The Martin Pollins Blog

History, economics, business, politics…and Sussex

Are Mobiles or WiFi dangerous?

What is the scientific evidence of the hazards of radiation? We’ve all heard stories that suggest essential gadgets like mobile phones may be a cause of brain cancer. But is it true? In 2011 the World Health Organization shocked the international community by announcing that radiation from phones is a possible carcinogen to humans. Which left many people wondering – as The New York Times once asked – “are mobile phones the new cigarettes?”.[1]

Wireless communication is one of the most desired modes of communication (connectivity) between two or more devices. This technology delivers data communication over the air via electromagnetic waves, such as radio frequencies, infrared and satellite, rather than over cables and wires. You are not tethered to a computer that is physically linked to the Internet, but that convenience comes at a price.

But, are mobile phones and WiFi dangerous? Could they kill you? Does the same apply to the Smart Meter you rely on to check your energy bills? Could the alarm you use to monitor your baby be dangerous?

In 2011 the International Agency for Research on Cancer, an arm of the World Health Organization (WHO), classified radio frequency (RF) energy as “possibly carcinogenic to humans.” And a recent Swedish study published in Pathophysiology found that using a cell phone, especially before age 20, raised the risk of a certain type of brain tumour over time.[2]

There are many scientific studies demonstrating the harmful effects of WiFi on the human body. It causes oxidative stress by increasing the production of free radicals. Increased oxidative stress is responsible for oxidative damages to cellular macromolecules, such as proteins, lipids, and DNA. Some studies regarding the effects of 2.45 GHz WiFi signals on human and animal health have demonstrated that the radio frequency electromagnetic radiation emitted by WiFi devices can affect sperm count, motility, and DNA integrity.

You’ll find plenty of articles on the dangers of just about anything if you look around the Internet. Articles about how dangerous modern medicines are, how dangerous cell phones are, how dangerous cooking your food in a microwave is, and how dangerous WiFi is. Some people claim that WiFi routers keep them awake at night, cause cancer, cause hyperactivity in children, and all manner of unsupported and nonsensical claims. Mind you, ‘rubbishing’ what you’d rather not know is a good way to bury your head in the sand. After hours of research, this paper describes what I have learned about the subject. I hope it will answer the questions above.

What is WiFi (aka Wi-Fi)?
WiFi is a family of wireless network protocols based on the IEEE 802.11 family of standards, which are commonly used for local area networking of devices and Internet access, allowing nearby digital devices to exchange data by radio waves. These are the most widely used computer networks in the world, used globally in home and small office networks to link desktop and laptop computers, tablet computers, smartphones, smart TVs, printers, and smart speakers together and to a wireless router to connect them to the Internet, and in wireless access points in public places such as coffee shops, hotels, libraries and airports to provide the public Internet access for mobile devices.

WiFi is a trademark of the non-profit WiFi Alliance, which restricts the use of the term Wi-Fi Certified to products that successfully complete interoperability certification testing.[3] As of 2017, the Wi-Fi Alliance consisted of more than 800 companies worldwide.[4] As of 2019, more than 3.05 billion WiFi-enabled devices are shipped globally annually.[5]

Picture Credit:Free WiFi Symbol” by Brian O’Donovan is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

Don’t worry too much if you find some of the text in this paper daunting, as there may be some technical terms with which you are unfamiliar. The footnotes on most words explain their meaning. In addition, I have provided a short Glossary at the end of this paper. It will help readers (at least I hope so) understand various terms used in connection with WiFi, the Web and the Internet.

Wi-Fi uses multiple parts of the IEEE 802 protocol family and is designed to interwork seamlessly with its wired sibling, Ethernet. Compatible devices can network through wireless access points to each other as well as to wired devices and the Internet. The different versions of Wi-Fi are specified by various IEEE 802.11 protocol standards, with the different radio technologies determining radio bands, and the maximum ranges, and speeds that may be achieved. Wi-Fi most commonly uses the 2.4 gigahertz (120 mm) UHF and 5 gigahertz (60 mm) SHF radio bands; these bands are subdivided into multiple channels. Channels can be shared between networks, but only one transmitter can locally transmit on a channel at any moment in time.

Wi-Fi’s wavebands have relatively high absorption and work best for line-of-sight use. Many common obstructions such as walls, pillars, home appliances, etc., may greatly reduce range, but this also helps minimize interference between different networks in crowded environments. An access point (or hotspot) often has a range of about 20 metres (66 feet) indoors while some modern access points claim up to a 150-metre (490-foot) range outdoors. Hotspot coverage can be as small as a single room with walls that block radio waves or as large as many square kilometres (miles) using many overlapping access points with roaming permitted between them. Over time the speed and spectral efficiency of Wi-Fi have increased. As of 2019, some versions of Wi-Fi, running on suitable hardware at close range, can achieve speeds of 9.6 Gbit/s (gigabit per second).

Who Invented WiFi?
Dr John O’Sullivan, an Australian engineer, is credited with leading the team of inventors who developed WiFi technology. However, like other inventions of this size, several other people also contributed to its development. The invention of WiFi was gradual, and its function was first conceived in the 1970s. Improvements to WiFi internet technology continue to take place all the time.[6]

However, WiFi can trace its birth to the 1940s. Hedy Lamarr, the striking movie star, may be best known for her roles in the 1940s Oscar-nominated films ‘Algiers’ and ‘Sampson and Delilah.’ But her technical mind is her greatest legacy, according to a documentary on her life called Bombshell: The Hedy Lamarr Story. The film chronicles the patent that LaMarr filed for frequency-hopping technology in 1941 that became a precursor to the secure WiFi, GPS and Bluetooth now used by billions of people around the world.

Hedy Lamarr
Picture Credit: “Hedy Lamarr” by oneredsf1 is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Hedy Lamarr used a mechanism similar to piano player rolls to synchronise the changes between 88 frequencies – also the standard number of keys in a piano. Actually, the technology was not an entirely new concept and had similarities to the frequency hopping in the 1900 and 1903 patents granted to Nikola Tesla. A similar patent for a “secrecy communications system” was granted in 1920, with additional patents granted in 1939 and 1940 to two German engineers.

Cancer Research UK on: Do Mobile Phones, 4G or 5G, cause cancer?[7]

Do mobile phones cause cancer?
No. Using mobile phones does not increase the risk of cancer. And there aren’t any good explanations for how mobile phones could cause cancer. You might have heard rumours that phone radiation or electromagnetic waves are dangerous. But the radiation that mobile phones or phone masts transmit and receive is very weak. It does not have enough energy to damage DNA, so it is highly unlikely to be able to cause cancer.

Research is continuing to ensure there aren’t any potential long-term effects on cancer risk, but none have been found so far, claims Cancer Research.

Does 4G cause cancer?
No, there is no good evidence that the 4G mobile network causes cancer. Mobile networks rely on radio waves to work. 4G networks use higher frequency waves than older mobile networks, but they still don’t have enough energy to damage DNA. That means that they can’t cause cancer in this way.  As 4G technology is still relatively new, research in this field is ongoing in case of any long-term effects.

Does 5G cause cancer?
No – there is no good evidence that the 5G mobile network increases cancer risk. 5G networks use higher frequency waves than 4G or older mobile networks, but they still don’t have enough energy to damage DNA to cause cancer.  And similar to 4G, 5G technology is still relatively new. We continue to monitor research in this field in case of any long-term effects.

Does keeping my phone in my bra increase my risk of breast cancer?
No, keeping your mobile phone close to your body, including in a pocket or your bra, does not increase the risk of breast cancer.

But there are proven ways to reduce breast cancer risk, including keeping a healthy weight and cutting down on alcohol.

Imperial College London: extensive studies into the health impacts of mobile phone use[8]

On 26th February 2020, Imperial College London announced that Professor Paul Elliott, Chair in Epidemiology, was leading two studies to investigate whether there is a link between the use of mobile phones and long-term health problems in adults and adolescents. There’s a video available on the Imperial College website: Challenging the Myths and Misconceptions of Radiation[9].

Could adverse health effects emerge?
It is estimated that more than five billion people[10] have mobile devices, and over half of these are smartphones. Many reviews have concluded that there is no convincing evidence to date that mobile phones are harmful to health in the short term. However, the widespread use of mobile phones is a relatively recent phenomenon, and it is possible that adverse health effects could emerge after ten years or more of prolonged use.

