Mobile phone health concerns and the telecom industry

SEE risk briefing                                                        May 2005

Mobile phone health
concerns and the telecom
                                               The mobile phone industry has grown
                                               dramatically since it took off around 15
                                               years ago. The number of users
                                               worldwide has increased from 11
Introduction to the issue ……….1
                                               million in 1990 to 1.5 billion today - in
                                               many countries more than half of the
Background – the science and
                                               population use mobile phones. New
public concerns ...........................2
                                               developments such as photo messaging
                                               and the launch of third generation (3G)
Potential social, ethical and
                                               phones are expected to result in further
 environmental concerns ………4
                                               growth. In the UK alone, there are
                                               already 55 million mobile phones
Exposure factors …………………..5
                                               subscribers and about 45,000 radio
                                               base stations, which could rise to
Managing the risk …………………6
                                               50,000 by 2007, according to the
                                               Mobile Operators Association (MOA).
Good practice examples …………8
                                               The growth in mobile phone use has
Company assessments …………..9
                                               been accompanied by an increasing
                                               community concern about the numbers
                                               of masts and exposure to radio waves.
                                               The introduction of mobile phones was
1. Introduction                                followed by allegations that the
                                               microwave radiation used to transmit
This series of SEE risk briefings seeks        communications between base stations
to identify areas of potential social,         and handsets could cause brain damage
environmental and ethical (SEE) risk,          - leading to memory loss and malignant
analyse the ways in which these risks          tumours. After hundreds of studies
may materialise and highlight how              around the world, the evidence remains
companies can manage these issues.             inconclusive. Concerns about potential
                                               adverse health effects of radio
                                               frequency (RF) emissions from mobile

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SEE risk briefing: Mobile phone health concerns                                May 2005

handsets and base stations have been          output of the antennae - macrocells,
the subject of a very public debate           microcells and picocells.
involving the press, governments,
international organisations and local         Radio waves are electromagnetic
communities.                                  energy. It has been established that
                                              such energy can lead to the heating of
Both operators and manufacturers have         the body but radio waves do not have
come under increased pressure to              enough energy to damage cell
demonstrate that they are taking these        structures and are known as 'non-
concerns into account and addressing          ionizing'. Scientific research has led to
related risks. As time passes,                the conclusion that a temperature rise
manufacturers are progressively               of no more than one degree Celsius is a
reducing the power output of their            safe level for the body to cope with.
phones, so radiation risks to individual      International health and safety
users are diminishing. However, as the        guidelines are in place to limit public
number of subscribers surges past 1.5         exposure to radio waves from base
billion, even a tiny individual health risk   stations and mobile phones, and are set
could have a large impact. The safety         by the International Commission on
of mobile phones is likely to remain a        Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection
contentious issue for many years to           (ICNIRP).
                                              Some countries have introduced
2. Background                                 national limits for RF exposure largely
                                              based on ICNIRP standards, which are
2.1. The science                              endorsed by the World Health
                                              Organisation (WHO). Specific
Mobile phones and their base stations         Absorption Rates (SAR) measure the
transmit and receive signals using            energy absorbed from mobile handsets.
electromagnetic waves - also referred         Guidelines for the general public have
to as electromagnetic fields, or radio        been set at 2.0W/kg (watts per
waves. Frequencies between about 30           kilogram of tissue). Handsets sold in
kHz (kilohertz) and 300 GHz                   the EU have SAR values between
(gigahertz) are widely used for               0.2W/kg and 1.7W/kg, with most
telecommunication, including radio and        around the 1.0W/kg level. All are below
television, and comprise the radio            the guidelines for the EU of 2.0W/kg.
frequency (RF) band. Both mobile
phones and base stations emit RF              The WHO concluded, based on an in-
radiation. Exposure levels depend on          depth review of the scientific literature,
the source and generally reduce with          that current evidence does not confirm
increasing distance from the source.          the existence of any health
For mobile phones exposures are               consequences from exposure to low
principally to the side of the head for       level RF emissions. However, the WHO
hand-held use, or those parts of the          considered that some gaps in
body closest to the handset for hands-        knowledge regarding biological effects
free use. RF exposure from base               exist and that these areas require
stations will be to the whole body,           further research. The WHO has
generally at a lower level of intensity       established an International
than handsets, but continual. Base            Electromagnetic Fields (EMF) Project to
stations vary in size and the power           assess the scientific evidence of
                                              possible health effects of RF emissions.

