Characterization of personal RF electromagnetic field exposure and actual absorption for the general public

Health Phys. 2008 Sep;95(3):317-30. doi: 10.1097/01.HP.0000318880.16023.61.


In this paper, personal electromagnetic field exposure of the general public due to 12 different radiofrequency sources is characterized. Twenty-eight different realistic exposure scenarios based upon time, environment, activity, and location have been defined and a relevant number of measurements were performed with a personal exposure meter. Indoor exposure in office environments can be higher than outdoor exposure: 95th percentiles of field values due to WiFi ranged from 0.36 to 0.58 V m(-1), and for DECT values of 0.33 V m(-1) were measured. The downlink signals of GSM and DCS caused the highest outdoor exposures up to 0.52 V m(-1). The highest total field exposure occurred for mobile scenarios (inside a train or bus) from uplink signals of GSM and DCS (e.g., mobile phones) due to changing environmental conditions, handovers, and higher required transmitted signals from mobile phones due to penetration through windows while moving. A method to relate the exposure to the actual whole-body absorption in the human body is proposed. An application is shown where the actual absorption in a human body model due to a GSM downlink signal is determined. Fiftieth, 95th, and 99 th percentiles of the whole-body specific absorption rate (SAR) due to this GSM signal of 0.58 microW kg(-1), 2.08 microW kg(-1), and 5.01 microW kg(-1) are obtained for a 95th percentile of 0.26 V m(-1). A practical usable function is proposed for the relation between the whole-body SAR and the electric fields. The methodology of this paper enables epidemiological studies to make an analysis in combination with both electric field and actual whole-body SAR values and to compare exposure with basic restrictions.

MeSH terms

  • Belgium
  • Body Burden*
  • Electromagnetic Fields*
  • Environmental Exposure / analysis*
  • Environmental Exposure / statistics & numerical data*
  • Environmental Monitoring / methods*
  • Environmental Monitoring / statistics & numerical data*
  • Humans
  • Radiation Dosage
  • Radio Waves*
  • Radiometry / statistics & numerical data*
  • Relative Biological Effectiveness