Professor Elliott said that people who use mobile phones extensively for making or receiving calls, recorded slightly more frequent weekly headaches than other users, but it seemed that this was more related to lifestyle issues than to radio frequency (RF) emissions from the phones.

COSMOS: Studying the health impacts of mobile phone use
The 2020 preliminary findings are part of the Cohort Study of Mobile Phone Use and Health (COSMOS), launched in 2010 and led by Professor Elliott and Professor Mireille Toledano. The study is tracking the health of over 100,000 adult mobile phone users in the UK and a further 200,000 users in Sweden, Finland, Denmark, The Netherlands and France for 20-30 years to address the knowledge gap in the possible long-term health effects of mobile phone use.

Participants in the study complete an online questionnaire about their mobile phone use, health and lifestyle. The researchers then analyse and monitor this data to see if participants develop any health problems due to their mobile phone use – such as cancer and neurological diseases such as Alzheimer’s.

Picture Credit: Imperial college London (at:, by Cristiano Betta

Studying children’s use of mobile phones
Professor Elliott refers to the Study of Cognition, Adolescents and Mobile Phones (SCAMP). SCAMP, which is following several thousand secondary school pupils across London. This study aims to investigate whether children’s use of mobile phones and/or other technologies that use radio waves – such as portable landline phones and wireless Internet – might affect their cognitive or behavioural development – such as memory and language understanding.

The team at Imperial College has found that teens who use a mobile phone or watch TV in the dark an hour before bed are considered to be at risk of not getting enough sleep. The risk is comparatively lower for children who use these devices in a lit room compared with those who do not use them at all before bedtime. However, this may reflect behavioural factors rather than any biological effects on sleep from light in the room or from the screens.

Professor Elliott and Professor Mireille Toledano will continue to follow up the adult and adolescent participants in the COSMOS and SCAMP studies to see if they develop any further health effects associated with mobile phone use.

Healthline: Does WiFi cause Cancer? [11]
Wi-Fi is a wireless technology. It connects laptops, smartphones, and other electronic devices to the Internet.

Wi-Fi sends data via electromagnetic radiation, a type of energy. The radiation creates areas that the experts call electromagnetic fields (EMFs).

There’s concern that the radiation from WiFi causes health issues like cancer. But there are currently no known [or admitted] health risks in humans. Healthline explored what the science says about WiFi and cancer thus far.

Does WiFi cause Cancer?
Currently, there’s no definite answer to this question. That’s because there’s no solid evidence suggesting that Wi-Fi, or EMFs in general, directly causes cancer.

In 2011, the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) went as far as stating that EMFs are “possibly carcinogenic to humans.” The label was established by 30 scientists who evaluated studies on EMFs and cancer.

Studies involving EMFs and cancer are conflicting. For example, according to a 2017 research review, EMFs from wireless devices increase the risk of glioma, a type of brain tumour. But a 2018 study states that there’s no clear association between EMFs and brain tumours.

WHO Paper (2014): Electromagnetic fields and public health: mobile phones
The World Health Organization (WHO) issued a review paper on 8th October 2014, looking at mobile phones and the possible effect of electromagnetic fields on public health – particularly whether smartphones might increase cancer risk[12]. WHO’s review was the latest scientific study to settle the ongoing row among scientists about the link between brain tumours and increased use of mobile phones.

Picture Credit:The great equalizer!!” by Arpana Sanjay is licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0

Key facts from the 2014 paper

  • Mobile phone use is ubiquitous, with an estimated 6.9 billion subscriptions globally.
  • The electromagnetic fields produced by mobile phones are classified by the International Agency for Research on Cancer as possibly carcinogenic to humans.
  • Studies are ongoing to fully assess the potential long-term effects of mobile phone use.
  • WHO said it would conduct a formal risk assessment of all studied health outcomes from radio frequency fields exposure by 2016.

Given the large number of mobile phone users, it is important to investigate, understand and monitor any potential public health impact. Mobile phones communicate by transmitting radio waves through a network of fixed antennas called base stations. Radio frequency waves are electromagnetic fields and, unlike ionizing radiation such as X-rays or gamma rays, can neither break chemical bonds nor cause ionization in the human body.

Exposure levels
Mobile phones are low-powered radio frequency transmitters, operating at frequencies between 450 and 2700 MHz with peak powers in the range of 0.1 to 2 watts. The handset only transmits power when it is turned on. The power (and hence the radio frequency exposure to a user) falls off rapidly with increasing distance from the handset. A person using a mobile phone 30 to 40 cm away from their body – for example, when text messaging, accessing the Internet, or using a “hands-free” device – will therefore have much lower exposure to radio frequency fields than someone holding the handset against their head.

In addition to using “hands-free” devices, which keep mobile phones away from the head and body during phone calls, exposure is also reduced by limiting the number and length of calls. Using the phone in areas of good reception also decreases exposure as it allows the phone to transmit at reduced power. The use of commercial devices for reducing radio frequency field exposure has not been shown to be effective.

Are there any health effects?
Many studies have been performed over the last two decades to assess whether mobile phones pose a potential health risk. To date, no adverse health effects have been established as being caused by mobile phone use.

Short-term effects
Tissue heating is the principal means of interaction between radio frequency energy and the human body. At the frequencies used by mobile phones, most of the energy is absorbed by the skin and other superficial tissues, resulting in negligible temperature rise in the brain or any other organs of the body.

Several studies have investigated the effects of radio frequency fields on brain electrical activity, cognitive function, sleep, heart rate and blood pressure in volunteers. To date [2014], research does not suggest any consistent evidence of adverse health effects from exposure to radio frequency fields at levels below those that cause tissue heating. Further, research has not been able to provide support for a causal relationship between exposure to electromagnetic fields and self-reported symptoms, or “electromagnetic hypersensitivity”.

Long-term effects
Epidemiological research examining potential long-term risks from radio frequency exposure has mostly looked for an association between brain tumours and mobile phone use. However, because many cancers are not detectable until many years after the interactions that led to the tumour, and since mobile phones were not widely used until the early 1990s, epidemiological studies can only assess those cancers that become evident within shorter periods. However, results of animal studies consistently show no increased cancer risk for long-term exposure to radio frequency fields.

Several large multinational epidemiological studies have been completed or are ongoing, including case-control studies and prospective cohort studies examining several health endpoints in adults. The largest retrospective case-control study to date [2014] on adults, Interphone, coordinated by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), was designed to determine whether there are links between the use of mobile phones and head and neck cancers in adults.

The international-pooled data analysis gathered from 13 participating countries found no increased risk of glioma or meningioma with mobile phone use of more than ten years. There are some indications of an increased risk of glioma for those who reported the highest 10% of cumulative hours of cell phone use, although there was no consistent trend of increasing risk with a greater duration of use. The researchers concluded that biases and errors limit the strength of these conclusions and prevent a causal interpretation.

Based largely on these data, IARC has classified radio frequency electromagnetic fields as possibly carcinogenic to humans (Group 2B), a category used when a causal association is considered credible but when chance, bias or confounding cannot be ruled out with reasonable confidence.

While an increased risk of brain tumours is not established, the increasing use of mobile phones and the lack of data for mobile phone use over periods longer than 15 years warrant further research on mobile phone use and brain cancer risk. In particular, with the recent popularity of mobile phone use among younger people, and therefore a potentially longer lifetime of exposure, WHO has promoted further research on this group. Several studies investigating potential health effects in children and adolescents are underway.

Exposure limit guidelines
Radio frequency exposure limits for mobile phone users are given in terms of Specific Absorption Rate (SAR) – the rate of radio frequency energy absorption per unit mass of the body. In 2014, two international bodies[13] developed exposure guidelines for workers and the general public, except for patients undergoing medical diagnosis or treatment. These exposure guidelines are based on a detailed assessment of the available scientific evidence at the time.

WHO response
In response to the public and governmental concern, WHO has established the International Electromagnetic Fields (EMF) Project in 1996 to assess the scientific evidence of possible adverse health effects from electromagnetic fields. WHO aims to conduct a formal risk assessment of all studied health outcomes from radio frequency fields exposure by 2016.