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SEE risk briefing: Mobile phone health concerns                              May 2005

In May 2000, the UK Independent               confusion and mistrust. Understanding
Expert Group on Mobile Phones, chaired        public perceptions of risk and health
by Sir William Stewart, concluded that        concerns is a key issue for telecom
the balance of evidence to date did not       companies.
suggest mobile phone technologies
cause adverse health effects. However,        Handsets Members of the public have
it called for more research to fill gaps in   attributed a range of symptoms to the
scientific knowledge and for a                use of mobile handsets including
precautionary approach to be adopted,         impairment to short-term memory,
including limiting the use of mobile          headaches, brain tumours, other
phones by young children. This was            cancers, sleep disturbance, depression
reaffirmed by the National Radiological       and tiredness. However, the majority of
Protection Board (NRPB), also chaired         mobile phone users perceive the health
by Sir William Stewart, in January            risk as low, as the handsets are
2005. Similar conclusions were drawn          voluntarily chosen and convey an
in reports commissioned in other              advantage to the user.
European countries such as the Zmirou
Report in France.                             Mobile base stations Symptoms
                                              attributed to RF exposure from base
Findings from a team of scientists from       stations include headaches, sleep
the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm         disturbance, depression, stress and
told a different story. They published a      tiredness. In some cases a correlation
report in October 2004 showing that           with an increased incidence of cancer
people who used mobile phones for             has been suggested. There is particular
more than 10 years had a doubled risk         concern regarding the siting of base
of developing acoustic neuroma, a             stations on or near schools, hospitals
slow-growing tumour of the nerve              and residential areas. Other concerns
between the ear and brain.                    include the negative visual impact and
Confirmation - or otherwise - may occur       potential reductions to property values.
soon. The Swedish study is part of a
large collaboration, involving                The involuntary nature of RF exposure
researchers from 13 countries, called         from base stations increases the
Interphone, which is co-ordinated by          magnitude of perceived risk. People,
the International Agency for Research         especially those who do not use mobile
on Cancer (IARC). The focus is on             phones, often perceive the health risks
investigating three types of tumour           as high.
including brain tumours, acoustic
neuromas and tumours of the salivary          A proposal to site a new base station
gland, whose location makes them the          frequently meets with strong
most likely candidates for a link with        community disapproval and opposition.
mobile phone radiation. Interphone            In many countries local community
expects more national studies to be           protest groups are formed. In some
published during 2005 and early results       cases these may be co-ordinated at a
from the international programme              national level, for example in the UK
should also be available this year.           Powerwatch and Mast Sanity campaign
                                              for acknowledgement of the adverse
2.2. Public concerns                          health effects of RF emissions and
                                              protest against insensitive siting of
Incomplete scientific evidence and            base stations.
ineffective communication of available
evidence has lead to widespread public

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SEE risk briefing: Mobile phone health concerns                             May 2005

3. Scope of EIRIS research                   4. Potential social, ethical
                                                & environmental risks
EIRIS analysis focuses on European
mobile operators. While both mobile
                                                and opportunities
phone manufacturers and operators
                                             This briefing seeks to identify areas of
may be adversely affected by risks
                                             potential risks and ways in which these
related to RF emissions, this analysis
                                             may materialise in the short to medium
focuses on operators as their risks
                                             term (three to five years).
relate to both masts and handsets and
their level of exposure to the risks
                                             The balance of evidence to date from
identified is, therefore, relatively
                                             both national and international sources
                                             supports the view that low level RF
                                             emissions do not cause adverse health
Although excluded from the analysis,
                                             effects. However, there remains a
mobile handset manufacturers may
                                             possibility that current guidelines are
need to address concerns related to the
                                             insufficient to guard against any
use of handsets and some of them are
                                             adverse health effects which may be
already involved in initiatives to
                                             found to exist in the future. Health
develop guidelines and best practice
                                             risks, whether actual or merely
approach. Mobile handset
                                             perceived, could result in fewer new
manufacturers have adopted a broadly
                                             network subscribers, lower network
common approach to the potential
                                             usage per subscriber, higher churn
health effects from handsets. For
                                             rates, difficulty obtaining planning
example, the Mobile Manufacturers
                                             permission for masts, product liability
Forum (MMF), an international
                                             lawsuits or a reduction in the outside
association representing Alcatel,
                                             financing available to the mobile
Ericsson, Mitsubishi Electric, Motorola,
Nokia, Panasonic, Philips, Sagem and
Sony Ericsson, jointly funds key
                                             Key ways in which mobile phone
research projects and co-operates on
                                             companies may be affected in practice
standards, regulatory issues and public
                                             if these concerns are not addressed are
                                             outlined below:
This analysis also excludes mobile
                                             License to operate Erosion of
virtual network operators (MVNOs)
                                             community confidence and consequent
because they do not have direct control
                                             opposition to proposed mast sitings
over mast siting. MVNOs do not operate
                                             increases direct costs to operators
a physical mobile network but can
                                             through site acquisition delays.
access the mobile network of one or
                                             Operators may face a loss of earnings
more mobile operators to provide
                                             because of delays in erecting new
mobile communications services to
                                             masts and therefore difficulties in
their customers. Although they may
                                             attracting new customers due to
have a responsibility to inform the
                                             potential reduction in service quality.
public on health issues related to
                                             The degree of public disapproval is
mobile phones and masts, they have no
                                             largely dependent on the country in
power to decide where the masts are
                                             question. The number of community
located or their level of RF.
                                             action groups, public complaints and
                                             level of press coverage varies from
                                             country to country.

