Occupational Exposures to Radiofrequency Fields: Results of an Israeli National Survey

J Radiol Prot. 2015 Jun;35(2):429-45. doi: 10.1088/0952-4746/35/2/429. Epub 2015 May 15.

Abstract

Relatively high exposures to radiofrequency (RF) fields can occur in the broadcast, medical, and communications industries, as well in occupations that use RF emitting equipment (e.g. law enforcement). Information on exposure to workers employed in these industries and occupations is limited. We present results of an Israeli National Survey of occupational RF field levels at frequencies between ~100 kHz and 40 GHz, representing Industrial Heating, Communications, Radar, Research, and Medicine. Almost 4300 measurements from 900 sources across 25 occupations were recorded and categorised as 'routine', 'incidental', or 'unintended'. The occupation-specific geometric means (GMs) of the percentage of the American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists (ACGIH) threshold limit values (TLVs) for each of the three exposure scenarios are presented together with the geometric standard deviation (GSD). Additionally, we present estimates of occupation-specific annual personal exposures and collective exposures. The vast majority of the GM of routine exposures ranged from a fraction to less than 1% of ACGIH TLVs, except for Walkie-Talkie (GM 94% of ACGIH), Induction Heating (17%), Plastic Welding (11%), Industrial Heating (6%) and Diathermy (6%). The GM of incidental and unintended exposures exceeded the TLV for one and 14 occupations, respectively. In many cases, the within-occupation GSD was very large, and though the medians remained below TLV, variable fractions of these occupations were projected to exceed the TLV. In rank order, Walkie-Talkie, Plastic Welding, and Induction Heating workers had the highest annual cumulative personal exposure. For cumulative collective exposures within an occupation, Walkie-Talkie dominated with 96.3% of the total, reflecting both large population and high personal exposure. A brief exceedance of the TLV does not automatically translate to hazard as RF exposure limits (issued by various bodies, including ACGIH) include a 10-fold safety factor relative to thermal thresholds and are based on a 6 min averaging period.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Humans
  • Industry / statistics & numerical data
  • Israel / epidemiology
  • Occupational Exposure / analysis
  • Occupational Exposure / statistics & numerical data*
  • Radiation Dosage*
  • Radiation Exposure / analysis
  • Radiation Exposure / statistics & numerical data*
  • Radiation Monitoring / statistics & numerical data*
  • Radio Waves*
  • Risk Assessment / methods
  • Surveys and Questionnaires*