In addition, and as noted above, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), a WHO-specialised agency, has reviewed the carcinogenic potential of radio frequency fields, as from mobile phones in May 2011. WHO also identifies and promotes research priorities for radio frequency fields and health to fill gaps in knowledge through its research agendas.

Smart Meters: Radio Waves and Health[14]
Smart meters use radio waves to allow remote readings to be taken from gas and electricity meters. The UK Government say that evidence to date [23rd April 2020] suggests that exposure to the radio waves produced by smart meters does not pose a health risk.

Picture Credit:Monday, 22nd, 2018, Checking the Smart Meter IMG_2189” by tomylees is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0.

Assessments made in other countries that use smart meters have found exposures are low in relation to internationally agreed guidelines. The Government paper says that the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) has conducted an extensive research programme to assess exposures from smart metres as the technology is rolled out in Great Britain. The research had three elements:

  • phase 1: quantifying exposure to radio waves from a selection of smart meter devices under laboratory conditions
  • phase 2: calculation and mapping of the radio wave energy absorption in the body due to the signals from smart meter devices located close to the body
  • phase 3: assessment of exposure in a sample of homes to determine the exposures under realistic operating conditions

The results of this comprehensive programme are now published in 3 parts in the peer-reviewed journal of Bioelectromagnetics – Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3.

The Government paper says the results confirm UKHSA’s existing advice that exposure to radio waves from smart meters is well below the guidelines set by the International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection (ICNIRP).

The study also concluded that exposure to the radio waves produced by smart meters is likely to be much lower than that from other everyday devices such as mobile phones and wifi equipment.

UKHSA considers exposure to radio waves does not provide a basis to turn down having a smart meter.

Smart meters are expected to replace millions of manually read gas and electricity meters in homes and small businesses over the next few years. The systems are designed to record electricity and gas consumption and relay the information electronically to your utility company. Consumers can also access the information to help them manage their energy use. Further information on smart meters is available[15] from the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS).

UKHSA is an independent adviser to the British government regarding the health aspects of radio waves from smart meters and does not decide whether to use this technology.

Radio waves and health
The effects of exposure to radio waves have been researched in thousands of published scientific papers over several decades. Based on this body of work, UKHSA considers there is no convincing evidence of harm from exposure within the internationally agreed guideline levels. UKHSA acknowledges that there remain some areas of scientific uncertainty and UKHSA’s advice takes this into account. The independent Advisory Group on Non-ionising Radiation (AGNIR) prepared and published a review of the health effects from exposure to radio waves.[16] AGNIR’s main conclusion was that, although a substantial amount of research has been conducted in this area, there is no convincing evidence that radio wave exposures below guideline levels cause health effects in adults or children. Further information about these guideline levels is given on the next page.

Using mobile phones leads to greater exposure than other radio devices in widespread use by the general public, including smart meters. Hence, a substantial portion of the AGNIR report addresses whether mobile phone use could be linked to the development of cancer. AGNIR concluded that the evidence does not suggest that using mobile phones causes brain tumours or any other type of cancer.

The evidence suggests that exposure to the radio waves produced by smart meters does not pose a health risk.

Radio waves and smart meters
Smart meters use radio waves to communicate the information they collect. Many other everyday devices use radio waves for communication purposes – including radio/television transmitters, mobile phones and wireless (wifi) computers. The system that gathers information from the electricity and gas meters is made up of two main radio parts:

  • Home Area Network (HAN), which links the smart meters with an in-home display that allows householders to view their energy use in real-time.
  • a communications module that allows communication between the meter and the utility company and which in existing UK meters of this kind, contains a SIM card like those used in mobile phones.

The communications are not continuous and only occur during short intermittent bursts when data is being sent to the energy supplier.

Protection Standards
As people are exposed to the radio waves from smart meters and other devices, it is important to assess exposure levels to ensure the devices are safe. Higher exposures are produced when devices are used closer to the body, when they emit more power and when they transmit for more of the time. UKHSA provides advice on standards for protection from exposure to radio waves, including those associated with smart meters. Central to this advice is that exposures should comply with the guidelines published by the International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection (ICNIRP)[17]. The ICNIRP guidelines are designed to limit the heating of body tissues that occurs when radio waves are absorbed, so any temperature rises are small.

Exposures from smart meters
Assessments of smart meter systems in other countries have found exposures that are small in relation to the ICNIRP guidelines, and there is no reason to think that the situation would be any different in the UK. Some gas and electricity companies are already installing smart meters in homes and other locations. UKHSA has conducted independent assessments of exposure to smart meters in Great Britain, working closely with BEIS and Smart Energy GB to identify the relevant technologies. The results of this research have confirmed UKHSA’s advice that exposure to radio waves from smart meters is well below the ICNIRP guidelines.

European technical standards have been published that detail the measurement and calculation methods that can be used to assess exposures from smart meters. UKHSA advises that exposures from smart meters should be assessed and be made available as part of routine product information.

Are some people sensitive to radio waves?
Some people report real and unpleasant symptoms that they attribute to exposure to radio waves. Considerable effort has been put into investigating this topic rigorously in recent years with research programmes funded by the government and academic bodies. The results of these studies have been published in the scientific literature.

The 2012 AGNIR review mentioned above included a chapter on the evidence for sensitivity to radio waves. AGNIR concluded there is mounting evidence that radio wave exposures below guideline levels do not cause symptoms and cannot be detected by people, even those who consider themselves sensitive to radio waves.

This conclusion does not belittle the importance of the symptoms that people experience, but it does suggest causes other than those directly related to radio waves should be considered. The Health Protection Agency, a predecessor of UKHSA, published a review[18] of the public health aspects of electrical sensitivity in 2005, which included comments on the management of affected individuals and evaluation of treatment options.

UK Government Guidance: WiFi radio waves and health[19]
WiFi is the most popular technology used in wireless local area networks (WLANs). These are networks of devices and computers where communication occurs through radio waves instead of connecting cables.

Basics of WiFi
WiFi users can access and share data, applications, internet access or other network resources in the same way as wired systems. WiFi devices must be equipped with antennas that transmit and receive radio waves to allow wireless connections. The devices operate in certain frequency bands near 2.4 and 5 gigahertz (GHz). People using WiFi, or those in the proximity of WiFi equipment, are exposed to the radio signals it emits, and some of the transmitted energy in its signals is absorbed in their bodies. The guidance below sets out the UK Health Security Agency’s (UKHSA) position regarding such exposure.

General position
There is no consistent evidence to date that exposure to radio signals from WiFi and WLANs adversely affects the health of the general population. The signals are very low power, typically 0.1 watt (100 milliwatts) in both the computer and the router (access point), and the results so far show exposures are well within the internationally-accepted guidelines from the International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection (ICNIRP).

Based on:

  • current knowledge and experience, radio frequency (RF) exposures from WiFi are likely to be lower than those from mobile phones. Also, the frequencies used in WiFi are broadly the same as those from other RF applications such as FM radio, TV and mobile phones.
  • the published studies and those carried out in-house, UKHSA says it sees no reason why WiFi should not continue to be used in schools and other places. However, with any new technology, a sensible precautionary approach, as happened with mobile phones, is to keep the situation under review so that parents and others can have as much reassurance as possible.

As part of this approach, the Health Protection Agency (now UKHSA) carried out a systematic research programme into wireless networks and their use in schools, including measurements of exposures from networks. The project has now been completed, and its results support UKHSA’s view that exposures from WiFi are small in relation to the ICNIRP guidelines and in relation to exposures from mobile phones.

The results of the WiFi project were provided to the Advisory Group on Non-ionising Radiation and taken into account in its 2012 comprehensive review of the scientific evidence.

Key points

  • There is no consistent evidence to date that exposure to RF signals from WiFi and WLANs adversely affects the health of the general population.
  • The signals from WiFi are very low power, typically 0.1 watt (100 milliwatts), in both the computer and the mast (or router), and resulting exposures should be well within internationally-accepted guidelines.
  • The frequencies used are broadly the same as those from other RF applications.
  • Based on current knowledge, RF exposures from WiFi are likely to be lower than those from mobile phones.
  • Based on current scientific information, exposure to WiFi equipment satisfy international guidelines. There is no consistent evidence of health effects from RF exposures below guideline levels and no reason why schools and others should not use WiFi equipment.

