The Great Debate on Wireless Technology

  • Susan Perry
  • Claudia Roda


As the progress of mobile phone technology accelerates worldwide, the regulatory framework necessary for its safe and extended use has been slow to develop. The hardware delivery of wireless phone technology poses new challenges to our understanding of human rights. This chapter analyses the relationship between scientific knowledge and regulation concerning the health effects of increasing electromagnetic field emissions from mobile phone towers (base transceiver stations). From a conservationist perspective, no other example of industrial impact on the natural environment has achieved such extended penetration so quickly. This presents an ethical conundrum: stakeholders are faced with the difficult choice between waiting for a comprehensive, long-term assessment of health impacts from electromagnetic exposure and immediate application of the precautionary principle. By exploring examples of interaction between citizens, governments, and international bodies, we first analyse the challenges faced by regulators in the presence of uncertain scientific knowledge and standards of measurement. We then highlight the inadequacy of current parameters. Lastly, we expand the debate on how we may use a human rights framework to protect vulnerable populations from digital pollution. We conclude that, because scientific knowledge on the health effects of wireless technology delivery is incomplete, a precautionary approach is better suited to State obligations under international human rights law.


Mobile Phone Precautionary Principle Federal Communication Commission Acoustic Neuroma Telecom Company 
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© The Author(s) 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Susan Perry
    • 1
  • Claudia Roda
    • 1
  1. 1.American University of ParisParisFrance

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