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Cellular & PCS devices

​To determine whether exposure to energy from cellular and PCS devices is considered safe, the radiation levels emitted by such devices are evaluated against relevant national and international safety standards. The standards, such as the ones listed below, are established after a critical analysis of hundreds of peer reviewed scientific papers investigating possible effects from exposure to radiofrequency waves.

The Canadian standard for human exposure to radiofrequency electromagnetic fields, Safety Code 6, was established by Health Canada in 1999 and updated in 2009.  

Safety Code 6 is currently under revision. A copy of the 2014 draft has been posted online by Health Canada for consultation.

Electromagnetic radiation and cancer?

Studies have not yielded any convincing evidence that electromagnetic radiation is mutagenic or able to initiate cancer. 

The Institute of Environmental Medicine at Karolinska Institute, Sweden found that 10 or more years of mobile phone use increased the risk of acoustic neuroma and that the risk increase was confined to the side of the head where the phone was usually held. However, a parallel study about mobile phone use and the risk of brain tumors did not indicate any increased risk of brain tumors in relation to mobile phone use.

The World Health Organization has an International Agency for Research on Cancer.  This organization coordinates and conducts research on cancer through epidemiological and laboratory research.  In March 2010, they published the "Interphone Study Results". 

The Interphone study is a mostly population-based case–control study that involved 13 countries. The study focused on people 30-59 years old who were high users of mobile phones and who resided mostly in large urban areas.  It is the largest study of brain tumors and mobile phone use to date.  The study did not find an increase in brain cancer related to cell phone use, but the study group feels that further studies are needed related to phone use and cancer.

Cellular phones and electromagnetic compatibility

Table 1 - Recommendations regarding distancing of cellular phones from implantable medical electronic devices (pacemakers):

Country Organization/Website Suggested Precautionary Approach


Health Canada
Surgeons who implant cardiac pacemakers should inform their patients to take the following simple precautions with digital cellular phones:
  • when the phone is not in use, do not place it closer than 5 cm
  • avoid carrying the cellular phone in a shirt or jacket pocket directly over the pacemaker
Canadian Heart and Stroke FoundationMost doctors recommend keeping the devices at least 12 inches away from your chest (that means not placing the phone in your breast pocket or on a belt clip).

Saskatoon Health

(document no longer available)

It is unlikely that cell phones will affect your pacemaker, but use the following guidelines:
  • if your pacemaker is on the left side, use the right side to talk, and vice versa
  • do not carry your cell phone in your breast pocket over your pacemaker site


Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) - Electromagnetic Interference (EMI)

  • a mobile phone or a cordless phone can be used safely, but the phone should be kept more than 6 inches away from the pacemaker
  • the ear on the opposite side to the pacemaker should always be used, and the phone should not be put in a pocket over the pacemaker

British Heart Foundation

  • keep the cell phone or cordless phone more than 15 centimeters (6 inches) from your pacemaker
  • always use the ear on the opposite side to your pacemaker, and avoid putting the phone in a pocket over your pacemaker


Food and Drug Administration (FDA)
  • hold the phone to the ear opposite the side of the body where the pacemaker is implanted to add some extra distance between the pacemaker and the phone
  • avoid placing a turned-on phone next to the pacemaker implant (e.g. don’t carry the phone in a shirt or jacket pocket directly over the pacemaker)
American Heart Association
  • the types of cell phones used in the United States are less than 3 watts and do not seem to affect pacemakers
  • to be safe, you should keep your cell phone at least 6 inches away from your pacemaker
  • when you are talking on your cell phone, hold it on the opposite side of the body from your pacemaker
  • do not carry your cell phone in your breast pocket if that means that it will be within 6 inches of your pacemaker


Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear safety Agency (ARPANSA)The potential for a mobile phone to interfere with a pacemaker or implantable defibrillator can be minimized by maintaining a separation of at least 150 mm (6 inches) between the mobile phone and implanted device.  
This can be achieved by:
  • not keeping the phone in a pocket over the site of the implant, and
  • using the ear which is furthest away from the site of the implant when operating the phone


Federal Office of Public HealthPeople with active medical implants should keep their mobile phone at least 30 cm away from the implant at all times.

Table 2 - Guidelines regarding electromagnetic interference with implantable medical electronic devices:

Organization Guidelines

American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists (ACGIH)

The use of sensitive medical equipment or the entry of individuals wearing medical electronic devices subject to radiofrequency interference (RFI) should be restricted to locations where the levels of RF-microwave electric fields at frequencies up to 3 GHz are not expected to interfere with operation of medical devices based on manufacturers’ specifications (typically field levels below 3 to 10 V/m that meet requirements for immunity to RFI) [2011 TLVs and BEIs, page 133].
Medtronic USA, Inc Electric Field - High Frequency 150 kHz and up Radio Frequency (RF) Sources such as: radio transmitter antennas, television transmitter antennas, cellular telephone antennas, RF welding equipment, dielectric heaters, radar 

Medtronic pacemakers/defibrillators are designed to operate normally in electric fields measuring:
  • 100 volts per meter  
Note: Medtronic pacemakers and defibrillators are designed to operate normally within RF levels that meet thegovernment Maximum Permissible Exposure (MPE) limits.

Modulated Magnetic Field
 - High Frequencies above 10kHz Sources such as: radio transmitter antennas, television transmitter antennas, cellular telephone antennas, RF welding equipment, dielectric heaters, radar  

Medtronic pacemakers/defibrillators are designed to operate normally in modulated magnetic fields:
  • 1 amp per meter (or <12.5 milligauss) for frequencies greater than 10 kilohertz (kHz)

ANSI/AAMI/IEC EN 60601-1-1-2

(document no longer available)

…requires equipment that controls or monitors physiological parameters (eg., heart rate) be tested with signals modulated at 2 Hz (closer to the frequencies of such biological parameters…all other equipment is still tested at 3 V/m

ANSI C63.18-1997

(document no longer available)

Tests are carried out during normal operation of the transmitter (eg., making and receiving calls) located at an initial distance which would expose the medical device to field strengths of approximately 3 to 7 V/m.  During the test transmitter is moved progressively closer to the medical device up to a minimum recommended test distance, which would expose the medical device to no more than approximately 22 V/m

SOURCE: Cellular & PCS devices ( )
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