Author’s Comments:
It is not clear what the following text really means and accordingly is unconvincing:

  • consistent evidence to date
  • frequencies used are broadly the same as
  • are likely to be
  • based on current scientific information
  • no consistent evidence of health effect

UK Government Guidance: Mobile phone base stations: radio waves and health[20]
Base stations transmit and receive radio waves to connect the users of mobile phones and other devices to mobile communications networks. The strength of the radio waves from base station antennas reduces rapidly with increasing distance, and the levels at locations where people can be exposed tend to be small. Base stations are stationary radio transmitters with antennas mounted on freestanding masts or buildings. The largest base stations provide the main infrastructure for networks and may be up to several kilometres apart. Their antennas tend to be mounted at sufficient height to give them a clear view over the surrounding geographical area. Smaller base stations tend to be mounted nearer to ground level and provide additional radio capacity where there are many users, such as in cities and towns. The radio waves transmitted by base stations are radio frequency electromagnetic fields (EMFs), a form of non-ionising radiation, and have frequencies in the microwave region of the electromagnetic spectrum.

The health effects of exposure to radio waves have been researched extensively over several decades, and many publications can be found in scientific journals and elsewhere. Collaborative research around the world has addressed concerns about rapidly increasing mobile communications technologies since around 2000.

Independent expert groups in the UK and at international level have examined the accumulated body of research evidence. Their conclusions support the view that health effects are unlikely to occur if exposures are below international guideline levels.

Control of exposures occurs through product safety legislation, health and safety legislation and planning policy. These regulatory areas all consider the international guidelines. With some of the larger and more powerful base stations, there can be regions around the antennas within which the guideline levels can be exceeded. Operators identify the extent of any such regions and prevent access to them by the public.

Many exposure measurements have been made at publicly accessible locations near to base stations, and these have consistently been well within guidelines. Industry has voluntarily committed to comply with international guidelines and to provide certificates of compliance with planning applications for base stations. The UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) continues to monitor the health-related evidence applicable to radio waves, including base stations, and is committed to updating its advice as required.

Mobile network technology
Mobile communications technology has developed through several generations (G), and there are now many 2G, 3G and 4G base stations installed throughout the UK, providing services to users of mobile phones and other devices. A fifth generation of the technology (5G) is being developed and reflects the latest evolution in mobile communications technology.

Exposure Guidelines
UKHSA’s main advice about radio waves from base stations is that the guidelines of the International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection (ICNIRP) should be adopted to limit exposures. ICNIRP is formally recognised as an official collaborating non-governmental organisation by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the International Labour Organization (ILO). ICNIRP is also consulted by the European Commission. After reviewing the evidence, ICNIRP set guidelines to avoid excessive body heating, an established impact of exposure which can have detrimental effects. The ICNIRP guidelines apply to frequencies up to 300 gigahertz and cover exposures arising from new 5G base stations as well as from older technologies.

ICNIRP’s initial radio frequency guidelines were published in 1998. However, ICNIRP restated these in 2009 following its own updated review of the scientific evidence. ICNIRP concluded that the scientific literature published since the 1998 guidelines provided no evidence of any adverse health effects below the restrictions in the guidelines and did not need an immediate revision of its guidelines. In March 2020, ICNIRP published new radio frequency exposure guidelines that have been developed to take account of the increased scientific evidence. Like the predecessor (1998) guidelines, the restrictions are based on avoiding excessive localised and whole-body heating. A wide range of other biological and adverse health effects have been investigated, as set out by ICNIRP, and ICNIRP concluded that exposure below the heating threshold is unlikely to be associated with adverse health effects.

The restriction values in the new guidelines are very similar to those in the previous guidelines, especially at frequencies below 6 GHz, where current mobile communications systems operate. Radio-wave exposure levels can be measured or calculated and are usually expressed in terms of their power density in watts per square metre or as a fraction of the ICNIRP guideline level.

Health-related Evidence and Reviews
Radio waves have been transmitted into the environment for many years to deliver broadcast radio and television signals and to support professional radio communications – for example, for the emergency services. There are also applications in industry and medicine where the heating properties of radio waves are used.

Against that background, the health effects of exposure to radio waves have been researched extensively over several decades.

A large amount of new scientific evidence has been produced in recent years through dedicated national and international research programmes, which have addressed concerns about rapidly proliferating modern communications technologies. Expert groups have examined the accumulated body of research evidence at national and international levels. Their conclusions support the view that health effects are unlikely to occur if exposures are below ICNIRP’s internationally agreed guideline levels.

Concerns about base stations and exposures to radio waves came to the fore in the late 1990s when the networks were expanding rapidly. In the UK, the Independent Expert Group on Mobile Phones (IEGMP) concluded in its 2000 report that the balance of evidence indicates that there is no general risk to the health of people living near base stations on the basis that exposures are expected to be small fractions of guidelines.

Also, in the UK, the independent Advisory Group on Non-ionising Radiation (AGNIR) concluded in a 2003 report that exposure levels from living near to base stations are extremely low – the overall evidence indicates they are unlikely to pose a health risk. While these conclusions were reached some years ago, they remain in line with conclusions reached by expert groups that have rigorously examined the more recent scientific evidence.

After the publication of the above reports, and as part of the Government’s response to the IEGMP report, Ofcom has been conducting an audit of the emissions from mobile phone base stations. AGNIR’s 2012 report contains a summary of over 3,000 measurements made at over 500 sites by Ofcom. The maximum exposure found at any location was hundreds of times below the ICNIRP guideline levels, and typical exposures were much lower still. Further information about base stations and the audit is available from Ofcom, including measurements taken at 5G base station sites.

In summary, the UK Government guidance is that many exposure measurements have been made in the UK at publicly accessible locations near base stations, and these have consistently been well within the ICNIRP guideline levels.

Author’s Comments:
The government seems to rely entirely on what others have said without much examination. There is a paucity of evidence of a robust assessment of claims by others. For that reason alone, the claims by the Government are unconvincing.

The NHS response to health concerns about using a mobile phone[21]
Around 95% of adults in the UK own or use a mobile phone, and although they’re an essential part of many people’s lives, there have been concerns that the radio waves they produce and receive might be unsafe. These radio waves are a type of low-energy, non-ionising electromagnetic radiation, a class of radiation that also includes visible light, ultraviolet (UV), and infrared radiation. Concerns have been expressed that prolonged or frequent exposure to radio waves might increase a person’s risk of health problems – such as cancer.

But most current research suggests it is unlikely that radio waves from mobile phones or base stations increase the risk of any health problems. The researchers acknowledge this evidence is based on the use of mobile phones over the last 20 years, and there’s still some uncertainty about possible health effects from using a phone for longer than this.

What research has been done into their safety?
Since the 1990s, there’s been a huge amount of scientific research into the potential health effects of mobile phone use. Large reviews of published research have concluded that overall, the evidence does not suggest that radio waves from mobile phones cause health problems – this includes research by:

But further research is still needed to check that there are no health impacts from long-term exposures (using a mobile phone for more than 20 years).

Reducing exposure to mobile phones
If you have concerns, there are various measures you can take to lower your exposure to radio waves produced by mobile phones. For example:

  • Only make short calls on your mobile phone, and avoid using it more than necessary.
  • Children should only use mobile phones for essential purposes and keep all calls short.
  • Use a hands-free kit to keep your phone as far away from your head as possible, and keep your mobile phone away from your body when it’s in standby mode.
  • Only use your phone when the reception is strong – this is often indicated by your screen’s energy bars. Weak reception causes the phone to use more energy to communicate with the base station.
  • Consider the specific absorption rate (SAR) of a mobile phone before you buy it[22] – this is how much radio wave energy is absorbed into the body.

Although research suggests that it’s unlikely that mobile phones or base stations increase the risk of health problems, there’s still some uncertainty about the potential for risks from long-term use over decades, and research on this is ongoing. You can read about recent research and other frequently asked questions about mobile phone safety.

Radio wave exposure
Radio waves produced by mobile phones transmit in all directions to find the nearest base station. This means that some of the radio waves are directed at your body when you use a mobile phone. Radio waves are absorbed into your body tissue as energy, which adds to the energy being produced by your body’s metabolism.

Concerns have been raised that exposure to radio wave radiation might cause various health problems, ranging from cancer and infertility to non-specific but unpleasant symptoms. But the only known effect of radio waves on the human body is a very small rise in temperature of up to 0.2C. This is comparable to natural increases in temperature, such as during exercise, and does not pose a known risk to health.

