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EMF Study
(Database last updated on Feb 18, 2020)

ID Number 1768
Study Type Social Sciences
Model Mobile phone use in the UK and perception of risk

Respondents to a survey in the mail (n = 1320, 16.5% response rate of initial 8000 mailed) in the UK were asked about personal RF exposure from mobile phones and base stations (e.g., time of mobile phone use, residential proximity to base stations). Participants were directed to rate controllability, percieved risks and benefits, and regulatory preferences with regard to wireless telecommunications. 81% reported owning a mobile phone (similar to 76% UK-wide average) with an average estimated 124.67 minutes of talk time per week (SD = 282.54, so quite a wide spread in the response). 7% responded living near a base station, 11% near a proposed base station site, 44% did not live near a base station, and 38% did not know (from town planning records, all respondents lived within 2 miles of a base station). The overall response was in support of the benefits of mobile phones, with a correlation between the magnitude of support and the time of mobile phone use of each respondent. There was a perception that children were at greater risk, and that base stations and mobile phones used by children should be regulated more strictly than mobile phone handset use by adults - mainly due to the greater concern for risks posed to others (children, others) than the respondents themselves. In a related study looking at percieved trust, the authors surveyed UK residents(n = 1294) and asked them to rank their level of trust in various entities. The authors report percieved trust in the following rank order (highest to lowest): independent scientists, activists, government, media, and mobile phone industry. A similar survey looked at percieved level of knowledge regarding mobile phone health effects produced the following rank order: mobile phone industry, independent scientists, government, activists, and media. When asked to rank these same entities individually (as opposed to simultaneously) with respect to trust and knowledge, the authors found less discrepancy between the groups. The authors suggest that the context of the question regarding trust and knowledge (whether presented as simultaneously ranking several entities or individually ranking a single entity) can influence the response. When people are asked to rank several targets simultaneously there is a larger margin between the different entities.

Findings Not Applicable to Bioeffects
Status Completed With Publication
Principal Investigator University Plymouth, UK
Funding Agency Private/Instit.
  • White, MP J Risk Res, (2007) 10:977-988
  • White, MP et al. Risk Anal, (2007) 27:741-753
  • Comments

    That the mobile phone industry was percieved from this survey as the least trusted but most knowledgeble regarding health effects is quite interesting. A trust paradox also exists in that these same individuals still purchase mobile phones.