Saturday, March 23, 2019

Measurement of EMF exposure around small cell base station sites

With the ever-increasing demand for data on mobile devices, network operators are looking at a range of options to increase their network capacity. One of these options is through the use of ‘small cell’ sites, an umbrella term for operator-controlled, low-powered radio access nodes.

While the radio-frequency exposure from small cells is equivalent to other low-powered equipment, there has been interest in a practical study of the devices in real world settings. For this reason, the MWF and the Small Cell Forum commissioned in 2017 a measurement program, the results of which were published in a peer-reviewed scientific journal.

The graph summarises the study set up and conclusions.

Monday, January 28, 2019

The Importance of Quality Control Measures in Scientific Studies

In a paper by Vijayalaxmia and Prihodab TJ, the authors looked at the influence of four quality control measures ideally associated with studies of exposure to radio-frequency (RF) energy. In this particular analysis, they assessed 225 published papers from the period 1990-2017, involving 110 animal studies and 115 studies of human cells exposed in vitro and in vivo to RF energy (involving 2,160 actual test results) for the inclusion of four specific quality control measures. The bottom line is that the inclusion of any, some or all quality measures saw fewer reported effects – or no effects at all - associated with exposure to RF energy, highlighting the importance of these measures in quality studies and publications in this area. Our Viewpoint provides a summary of the study and details the quality control measures and their importance in  studies in this area.

Read the full viewpoint on the MWF website:

Saturday, September 29, 2018

Exposure to electromagnetic fields (EMF) – Biological effects vs health effects

We often see media articles that claim new research has found health effects from human exposure of some chemical or physical agent. In the case of electromagnetic fields (EMF), we have seen such studies claiming effects of exposure to EMF. But what is rarely discussed is whether the claimed ‘effect’ is a biological effect or indeed a health effect. What’s the difference you ask? 

In the recent MWF publication “20 years of research[1]”, we tried to explain this difference: 

Biological effects are a response to stimulus or to a change in the environment around you and are not necessarily bad for your health. Health effects are changes in health resulting from exposure to an agent or source. Eating a freezing cold ice cream can give you a ‘brain-freeze’ (ice-cream headache), a sensation which goes away a short time after you stop eating it. Going for a run or sitting in a sauna will cause your body temperature to rise. These biological effects are not considered health effects because the result is temporary and not detrimental to your health.

Further explanations on the difference between “biological effects” and “health effects” in particular in regards to exposure to EMF, can be found in the factsheet of the World Health Organization[2](WHO) on electromagnetic fields. There the WHO states: 

Biological effects are measurable responses to a stimulus or to a change in the environment. These changes are not necessarily harmful to your health. For example, listening to music, reading a book, eating an apple or playing tennis will produce a range of biological effects. Nevertheless, none of these activities is expected to cause health effects. The body has sophisticated mechanisms to adjust to the many and varied influences we encounter in our environment. Ongoing change forms a normal part of our lives. But, of course, the body does not possess adequate compensation mechanisms for all biological effects. Changes that are irreversible and stress the system for long periods of time may constitute a health hazard.

An adverse health effect causes detectable impairment of the health of the exposed individual or of his or her offspring; a biological effect, on the other hand, may or may not result in an adverse health effect.

It is not disputed that electromagnetic fields above certain levels can trigger biological effects. Experiments with healthy volunteers indicate that short-term exposure at the levels present in the environment or in the home do not cause any apparent detrimental effects. Exposures to higher levels that might be harmful are restricted by national and international guidelines. The current debate is centred on whether long-term low level exposure can evoke biological responses and influence people's well being.

The definition by the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers (IEEE)[3], although a little more technical is also useful: 

"Established adverse health effect: A biological effect characterized by a harmful change in health that is supported by consistent findings of that effect in studies published in the peer-reviewed scientific literature, with evidence of the effect being demonstrated by independent laboratories, and where there is consensus
in the scientific community that the effect occurs for the specified exposure condition." versus the biological effect as “alterations of the structure, metabolism, or functions of a whole organism, its organs, tissues, and cells. Biological effects can occur without harming health and can be beneficial. Biological effects also can include adaptive responses."

