Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Worry versus reality: Low EMF levels from telecom infrastructure

With the rollout of new network infrastructure, questions often arise about what this means for general levels of electromagnetic fields (EMF) in the community. This was the case with earlier generations as it is now with 5G.

Several countries have published the results of national measurement and monitoring campaigns that assessed the current public exposure levels from telecommunications network infrastructure. Each of the reports have found that overall EMF levels remain far below the safety limits, with most results being around 1% of the international limits.

Ofcom, the United Kingdom Office of Communications, for example released a set of testing carried out in 2020 that found EMF levels around Britain to be between 0.0052% and 1.4960% of the ICNIRP reference levels for general public exposure. This is in line with the results obtained by French regulator ANFR as part of their yearly measurement program.

Will exposure levels rise with 5G? 

With the introduction of new technologies, there may be a small increase in the overall level of EMF due to the fact that new transmitters are active. In some countries, deployment of 5G may occur as part of closure of earlier wireless networks. Based on the transition from previous wireless technologies we can expect that the overall exposure levels will remain relatively constant and a small fraction of the international exposure guidelines (1).

For example, EMF measurements carried out by Australian network provider Telstra within their commercial 5G network with 5G devices found that EMF levels remained at around 1000 times below the safety limits and were similar in exposure levels to those of 3G, 4G or Wi-Fi.

This is consistent with the results from several studies (2) that have looked at measurements of base station RF emissions over time, and they found that irrespective of the country, the year and the mobile technology, RF fields at a ground level were only a small fraction of the international human RF exposure recommendations. Importantly, environmental levels have remained essentially constant despite the increasing number of base stations and deployment of additional mobile technologies.

Further information: 

Ofcom 2020 set of measurements:

ICNIRP RF EMF Guidelines 2020

5 surveys of 5G show EME levels well below safety limits:

(1) See 5G and EMF Explained:

(2) Rowley and Joyner, Comparative international analysis of radiofrequency exposure surveys of mobile communication radio base stations, Journal of Exposure Science and Environmental Epidemiology (2012) 1 – 12., Joyner, Van Wyk and Rowley National Surveys of Radiofrequency Field Strengths from Radio Base Stations in Africa, Radiation Protection Dosimetry (2013) 1–12 and Rowley JT, Joyner KH, Observations from national Italian fixed radiofrequency monitoring network, Bioelectromagnetics. 2016 Feb;37(2):136-9.

Thursday, February 27, 2020

MWF Research Outcomes: In-Situ Measurement Methodology for 5G Base Stations

Deployment  of 5G networks is already well underway around the world and one of the areas that the MWF identified for further research work was the need for updated exposure assessment methodologies to demonstrate compliance of the base stations. 5G base stations make use of beam forming and massive MIMO (Multiple-Input Multiple-Output) to direct the signal where is needed rather than spreading the energy over a large angular beam. Beam forming and massive MIMO result in greater efficiency and better use of spectrum, but using traditional compliance assessment methodologies results in unrealistic overestimation of EMF exposure. This overestimation comes about since it assumes all the power of the base station is allocated within the same beam for several minutes.

This project therefore had two objectives:

  • to develop a measurement method to assess exposure from 5G NR base stations on-site; and 
  • to develop a measurement methodology applicable to assess exposure for massive MIMO products. 

Measurements being undertaken on a base station with a number of different services. The small 5G antennas are located in the middle of the head of the tower.

Measurements being undertaken on a base station with a number of different services. The small 5G antennas are located in the middle of the head of the tower. The MWF supported a research project at the University of Ghent to undertake the identified work. The results involve a five-step methodology consisting of: (1) a spectrum overview to identify the 5G NR channels; (2) the identification of the synchronization signal block (SSB) which contains the ‘always on’ signals; (3) the measurement of electric field strength per resource element of the SSB; (4) the measurement of the of the time-averaged instantaneous exposure level; and (5) the extrapolation of the resource element electric-field strength to the theoretical maximum level as well as the actual maximum level taking into account a variety of factors outlined in existing standards.

The methodology has now been presented to the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) standards committee overseeing work on a new standard in this area and has been published in the journal IEEE Access.

The publication details are as follows:

Tuesday, September 3, 2019

Getting Reliable Information on 5G

There has been a lot of inaccurate and misinformation circulated about 5G recently. Finding accurate and reliable information is more important than ever and to help in that regard we have put together a collection of recent statements by health authorities that provide authoritative information on 5G and health as well as factsheets by trade organizations that explain how the technology actually operates.

