- Important Health Information about Mobile Phones
- How do Mobile Phones Work?
- Mobile Phone Safety Standard and SAR
- Safety Compliance Sticker
- SAR Information
- SAR Information for your Mobile
- Adaptive Power Control
- Safety Benefits of Mobile Phones
Important Health Information about Mobile Phones
At Telstra, we want everyone to have up-to-date and relevant information about using mobile phones. This includes all matters of mobile phone safety.
- Download the Health Information about Mobile Phones (PDF, 156KB) brochure
- View our Mobiles and Health video including exposure reduction options
What do we know?
Telstra relies on the advice of a number of international and national health authorities including the World Health Organization (WHO) for overall assessments of health and safety impacts.
Research into electromagnetic energy (EME) mobile phones and health has been going on for many years now. On 31 May, 2011 the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), an agency of the WHO, conducted a review of all the available scientific research into Radio Frequency Electromagnetic Energy (RF EME). The IARC categorised RF EME fields as “possibly carcinogenic to humans (Group 2B) based on an increased risk for glioma, a malignant type of brain cancer, associated with wireless phone use”. The IARC concluded that “There could be some risk, and therefore we need to keep a close watch for a link between cell phones and cancer risk.” Read the full IARC announcement.
The June 2011 WHO Fact Sheet (Number 193) on mobile phones and health, which takes into consideration the IARC categoriszation, states “A large number of 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.”
The WHO also notes that further study into the long term use of mobile phones and cancer, and the effect of mobile phone use on young people, should be undertaken.
The WHO maintains an extensive database of scientific research into the effects of EME, including studies on the effects of RF on health. This database is available on the WHO website and contains more than 1900 published scientific articles on the biological and health effects of RF EME and more than 630 studies on RF specifically used by mobile networks.
Steps to reduce exposure to RF EME
The WHO provides information on how to reduce mobile phone exposure:
"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."
At Telstra we are committed to providing you with any further updates from the WHO as they become available.
Telstra takes all matters of safety very seriously and only sells mobile phones that meet national and international safety requirements and standards.
There are many sources of information on mobile phones and health. As well as our web site, you can go directly to some of the authorities and organisations we rely on for expert advice or general information:
You can also check your device manufacturer's handbook, guide or web site.
Or email us at email@example.com
How do Mobile Phones Work?
A mobile phone is essentially a small low powered radio transmitter and receiver which connects to a mobile network to enable telephone calls.
Mobile phones use radio frequency (RF) fields to send and receive calls, texts, emails, pictures, web, TV and downloads. An RF signal is sent to the nearest base station, which sends the signal to a digital telephone exchange and on to the main telephone network. This connects the signal to the receiving phone, again via a base station (if it is another mobile phone).
Mobile phones are designed to use the lowest possible power to communicate with the nearest base station, and the power is continuously varied depending on the call quality.
Mobile Phone Safety Standard and SAR
In Australia, the EME safety standard for mobile phones is set by Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency (ARPANSA), and regulated by the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) - the federal government regulator of the nation's telecommunications industry.
All mobile phones sold in Australia must comply with the ACMA's Radio Communications (Electromagnetic Radiation - Human Exposure) Standard 2003.
The safety standard operates by limiting the Specific Absorption Rate (SAR), or the rate at which the mobile phone user absorbs energy from the handset. The SAR is measured in watts per kilogram (W/Kg), and in Australia the maximum SAR allowable for any mobile phone is 2 watts per kilogram (averaged over 10 grams).
This is the standard recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO). It is based on guidelines from the International Commission for Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection (ICNIRP), and a careful analysis of all of the scientific literature (both thermal and non-thermal effects). It is designed to offer protection against identified health effects of EME with a large in-built safety margin.
- Mobile phone SAR testing - view a short video clip
- Information Sources & Links
- View our video on safety standards and checking you mobile complies
Safety Compliance Sticker
Since 1999, all mobile phones sold in Australia must display the Federal Government A-Tick compliance sticker to show that they comply with the EME safety standard. Phones bought in Australia prior to 1999 were still made in accordance with the EME safety standard but were not required to bear the sticker.
People should make sure when buying a new mobile phone that it bears the Federal Government A-tick safety compliance sticker, usually found behind the battery.
The "A-Tick" is the triangle at the top of the white bar code sticker with a black tick inside.
From October 2001, mobile phone manufacturers commenced the provision of SAR values and information with new release models. This followed the development of a methodology to test mobile phones for their SAR level, introduced by the European Committee for Electrotechnical Standardisation (CENELEC), which allows consistent reporting of SAR values worldwide.
Telstra supports the mobile phone manufacturer's initiative to provide information on mobile phone exposure levels.
The maximum stated SAR level of a mobile phone is a maximum and does not provide an indication of every day exposure because operational power levels vary considerably during normal use.
The variations in the maximum SAR measurements between the different models of mobile phones should not be seen as a measure of differences in safety. Although mobile phones sold in Australia may vary slightly in their measured exposure levels at maximum power output, they are regarded as equally safe because they all adhere to the EME safety standard.
SAR Information for your Mobile
There are many ways to find SAR information for mobile phones. We have listed some easy tips below.
- Check the phone handbook or user manual - look under safety or specifications.
- Search the manufacturer's web site for your phone model and SAR - it is usually listed under safety, or product specifications.
- Check the Mobile Manufacturers Forum web site.
- Use a web search engine like Google to search for your phone model and SAR.
- Contact the manufacturer and ask for the SAR information.
- Email us at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Adaptive Power Control
While the maximum SAR values provide guidance on the highest power level that a mobile phone is capable of, mobile phones are designed to operate at the minimum power necessary to connect and maintain a quality call, and so they regularly operate at levels well below the maximum SAR.
In fact, both mobile phones and mobile base stations are designed to operate at the lowest possible power. The minimum power level required depends on a variety of factors, such as, the specific network, the user's proximity to base stations and the radio frequency band being used.
Once a call has been established, the base station and the mobile handset reduce their power automatically to the lowest level required to maintain a signal connection. This is referred to as adaptive power control.
One of the key factors affecting the operating power of a mobile phone is the user's distance to the nearest network base station. A mobile phone that is close to the nearest base station will usually require less power to operate than the same mobile phone that is transmitting a call from further away.
If base stations are placed closer to users, the power level required for communications usually decreases, and so too does the EME from base stations and mobile phones. This is why the location of a base station relative to the mobile phone users is important.
Safety Benefits of Mobile Phones
Mobile technology provides significant benefits in terms of convenience, personal security and safety.
Mobile phones are particularly valuable in emergency situations. Approximately one third of all calls to "000" in Australia are made from mobile phones, and research by Professor Simon Chapman of the University of Sydney has shown that one in four people have used a mobile phone to report a dangerous situation.
Mobile phones provide an important safety benefit to children who can use them in times of distress or an emergency situation. Mobile phones are not toys, and Telstra encourages parental supervision in the selection and use of mobile communication technologies for children.