From these different explanations, we can clearly see that there is an important difference between a biological effect and a health effect, even though many articles do not differentiate between the two – whether it is in relation to EMF or in other contexts. 

So when you are reading the next article, it might be interesting to see whether the authors make the proper distinction between the two, and if they don’t, it may say something important about the quality of the reporting. 


MWF’s “20 years of research” booklet:

WHO’s factsheet “What are electromagnetic fields?”: (accessed 5 September 2018) 

Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers Inc (IEEE) IEEE Standard for Safety Levels with Respect to Human Exposure to Radio Frequency Electromagnetic Fields,3 kHz to 300 GHz. IEEE; Piscataway, NJ, USA: 2006.

[1]MWF’s “20 years of research” booklet:
[2]WHO’s factsheet “What are electromagnetic fields?”: (accessed 5 September 2018)
[3]Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers Inc (IEEE) IEEE Standard for Safety Levels with Respect to Human Exposure to Radio Frequency Electromagnetic Fields,3 kHz to 300 GHz. IEEE; Piscataway, NJ, USA: 2006.

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

EMF Research and the Weight of Scientific Evidence

We have all seen media articles that claim that a new study has “proven” a chemical or physical agent causes some health effect, usually cancer. While such results might look scary or at least surprising to the reader, scientists usually react differently and point to the “weight of scientific evidence”. What does this term mean and how does it apply to scientific studies related to electromagnetic fields (EMF) research?

As summarized in the MWF’s booklet on “20 years of research”,

The ‘weight of scientific evidence’ approach means that no single study can answer any scientific question, and must not be viewed in isolation but against the backdrop of previous research. Factors such as the quality of the data, consistency of results, nature and severity of effects and relevance of the information are all important considerations for experts to determine appropriate weighting to be given to the evidence. This approach is important to consider in research on radiofrequency (RF) electromagnetic field (EMF) health effects when individual studies provide different or conflicting results. Individual studies need to be seen in the light of the total research effort into mobile phone health and safety. Scientific investigation is subject to potential errors, personal opinions and uncertainties. This applies as much to research on RF EMF health effects as it does to all other areas of science.

The concept of “weight of scientific evidence” is not exclusive to research on EMF but is a key principle in scientific work. The European Food Safety Authority’s (EFSA) scientific committee has published for example a “Guidance on the use of the weight of evidence approach in scientific assessments”. In this Guidance it states:

Weight of evidence assessment is a process in which evidence is integrated to determine the relative support for possible answers to a scientific question. The term ‘weight of evidence’ on its own is the extent to which evidence supports possible answers to a scientific question. This is what is assessed by weight of evidence assessment, and can be expressed qualitatively or quantitatively. 

The European Commission’s Scientific Committee on Health, Environmental and Emerging Risks (SCHEER)  published in June 2018 a revision of their “Memorandum on weight of evidence and uncertainties”, which defines the weight of evidence as

A process of weighted integration of lines of evidence to determine the relative support for hypotheses or answers to a question. 

All of this does not mean that single studies are ignored or not important. They are integrated into the body of knowledge and put into context with all the other studies and research that have been carried out on the subject in question. As the World Health Organization  has stated, “(i)n the area of biological effects and medical applications of non-ionizing radiation approximately 25,000 articles have been published over the past 30 years.” And as a result “scientific knowledge in this area is now more extensive than for most chemicals.”


MWF’s “20 years of research” booklet (2018):

EFSA’s “Guidance on the use of the weight of evidence approach in scientific assessments” (2017):

SCHEER’s “Memorandum on weight of evidence and uncertainties” (2018):

World Health Organization: What are electromagnetic fields? 

Monday, August 27, 2018

The MWF's 20 Years of Research

People around the world have adopted mobile phones like few other products in human history. When mobile phones were first introduced to the market in 1983 no one could have predicted the profound and far-reaching impacts that mobile and wireless communications would have on the world.

