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Mobile phones and Smartphones


The use of smartphones has grown strongly over the last few years; 97 per cent of the Swiss population aged 16 and above use a mobile phone or smartphone. At the same time the users' behaviour has also dramatically changed: mobile phones are used less for telephone calls, but significantly more for mobile internet applications.

Speech and data are transmitted back and forth via high-frequency radiation between a mobile phone and base stations, whereby the latter make the connection to the downstream telecommunication network. This involves the use of various technologies, such as classical mobile communication, Bluetooth, WLAN. The high-frequency electromagnetic radiation of these technologies leads to the head or the hand of a person being exposed to radiation when the mobile phone is held close to the ear when phoning or in the hand during other applications, such as for example mobile Internet. The electric currents in the electronics and the battery of the mobile phone generate low-frequency electromagnetic fields that likewise penetrate into the head or the hand.

Radiation occurs particularly when the mobile phone transmits; in the idle state the radiation exposure is low. The radiation decreases rapidly as the distance from the device increases.

During a telephone call the intensity of the exposure depends on various factors:

  • A mobile phone emits less radiation when connection quality is good than when it is poor. The quality of the connection is indicated by a set of bars on the phone's display.
  • The proportion of the radiation that is absorbed by the head when making a call varies according to the model of mobile phone. It is expressed as the specific absorption rate (SAR). The lower the SAR, the lower the radiation that is absorbed by the head. The SAR value that can be found in the instruction manual or on the Internet represents the maximum value of the device; in everyday use the SAR value can be lower.

The strengths of the electromagnetic fields depend on the particular technology. Telephoning with UMTS (3G) instead of GSM (2G) leads to significantly lower radiation exposure to the head area. The use of hands-free kits significantly reduces the radiation exposure to the head.

The effects on health from long-term exposure to high-frequency radiation from mobile phones remain uncertain at present; negative effects from short-term exposure are not expected.

The effects on health from long-term exposure to low-frequency magnetic fields generated by the electronics and batteries also remain uncertain at present; negative effects from short-term exposure are not expected.

The following tips may be helpful, should you wish to reduce your personal exposure from mobile phones or smartphones:

  • Use headphones or a wireless head set with a weak Bluetooth transmitter (power class 2 or 3) in order to reduce radiation to the head.
  • Preferably use modern radio networks such as LTE (4G) or UMTS (3G), which work with weaker radiation than the older GSM technology. In this regard, check the settings of your mobile phone or contact your sales outlet.
  • When inside buildings or in the train, if possible use WLAN for phone calls and data transfer. Check the settings of your mobile phone.
  • Be careful with protective and shielding products, which are intended to reduce radiation exposure. When the connection quality deteriorates, the mobile phone is forced to emit higher levels of radiation.
  • People with electronic medical implants should keep their mobile phone at least 30 cm away from the implant at all times.


Other recommendations:

  • NEVER use a mobile phone when driving a car. This is also true for conversations via a head set as you may likewise be distracted!
  • NEVER use a mobile phone on foot or on a bicycle when you cross the road or are in traffic.
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Detailed information Mobile phones & Smartphones
Valid from 27.05.2016 | Size: 471 kb | Type: PDF

Specialist staff: emf@bag.admin.ch
Last updated on: 24.02.2015

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