidelines, sites with total ERPs above 2000 W will require specific site evaluations [see note 19].
International note: More powerful antennas may be used elsewhere, in which case the minimum safe distances would be larger. Minimum safe distances will also be larger when there are multiple antennas broadcasting in the same sector.
19. Specifically, the 1996 FCC regulations require evaluations for:
In June 2003, the FCC proposed changes in the rules for which types of bases stations would require RF exposure evaluations (Docket Number 30-137). There are clearly some editing/typographical errors in the part of the proposal that affects RF radiation standards for base stations. A preliminary reading of the proposed rules indicates that evaluations would be required in the following situations:
"Separation distance" is defined as: "the minimum distance
from any part of the radiating structure of a transmitting antenna in
any direction to any area that may be entered by a member of the
"Total power" was not explicitly defined (there are clearly some editing errors in this part of the FCC proposal): it was probably meant to be defined as the "total power of the transmit operation in terms of effective radiated power... of all co-located simultaneously operating transmitters owned and operated by a single licensee."
Note: This definition of total power would be different than that of the current regulations in that it applies only to a single operator, rather than the sum of all co-located antennas at a site. This may also be editing error.
20. One distinction that is often made in discussions of the biological effects of RF radiation is between "nonthermal" and "thermal" effects. This refers to the mechanism for the effect: non-thermal effects are a result of a direct interaction between the RF radiation and the organism, and thermal effects are a result of heating. There are some reported biological effects of RF radiation whose mechanisms are unknown, and it is difficult (and notvery useful) to try to draw a distinction between "thermal" and "nonthermal" mechanisms for such effects. Also see Valberg , Foster , Pickard and Moros  and Adair .
21. These effects have included changes in the electrical activity of the brain, changes in enzyme activity, and changes in calcium ion transport across membranes [for details see 5, 6, 7 and 262]. Also see Hyland .
23. The increased human absorption at 900 MHz (U.S. cell phone frequency) versus 2000 MHz (U.S. PCS phone frequency) applies to whole body exposure at a distance from the antenna (the case for public exposure near a base station antenna site). This difference may not apply to partial body exposures in very close proximity to an antenna.
24. WR Adey, CV Byus et al: Spontaneous and nitrosourea-induced primary tumors of the central nervous system in Fischer 344 rats chronically exposed to 836 MHz modulated microwaves. Radiat Res 152:293-302, 1999.
25. PA Valberg: Radio frequency radiation (RFR): the nature of exposure and carcinogenic potential. Cancer Causes Control 8:323-332, 1997.
26. Human Exposure to Radio Frequency and Microwave
Radiation from Portable and Mobile Telephones and Other Wireless
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30. A discussion of the problems with interpreting
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37. MH Repacholi et al: Lymphomas in Eµ-Pim1 Transgenic Mice Exposed to Pulsed 900 MHz Electromagnetic Fields. Rad Res 147:631-640, 1997.
43. CK Chou et al: Long-term, low-level microwave irradiation of rats. Bioelectromag 13:469-496, 1992.
44. MR Frei et al: Chronic exposure of cancer-prone mice to low-level 2450 MHz radiofrequency radiation. Bioelectromag. 19, 20-31, 1998.
45. JC Toler et al: Long-term low-level exposure of mice prone to mammary tumors to 435 MHz radiofrequency radiation. Rad Res 148:227-234, 1997.
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54. Measurements show that signal strength in a building is decreased by 60-95% compared to the level measured in the street outside. In general, signal attenuation is greater at ground level than higher up in the building, and attenuation is less at higher (1800-2000 MHz) frequencies than at lower (800-900 MHz) frequencies (JD Parsons, The Mobile Phone Propagation Channel, Wiley and Sons, NY, 1992).
55. A worst-case calculation (2000 W ERP low-gain antenna mounted directly on a low-attenuation roof) predicts a power density of less than 0.10 mW/cm-sq on the floor below. A calculation for a more typical roof-top mount (1000 W ERP high-gain antenna, mounted 2 meters above a typical roof) predicts a power density of less than 0.001 mW/cm-sq on the floor below.
Actual measurements in the top floor apartments of a building with high-gain sector base stations antennas mounted to the outside of the parapet just above the apartments found a maximum power density of 0.0004 mW/cm-sq . Measurements in a corridor in the floor directly below a roof-top base station (antennas 3 meters above the main roof) found a maximum power density of 0.008 mW/cm-sq. Both maximums assume that the base stations are operating at their maximum capacity .
In 2000, NRPB (UK)  made measurements in multiple apartment buildings and schools that had a wide variety of mobile phone base station antennas on their roofs. On the top floor of these buildings the maximum RF power density from all sources combined was 0.0001 mW/cm-sq.
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