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SEE risk briefing: Mobile phone health concerns                              May 2005

Litigation Claims relating to potential      brand valuation will influence the
adverse health effects may be brought        damage to the company. The quality
by customers, communities or                 and availability of information on
employees. A limited number of claims        mobile phones and health provided by
have been brought against mobile             operators and their engagement with
operators and manufacturers alleging         concerned communities on the issue
personal injury, including brain cancer.     can, to some extent, limit such
The losses that may arise from these         negative impact. Subsequent evidence
claims have not been quantified and          establishing negative health effects
claims are being vigorously defended.        associated with mobile phone use,
Irrespective of outcome, the cost of         while considered unlikely at this stage,
defending such actions is considerable       presents a significant longer term risk
and may not be fully recoverable even        for the sector.
if the claim does not succeed.
                                             On the basis of this analysis the most
Regulation ICNIRP guidelines for             significant short to medium term risks
maximum exposure levels have been            would appear to result from difficulties
adopted in an EC Recommendation              siting new masts.
agreed in principle by all EU countries.
Many national authorities have set           5. Exposure factors
lower limits. Planning regulations
relating to mast siting vary by country      5.1. Size of mobile operations
and in many cases power is devolved to
local authorities. Some have taken           In identifying the companies most at
strong positions refusing permission for     risk EIRIS considers the largest
masts to be sited on their land,             companies to be most significantly
especially near schools. Ignoring local      affected by these issues and has set the
concerns can lead to rejection of            threshold for turnover at GBP100m
planning applications and the potential      derived from mobile operations. EIRIS
for more restrictive planning                has identified 18 companies for which
regulations at a national level. Indeed,     the turnover is above this threshold.
a report from the All-party                  These comprise Bouygues (France),
Parliamentary Group on Mobile                Cosmote (Greece) , Deutsche Telekom
Communications recommended new               (T-Mobile, Germany), France Telecom
legislation on the siting of masts in the    (Orange), KPN (Netherlands), Mobistar
UK. Self-regulation may remove the           (Belgium), O2 (UK), Portugal Telecom,
need for this.                               Swisscom, Tele2 (Sweden) Telekom
                                             Austria, Telenor (Norway), Telecom
Reputation Local community                   Italia (TIM), TeliaSonera (Sweden),
campaigns against mast siting or a           Telefonica (Spain), TDC (Denmark)
wider public health scare leading to         Vivendi Universal (SFR, France) and
adverse national press coverage may          Vodafone (UK).
negatively impact corporate reputation
in the long term. The extent of this         Exposure to the risks outlined above
activity is largely dependent on the         may also vary according to factors
country as public perceptions of the         identified below. These have not been
health risks related to mobile phones        independently assessed by EIRIS in
vary greatly across the world. The level     reaching its assessment of each
of brand awareness globally, whether         company, but analysts may wish to
the mobile operations and parent             take them into account.
company have the same name and the

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SEE risk briefing: Mobile phone health concerns                             May 2005

5.2. Country of operation                    Without community approval, mast
                                             siting may incur additional costs and
The country of operation plays a key         threaten a company’s ability to expand.
role both as a result of national            The degree to which this affects a
regulations and the degree of localised      company will depend on a company’s
concern.                                     network expansion strategy with regard
                                             to 2G and 3G networks. The cell sizes
In September 2003, Vodafone                  for 3G networks are smaller than for 2G
commissioned market research                 and therefore, require more base
company MORI to carry out a global           stations to cover the same area. Some
survey of perceptions about health           operators are already seeking to
issues connected with mobile phones          upgrade their existing base stations or
and masts. The survey, which                 share sites used by other operators but
comprised more than 17,000 interviews        more masts will be needed to meet
in 14 different countries, provides          licence requirements.
useful insights into how public concern
about electronic magnetic fields (EMF)
is stronger in some countries than
others. In Greece, Portugal and                   Questions for analysts
Sweden, for example, the majority of
the population do not believe that                What are public perceptions and
mobile phones are safe to use, while in           relevant regulations in the
the UK the majority think mobiles are             countries of the company’s main
safe. In Germany, Ireland, Italy, Malta           geographical focus?
and Spain, opinion is divided.
                                                  To what extent does the
Relative perceived benefits of mobile             company’s growth strategy
phones also vary, but users in most               depend on extending its mobile
European countries, except Greece,                mast networks?
believe the benefits of using mobile
phone outweigh the claimed health
effects. This is the case for 73% of the
population in Ireland and 71% in             6. Managing the risk
Germany but only 28% in Greece. EMF
exposure from masts is generally             In analysing the ways in which
perceived to be a more serious issue         companies can manage the risks
than exposure from handsets.                 identified by this study we have
Background information outlining key         assessed the policies and systems
regulatory requirements and industry         adopted, the extent of public provision
initiatives in European operators’ main      of information and ways in which the
countries of operation is provided in        company engages with affected
Annex 9.2.                                   communities.

5.3. Network expansion plan                  Although there is no incontrovertible
     including 3G technology                 evidence that mobile phones represent
                                             a health threat, each new study has the
A company’s license to operate with          potential to generate damaging media
respect to mast siting is identified as a    coverage. Mobile operators need to
key short-term risk. Few would               take appropriate steps to address
welcome a mast in their local area and       issues related to mobile phone health
objection to such plans is common.

