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Research on radio waves and health

Scientists have been researching radio waves for more than 60 years. There are now more than 2,500 research publications. Indeed, the World Health Organization (WHO) has stated that scientific knowledge on electromagnetic fields (EMF), including radio waves, is now more extensive than for most chemicals (see WHO: What are electromagnetic fields?).

Based on this catalogue of research, the WHO has concluded that “no adverse health effects have been established as being caused by mobile phone use.” (WHO Fact sheet N° 193, June 2011)

The International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection (ICNIRP) used the available research to develop recommended limits on human exposure to radio waves in 1998. These international guidelines form the basis for standards and are recommended by the WHO, the European Council and many individual countries. In 2009, ICNIRP published a review of subsequent literature and concluded: “literature published since the 1998 guidelines has provided no evidence of any adverse effects below the basic restrictions.”

In 2011, the WHO’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) classified exposure to radio waves as “possibly carcinogenic to humans”. This was based on the possibility of any level of risk rather than the likelihood of risk in normal use. The WHO’s latest factsheet, published after this classification, continues to state that no adverse health effects have been established from mobile phone use. Full findings of a wider health risk assessment by the WHO are expected in 2012.

Recent independent expert reviews
Independent reviews of available research have consistently concluded that there is no convincing evidence that exposure to radio waves causes adverse effects on human health within the limits recommended by ICNIRP.

The WHO-sponsored INTERPHONE project, the biggest study of its kind ever undertaken in this field, based on data from 13 countries, concluded in 2010 that there is no increase in risk of glioma or meningioma – the most common types of brain tumours – from mobile phone use.

Other recent leading reviews include:

Health Protection Agency, UK (2010)
Exposure of the general public to radiofrequency electromagnetic fields – A joint statement from the Nordic Radiation Safety Authorities (2009) (Danish National Board of Health (Sundhedsstyrelsen), Finnish Radiation and Nuclear Safety Authority (Säteilyturvakeskus, STUK), Icelandic Radiation Safety Authority (Geislavarnir Rikisins), Norwegian Radiation Protection Authority (Statens strålevern), Swedish Radiation Safety Authority (Strålsäkerhetsmyndigheten))
Federal Office for Radiation Protection, Germany
Independent Expert Group on Electromagnetic Fields, Swedish Radiation Safety Authority (2009) 
Standing Committee on Epidemiology, International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection (2009) 
Council of Ministers Report on EMF, Isle of Man 
Health Canada Safety of Cell Phones and Cell Phone Towers (2009) 
Food and Drug Administration, US (2008)

For more information on radiowaves and health, visit