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The answer is in your hands

Mobile phones, masts and your health.

What have you heard about masts and their effects? Myths and theories are not facts or truth. Read through to have all your questions answered.

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Radio Waves & Your wellbeing

In an ever conscious and changing world, questions have risen about use of telecommunication equipment and their effects on health. We seek to dispel myths and to communicate how mobile phones, masts and the radio waves they emit work and how they affect your health.

We work with government regulating agencies as well as designated international bodies to ensure set standards are met.

You can also download the full report above, the answers to your questions are now at your fingertips.

Commitment to Care

At Safaricom we are committed to ensuring that our activities pose no risks to the health and safety of the communities in which we operate and to our own employees. Out of the over 35 million mobile phone users in Kenya, some might have questions about mobile phones and health.

We have a responsibility to remain conscious of our customers and indeed, the general public’s questions and concerns.

Bob Collymore
CEO, Safaricom Limited.

Radio Frequency Waves

What is Electro-magnetic fields (EMF)?

Electromagnetic fields (EMF), sometimes known as electromagnetic radiation (EMR) is a form of energy produced by equipment like televisions, radios, microwave ovens, fridges, computers, electricity, mobile phones and base station antennas among others.

EMF is present everywhere in the environment we live, the earth, sun and ionosphere are all natural sources of EMF.

Guidelines for EMF Exposure

Who monitors and reviews the research and sets international guidelines on EMF?

The World Health Organization has a special advisory group of expert scientists called International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection (ICNIRP) who monitor and review the research and set international guidelines. The ICNIRP guidelines were published in 1998.

They form the basis of WHO and International Telecommunications Union (ITU) recommendations to governments that have been widely adopted around the world. Many countries use the ICNIRP guidelines to set national standards or guidelines for exposure to mobile phone technology. Safaricom makes sure such guidelines are followed. Radio waves have been studied for more than 60 years and therefore standards like the ICNIRP guidelines are based on a large body of knowledge.

Base Stations and Health

What is a Base Station and why do we need them?

Base stations are the building blocks of a mobile phone network. Connect one to another then to another and you have a network for making calls anywhere in the world.

Well, whenever you make or receive a call, your phone uses low power radio frequency waves to communicate with a network of radio transmitters and receivers called base stations or cell sites.

Base transceiver stations need to be located close to mobile phone users to provide good quality reception.

Mobile Phones and Health

Does use of mobile phones have any health effects on users?

The WHO states that:
"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 for mobile phone use."

Mobile Phones and Driving

Is it safe to use a mobile phone while driving?

Driving is complex and challenging activity. Use of mobile phone while driving causes distraction. Research shows that using a hand-held or hands-free mobile phone while driving may increase your chance of a crash by as much as four times. The current traffic law also prohibits use of mobile phone while driving.

It is safe to have phones switched off or put on silent mode while driving and only used while the vehicle is legally parked in a safe location.

Children and Mobile Phones

Is it safe for our children to use mobiles phones?

The WHO says:
"Present scientific information does not indicate the need for any special precautions for the use of mobile phones." If you are still concerned, you could work with your children to vary their mobile phone usage, for example, by limiting their calls or by teaching them to use a 'hands-free' kit which keeps the phone away from the body.

Even though the weight of evidence does not suggest there are any adverse effects, Safaricom through Vodafone supports independently conducted research because our technology has rapidly spread and is now used by one in six people around the world. Since 1999, Vodafone has globally committed more than 6 million pounds to an 8-year program of research projects.

3G and 4G Base Station Needs

Will 3G and 4G technology bring more base stations?

Not necessarily...much of the need for 3G and 4G coverage will be met by existing Safaricom sites. Some new sites will be required but, where possible, these will be located on existing towers. Where additional base stations are used, these are often to provide fill-in coverage.

Safaricom also adheres to telecommunication industry code of practice for siting of BTS’s and it is managed by the sector regulator, the Communication Authority of Kenya and all environmental impact assessments for the base transceiver stations (BTSs)are approved and licensed by National Environment Management Authority (NEMA).

