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Press Release

Research into Mobile Phone Base Stations announced

The Mobile Telecommunications and Health Research Programme (MTHR) has today announced that three new areas of work will be funded as adjuncts to the Programme:

  • An extension to the existing volunteer study investigating whether emissions from mobile phone base stations can elicit a variety of symptoms in those exposed to them. (University of Essex; Project Director: Professor Elaine Fox)
  • A pilot study to evaluate a new personal exposure meter that may make possible epidemiological studies of adult diseases in relation to exposures from base stations. (NRPB; Project Director: Dr Simon Mann)
  • A study to investigate whether pulsed signals can result in biological effects that are not seen following exposure to continuous signals. (University of Bradford, University of Maryland and NRPB; Project Director: Professor Peter Excell)

New funding has been provided by both government and industry to enable the Programme to support this new work. The extension to the existing base station study should provide an independent assessment of recent findings from the Netherlands suggesting an effect of 3G signals on well-being. The personal exposure meter study will evaluate new instruments developed by France Telecom and loaned to the Programme for this study.

The work to investigate pulsed fields will be relevant to any pulse modulated signals, including those emitted by the new TETRA emergency services radio systems currently being deployed to police officers.

Professor Lawrie Challis, Chairman of the MTHR Programme Management Committee, commented:

“I am very pleased that these research projects are going ahead. As the use of mobile phones continues to increase, we need good science to address the questions about possible effects on health.”

The MTHR Programme, was set up in 2001 with funds of £7.4 million, which has since been increased by adjunct funding from a number of government departments and now industry. An international committee of experts, chaired by Professor Lawrie Challis, manages the Programme and allocates funding.

The research team involved at the University of Essex is still seeking volunteers to participate in the study. For those wishing to get involved contact details for the research team are available from this site.

Notes for Editors

The UK has in excess of 35,000 base stations, which are used to provide coverage for the 50 million mobile phones currently in use. With continual improvements and extensions to mobile phone services, these numbers look set to increase in the future.

At the request of the Minister for Public Health an independent committee, under the chairmanship of Sir William Stewart, was set up to report on Mobile Phones and Health. The report, published in May 2000 (available at http://www.iegmp.org.uk/), was the most comprehensive in the world and concluded that the balance of evidence indicated that exposure to mobile phone and base station emissions below current guideline levels did not adversely affect the health of the general population. The report did, however, recognise that there were gaps in current knowledge and that there may be biological effects as a result of exposures below guidelines.

Research already funded by the Mobile Telecommunications and Health Research Programme and currently underway includes:

  • Two studies examining possible effects on blood pressure and brain function in volunteers.
  • Three studies investigating whether the use of mobile phones can affect the risk of developing brain cancer or leukaemia by studying mobile phone users.
  • One study investigating whether residence close to mobile phone base stations affects cancer incidence in young children.
  • Two studies investigating the effects of mobile phone signals on a variety of symptoms reported by some users. A third study is investigating the effects of signals from mobile phone base stations on a variety of symptoms reported by those close to them.
  • Three studies examining the mechanisms by which mobile phone signals may be able to produce biological effects in model systems in vivo and in vitro.
  • Four studies investigating the interaction of radio signals with the body in order to characterise how much energy is deposited and where.
  • One study assessing the effectiveness of risk communication strategies in relation to mobile phones and base stations.

Four projects funded by the MTHR Programme have now been completed and results have either been published or are currently being prepared for publication. These include:

  • A study investigating ways in which hands-free mobile phones affect the performance of drivers.
  • A study of the interaction of emissions from TETRA emergency services radios with the user’s head.
  • A study to measure low frequency magnetic field emissions from mobile phones.
  • A pilot study to investigate the feasibility of undertaking a cohort study of mobile phone users in order to assess the risks of a variety of brain cancers and neurodegenerative diseases.

Four further projects have been funded by either the DTI or the Home Office as adjuncts to the Programme:

  • A study examining the electrical activity of the brain during and following exposure to signals from TETRA emergency services radios.
  • Three further dosimetry studies, including an evaluation of the effect of hands free kits on absorption of mobile phone emissions and measurements of the emissions from microcell and picocell base stations, both of which have now been completed.

Details of all the projects funded to date are published on the Programme web site (http://www.mthr.org.uk/). Reports on the progress of the Programme and findings from the studies are being published on the web site as they become available.

10 November 2004

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