International policy and advisory response regarding children's exposure to radio frequency electromagnetic fields (RF-EMF)

Electromagn Biol Med. 2016;35(2):176-85. doi: 10.3109/15368378.2015.1038832. Epub 2015 Jun 19.


Radiofrequency electromagnetic field (RF-EMF) exposure regulations/guidelines generally only consider acute effects, and not chronic, low exposures. Concerns for children's exposure are warranted due to the amazingly rapid uptake of many wireless devices by increasingly younger children. This review of policy and advice regarding children's RF-EMF exposure draws material from a wide variety of sources focusing on the current situation. This is not a systematic review, but aims to provide a representative cross-section of policy and advisory responses within set boundaries. There are a wide variety of approaches which I have categorized and tabulated ranging from ICNIRP/IEEE guidelines and "no extra precautions needed" to precautionary or scientific much lower maxima and extensive advice to minimize RF-EMF exposure, ban advertising/sale to children, and add exposure information to packaging. Precautionary standards use what I term an exclusion principle. The wide range of policy approaches can be confusing for parents/carers of children. Some consensus among advisory organizations would be helpful acknowledging that, despite extensive research, the highly complex nature of both RF-EMF and the human body, and frequent technological updates, means simple assurance of long-term safety cannot be guaranteed. Therefore, minimum exposure of children to RF-EMF is recommended. This does not indicate need for alarm, but mirrors routine health-and-safety precautions. Simple steps are suggested. ICNIRP guidelines need to urgently publish how the head, torso, and limbs' exposure limits were calculated and what safety margin was applied since this exposure, especially to the abdomen, is now dominant in many children.

Keywords: ICNIRP; Radiofrequency guidelines; WHO International EMF Project; children; precautionary approach.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Advisory Committees
  • Child
  • Electromagnetic Fields* / adverse effects
  • Environmental Exposure* / legislation & jurisprudence
  • Environmental Exposure* / standards
  • Humans
  • Internationality*
  • Public Policy*
  • Radio Waves* / adverse effects