Unlike more powerful ionising radiation, which is associated with problems such as cancer, radio waves are not thought to damage or alter the DNA in human cells.

Specific absorption rates
Levels of exposure to radio waves from mobile phones are quantified as specific absorption rates (SAR). SAR is a measure of the amount of energy absorbed. The units of measurement are watts per kilogram (W/kg) or milliwatts per gram (mW/g). The higher the SAR, the more energy your body is absorbing and the greater the rise in temperature. Some mobile phones have lower specific absorption rates than others. You can obtain this information from your mobile phone manufacturer or retailer – they have a responsibility to make this information available to you before you buy the phone.

Risks to children
If there are any health risks from using mobile phones, children might be more vulnerable because their bodies and nervous systems are still developing. Research carried out to date has not supported a link between mobile phone use and childhood cancers such as leukaemia. But if you have any concerns, you can lower your child’s exposure to radio waves by only allowing them to use mobile phones for essential purposes and by keeping the call duration short.

Mobile phone base stations
The balance of evidence currently available does not suggest there’s a risk to people living or working near base stations. Base stations do not need planning permission before masts are erected. Schools should regularly monitor the emissions of base stations situated inside or close to school grounds. If you think a base station near you needs to be audited, you can apply for it to be considered by the Office of Communications (Ofcom), on whose website more information about auditing mobile phone base stations can be found.

Interference with electrical equipment
There’s a possibility that radio waves produced by mobile phones could interfere with important electrical equipment, such as:

  • pacemakers
  • monitors and machines in hospitals
  • electrical systems on aeroplanes

Different hospitals have different rules regarding mobile phone use. You should always check with hospital staff before using your phone. If a hospital does not allow the use of mobile phones on their site, they’ll display posters around the building saying so. All patients, visitors and staff should follow the hospital’s rules.

It’s generally considered safe to use a mobile phone if you have a pacemaker, but as a precaution, you should keep it away from your pacemaker and hold your phone to your right ear.

Questions & Answers

Q: What research has been carried out on the health risks of mobile phones?

A: Many studies have been conducted in Europe and elsewhere to investigate the possible links between mobile phones and various health problems. Further research is currently in progress. Examples include the COSMOS and INTERPHONE studies:

  • In the COSMOS study, scientists from the UK, Denmark, Sweden, Finland and the Netherlands are monitoring almost 300,000 mobile phone users in Europe to identify possible health problems linked to the use of mobile phones over a long period of time. The UK part of the study, run by Imperial College London, follows the health of more than 100,000 adult mobile phone users for 20 to 30 years. Scientists will look at any changes in the frequency of specific symptoms over time, such as headaches and sleep disorders, as well as the risks of cancers, benign tumours, and neurological and cerebrovascular disease. The study in the UK is jointly funded by industry and government under the Research Initiative on Health and Mobile Telecommunications (RIHMT) and is managed through the Department of Health and Social Care’s Policy Research Programme.
  • The INTERPHONE study (PDF, 176kb) was set up in 2000 and collected data in 13 countries. The aim was to see whether mobile phone use is associated with an increased risk of head and neck tumours. In May 2010, the results were released, indicating no increased risk of such tumours with mobile phone use. But it was noted that the potential effect of long-term heavy use of mobile phones needed further investigation.

Q: What research has been carried out in the UK?

A: The Mobile Telecommunications and Health Research Programme (MTHR) released two reports (September 2007 and February 2014), which pulled together the evidence gathered in a large research programme. The reports published by the MTHR found no evidence of risks to health from the radio waves produced by mobile phones.

But it was acknowledged that possible effects from long-term use could not yet be ruled out, and further research has been recommended. The Advisory Group on Non-ionising Radiation (AGNIR) has also carried out reviews of the potential health effects of radio waves, the most recent of which was published in 2012, which you can read on the Public Health England (PHE) website. The Million Women Study, a national study of women’s health involving more than one million women in the UK aged 50 or over, has currently found no association between the use of mobile phones for many years and the risk of brain tumours or any type of cancer. You can read the latest research from the Million Women Study.

Q: Do mobile phones affect brain functions?

A: The MTHR’s set of volunteer studies of brain function is one of the largest carried out anywhere. The studies found exposure to radio frequency fields generated by mobile phones had no detectable effect on brain function.

The researchers looked at factors such as memory and response times and found no changes.

Q: Do mobile phones and mobile phone masts cause unpleasant symptoms?

A: The MTHR’s research found no evidence that radio frequency radiation from mobile phones or masts causes unpleasant symptoms. Its research programme included some of the largest and most robust studies on this question. The MTHR recognised specific concerns about TETRA radios and base stations used by emergency services, but the report released in 2014 said there’s currently no evidence of specific adverse effects related to exposure to TETRA signals.

Q: Are there biological reasons to believe mobile phones might be harmful?

A: The Stewart Report noted that a small number of experiments suggested radio waves from mobile phones could cause biological effects in cells and animals. The MTHR commissioned careful studies of two possible cellular effects identified in the Stewart Report: stress protein production and calcium signalling:

  • Stress proteins are produced when cells experience an increase in temperature. Previous research suggested these proteins were produced in nematode worms[23] when exposed to mobile phone emissions thought to be too weak to result in significant temperature rises. But the studies supported by the MTHR showed the stress proteins were produced due to a slight temperature rise (around 0.2C) caused by radio wave exposure. Since this was already a well-documented effect and considered harmless, the MTHR did not propose further research in this area.
  • Calcium signals produced by mammalian cells are important in controlling the various functions of the cells.

Research published in 2010 found no evidence that exposure to radio waves had any effect on these signals.

Q: Are mobile phone masts dangerous?

A: Levels of exposure to radio wave radiation from mobile phone masts (base stations) are generally much lower than from mobile phones and are well below international guidelines. Audits of the amount of radiation produced by base stations in the UK found the radiation produced is generally less than 0.005% of the guideline values.

Q: What is the biggest risk associated with using mobile phones?

A: The MTHR reports stated that the biggest known threat mobile phones pose to health is from their use when driving, as using them at the wheel impairs driving performance and increases the risk of accidents. There’s no statistical evidence that mobiles are more of a distraction than a conversation with a passenger, but passengers are normally aware of traffic conditions and are therefore likely to stop talking in potentially dangerous situations.

Q: Do scientists know everything about mobile phones and health?

A: No, and research is continuing. Mobile phones have only been widely used for about 20 to 30 years, so it’s impossible to be so certain about the safety of long-term use. More research on the effects of mobile phones on children is also needed, as they’re known to be more sensitive than adults to many environmental agents, such as lead pollution and sunlight. Government advice is to be on the safe side and limit mobile phone use by children.

Q: Can I trust the recommendations of the Mobile Telecommunications and Health Research Programme?

A: Although the programme was jointly funded by the UK government and the mobile phone industry, its management was overseen by an independent committee of scientists, including a representative from the World Health Organization, and the funders had no influence over the selection, interpretation or reporting of studies.

WiFi and Babies[24]
Several health problems can be directly attributed to WiFi. In fact, anyone who struggles with insomnia, a decrease in fertility, or cardiac stress may be a victim of WiFi radiation and not even know it.

As more people become aware of the risks associated with WiFi, parents are rightly wondering if it’s safe to use it near their babies and small children.

An article on[25] says:

  • WiFi can negatively affect the development of children when they are still in the womb, and the impact only increases once born, posing a threat to young children’s development – causing problems such as stunted growth and brain function.
  • Exposing a developing baby to radiation during pregnancy can result in congenital malformations.
  • Being exposed to WiFi radiation in the womb can increase a child’s propensity to obesity and asthma. Both of these childhood disorders can greatly compromise a child’s health.
  • EMF radiation, which stems from WiFi, has also been linked to neurological problems and behavioural issues – children’s brains and bone marrow absorb significantly larger amounts of EMF than adults. Children’s brains are much smaller than those of adults, but they receive the same level of WiFi radiation from phones, routers, and more.
  • WiFi radiation has been linked to the presence of cancerous tumours.

