Health Reviews


In 2011, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) classified exposure to radio frequency (RF) electromagnetic fields, which are emitted by mobile phones, wireless devices, radar and radio and television broadcasts as possibly carcinogenic to humans (IARC Group 2B). We understand that some mobile phone users may be concerned about the classification; however, it is important to note that IARC concluded that while there is the possibility of a hazard, whether or not this represents a risk requires further scientific investigation.

The IARC classification preamble and the general remarks both clarify this important point:

This Monograph is focused on the potential for an increased risk of cancer among those exposed to RF radiation, but does not provide a quantitative assessment of any cancer risk, nor does it discuss or evaluate any other potential health effects of RF radiation.

The assessment of health risks is the responsibility of another part of the WHO - the International Electromagnetic Fields (EMF) Project, which was set up in 1996 to assess the scientific evidence of possible adverse health effects from electromagnetic fields and to provide advice to governments around the world.

Following the IARC announcement in early June 2011 the WHO updated its factsheet on electromagnetic fields and public health in mid-June 2011 and while acknowledging the IARC classification have said mobile phones were not known to cause any health problems:

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.

There have already been several expert reviews published since the IARC assessment. The next major review expected is the World Health Organization's overall risk assessment of all health outcomes for mobile communication technologies. This will be published as an Environmental Health Criteria (EHC) monograph.These monographs as described by the WHO, are "international, critical reviews on the effects of chemicals or combinations of chemicals and physical and biological agents on human health and the environment". In the case of electromagnetic fields, it will take in account IARC's assessment but also look at all relevant health endpoints. A draft is expected to be available for broad scientific review in late 2014 and the final report published in 2015.