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SEE risk briefing: Mobile phone health concerns                               May 2005

concerns to ensure they will not suffer       the public that their interests are being
the same fate as other industries that        addressed. Mike Dolan, executive
have ignored or mismanaged similar            director of the Mobile Operators
health scares such as GMO technology.         Association admits that "people like
                                              their phones but don't like the network"
According to Chris Genasi, the                and says that any expansion of the
president of the UK's Institute of Public     network infrastructure must be
Relations and a specialist in managing        sensitively handled. "In terms of
corporate reputations, adherence to           network development, we have taken a
what he calls "the three golden rules"        proactive approach, with a commitment
could significantly benefit all companies     to best practice on siting. The operators
facing a health scare crisis. "The first is   also publish roll-out plans before they
acknowledgment of it. Do not make the         go to the more difficult sites" he says.
mistake of poo-poohing a concern.
Whether it's real or perceived, you           Despite national differences, telecom
acknowledge that it's there. Second,          companies often have a global presence
you put it into perspective… And then,        and there is an increasing trend
finally, you make it clear that you are       towards group-wide policies and
doing something about it," he told the        management practices regardless of
Financial Times in January 2005.              the country of operation. EIRIS has
                                              identified 16 key indicators for
Network operators have not denied that        assessing companies’ management of
there is a problem. Many of them insist       mobile phone health concerns. These
that they take the issue seriously and        fall into three categories and are as
refer to independent scientific studies       follows:
or to the work they have done either in
distributing information to stakeholders      Strategy & responsibility
or in supporting the research.
According to the World Health                 • Senior manager or committee
Organisation, some EUR154m                      responsible for RF related issues
(USD200m) has been spent on                   • RF emissions identified as SEE risk at
researching the potential health                board level
hazards.                                      • Funding of independent scientific
                                                research into health effects
Industry sponsored research is often          • Commitment to best practice siting
mistrusted and if this is to be avoided         guidelines
mobile companies need to be at arm's          • Commitment to site sharing with
length from the research and remain             other operators
committed to a transparent approach           • KPIs or targets to assess management
by keeping employees, customers and             of risk related to RF emissions
the public informed of any significant        • R&D strategy to minimise RF
developments.                                   emissions

To avoid losing public confidence             Public information - availability and
network operators will need to engage         quality of information provided by the
with the public over perhaps the most         company regarding RF emissions
controversial aspect of mobile
telephony - masts and base stations.          • Clear section in public reports and/or
Engagement and consultation with                website or FAQs on RF issues
concerned communities may not put an          • Details of independent information
end to the controversy but can reassure         source

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SEE risk briefing: Mobile phone health concerns                             May 2005

• Public database of mast sites              channel of communication. Orange, for
• Monitoring of compliance with ICNIRP       example, provides a free phone number
  levels                                     to address queries. Active community
• Stand-alone document for customers         engagement has been demonstrated by
  providing information on RF health         Telefonica Moviles who proactively sent
  risks etc                                  out a separate report ‘Electromagnetic
• Disclosure of SAR levels for handsets      Fields, Mobile Telephony and Health’ to
                                             professional organisations and
Community engagement &                       municipal governments addressing
measures                                     specific stakeholder concerns.
                                             Swisscom goes further offering to
• Stakeholder engagement                     provide specialists to give a lecture at
• Clear communication channels               community meetings and answer
• Free RF measurement or independent         questions in person.
  audit for local residents living near a
  mast                                       Sources
                                             Mobile Phones and Health – the Stewart
EIRIS will also record a commitment to       Report; the World Health Organisation;
minimising visual impact of masts,           the International Commission on Non-
although this will not count in the          Ionizing Radiation Protection; The
assessment of the company’s                  European Telecommunications Network
management of mobile health                  Operators Association (ETNO)’s
concerns. Detailed definitions of            Sustainability Charter; GSM Association
indicators are provided in Annex 9.1.1.      website; MMF website; the UK Mobile
                                             Operators Association, the French
7. Good practice examples                    Association of Mobile Operators
                                             (AFOM), Forum Mobil
In countries with significant public         (Switzerland),various national and
opposition to mast siting mobile             international press reports; mobile
operators have formed associations and       handset manufactures’ and mobile
drawn up best practice guidelines for        operators’ websites, annual and CSR
mast siting. One such example is the         reports; communication with
UK Mobile Operators Association (MOA)        Powerwatch, the deputy chairman of
which has established the ‘Ten               the UK Advisory Group on Non-Ionising
Commitments to best siting practice’.        Radiation and mobile operators. EIRIS
These are externally audited and             research partners Imug and
include improved consultation with           Ethifinance.
communities, detailed consultation with
planners and prompt response to
enquiries. Mobile operators in
Switzerland have committed to
financing an independent ombudsman
to resolve disputes over mast siting.

