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.


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