31 May 2024

A World Health Organization (WHO) commissioned systematic review finds that radio wave exposure from mobile phones does not affect learning, memory, attention span and other cognitive functions like coordination.

Co-led by the Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency’s (ARPANSA) Health Impact Assessment Assistant Director, Associate Professor Ken Karipidis, the review addresses a long-held community concern.  

‘One of the motivations for this research was to assess effects on the brain because mobile phones are usually held close to the head during calls,’ A/Prof Karipidis said.

‘One of the challenges of studying the effects of mobile phones on health is that it’s hard to separate radiation exposure from behavioural effects from social media and gaming on our cognition. 

‘Overall, this systematic review found that radio wave exposure from mobile phones does not affect cognition.’

The WHO systematic review was a collaboration between ARPANSA and Monash University. ARPANSA’s Dr Chris Brzozek and Dr Masoumeh Sanagou also contributed to the study. 

This review identified 3945 papers for consideration but only 5 studies were found to have appropriate methods and were included in the final analysis. The authors acknowledge that more high-quality research is needed to address all types of populations, radio wave exposures, and cognitive outcomes, particularly studies investigating environmental and occupational exposure in adults. 

The WHO commissioned a series of systematic reviews in 2019 to help them undertake an updated health risk assessment of radio wave exposure. These reviews will be used to help inform a new Environmental Health Criterion monograph on radiofrequency electromagnetic fields (RF-EMF). 

ARPANSA is supporting the systematic reviews and the development of the monograph.   

You can access this systematic review online at Environment International.  

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