The problem is that tumours are incredibly slow-growing, and scientists are still studying how much EMF radiation it takes to cause them. Since there is such a long time between exposure to WiFi radiation and developing and diagnosing cancer tumours, several decades may pass before the danger is fully understood.

Research links WiFi radiation to various health problems for children, starting with an increased risk of miscarriage before they are even born. A 2014 study[26] published in the Journal of Fertilization: In Vitro – IVF-Worldwide, Reproductive Medicine, Genetics & Stem Cell Biology showed a direct link between cell phone and computer usage with threatened miscarriage.

Picture Credit:Day 119 – Baby Monitor” by DaGoaty is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

And remember, It’s not just the WiFi router you need to consider. You need to think about all your devices that communicate wirelessly – baby monitors, cell phones, tablets, laptops, smart TVs (even Smart Meters that monitor energy usage) – and where they are in proximity to children.

A Swedish study[27] found that children who regularly began using mobile phones before age 20 had more than four times an increased risk of brain tumours.

The inconvenient truth about cancer and mobile phones: from The Guardian[28]
Mobile phone users dismiss claims about mobiles being bad for our health – but is that because studies showing a link to cancer have been cast into doubt by the industry?

On 28th March 2018, the scientific peer review of a landmark United States government study concluded that there is “clear evidence” that radiation from mobile phones causes cancer, specifically, a heart tissue cancer in rats that is too rare to be explained as random occurrence.

That news appears to contradict what we are told by cancer bodies, the NHS and many others.

The Guardian article on 14th July 2018 reported that 11 independent scientists spent three days at Research Triangle Park, North Carolina, discussing the study, which was carried out by the National Toxicology Program of the US Department of Health and Human Services and ranks among the largest conducted of the health effects of mobile phone radiation.

NTP scientists had exposed thousands of rats and mice (whose biological similarities to humans make them useful indicators of human health risks) to doses of radiation equivalent to an average mobile user’s lifetime exposure.

The peer review scientists repeatedly upgraded the confidence levels the NTP’s scientists and staff had attached to the study, fuelling critics’ suspicions that the NTP’s leadership had tried to downplay the findings. Thus the peer review also found “some evidence” (one step below “clear evidence”) of cancer in the brain and adrenal glands.

No major news organisation in the US or Europe reported this important scientific news. The Guardian said that:

“… news coverage of mobile phone safety has long reflected the outlook of the wireless industry. For a quarter of a century now, the industry has been orchestrating a global PR campaign aimed at misleading not only journalists, but also consumers and policymakers about the actual science concerning mobile phone radiation. Indeed, big wireless has borrowed the very same strategy and tactics big tobacco and big oil pioneered to deceive the public about the risks of smoking and climate change, respectively. And like their tobacco and oil counterparts, wireless industry CEOs lied to the public even after their own scientists privately warned that their products could be dangerous, especially to children.”

A close look reveals the industry’s sleight of hand. The Guardian says that when Henry Lai, a professor of bioengineering at the University of Washington, analysed 326 safety-related studies completed between 1990 and 2006, he discovered:

“…that 44% of them found no biological effect from mobile phone radiation and 56% did; scientists apparently were split. But when Lai recategorised the studies according to their funding sources, a different picture emerged: 67% of the independently funded studies found a biological effect, while a mere 28% of the industry-funded studies did. Lai’s findings were replicated by a 2007 analysis in Environmental Health Perspectives[29], which concluded that industry-funded studies were two and a half times less likely than independent studies to find health effects.”

There is only one key player that has not been swayed by all this wireless-friendly research: the insurance industry. In The Guardian’s reporting for this story, they found that no insurance company was prepared to sell a product-liability policy that covered mobile phone radiation. “Why would we want to do that?” one executive asked with a chuckle before pointing to more than two dozen lawsuits outstanding against wireless companies, demanding a total of $1.9bn in damages.

In Conclusion

World Health Organization (WHO)
In 1996, the World Health Organization (WHO) established the International EMF Project[30]. The EMF Project is working on a health risk assessment of EMFs, quite separate from the 2011 assessment by the IARC, which labelled EMFs as “possibly carcinogenic.” The IARC is also part of WHO.

There’s been controversy surrounding the EMF Project. In a 2017 research review[31], oncologist Dr Lennart Hardell[32] pointed out that five of the six EMF’s core group members have been involved with the International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection (ICNIRP). In the 2017 review, Hardell says this is a conflict of interest. He believes that it will interfere with the members’ ability to create a critical scientific assessment. It seems that WHO disagreed, which is rather worrying.

Scientific American
Equally worrying is that in 2008, the well-renowned publication Scientific American ran a piece called Mind Control by Cell Phone[33], which explained the danger WiFi has on the human brain, yet there is little acknowledgement of it in the research carried out so far.

Studies involving electromagnetic fields (EMFs) and cancer are conflicting. For example:

  1. According to a 16th March 2017 research review[35], EMFs from wireless devices increase the risk of glioma, a type of brain tumour; but
  2. A 2018 study[36] says there’s no clear association between EMFs and brain tumours. One of its conclusions is that RF magnetic fields’ possible role in brain tumour promotion and/or progression should be investigated further.

One of the authors of the research review is Swedish Oncologist Lennart Hardell (see mention above), from the Department of Oncology, Faculty of Medicine and Health, Örebro University, Sweden. Hardell’s research on cell phones and cancer has concluded that long-term mobile phone use is associated with an increased risk of acoustic neuroma[37] and glioma[38].[39] He says that children should be banned from using cell phones except in emergencies, as he feels the risk of cancer is greater in people who begin using mobile phones before the age of 20.[40]

Most studies examining the link between WiFi and cancer involve animals. Those results have also been as inconclusive as those on humans. Oxidative stress is known to contribute to the development of cancer. In a 2015 animal study, long-term exposure to WiFi-induced oxidative stress in the uterus of rats.

Additionally, one 2018 animal study also found that WiFi reduces the activity of antioxidant enzymes, which combat oxidative stress[41]. The mechanisms behind these effects are unclear. Although these findings don’t explicitly confirm that WiFi causes cancer in humans, more research is needed to determine if radiation from WiFi can lead to cancer.

Author’s Concluding Words
I am not a scientist or an oncologist. I find the question: “Is WiFi bad for your health” difficult to answer. It’s very much a case of: on the one hand, it’s this, and on the other hand, it’s that. You can understand the confusion with many vested interests at play. My view is that WiFi has a lot to answer for, and I can’t trust those who say it’s perfectly safe – the most telling factors are threefold:

  • For years, the tobacco industry vehemently denied that smoking caused cancer, and we all know what finally happened;
  • It could take 20 years (or even longer) for research into the link between WiFi radiation, cancer, and the other effects mentioned in this paper to be finally validated; and
  • According to The Guardian newspaper, no insurance company is prepared to sell a product-liability policy that covers mobile phone radiation.

Picture Credit:Super Powers” by darkday. is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