Best practice with regards to providing
public information includes Frequently
Asked Questions (FAQs) in company
reports or website, publishing stand-
alone documents distributed in sales
outlets and the provision of a dedicated

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SEE risk briefing: Mobile phone health concerns                                                                                                                May 2005

8. Company assessments

                                           (Deutsche Telekom)

                                                                                                                                                                    Telekom Austria *
                                                                             Portugal Telcom *

                                                                                                                                                                                          Cosmote (OTE) ∆
                                                                                                                                                 TIM ∆ (Telecom
                        (France Telecom)

                                                                                                                                                 (France Telecom)
                                                                                                 SFR □ (Vivendi

                                                                                                                                 TeliaSonera *
                                                                                                 Swisscom *

                                                                                                                                                 Mobistar ∆
                                                                Vodafone *

                                           T-Mobile □

                                                                                                                  Moviles ∆
                                                                Telecom □

                                                                                                                  Telenor *
                        Orange □

                                                                                                                                                                                                            Tele2 *
                                                                KPN *

                                                                                                                  TDC *

                 O2 *

Strategy and responsibility
                  ● ●     ●                                     ●   ●   ●        ●                  ●      ●      ●    ●    ●       ●                      ●
for RF issues
Identification as
                  ● ●     ●                                     ●   ●   ●                           ●      ●      ●    ●    ●       ●
SEE risk
                  ● ●     ●                                     ●   ●   ●        ●                  ●      ●           ●    ●       ●               ●
Best practice
                  ● ●     ●                                     ●   ●   ●        ●                  ●                  ●            ●               ●
siting guidelines
Commitment to
                  ● ●     ●                                     ●       ●        ●                         ●      ●    ●            ●                      ●
                  ● ●                                           ●                ●                  ●                  ●                            ●
KPIs or targets
R&D strategy to
                          ●                                         ●                                      ●                                        ●
minimise RF
Public information
Clear info for RF
                  ● ●     ●                                     ●   ●   ●        ●                  ●      ●      ●    ●    ●       ●               ●                   ●
                  ● ●     ●                                     ●   ●                               ●      ●      ●    ●    ●       ●               ●                   ●
info source
Public database
                  ● ●     ●                                     ●   ●   ●                           ●      ●      ●                                        ●            ●
of mast sites
                  ● ●     ●                                     ●   ●   ●        ●                  ●      ●      ●    ●    ●       ●               ●      ●            ●
ICNIRP levels
Disclosure of
                  ●       ●                                     ●   ●                               ●      ●      ●    ●            ●
SAR levels
                  ● ●     ●                                     ●   ●   ●                           ●      ●      ●    ●                                   ●
Community engagement
                  ● ●     ●                                     ●   ●   ●        ●                  ●      ●      ●    ●            ●               ●      ●            ●
                  ● ●     ●                                     ●   ●                               ●      ●      ●    ●    ●                                           ●
Free RF audit/
                  ● ●     ●                                     ●   ●            ●                  ●             ●                 ●                      ●
                  ● ●     ●                                     ●   ●   ●        ●                  ●      ●           ●    ●       ●               ●                                      ●
visual impact
Assessment        G          G                   G              G   I   I        I                  I      I      I    I    I       I               I      L            L                 NE                NE

NE – no evidence; L – limited; I – intermediate; G – good; A – advanced
Detailed grading methodology is provided in Annex 9.1.

* Publicly quoted operator ∆ Publicly quoted operator with publicly quoted parent company
(name in parenthesis) □ Unquoted operator with publicly quoted parent company (name in
parenthesis) NB Parent company must own at least 20% of subsidiary

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SEE risk briefing: Mobile phone health concerns                                       May 2005

9. Annex
9.1. Grading methodology

The assessment is based on evidence of the elements listed below in one or more of
the companies’ main countries of operation.

                                    Limited      Intermediate         Good         Advanced
                                                 Any indicator
                                  Any one                         All marked      All marked
Requirements      No indicators                  from marked
                                  indicator                       indicators      indicators
Strategy and responsibility
                                                       ●               ●                 ●
for RF issues
Identification as
                                                                       ●                 ●
SEE risk
                                                                       ●                 ●
Best practice
                                                                       ●                 ●
siting guidelines
Commitment to
                                                                       ●                 ●
KPIs or targets
R&D strategy to
minimise RF
Public information
Clear info for RF
                                                       ●               ●                 ●
                                                       ●               ●                 ●
info source
Public database
                                                                       ●                 ●
of mast sites
                                                                       ●                 ●
ICNIRP levels
Disclosure of
SAR levels
                                                                       ●                 ●
Community engagement
                                                                       ●                 ●
                                                       ●               ●                 ●
Free RF audit/
                                                                       ●                 ●
Minimising        EIRIS will indicate a commitment to visual impacts but this is not taken into
visual impact     account for the overall assessment

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SEE risk briefing: Mobile phone health concerns                              May 2005

9.1.1.    Indicator definitions                consultation with stakeholders
                                               includes sending information to
• Identification as SEE risk - health          stakeholders, a commitment to
  concerns related to mobiles and masts        consult communities
  identified as risk at board level          • Communication channel includes
• Independent research refers to               clear and dedicated contact for
  research project carried by health           queries, complaints or dispute
  organisations and universities. This         resolution
  includes for example research by the
  World Health Organisation or the           See also section 6 – Managing the risk
  Interphone project co-ordinated by
  the International Agency for Research      9.2. Country profiles
  on Cancer (IARC). It does not cover
  research conducted or commissioned         Public perceptions regarding EMF and
  by the Company or the industry             related risks vary according to country.
• Best practice siting guidelines            The country of operation therefore
  include national best practice such as     plays a key role in mobile operators’
  the Mobile Operators Association           exposure to risk as a result of both
  guidelines in the UK or the GSM            national regulations and the degree of
  Europe siting guidelines                   localised concern. The information
• Management KPIs or targets –               below provides background on
  clear key performance indicators or        regulatory requirements and industry
  targets to assess the management of        initiatives in place in European
  risk related to RF emissions               operators’ main countries of operation.
• R&D strategy to minimise RF
  emission levels and incorporate            Austria
  findings in development or design of       In Austria the Telekommunikations-
  products and services                      gesetz defines the maximum level for
• Independent information sources            RF radiation, which follows the ICNIRP
  include reports or other research          recommendations. Austrian safety
  published by the World Health              requirements for high-frequency
  Organisation, the International            electromagnetic fields are laid down by
  Commission on Non Ionizing Radiation       ONORM S1120 (Österreichisches
  Protection, and governmental bodies        Normungsinstitute – Austrian Standards
  such as the National Radiological          Institute) and installations are regularly
  Protection Board in the UK and             tested. There are over 450 small
  universities. This does not cover          protest groups of residents
  research conducted or commissioned         campaigning to prevent the building of
  by the company or the industry             masts. A key complaint is that there is
• Stand-alone document for                   no right of veto against mast siting in
  customers providing information on         their neighbourhood. There are calls
  RF health risks, ongoing research and      from protest groups, politicians and
  preventive measures to limit               scientists for the government to
  exposures to emissions and protect         implement uniform regulations across
  populations at risk such as children       Austria.
• Monitoring ICNIRP levels - some
  countries have introduced national         The Forum Mobilkommunikation (FMK,
  requirements to limit RF emissions ) is an industry-wide
  based on the ICNIRP                        initiative including all Austrian mobile
• Stakeholder engagement -                   operators, the mobile communications
  proactive public communication and         industry and the Association of Austrian

© EIRIS                                                                           11/16
SEE risk briefing: Mobile phone health concerns                             May 2005

Electrical and Electronics Industry          report concluded that the strength of
(FEEI) established in 1996. Its mission      radio waves from mobile networks in
is to promote a socially,                    Denmark is well below ICNIRP limits.
environmentally and financially              However, there are many local groups
responsible and successful mobile            protesting against the erection of masts
industry. Mobile communication and           or for the removal of those already
health is a key focus. In response to        built. In response, some local
growing public demand for information        authorities are refusing permission for
a voluntary industry initiative was          new masts.
launched in October 2003 to publish
site data for existing mobile                France
communications facilities on the             In 2001 the Zmirou Report,
Internet. The information published          commissioned by the French
includes all mast and rooftop locations      government to investigate the potential
for transmission facilities including both   health risks associated with RF
GSM and UMTS antennae.                       radiation, was published. As a result of
                                             its recommendations, the government
In 2001 Austrian mobile service              outlined guidelines for mast siting and
providers concluded an agreement with        maximum RF radiation levels within
the Österreichische Gemeindebund (the        existing ICNIRP guidelines. In 2003, the
association representing smaller local       French Agency for Environment Health
authorities) defining the procedures for     and Security (AFSEE) recommended
disseminating information about new          mobile operators and local
network expansions and the scope of          administrations negotiate and sign
such information.                            charters in each city outlining rules for
                                             mast siting. Some consumer
Belgium                                      associations believe potential risks have
In December 2001, the Belgian federal        not been adequately communicated.
government published a Royal Decree
(amending the April 2001 Royal               In 1999, the three mobile operators in
Decree) introducing a new procedure to       France (Bouygues Telecom, Orange
check whether or not an antenna site         France and SFR) signed with the
complies with the ICNIRP levels. Mobile      Environment and Culture ministers a
operators are required to send a             National Environmental
technical file to the Belgian regulator,     Recommendations Charter (Charte
Institut Belge des Postes et                 Environnementale du 12 juillet 1999).
Telecommunication (BIPT) containing          According to this charter, followed by
information on the theoretical radiation     an Environmental Recommendations
emitted by the antenna. A law                Guide, mobile operators are bound to
introduced in January 2001 imposes           take into account all environmental
obligatory site sharing between mobile       considerations pertaining to the quality
operators, prohibits restrictive clauses     and fragility of natural environments
on existing sites and imposes the            when planning the installation of a new
establishment of a database of all           base station. The three operators
antenna sites in Belgium.                    created the French Association of
                                             Mobile Operators (AFOM, )
Denmark                                      in 2002 and, in April 2004, signed with
The Danish Ministry of Science,              the French mayors (AMF) best practice
Technology and Innovation released a         guidelines for mast siting, consultation
report in 2003 looking into the safety of    with concerned communities and
mobile phones base stations. The             disclosure of information.

