Mobiles, masts and health

We communicate openly about mobiles, masts and health, comply with international and national guidelines on radio frequency fields and monitor independent research

Mobiles, masts and health

Vodafone has been developing and improving mobile technology since the very first phone call over 30 years ago. The health and safety of our customers and the public was then, and remains, a focus of our attention.

Mobile devices and the masts that make them work operate well within guideline safety limits and, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), there is no evidence to convince experts that they pose any risk to human health.

Following thousands of scientific research studies about this issue over several decades, public concern has diminished. But we recognise that some people remain concerned and we continue to monitor, support and publish links to the latest scientific research. New research is focusing in particular on children and mobile phones, and long-term use of phones.

In focus: Find out more about mobiles, masts and health

A dedicated section of our Group website provides more detailed information on mobiles, masts and health and our response to public concerns. Find out more about:

  • our commitments and goals to ensure the health and safety of our customers, employees, contractors and the public
  • how mobiles work, using RF fields to transmit and receive calls and data via our network of base stations
  • our work to ensure the safety of our base stations and mobiles
  • how we are addressing concerns
  • the latest scientific research in this area.

Understanding and addressing concerns

Mobile devices use radio frequency (RF) fields, a type of electromagnetic field (EMF) to send and receive calls and data. These fields surround us all the time, occurring naturally as well as from artificial sources. They are produced whenever an electrical appliance is connected to the mains supply, from refrigerators and hairdryers to computers.

EMF fields are non-ionising and create very low levels of energy, in contrast to ionising radiation such as X-rays, gamma rays and ultraviolet radiation, which have been shown to pose risks to human health.

Most experts agree there is no evidence that mobiles and base stations operated within guideline safety limits have any adverse health effects. Vodafone’s mobiles and masts operate well within the guidelines set by the International Commission for Non-Ionising Radiation Protection (ICNIRP), an independent advisory body which is part of the WHO. These guidelines already incorporate substantial safety margins. The WHO’s updated factsheet, "Electromagnetic fields and public health", published in October 2014, which is based on an in-depth review of thousands of scientific studies, concludes that “To date, no adverse health effects have been established as being caused by mobile phone use”.

Some individual research studies have suggested that using a mobile could affect people’s health, and claim it may possibly even cause cancer. This has led to articles in the media questioning whether mobiles are safe, which has increased public concern.

We are committed to understanding these concerns and helping to address them by providing information on our dedicated Group website and local market websites, and by holding local meetings where needed.

Monitoring our EMF emissions

In several markets (including Greece, Italy, Malta, Portugal and the UK) we have Independent Field Monitoring Initiatives that record RF emissions in certain locations 24 hours a day. The data is sent to a central point and tracked against ICNIRP guidelines or national limits on EMF. Community members can access the data through websites hosted by their local councils or universities.

For example, the HERMES Programme in Greece monitors electromagnetic radiation emitted by various sources in the environment. We supply the technical equipment for the programme, such as a mobile measurement system. Two universities, operating as independent scientific bodies, evaluate the equipment to ensure that the results are accurate and valid.

Our policies on RF Safety ensure that all parts of our business adhere to strict industry-wide standards on the electromagnetic radiation created by mobile devices and masts. We assess levels of compliance across the Group annually. In 2014/15, all of our European markets and all but two markets in the Asia, Middle East & Africa region were fully compliant with our policy on RF safety. The two partially compliant scores relate to India and Mozambique, where we have identified a need to improve the documentation of safety standards. We are working to achieve full compliance in these markets.

Latest scientific research

In 2014/15, a number of new studies have contributed to the ongoing dialogue and research, supporting the current consensus that there is no evidence of risks to health from the use of mobile phones and the masts that make them work.

There are still some gaps in scientific knowledge and more research is under way. The WHO is prioritising studies that are monitoring any long-term health effects and use of mobile phones by children.

Investment in EMF research has increased in the past 20 years, as the use of mobile devices has become more widespread. The WHO sets priority areas for research. We contribute funds to some independent studies indirectly through national, regional and international research programmes.

Some of the new research published in 2014/15

  • The Scientific Advisory Committee to the European Commission’s (SCENIHR) Final Opinion on EMF, published in March 2015, reflects the findings of all research published since the last Opinion of 2009. SCENIHR summarises:
    • “The results of current scientific research show that there are no evident adverse health effects if exposure remains below the levels recommended by EU legislation. Overall, the epidemiological studies on radio frequency EMF exposure do not show an increased risk of brain tumours. Furthermore, they do not indicate an increased risk for other cancers of the head and neck region.”
    • “Concerning EMF hypersensitivity (idiopathic environmental intolerance attributed to EMF), research consistently shows that there is no causal link between self-reported symptoms and EMF exposure.”
  • The Swedish Scientific Council on EMF (Strålsäkerhetsmyndigheten, SSM) published its ninth report in May 2014. It states:
    • “New research does not indicate any health risks for the general public related to exposure from radio frequency electromagnetic fields from base stations for wireless networks, radio and TV transmitters, or wireless local data networks in schools or at home.”
  • The UK Mobile Telecommunications and Health Research (MTHR) final report, published in February 2014, concludes:
    • “We have found no evidence of risks to health from the radio waves produced by mobile phones or their base stations.”

Read more about the scientific process and research on the dedicated section of our website.