ADSL: this stands for Asymmetric Digital Subscriber Line. It is a technology for transmitting digital information on existing phone lines to homes and businesses at a high bandwidth. ADSL is asymmetric in that it uses most of the channel to send downstream to the user and only a small part to receive information from the user. This means high download rates and slower upload rates. Generally, if you see 2Mb ADSL broadband, it refers to a 2 Mbit/s Max d/load rate. The upload rate will probably be around 256 kbit/s Max. (ADSL has a maximum download rate of 8 Mbit/s, whereas ADSL2 is capable of up to 16 Mbit/s, and ADSL2+ is rated at 24 Mbit/s maximum.)
Bandwidth: The amount of data that can be transferred through your internet connection. If your bandwidth is low, it could mean that webpages load slowly, or you might struggle to watch videos online without waiting for them to load.
Bits[42], bit rates and bytes[43]: A bit is a binary digit, the smallest increment of data on a computer. A bit can hold only one of two values: 0 or 1, corresponding to the electrical values of off or on, respectively. Because bits are so small, you rarely work with information one bit at a time. Bits are usually assembled into a group of eight to form a byte. A byte contains enough information to store a single ASCII character, like the letter “h”. A kilobyte (KB) is 1,024 bytes, not one thousand bytes as might be expected as computers use binary (base two) mathematics instead of a decimal (base ten) system. Computer storage and memory are often measured in megabytes (MB) and gigabytes (GB). A medium-sized novel contains about 1 MB of information. 1 MB is 1,024 kilobytes, or 1,048,576 (1024×1024) bytes, not one million bytes. Similarly, 1 GB is 1,024 MB, or 1,073,741,824 (1024x1024x1024) bytes. A terabyte (TB) is 1,024 GB; 1 TB is about the same amount of information as all the books in a large library, or roughly 1,610 CDs worth of data. A petabyte (PB) is 1,024 TB. An exabyte (EB) is 1,024 PB. A zettabyte (ZB) is 1,024 EB. Finally, a yottabyte (YB) is 1,024 ZB.
Bluetooth: Bluetooth is a type of wireless technology used to connect one device to another, for example, connecting your phone to a speaker to play music.
Broadband: Broadband is a generic term for the internet connection which allows you to access the Internet. To get home broadband, you need to contract with a broadband provider (such as BT, TalkTalk or Virgin) who will charge you for the necessary equipment to connect your smartphone, tablet or computer to the Internet.
Electromagnetic fields (EMFs): EMFs arise whenever electrical energy is used, for example, in our home from electrical appliances in the kitchen, from work processes such as radio frequency heating and drying and in the world at large from radio, TV and Telecoms broadcasting masts and security detection devices. It has been known for a long time that exposure of people to high levels of EMFs can give rise to acute effects. The effects that can occur depend on the frequency of the radiation. At low frequencies, the effects will be on the central nervous system of the body, whilst at high frequencies, heating effects can occur, leading to a rise in body temperature. But, these effects are extremely rare and will not happen in most day-to-day work situations.[44]
Ethernet: a family of wired computer networking technologies commonly used in local area networks (LAN), metro area networks (MAN) and wide area networks (WAN).[45] It was commercially introduced in 1980 and first standardised in 1983 as IEEE 802.3. Ethernet has since been refined to support higher bit rates, a greater number of nodes and longer link distances but retains much backward compatibility. Over time, Ethernet has largely replaced competing wired LAN technologies such as Token Ring, FDDI and ARCNET. Ethernet is widely used in homes and industry and works well with wireless Wi-Fi technologies. The Internet Protocol is commonly carried over Ethernet and is considered one of the key technologies that make up the Internet.
FTP: this stands for File Transfer Protocol and is the technology used to exchange files between two computers.
Gigabit: The gigabit is a multiple of the unit bit for digital information or computer storage. The prefix giga (symbol G) is defined in the International System of Units as a multiplier of 109 (1 billion, short scale), and therefore: 1 gigabit = 109bits = 1000000000bits. The gigabit has the unit symbol Gbit or Gb. Using the common byte size of 8 bits, 1 Gbit equals 125 megabytes (MB) or approximately 119 mebibytes (MiB).
Hotspot: A hotspot is a physical location where people can access the Internet, typically using WiFi, via a wireless local area network (WLAN) with a router connected to an Internet service provider. Most people refer to these locations as “WiFi hotspots” or “WiFi connections.” Simply put, hotspots are the physical places where users can wirelessly connect their mobile devices, such as smartphones and tablets, to the Internet. A hotspot can be in a private location or a public one, such as in a coffee shop, a restaurant, a hotel, an airport, on board a cruise liner or even a plane. Many public hotspots offer free wireless access on an open network, while others require payment.[46]
HTML: this stands for HyperText Markup Language and is the coding language used to create hypertext documents for the World Wide Web. In HTML, a block of text can be surrounded with tags that indicate how it should appear (for example, in bold face or italics). Also, in HTML, a word, a block of text, or an image can be linked (hyperlinked) to another file on the Web. HTML files are viewed with a browser such as Google Chrome, Firefox, Microsoft Edge, Opera etc.
HTTP/HTTPS: Most web addresses start with ‘HTTP’ or ‘HTTPS’. It refers to how the information is shared over the internet. The ‘s’ stands for secure.
IEEE 802.11: the set of standards defining communication for wireless LANs (wireless local area networks, or WLANs). The technology behind 802.11 is branded to consumers as Wi-Fi or WiFi. As the name implies, IEEE 802.11 is overseen by the IEEE, specifically the IEEE LAN/MAN Standards Committee (IEEE 802). The current version of the standard is IEEE 802.11-2007.
Internet: the Internet, sometimes called “the Net”, is a worldwide system of computer networks – a network of networks in which users at any one computer can, with permission, get information from any other computer (and sometimes talk directly to users at other computers). It was conceived by the Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA) of the US government in 1969 and was first known as the ARPANET. The original aim was to create a network that would allow users of a research computer at one university to “talk to” research computers at other universities. A side benefit of ARPANet’s design was that, because messages could be routed or rerouted in more than one direction, the network could continue to function even if parts of it were destroyed in the event of a military attack or other disasters. (see also World Wide Web)
Internet Protocol: Internet Protocol (IP) is the method or protocol by which data is sent from one computer to another on the Internet. Each computer – known as a host – on the Internet has at least one IP address that uniquely identifies it from all other computers on the Internet.[47]
Line-of-sight: this is an unobstructed path from a transmitting device to a receiver. For example, users are aware of a line of sight when they aim their infrared (IR) remote control directly at their TV. Microwave transmissions between towers at the top of mountains and buildings require an unobstructed line of sight. Technically, line-of-sight refers to radio frequency (RF) transmission in general, including WiFi and cellular telephony. Although walls and other obstructions may attenuate (lessen) or block signals entirely, the receiving device must be in the radiation pattern emitted by the transmitter.[48]
Local area networking and local area networks (LANs): a local area network (LAN) is a computer network that interconnects computers within a limited area such as a home, school, laboratory, university campus or office building. Ethernet and WiFi are the two most common technologies used for LANs.
Super high frequency (SHF): SHF[49] is the ITU[50] designation for radio frequencies (RF) in the range between three and 30 gigahertz (GHz). This band of frequencies is also known as the centimetre band or centimetre wave, as the wavelengths range from one to ten centimetres. These frequencies fall within the microwave band, so radio waves with these frequencies are called microwaves. They are used for point-to-point communication, data links[51] and radar. This frequency range is used for most radar transmitters, wireless LANs, satellite communication, microwave radio relay links, satellite phones (S-band), and numerous short-range terrestrial data links. They are also used for heating in industrial microwave heating, medical diathermy, microwave hyperthermy to treat cancer and to cook food in microwave ovens.
Ultra-high frequency (UHF): this is the ITU designation for radio frequencies in the range between 300 megahertz (MHz) and three gigahertz (GHz), also known as the decimetre band, as the wavelengths range from one metre to one-tenth of a metre (one decimetre). Radio waves with frequencies above the UHF band fall into the super-high frequency (SHF) or microwave frequency range. Lower frequency signals fall into the VHF (very high frequency) or lower bands. UHF radio waves propagate mainly by line of sight; they are blocked by hills and large buildings, although the transmission through building walls is strong enough for indoor reception. They are used for television broadcasting, cell phones, satellite communication including GPS, personal radio services including WiFi and Bluetooth, walkie-talkies, cordless phones, satellite phones, and numerous other applications.[52]
URL: In the same way that buildings and houses have a street address, web pages also have unique addresses to help people to locate them. On the Internet, these addresses are called URLs (Uniform Resource Locators).
Wide area networks: A wide area network (also known as WAN) is a large network of computers not tied to a single location. They can facilitate communication and the sharing of information between devices from around the world through a WAN provider. WANs can be vital for international businesses, but they are also essential for everyday use, as the Internet is considered the largest WAN in the world.[53]
Wifi: WiFi or Wi-Fi is short for wireless fidelity.
WiFi Alliance: The Wi-Fi Alliance is a non-profit organisation that owns the WiFi trademark. Manufacturers may use the trademark to brand products certified for WiFi interoperability.[54]
Wireless access points: A wireless access point (WAP) is a hardware device or configured node on a local area network (LAN) that allows wireless capable devices and wired networks to connect through a wireless standard, including WiFi or Bluetooth. WAPs feature radio transmitters and antennae, which facilitate connectivity between devices and the Internet or a network. A WAP is also known as a hotspot.[55]
Wireless network protocols: Protocols are sets of rules or agreed-upon guidelines for communication. When communicating, it is important to agree on how to do so. The 802.11 family of wireless networking protocols is the standard for wireless networking and makes it possible for devices to interact. TCP/IP[56] is a collection of protocols that each have its own particular functions or purpose. These protocols were established by international standards bodies and are used in almost all platforms worldwide so that all devices on the Internet can communicate successfully. The 802.11 wireless networking protocols have gone through several iterations, each one surpassing the previous version in capability and speed.[57]
Wireless routers: Wireless routers are commonly found in homes – they’re the hardware devices that Internet service providers use to connect you to their cable or xDSL Internet network. A wireless router, also called a Wi-Fi router, combines the networking functions of a wireless access point and a router. A router connects local networks to other local networks or the Internet. A wireless access point connects devices to the network wirelessly, using radio frequencies in the 900 MHz and 2.4, 3.6, 5, and 60 GHz frequency bands. The latest wireless routers are based on the IEEE 802.11ac Wave 2 standard, often shortened to Wave 2. A wireless router is sometimes referred to as a WLAN (wireless local area network) device. A wireless network is also called a WiFi network.[58]
World Wide Web (or WWW): The World Wide Web is the common area for information exchange facilitated by global computer networks — or to the Internet. To access the Web, you connect to the Internet – the connection between countless, separate servers, computers, and devices. The Web is the medium used to access, edit, discover, and share information according to a common computer language: HTML (hypertext markup language)[59].