© EIRIS                                                                          12/16
SEE risk briefing: Mobile phone health concerns                              May 2005

Government guidelines published in           campaigning specifically against
October 2003 require SAR levels to be        ‘electro-smog’.
disclosed for handsets and a hands-free
set to be included with each mobile          German mobile operators have
phone sold.                                  committed themselves to publishing a
                                             database locating all their masts. This
In January 2005, a governmental              is published on the Regulatory
decree established a public utility body     Authority for Telecommunications and
called the 'Health and radio frequencies     Post (RegTP, ) website
foundation' (Fondation santé et              and provides the public with
radiofrequences). The Foundation was         information on fixed radio transmitters
set up to carry out independent              requiring a safety certificate. Locations
research into whether exposures to EMF       are listed where tests measuring RF
from mobile phones and their base            radiation have been carried out to
stations have adverse health effects.        determine the extent of compliance
The independence of its research is          with safety limits. In 2001, all German
guaranteed by a scientific council under     mobile operators signed a voluntary
the supervision of the Académie des          industry commitment with the
Sciences.                                    government which included the
                                             following key elements - consultation
Germany                                      with local authorities, information to
In Germany, the Bundesimmisions-             customers on SAR, research funding
schutzverordnung has defined                 and transparency of information. This
maximum radiation levels for masts.          commitment also includes independent
This legislation is based on ICNIRP          audits as a basis for annual reports to
levels. Local planning regulations allow     the German government. Such reports
the siting of masts under 10m without        have been reviewed annually by
local planning permission. However, the      independent research groups since
erection of masts on the roof of             2001.
residential buildings represents a
change in utilisation and may only be        Greece
built with prior permission. Each mast       The Greek Atomic Energy Commission
requires a site certification by the         (EEAE) is the national competent
German Regulatory Authority for              authority for the protection of the
Telecommunication and Post (RegTP).          general public and the environment
Under its site certification procedure       against non-ionising radiation in
the RegTP requires conservative              Greece. The basic restrictions and
measurements, taking into account all        reference values set in the Council
sources of EMF in the surrounding area       Recommendation (1999/519/EC) have
of the prospective mast. Numerous            been implemented but, especially in the
small residents protest groups exist         case of base stations, Greek legislation
campaigning to prevent new masts             has applied additional safety
being built in their community. Some         parameters. EEAE conducts and co-
are organised into an incorporated           ordinates measurements of existing and
society, Bürgerwelle e.V. National           planned installations and provides
critics include the consumer                 information to the public.
organisation Verbraucherzentrale
Bundesverband e.V., the nature               Italy
conservation association Deutscher           The Italian Ministerial Decree
Naturschutzring and the Bundes-              DM381/98 fixes exposure limits,
verband gegen Elektrosmog,                   cautionary thresholds and quality

© EIRIS                                                                           13/16
SEE risk briefing: Mobile phone health concerns                              May 2005

objectives for electro-magnetic fields.      levels for RF radiation within ICNIRP
The restrictions comply with WHO             recommendations.
recommendations for ‘maximum
caution’. The Financial Law of 2001          Portugal
established that a share of no less than     The Instituto das Comunicacoes de
10% of the fund set up with the              Portugal (ICP) adopted the maximum
revenues from the UMTS license tender        radiation levels set out in the
should be allocated to activities for the    Recommendation of the European
prevention and reduction of electro-         Council 1999/519/CE and has
magnetic hazards. The Environmental          incorporated this specification in the
Ministry, the Ministry of                    station license required for the
Communications, Ministry of Health and       installation of new base stations. Non-
the Ministry of Productive Activities will   compliance with these levels renders
be assigned part of the fund to finance      the licensee liable to a fine under the
research on the effects of exposure to       terms of the Decree-Law no. 151-
electro-magnetic radiation. The state        A/2000.
has sole power to fix emission
standards for installed base stations;       Spain
however the Regions have the power to        In 2001 the Ministry of Science and
identify zones where base stations may       Technology and the Ministry of Health
or may not be installed.                     and Consumption jointly drafted a
                                             Royal Decree 1066/2001 which
Netherlands                                  approved regulations establishing the
In early 2001, the Dutch government          conditions of protection from RF
published a National Antenna Policy          emissions, maximum levels and health
aimed at encouraging and facilitating        protection measures. This included a
the siting on an adequate number of          plan for measuring emissions from all
antennas within clear public health and      base stations near or within populated
environment parameters. The Antenna          areas. A further Ministerial Order
Covenant (forming part of the National       CTE/23/2002 in 2002 established the
Antenna Policy) was drawn up in 2002,        conditions, contents and formats of
making it possible, subject to certain       studies and certifications that operators
conditions, to erect antenna masts on        must submit to the Ministry of Science
buildings up to a height of 5m without a     and Technology.
building permit. However, the Antenna
Covenant makes the mobile operators          Sweden
fully responsible for the safety of the      In 2002 the Swedish Radiation
base station.                                Protection Authority (SSI) issued
                                             general advice on limitation of exposure
Norway                                       of the general public to electromagnetic
An expert group on mobile telephony          fields. The advice is in agreement with
and health, under the auspices of the        the European Council Recommendation
Norwegian Institute of Public Health,        from 1999. There is much public
published a report in April 2003. The        concern regarding potential adverse
report cautioned that health effects         health effects, especially in connection
may still occur and for users to limit       with building 3G masts. Action groups
exposure, especially with regard to          against 3G exist in different parts of
children and young people. The               Sweden and there are some local
Norwegian Radiation Protection               authorities that want to abstain from
Authority has set maximum emission           allowing the building of 3G masts.

