Public perception of risk concerning celltowers and mobile phones

Soz Praventivmed. 2004;49(1):62-6. doi: 10.1007/s00038-003-2094-7.


Objective: The controversy about health risks of electromagnetic fields (EMF) has contributed in raising fears concerning emissions from celltowers. The study was to examine whether or not neighbours of celltowers are particularly concerned about adverse health effects of mobile phones and their base stations.

Methods: Prior to information delivered by medical doctors of the Institute of Environmental Health at public hearings a questionnaire was handed out to participants asking for their personal rating of several environmental health risks including those of mobile telecommunication (n = 123, response rate approx. 48%). Medical students (n = 366) served as a contrast group.

Results: Participants rated health risk for both, mobile phones and celltowers higher as students. A trend for higher ratings was also seen with older subjects and female sex. The risk ratings of both exposures correlated well with each other. The magnitude of the perceived risks, however, resembled that of other ubiquitous exposures like traffic noise and air pollution.

Conclusion: Contrary to the claims of the telecommunication industry, opponents of celltowers generally do not express unusual fears concerning electromagnetic field exposure. The outcome of our study indicates that the risk rating is comparable with other perceived common hazards of the civilised world. It is hypothesised that offering information and participation to the concerned population will be efficient in reducing exaggerated fears.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Cell Phone*
  • Confidence Intervals
  • Data Interpretation, Statistical
  • Electromagnetic Fields / adverse effects*
  • Environmental Exposure / adverse effects*
  • Humans
  • Public Opinion*
  • Risk Assessment
  • Students, Medical
  • Surveys and Questionnaires