Picture Credit: BT Wireless Router and VOIP Router. © Martin Pollins

CAUTION: This paper is not medical, health or IT advice. No advice is implied or given in articles published by us which are for general information and should not be considered as a specific diagnosis or treatment plan for any individual situation. This paper has been compiled from the sources stated. You should always seek professional advice from an Epidemiologist, Oncologist or specialist medical or technical expert on the health-related effects of electromagnetic fields. The facts are believed to be correct as at the date of publication, but there may be certain errors and omissions for which we cannot be responsible. There is no implied endorsement or promotion of any organisation or product by the writer. The hyperlinks were valid at the date of publication.

Sources and Further Reading
  1. Source:
  2. Source:
  3. Sources: (1) Beal, Vangie (2nd May 2001). “What is Wi-Fi (IEEE 802.11x)? A Webopedia Definition”. Webopedia, (2) Schofield, Jack (21st May 2007). “The Dangers of Wi-Fi Radiation (Updated)” – via and (3) “Certification”. Wi-Fi Alliance.
  4. Source: “History | Wi-Fi Alliance”. Wi-Fi Alliance.
  5. Source: “Global Wi-Fi Enabled Devices Shipment Forecast, 2020 – 2024”. Research and Markets. 1st July 2020.
  6. Source:
  7. Source:
  8. Source:
  9. Available at:
  10. This figure (in 2020) is much less than the World Health Organization estimated in 2014 (6.9 billion people).
  11. Source:
  12. See: and
  13. The Bodies are: (1) International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection (ICNIRP). Statement on the “Guidelines for limiting exposure to time-varying electric, magnetic and electromagnetic fields (up to 300 GHz)”, 2009. (2) Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE). IEEE standard for safety levels with respect to human exposure to radio frequency electromagnetic fields, 3 kHz to 300 GHz, IEEE Std C95.1, 2005.
  14. Sourced from: © Crown Copyright. Content is available under the Open Government Licence v3.0
  15. From: © Crown Copyright. Content is available under the Open Government Licence v3.0
  16. See:, in 2012. © Crown Copyright. Content is available under the Open Government Licence v3.0
  17. See:
  18. Available at:
  19. Published 1 November 2013, at: © Crown Copyright. Content is available under the Open Government Licence v3.0
  20. Published 27th August 2021, at: © Crown Copyright. Content is available under the Open Government Licence v3.0
  21. Sources: and © Crown Copyright. Content is available under the Open Government Licence v3.0
  22. Mobile phone retailers have a responsibility to make this information available to you before you buy.
  23. Nematodes are the most populous animals on Earth but little is known about them. While some species are used to combat crop pests, others can inflict severe damage to the environment, including inside plants and animals. Some nematodes live inside humans as parasites and cause infectious disease in our bodies. Source:
  24. Excerpted from:
  25. Ibid
  26. At:
  27. See: Source:
  28. Excerpted from an article published by The Guardian on 14th July 2018, at:
  29. See:
  30. See:
  31. See:
  32. See also: Effects of Mobile Phones on Children’s and Adolescents’ Health: A Commentary, by Dr Lennart Hardell, at:
  33. See at:
  34. Source:
  35. See at:
  36. See:
  37. Explanation from the NHS: An acoustic neuroma is a type of non-cancerous (benign) brain tumour. It’s also known as a vestibular schwannoma. A benign brain tumour is a growth in the brain that usually grows slowly over many years and does not spread to other parts of the body. Acoustic neuromas grow on the nerve used for hearing and balance, which can cause problems such as hearing loss and unsteadiness. They can sometimes be serious if they become very large, but most are picked up and treated before they reach this stage.Acoustic neuromas tend to affect adults aged 30 to 60 and usually have no obvious cause, although a small number of cases are the result of a genetic condition called neurofibromatosis type 2 (NF2). Source: © Crown Copyright is acknowledged
  38. Explanation: Several brain tumour types are grouped together under the name Glioma. This includes: Astrocytoma, Glioblastoma multiforme (or grade 4 astrocytoma), Oligodendroglioma and Ependymoma. High-grade gliomas are malignant (cancerous) tumours that develop from brain cells called astrocytes. In children, only 20% of astrocytomas are high grade. High-grade gliomas are classified according to the grade of aggressiveness (how quickly they grow) as either anaplastic astrocytomas (grade III) or glioblastoma multiforme (GBM). Source:
  39. Sources: (1) Hardell, L.; Carlberg, M.; Soderqvist, F.; Mild, K. H.; Morgan, L. L. (16th January 2007). “Long-term use of cellular phones and brain tumours: increased risk associated with use for >=10 years”. Occupational and Environmental Medicine. 64 (9): 626–632. doi:10.1136/oem.2006.029751. PMC 2092574. PMID 17409179, and (2) Kang, Cecilia (29th June 2010). “Cellphone industry attacks San Francisco’s ruling on radiation”. Washington Post.
  40. Source: Knapton, Sarah (21st September 2008). “Mobile phones may raise cancer risk in children, study finds”. Daily Telegraph.
  41. Explanation: Oxidative Stress is an imbalance between free radicals and antioxidants in your body. Free radicals are oxygen-containing molecules with an uneven number of electrons. The uneven number allows them to easily react with other molecules. Free radicals can cause large chain chemical reactions in your body because they react easily with other molecules. These reactions are called oxidation. They can be beneficial or harmful. Oxidation is a normal and necessary process that takes place in your body. Oxidative stress, on the other hand, occurs when there’s an imbalance between free radical activity and antioxidant activity. When functioning properly, free radicals can help fight off pathogens. Pathogens lead to infections. When there are more free radicals present than can be kept in balance by antioxidants, the free radicals can start doing damage to fatty tissue, DNA, and proteins in your body. Proteins, lipids, and DNA make up a large part of your body – damage to them can lead to several diseases over time. Source: See also:
  42. Source:
  43. Ibid
  44. Source: Health & Safety Executive at: Radiation Health and Safety: What Are EMFs? ( Contains public sector information published by the Health and Safety Executive and licensed under the Open Government Licence. © Crown Copyright Acknowledged.
  45. Source: Ralph Santitoro (2003). “Metro Ethernet Services – A Technical Overview” (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 22nd December 2018.
  46. Text attributed to Intel at:
  47. Source:
  48. Source:
  49. Source:
  50. Explanation: International Telecommunication Union (ITU) is a specialised agency of the United Nations responsible for many matters related to information and communication technologies.
  51. Source: Freedman, S. (September 1946). “Two-way radio for everyone” (PDF). Radio News. New York: Ziff-Davis Publications. 36 (3): 25–27. This article from the beginning of the microwave era predicted the future value of microwaves for point-to-point communication.
  52. Source:
  53. Source:
  54. Source:
  55. Source:
  56. Explanation: TCP/IP – Transmission Control Protocol and Internet Protocol are two distinct computer network protocols. TCP and IP are so commonly used together, however, that TCP/IP has become standard terminology for referring to this suite of protocols. Source:
  57. Source:
  58. Source:
  59. Source:

Leave a Reply

Blog at

%d bloggers like this: