The association between exposure determined by radiofrequency personal exposimeters and human exposure: a simulation study

Bioelectromagnetics. 2010 Oct;31(7):535-45. doi: 10.1002/bem.20587.


The selection of an adequate exposure assessment approach is imperative for the quality of epidemiological studies. The use of personal exposimeters turned out to be a reasonable approach to determine exposure profiles, however, certain limitations regarding the absolute values delivered by the devices have to be considered. Apart from the limited dynamic range, it has to be taken into account that these devices give only an approximation of the exposure due to the influence of the body of the person carrying the exposimeter, the receiver characteristics of the exposimeter, as well as the dependence of the measured value on frequency band, channel, slot configuration, and communication traffic. In this study, the relationship between the field strength measured close to the human body at the location of the exposimeter and the exposure, that is, the field strength at the location of the human body without the human body present, is investigated by numerical means using the Visible Human model as an anatomical phantom. Two different scenarios were chosen: (1) For FM, GSM, and UMTS an urban outdoor scenario was examined that included a transmitting antenna mounted on the roof of one of four buildings at a street crossing, (2) For WLAN an indoor scenario was investigated. For GSM the average degree of underestimation by the exposimeter (relation of the average field levels at the location of the exposimeter to the field level averaged over the volume of the human body without the body present) was 0.76, and for UMTS 0.87; for FM no underestimation was found, the ratio was 1. In the case of WLAN the degree of underestimation was more pronounced, the ratio was 0.64. This study clearly suggests that a careful evaluation of correction factors for different scenarios is needed prior to the definition of the study protocol. It has to be noted that the reference scenario used in this study does not allow for final conclusions on general correction factors.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Electromagnetic Fields / adverse effects
  • Environmental Exposure / adverse effects*
  • Humans
  • Models, Theoretical*
  • Phantoms, Imaging
  • Radiation Monitoring / instrumentation*
  • Radiation Monitoring / methods
  • Radio Waves / adverse effects*
  • Whole-Body Irradiation