Addressing concern

Our vision is to lead the industry in responding to public concerns regarding mobile devices, masts and health by demonstrating leading edge practices and encouraging others to follow.

Why some people are concerned

Human exposure to RF fields is not new. But over the last 70 years, developments in information and communications technology have exposed many of us daily to more sources of these fields. The human body absorbs a small amount of energy from the RF fields given off by some electrical items, including mobile devices and base stations. This is converted to heat. Our normal biological processes cool us down and prevent any significant temperature rise in our bodies.

Most experts agree there is no evidence that exposure to RF fields from mobiles and base stations operated within guideline limits has any adverse health effects. However, some individual research studies have suggested that using a mobile could affect people’s health, and claim it may possibly even cause cancer. This has led to articles in the media questioning whether mobiles are safe, which has increased public concern about using them.

Understanding concerns

We use a range of research and communications to ensure we understand concerns about mobiles, masts and health in different markets, and respond to them appropriately.

  • In December 2009, we surveyed around 4,000 people in Egypt, India and Turkey to learn how members of the public understand feel about mobiles, masts and health. When asked if they were concerned about RF emissions from mobile devices or base stations, around a quarter of people said they were, but that it doesn’t affect their daily behaviour.
  • In the UK, the Public Perceptions of Alleged Health Risks of Mobile Phones and Masts survey by Ipsos MORI showed that 13% of people list mobile devices and masts as a health concern when prompted.
  • In June 2010, the European Commission published the results of an independent survey to assess public perceptions of the potential health effects of electromagnetic fields (EMF) in all 27 European Union member countries. The survey was based on face-to-face interviews with 26,602 European citizens, of whom 26% viewed mobile phones as affecting people’s health to a great extent.

We are committed to understanding and addressing these concerns by providing information on this and our other websites around the world, and holding local meetings. Along with other mobile operators, we consult with local communities when choosing sites for our base stations to make sure we understand their concerns. See our data file for our archive of stakeholder feedback scores.

Our goal is to maintain a three-year average approval rating of 80% or more for how responsibly we behave regarding mobiles, masts and health. This is based on a survey of national politicians, local authority decision makers, health bodies, government departments, media representatives, non-governmental organisations, academics, industry associations, other operators and manufacturers.

  • In 2010/2011 our approval rating was 87%, the same as the previous year. This makes our average approval rating 82% over three years exceeding the 80% target and placing us well ahead of other operators and mobile manufacturers covered by the same [1]

[1]  These results are from a consistent base of markets across the three-year rolling average to allow a fair comparison. In 2010/11 we surveyed a total of 101 stakeholders and based on the full survey, our approval rating was 84%.questionnaire.

Addressing concerns

In several markets (including Italy, Portugal, Greece, Malta and the UK) we have Independent Field Monitoring Initiatives that record radio frequency emissions in certain locations 24 hours a day. The data are sent to a central point and tracked against International Commission of Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection (ICNIRP) guidelines or against national EMF limits. Community members can access the data through websites hosted by their local councils or universities.

For example in Greece, the HERMES Program monitors electromagnetic radiation emitted by various radio frequency sources in the environment. We supply the technical equipment for the program, such as the mobile measurement system pictured below. Two universities, operating as independent scientific bodies, evaluate the equipment to ensure that results are transparent and valid.