Have a look at the following resources:

Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency (ARPANSA): 

“The Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency (ARPANSA) safety standard sets limits for exposure to RF EME. These limits are set well below levels at which harm to people may occur. […] At exposure levels below the limits set within the ARPANSA safety standard, it is the assessment of ARPANSA and international organisations such as the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the International Commission on Non-Ionising Radiation (ICNIRP) that there is no established scientific evidence to support any adverse health effects from very low RF EME exposures to populations or individuals.”

ARPANSA on recent misinformation: 

"Contrary to some claims, there are no established health effects from the radio waves that the 5G network uses. This network currently runs on radio waves similar to those used in the current 4G network, and in the future will use radio waves with higher frequencies. It is important to note that higher frequencies does not mean higher or more intense exposure. Higher frequency radio waves are already used in security screening units at airports, police radar guns to check speed, remote sensors and in medicine and these uses have been thoroughly tested and found to have no negative impacts on human health."

World Health Organization (WHO): 

“From all evidence accumulated so far, no adverse short- or long-term health effects have been shown to occur from the RF signals produced by base stations. Since wireless networks produce generally lower RF signals than base stations, no adverse health effects are expected from exposure to them.”

Other Useful Resources:

EMFexplained on “How 5G works”:

GSM Association (GSMA) on the “Safety of 5G Mobile Networks”: 

GSM Association (GSMA) on “5G, the IoT and Wearable Devices: What do the new uses of wireless technologies mean for radio frequency exposure?”: 

Monday, August 26, 2019

MWF Research Outcomes: Updating the Dosimetric Models used for SAR Compliance in the Extremities

As part of the MWF’s ongoing support for research, we recently completed a project to support an update to the dosimetric human body models used to assess SAR compliance in the extremities. Currently, Radio Frequency (RF) exposure standards as well as government regulations define different limits for the Specific Absorption Rate (SAR) induced in the body and in the extremities (or limbs). However, the numerical human body models standardised for RF exposure compliance evaluation in the IEC/IEEE 62704-2:2017 standard lack details of the body tissue definition that allow discriminating between the body and extremities, while many simulation tools allow for this evaluation provided corresponding tissue definitions are available.

Therefore, as part of the routine ‘maintenance’ update of  IEC/IEEE 62704-2:2017, we decided to develop and propose an updated model with the relevant body and extremity tissue definitions. The MWF engaged electromagnetic modelling experts Remcom to review the relevant standards and to produce updated models that can now be made available as part of the next revision of the standard.

The work resulted in detailed updates to the existing standard models, which included 14 tissue types present in the voxel meshes in the regions classified as extremity. The tissues in these extremities included: blood, blood vessel, body fluid, bone marrow, cancellous bone, cartilage, cortical bone, fat, ligament, muscle, nerve/spine, skin, toe and finger nails, and lymph and each was mapped and information provided on the relevant standard that they applied to.

The figure below shows an overview of the outcome for one of the models - with extremities defined according to the FCC, IEEE C95.1-2005, and ICNIRP standards in a different colour (although it is important to note that the IEEE C95.1-2005 extremities also include the FCC extremities and ICNIRP extremities encompass the entire arms and legs which include all the IEEE and FCC extremities).

The figure below shows an overview of the outcome for one of the models - with extremities defined according to the FCC, IEEE C95.1-2005, and ICNIRP standards in a different colour.

Sunday, May 12, 2019

5G: Political vs science-based decisions

Early on, the region of Brussels in Belgium decided to introduce arbitrarily low EMF exposure limits from base stations, despite the overall consensus in the scientific community that the international guidelines for exposure limits proposed by ICNIRP are sufficiently safe. 

In time however, the Brussels government was confronted with the consequences of this decision. In 2013, when the 4G network came to be deployed – the government faced fierce discussions in the parliament on whether or not to increase the very low limits to a point where 4G could be introduced. The political majority finally succeeded in doing so, but only increased the limits to the bare minimum needed to introduce 4G. 

Now, the Brussels government finds itself in the same position again. Given the current use of the mobile network in Brussels, with the high demand for faster data connections and greater capacity there is no room left to introduce 5G. Hence, the discussions among politicians recommence on whether or not limits should be increased. Having departed from a scientific rational long ago, the argument for changing the limits becomes more and more difficult.

In the meantime, the countries who have adopted the science based ICNIRP limits, move ahead in introducing the newest generation of mobile technology and when confronted with questions can rely on advice of the World Health Organization which states: 

“Considering the very low exposure levels and research results collected to date, there is no convincing scientific evidence that the weak RF signals from base stations and wireless networks cause adverse health effects.” (

More information: 

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: