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Electromagnetic radiation and Human Health

With the wide proliferation of mobile network services that has come with the almost universal adoption of smartphones, concerns have been raised about the health consequences of base stations. We would like to provide some essential detailed information about mobile communications, base stations, radio frequencies and their real impact on human health.

What is a cellular communication system?

Mobile networks are generally divided into geographical areas called ‘cells’ and each cell is served by a base station. This overlapping system of cells is designed to ensure that users are connected to the network without interruptions as they move from one cell to another. Mobile phones and base stations exchange radio signals to communicate with each other. The strength of these signals is set for the optimum operation of the network while not being harmful to human health.

How does the cellular communication system work?

When a SIM card is activated in a mobile phone, it attempts to communicate with nearby base stations. When a sufficiently strong base station signal is found on the network, a new connection is established between that station and the phone. The phone occasionally renews its connection to the relevant network even when the phone is not being actively used, i.e., when the user is not making or receiving a call. 

Another important aspect of a mobile network is how it ensures that users are connected and  able to transmit a communication session as they move between cells covered by different base stations during a call. The network transfers the session from one base station to another. This process is called ‘session transfer’. This process is carried out without any interruption to the call and no notifications are sent to the user making or receiving the call.

Base Stations

Mobile phones simply cannot work without base stations. Azercell’s vast and modern base station network allows the company to further expand its coverage as well as ensuring fast video calls, internet connectivity and related services. 

Each base station emits some electromagnetic waves as it operates. The strength of the electromagnetic waves transmitted by a base station may vary depending on the required coverage area. 

The power of the transmitters at base stations used by Azercell does not exceed a limit of 20 Watts. The transmission capacity of indoor base stations has been repeatedly reduced. If necessary, entry to the area immediately around the base stations is restricted to authorized personnel and warning signs are posted to discourage others from approaching it.

A base station consists of several main components:

  • a section for the main equipment 
  • a tower of the requisite height upon which the transmitter and antenna are mounted. Antenna towers are usually installed on the ground. However, depending on the terrain, they may be mounted on buildings to provide wider coverage.
  • A tower is usually 2 meters tall and 15-30 cm wide. Its actual size depends on the operating frequency. An antenna transmits and receives radio waves through radio frequencies. Radio waves travel in ‘groups’. These groups are thin in the vertical (longitudinal) direction and wide in the horizontal (transverse) direction.

The intensity of radio waves is very low at ground level directly below the antenna. As a general rule, the power of the radio waves decreases significantly even if you move even a few meters away from the antenna of a base station and the intensity levels fall far below international standards. 

Generally, the overall level of radio waves around every Azercell base station stays within international safety limits.

Radio waves and their possible effects on human health

Radio waves transmit data over radio networks. The International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection (ICNIRP) is an internationally recognized organization and one of the foremost authorities in its field.  The ICNIRP has published the basic principles that determine the levels of safe exposure to electromagnetic radiation generated by radio waves for all members of the population. 

According to their findings, the level of exposure to radio signals from base stations and wireless networks is low and does not adversely affect human health. When considering radio waves of the same strength, the low-frequency radio waves of radios and televisions affect the human body five times more than the radio waves of a mobile phone. 

This can be explained by the fact that the radio frequencies used in radio broadcasting (up to 100 MHz) and television broadcasting (approximately 300-400 MHz) are lower than the radio frequencies used in mobile communications (900 MHz, 1800 MHz, 2100 MHz). 

Radio and television broadcasting stations have been operating for many decades now and, during this period, no adverse effects on human health have been identified.

Additionally, Azercell abides by “The sanitary norms and rules for the placement and operation of transmitting radio facilities” as approved by the Ministry of Health of the Republic of Azerbaijan. It sets the permissible level of energy flux density of electromagnetic fields for the population in the 30 kHz to 300 GHz frequency range as 10 μv/cm2. At the base stations operated by Azercell, the energy density of the radio wave signals is a maximum of 1.5 μv/cm2. The energy flux density of the radio waves of most base stations varies between 0.1 μv/cm2 and 0.5 μv/cm2, which is at least 20 times less than the norm.

The basic principles of ICNIRP have been widely accepted at the international level and adopted as the safety standards to follow. These principles apply to mobile phones and base stations while considering all possible health effects of radio waves. Any known adverse side effects are generally excluded during exposure within the levels set by the ICNIRP. The World Health Organization (WHO) has concluded that there is no particular evidence for any adverse effects of low-power electromagnetic fields on health. The findings of the WHO on the health effects of radio waves from mobile phones and base stations are based on the opinions of official expert councils which are formed by national and international bodies. These councils reviewed the scientific literature published over the past 10 years and concluded that there is no reasonable or strong evidence of any adverse effects of the radiation levels generated by mobile phones and base stations within the limits set by ICNIRP on human health.

Azercell appreciates and understands the importance of conducting the scientific research on this field in the future.