© EIRIS                                                                          14/16
SEE risk briefing: Mobile phone health concerns                             May 2005

In October 2004, a team of scientists        through a public database of base
from the Karolinska Institute in             stations in Switzerland
Stockholm published a report showing a       (
statistically significant correlation        standorte/index.htm )
between the long-term use of mobile
phones and acoustic neuroma, a slow-         UK
growing tumour of the nerve between          In 2000 the Independent Expert Group
the ear and brain. According to the          on Mobile Phones, commissioned by the
study, people who used mobile phones         UK government to investigate the
for more than 10 years had a doubled         potential health risks associated with RF
risk of developing acoustic neuroma.         radiation, published the Stewart Report.
The Karolinska Institute scientists and      The report concluded that “the balance
the SSI have recommended the use of          of evidence indicates that there is no
hands-free kits.                             general risk to the health of people
                                             living near to base stations where the
Switzerland                                  exposures are only small fractions of
Limits for RF emissions from mobile          the guidelines” but recommended a
base stations came into effect in            ‘precautionary approach’ until further
Switzerland in 2000 under the                research is carried out. A review of the
Ordinance relating to Protection from        evidence conducted in 2004 concluded
Non-Ionising Radiation (ONIR) set            that there was no reason to amend this
within ICNIRP levels. Urban and              advice but cautioned that “mobile
regional planning covers landscape and       phones have only been in widespread
environmental protection and takes into      use for a relatively short time. The
account RF radiation in sensitive areas      possibility remains that there could be
such as playgrounds and residential          health effects” and that “continued
areas. Some protest groups exist,            research is needed”. The National
mostly campaigning for clearer               Radiological Protection Board (NRPB,
legislation and a lower maximum level        renamed the Health Protection Agency
of RF emissions.                             in April 2005: ) has
                                             published guidelines covering maximum
The three main mobile operators in           exposure levels at ICNIRP levels. A
Switzerland including Orange, Sunrise        government database publishes radio
and Swisscom have undertaken to              frequency emissions from base stations
finance an Ombudsman for Mobile              ( ).
Communications and the Environment           Planning permission in the UK is under
(OMK). This agency operates                  the remit of the local authority, except
independently under the auspices of the      in Northern Ireland where it is centrally
Federal Department of the Interior and       managed. Some refuse permission for
mediates in disputes over antenna sites      masts, especially if sited on or near
or questions about RF radiation from         schools and hospitals. There are
mobile phones and base stations. The         numerous protest groups including
mobile operators have also established       Powerwatch and their campaigning arm
Forum Mobil ( )             Mast Sanity.
with the purpose of promoting dialogue
about all aspects of mobile                  The five main operators in the UK (3,
communications with all interested           O2, Orange, T-Mobile and Vodafone)
parties on an objective basis.               have formed the Mobile Operators
                                             Association (MOA,
The Federal Office of Communications ). The aim of
publishes RF emissions for all operators     this association is to represent these

© EIRIS                                                                          15/16
SEE risk briefing: Mobile phone health concerns                              May 2005

operators on RF health and planning          Disclaimer
issues. They have set out best-practice
guidelines in the ‘Ten Commitments to        Clients using this information should do
mast siting’ which includes a                so with caution and not rely on this
commitment to develop, with other            information in making any investment
stakeholders, clear standards and            decisions. EIRIS does not and cannot
procedures to deliver significantly          give financial advice and recommends
improved consultation with local             that individuals seek independent
communities. Compliance with the Ten         professional advice. While every effort
Commitments is annually checked by           is made to ensure the accuracy of the
an independent auditor. It was last          information presented, clients should
reviewed by Deloitte and Touch in            be aware that it is derived from a
January 2005.                                variety of sources and that EIRIS does
                                             not itself seek to verify the information
Powerwatch has informally ranked the         those sources provide. EIRIS cannot
five UK operators on their approach to       accept responsibility for any errors or
issues related to mobile phones, masts       omissions. It is important to note the
and health.                                  date of this document as circumstances
                                             may have changed since then.
European Telecommunications
Network Operators’ Association               This briefing is supplied for the use of
(ETNO) Members                               the recipient alone and its contents
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( ) and signatories to            shall remain the property of EIRIS
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including ‘We shall aim to ensure            Statements contained in this paper
recognition and acknowledgement of all       apply only to companies named in the
relevant environmental impacts,              document and not to those that are not
including the positive and negative          subject to EIRIS assessment.
impacts of our products and services.’
In addition, ETNO and its members
participate in studies commissioned by
the Directorate General Information          For further information contact
Society and Directorate General Health
and Consumers to measure the                 Ethical Investment Research Services
potential impact of mobile technologies.     (EIRIS) Ltd
Together with the Mobile Manufacturers       80-84 Bondway
Forum and GSMe, ETNO holds regular           London SW8 1SF
dialogue with all interested parties,
organising information sessions with         Tel: +44 20 7840 5700
Members of the European Parliament to        Fax: +44 20 7735 5323
keep up a flow of objective research         Email:
results on radio frequency radiation, for
example.                                     Website:

© EIRIS                                                                          16/16
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