Skip to main content

Mobile Phone Masts Mobile Phones

Volume 405: debated on Tuesday 20 May 2003

The text on this page has been created from Hansard archive content, it may contain typographical errors.

To ask the Secretary of State for Health if he will make it his policy to reduce the UK's accepted levels of radiation emissions from mobile telephone masts. [112541]

The National Radiological Protection Board (NRPB) has the statutory responsibility for advising the Government on exposure guidelines for electromagnetic fields (EMFs). This includes radiofrequency (RF) radiation from mobile phone masts. The advice from NRPB is, however, concerned with exposures to EMFs from all sources.NRPB has recently issued a consultation document in which it proposes new advice on exposure guidelines for EMFs. The consultation document is posted on its website at: http://www.nrpb.org/publications/consultation_documents/emf consultation_document.htmIn its new advice, the NRPB recommends adopting for the United Kingdom the guidelines recommended by the International Commission on Radiological Protection (ICNIRP) in 1998. It thus covers the range of emissions from mobile phone masts, for which the limits are based on preventing any effects caused by whole or partial body heating.In the last few years the Radiocommunications Agency (RA) and the NRPB have carried out and published measurements of people's exposures to RF near to base station sites. The data show that exposure to signals from masts at locations accessible to the general public is very much lower than guideline levels advised by the ICNIRP.This finding is consistent with the conclusions in a report prepared by an independent expert group on mobile phones under the chairmanship of Sir William Stewart, FRS, FRSE. The expert group published its report on Mobile Phones and Health in May 2000 and it is available on the group's web site at: www.ieqmp.orq.uk. The conclusion of IEGMP on exposures to signals from masts was that:

"The balance of evidence indicates that there is no general risk to the health of people living near to base stations on the basis that exposures are expected to be small fractions of guidelines."

To ask the Secretary of State for Health what further steps he will take to investigate the environmental health effects of mobile phone masts; and if he will make a statement. [113302]

[holding answer 15 May 2003]: The public health implications of mobile phone base stations were assessed by the independent expert group on mobile phones (IEGMP), chaired by Sir William Stewart. Its report, issued in May 2000, was a comprehensive review of relevant research and can be found on its website at www.iegmp.org.uk. A main conclusion was that:

"The balance of evidence indicates that there is no general risk to the health of people living near to base stations on the basis that exposures are expected to be small fractions of guidelines."
Measurements undertaken by the National Radiological Protection Board (NRPB) and the Radiocommunications Agency (RA) have confirmed that public exposures are very much lower than the international guidelines. The information is available on the NRBP website at www.nrpb.org—see publications NRPB R-321 and on the RA website at www. radio.gov.uk—see mobile phone base stations.The IEGMP proposed that gaps in knowledge were sufficient to justify a precautionary approach to the development of this technology and recommendations were made for further research. The LINK Mobile Telecommunications and Health Research Programme (MTHR) has now been established under an independent Programme Management Committee (PMC). Research studies already underway are mainly concerned with the use of mobile phone handsets but the PMC has recently commissioned an epidemiological study addressing public concerns about possible health risks from exposure to emissions from base stations. It is one of the first such studies in the world. Further information can be found on the MTHR website at www.mthr.orq.uk.

To ask the Secretary of State for Health what recent research he has received on mobile phone usage and associated physiological damage, with particular reference to (a) cataract growth and (b) molecular damage; and if he will make a statement. [112509]

A number of studies on the purported biological effects of mobile phone usage have been published in the scientific press. These include work on cataract formation published in the Chinese Medical Journal in December 2002 and molecular studies in various journals. The quality of the reports is variable and they can only be properly assessed in totality by a review group with the appropriate wide ranging expertise.The Stewart Report in May 2000 provided a comprehensive review of the possible health effects of radiofrequency exposure from the use of mobile phones and found that "exposures to radiofrequency (RF) radiation below guidelines does not cause adverse health effects to the general population." Similar conclusions were reached by a Royal Society of Canada Expert Panel (1999), the Health Council of the Netherlands (2000), an Expert Group set up by the French Government (2001) and the British Medical Association (2001).The Stewart Report recommended that there should be a further comprehensive review of the science related to possible health effects of exposure to RF radiation within three years. This review is being carried out by the National Radiological Protection Board's (NRPB) independent Advisory Group on Non-ionising Radiation (AGNIR). The review is nearing completion and will be finalised by the end of 2003.