Yet with the technology constantly evolving at such a rapid pace, it is important to acknowledge that not everyone has been entirely happy about these developments. For example, public concern has existed about whether the radio signals from mobile phones and other wireless devices have any impact on our health. For those living near base stations, there are many who have welcomed the greater connectivity and speed that such developments allow, although there are some who have also been concerned about the constant exposure to yet another radiofrequency source in their environment.

The telecommunications industry takes these concerns seriously and while the benefits of the technology are clear, industry must ensure that any concerns are addressed through open and transparent information, as well as independent quality scientific research that paves the way for health authorities and governments around the world to provide the best available advice to the public.

The Mobile & Wireless Forum’s role in this area is to support such research and help contribute to the development of standards for the industry to use to ensure compliance of the various products and services, thus allowing people to enjoy the full benefits of the technology. As part of the 20th anniversary of the association, we have summarized our research efforts in a new booklet. In the booklet, you will find an overview of the international research agenda, the main bodies involved in reviewing the scientific evidence, key issues and terms explained and discussed as well as details on the MWF’s research programs. You’ll also get an understanding of the work currently underway on new compliance methodologies for future 5G devices and the development of new technical standards.

The booklet concludes with a summary of where we are in terms of knowledge and understanding after 20 years of research, and the lessons learned ranging from societal impact to the public understanding of scientific research.

You can download “20 Years of Research” from the MWF website.

Monday, August 6, 2018

e-Labeling: Moving compliance into the digital age

Recently, economic and policy consultancy firm Valdani Vicari & Associati (VVA) undertook two studies investigating the introduction of an e-labelling scheme in Europe. These studies showed many benefits for consumers, market surveillance authorities as well as industry – and from the three countries examined as case studies – there are no downsides associated with its introduction. From VVA’s reports, we produced the following infographic summarizing the key findings:

(The picture shows the infographic, which can also be downloaded from

The advantages of e-labelling in terms of cost savings, reduced environmental impact, improved traceability and transparency seem undeniable and three out of four companies active in the EU and questioned on whether they would opt for e-labelling if it was allowed, confirmed that they would welcome it.

It is for all the above reasons that we believe that e-labels represent a smart approach for the smart age.

You can download the infographic from the site:

For further information, have a look at the press release on the publication of the studies:

Friday, August 3, 2018

What is 5G?

5G is the fifth generation of mobile networks which will be a significant evolution from today’s 4G LTE networks.

5G is being designed to meet the very large growth in data and connectivity of today’s modern society, the internet of things with billions of connected devices and tomorrow’s innovations. 

How does 5G work? 

Like prior generations of telecommunications, 5G uses radio waves or radio frequency (RF) energy to transmit and receive voice and data connecting our communities. 5G will use different frequencies designed to allow greater capacity compared to current mobile technologies. 

5G will first work in combination with existing 4G networks. Base stations will be upgraded and many smaller antennas will supplement the existing network and provide more capacity. The transition for consumers will be seamless. Future devices will be 5G capable and will then connect to 5G networks whenever available, using 4G networks in between. 

More capacity and faster reaction times – what for? 

5G technology provides additional capacity, faster connections and a very fast response time of as little as 1 millisecond. To put that into context, 4G already provides response times of 30 milliseconds while the human mind perceives everything under 100 milliseconds as instantaneous (1).

These technological advances open the door for ever more refined services: real time information in traffic, remote monitoring of patients, super accurate location services for emergency services and navigation, autonomously driving vehicles, smart homes and cities. 

When will we be able to use 5G? 

5G networks are currently being trialed in many pilot projects around the world, with commercial launches expected in 2020 and widespread availability of 5G expected around 2025. 

More information and details about 5G

If you are interested in more information about 5G or how it will work have a look at the brochure “5G and EMF Explained”

(picture of the EMF Explained 5G brochure) 

EMF Explained Series

The EMF Explained Series provides information on mobile technology and Electromagnetic Fields (EMF) referencing international health authorities, government, academia and the telecommunications industry.

The EMF Explained Series has been developed by the Australian Mobile Telecommunications Association (AMTA) in association with the GSMA and Mobile and Wireless Forum (MWF).

The 5G and EMF Explained brochure can be downloaded here:

(1) How fast is real  time? Human perception and technology.