Classification of personal exposure to radio frequency electromagnetic fields (RF-EMF) for epidemiological research: Evaluation of different exposure assessment methods

Environ Int. 2010 Oct;36(7):714-20. doi: 10.1016/j.envint.2010.05.005. Epub 2010 Jun 9.


The use of personal exposure meters (exposimeters) has been recommended for measuring personal exposure to radio frequency electromagnetic fields (RF-EMF) from environmental far-field sources in everyday life. However, it is unclear to what extent exposimeter readings are affected by measurements taken when personal mobile and cordless phones are used. In addition, the use of exposimeters in large epidemiological studies is limited due to high costs and large effort for study participants. In the current analysis we aimed to investigate the impact of personal phone use on exposimeter readings and to evaluate different exposure assessment methods potentially useful in epidemiological studies. We collected personal exposimeter measurements during one week and diary data from 166 study participants. Moreover, we collected spot measurements in the participants' bedrooms and data on self-estimated exposure, assessed residential exposure to fixed site transmitters by calculating the geo-coded distance and mean RF-EMF from a geospatial propagation model, and developed an exposure prediction model based on the propagation model and exposure relevant behavior. The mean personal exposure was 0.13 mW/m(2), when measurements during personal phone calls were excluded and 0.15 mW/m(2), when such measurements were included. The Spearman correlation with personal exposure (without personal phone calls) was 0.42 (95%-CI: 0.29 to 0.55) for the spot measurements, -0.03 (95%-CI: -0.18 to 0.12) for the geo-coded distance, 0.28 (95%-CI: 0.14 to 0.42) for the geospatial propagation model, 0.50 (95%-CI: 0.37 to 0.61) for the full exposure prediction model and 0.06 (95%-CI: -0.10 to 0.21) for self-estimated exposure. In conclusion, personal exposure measured with exposimeters correlated best with the full exposure prediction model and spot measurements. Self-estimated exposure and geo-coded distance turned out to be poor surrogates for personal exposure.

Publication types

  • Evaluation Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Cell Phone / statistics & numerical data
  • Electromagnetic Fields*
  • Environmental Exposure / analysis*
  • Environmental Exposure / statistics & numerical data
  • Environmental Monitoring / methods*
  • Epidemiologic Studies*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Radio Waves*
  • Young Adult