Although a large number of studies have been performed over the last two decades to assess whether mobile phones pose a potential health risk, no adverse health effects have been established as being caused by mobile phone use.
Also, research does not suggest any consistent evidence of adverse health effects from exposure to radiofrequency fields at levels below those that cause tissue heating.
It therefore seems that the fears exercised by most mobile phone users about the possible health implications are mere mirage.
Those were the submission made by foreign and Nigerian experts who gathered in Lagos last week to discuss the possible health implications of mobile phone use as well as base stations.
The experts who were from the World Health Organisation, Mobile Manufacturers Forum, GSM Association, International Commission on Non Ionizing Radiation Protection (ICNIRP),the Federal Ministry of Health and the Ministry of the Environment were drawn from the various fields of health, environment, ICT and National Assembly.
The conference, known as the First West African Conference on Electromagnetic Fields (EMF) was organised by the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) to elucidate research already conducted on the issue.
In an opening remark at the gathering, the Minister of Communications Technology, Mrs. Omobola Johnson who was represented by the Stakeholder Management Commission at the NCC, Mr. Okey Itanyi said that the conference was organised to help guide government in evolving of policy guidelines on the supposed health implication of the use of mobile phones and other electronic devices.
At the conference with the theme: "Harmonizing EMF Policy, Exposure Limits and Risk Communication in West Africa", the minister said the government is mindful of the health condition of Nigerians and wants to get a position that Nigerians can use mobile phones without worry about its health implication.
According to her, the government is aware of the confusion, which the possible health impact of mobile phones has created in the country.
In a paper titled: "RF and Health: A WHO Perspective", Team Leader Radiation Programme, Department of Public Health and Environment, Dr. Emilie van Deventer said radio frequency fields is not limited mobile phones and base stations saying that it does exist security scanners, emerging technologist, navigational/radar equipment as well as residential sources such as microwave oven and health facility like x-ray machines.
She noted that the WHO is aware of the increasing concern of people about EMF saying that the increasing EMF human exposure is due to electricity demand, medical, technologies and wireless devices.
She however stated that in response to societal worries, the WHO in 1996 created the WHO International EMF project, a multinational, multidisciplinary effort designed to create and disseminate information on human health risk from EMF.
While referring to a fact sheet of the WHO dated June 2011, she said, "Research does not suggest any consistent evidence of adverse health effects from exposure to RF fields at levels below those that cause tissue heating".
Deventer added: "research has not been able to provide support for a causal relationship between exposure to EMF and self-reported symptoms, or "electromagnetic hypersensitivity" (EHS).
According to her, "EHS is characterized by a variety of non-specific symptoms that differ from individual to individual," saying "EHS has no clear diagnostic criteria and there is no scientific basis to link EHS symptoms to EMF exposure."
She further disclosed that there are no increased risks of glioma, meningioma or acoustic neuroma with mobile phone use of more than 10 years noting that while there are no available data for long-term use, there indications of increased risk of glioma for heavy users.
As part of the WHO plan on dousing the fears of users on the radiation impact of mobile phones and base stations, she said the world body is in partnership with
international organizations, international, advisory committee, national authorities and collaborating centres
She said while evidence for other exposures such as base stations, wifi, and outcomes (other cancers) considered insufficient for any conclusion, studies on children is ongoing.
In his paper titled: "ICNIRP: Structure, Activitites, protection Standard", Dr Paolo Vecchia of National Institute of Health, Rome, Italy and former Chairman of ICNIRP, said that "although there are deficiencies in the epidemiological work, the studies have yielded no convincing evidence that typical exposure levels lead to adverse reproductive outcomes or an increased cancer risk in exposed individuals".
He however said a decision must be made whether the available evidence allows the identification of an exposure hazard, that is an adverse health effect caused by an NIR exposure.
According to him, ICNIRP provides guidance and advice on the health hazards of non-ionizing radiation, develops international guidelines on limiting exposure to non-ionizing radiation that are independent and science based, provides science based guidance and recommendations on protection from non-ionizing radiation exposure.
He said it is the opinion of ICNIRP, that the scientific literature published since
the 1998 guidelines has provided no evidence of any adverse effects below the basic restrictions and does not necessitate an immediate revision of its guidance on limiting exposure to high frequency electromagnetic fields.
Director Europe, Middle East and Africa of Mobile Manufacturers Forum, Thomas Barmüller, while speaking on Mobile phones and Safety: International EMF policy Development said the Specific Absorption Rate (SAR) ensures that mobile phones are tested for compliance at the highest possible power level saying that the test rate is usually on the user manual.
According to him, mobiles only operate on the minimum power needed to make or maintain a call to extend battery life but this also reduces EMF exposure further adding that for but some people remain concerned, hands-free kit is recommended.
He however, noted that it's not about additional or higher safety as all compliant mobile phones are equally safe stressing, "Science-based approach prevails as countries around the world have adopted ICNIRP limits" and that the ITU recommends that "if such limits do not exist, or if they do not cover the frequencies of interest, then ICNIRP limits should be used."
He observed that the bill on EMF exposure limits discussed in National Assembly, which applies to both network infrastructure and handsets is based on the limits set by the International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection (ICNIRP).
ECOWAS commissioner, Dr Raphael Koffi who spoke on the topic: EMF Policy Survey in the ECOWAS region said that the commission has conducted an EMF exposure guidelines survey in 9 of the 15 ECOWAS Member States saying that the survey showed that all respondent countries have policies that have based their exposure limits on the International Commission for Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection (ICNIRP) guidelines.
He stated that few countries have set good practice targets while most countries have an appeals process.