The code can be found at www.ca.go.ke

FAQs & Facts

  1. Will I be constantly exposed to RF waves if I carry my phone in my handbag or pocket?

    Not always... phones transmit RF waves when on a call or when transmitting data like photos (MMS). At all other times, RF waves are transmitted by the handset intermittently to maintain contact with the nearest base station.

    The new technologies we love to use - like text messaging, picture messaging, the internet and e-mail - actually reduce our exposure to RF, as they encourage us to hold the phone away from our bodies.

  2. Does your ear sometimes feel warm when you’re on the phone?

    It can...but the warmth you may feel does not come from the small amount of RF Waves from a compliant handset. The warmth comes from the batteries, which warm up when in use, and is also the result of restricted airflow around the ear when on an extended call.

  3. Why are there so many restrictions on using mobile phones in hospital?

    At short range, the radio signal from a mobile phone may cause interference with electronic medical devices. It may also cause distraction to the medical personnel and patients. It is possible for mobile phones to be used in designated areas of hospitals.

  4. Why can’t I use my mobile phone when I fly?

    Aircrafts contain vast arrays of complex electronic equipment and sophisticated communication systems that may be interfered with by use of mobile phones.

  5. Why do some petrol stations ask me to turn off my mobile phone?

    It’s distracting...Mobile phones will not cause a fire or explosion, but can be distracting when filling a vehicle with highly flammable petrol. This is why some petrol stations have signs asking customers not to use their mobile phones.

Expert Opinion

  • SSMs Independent Expert, Group on Electromagnetic Fields (Sweden), 2013

    "...Recent research on exposure from transmitters has mainly focused on cancer and symptoms, using improved study designs. These new data do not indicate health risks for the general public related to exposure to radiofrequency electromagnetic fields from base stations for the mobile telephony, radio and TV transmitters, or wireless local data networks at home or in schools."

  • Why are there so many restrictions on using mobile phones in hospital?

    "...it is the opinion of the ICNIRP that the scientific literature published since the1998 guidelines has provided no evidence of any adverse effects below the basics restrictions and does not necessitate an immediate revision of its guidance on limiting exposure to high frequency electromagnetic fields."

  • Health Council of the Netherlands, 2012

    "...No evidence has been found that exposure to radiofrequency electromagnetic fields has a negative influence on the development and functioning of children’s brain, not even if this exposure is frequent."

  • World Health Organization (WHO), 2011

    "...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."

  • Why do some petrol stations ask me to turn off my mobile phone?

    It’s distracting...Mobile phones will not cause a fire or explosion, but can be distracting when filling a vehicle with highly flammable petrol. This is why some petrol stations have signs asking customers not to use their mobile phones.

Glossary

  • 4G:

    A more efficient mobile technology with greater speed and improved quality. It allows you to do more on your mobile like send video messages, play 3D games and have real music ringtones.

  • Base Station:

    Consists of antennas fixed to a mast, building or structure and connected to radio transmission equipment, stored in a secure cabinet. Allows your mobile phone to communicate.

  • Mast/tower:

    The most visible part of the base station, for example a pole or tower. Safaricom ensures it locates/sites its masts to blend with the landscape.

  • WHO (The World Health Organization):

    A United Nations agency that coordinates international health activities and helps governments improve health practices.

  • EMF (Electromagnetic Fields):

    These electric and magnetic fields are produced by equipment like televisions, radios, microwave ovens, fridges, computers, electricity, mobile phones and base station antennas.

  • Radio waves (RF Electromagnetic Field):

    Waves of electrical and magnetic energy moving together through space. When an RF current is connected to an antenna, an electromagnetic field (EMF) is created and is able to travel through space as radio waves.

  • ICNIRP:

    The International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection.

  • Non-Ionizing Radiation:

    Radiation that does not have enough energy to break chemical bonds (ionization). It is used in devices such as radios, microwaves and the infrared lamps used to keep food warm in restaurants. It includes the visible spectrum.

  • Atom:

    It is the defining structure of an element, which cannot be broken by any chemical means.

  • CA:

    - The Communications Authority of Kenya.

  • NEMA

    - National Environment Management Authority.

Contact Us

We welcome your questions and comments

Should you have any more questions, concerns or suggestions, then you can write to us at: