Radiofrequency electromagnetic field exposure in everyday microenvironments in Europe: A systematic literature review

J Expo Sci Environ Epidemiol. 2018 Mar;28(2):147-160. doi: 10.1038/jes.2017.13. Epub 2017 Aug 2.


The impact of the introduction and advancement in communication technology in recent years on exposure level of the population is largely unknown. The main aim of this study is to systematically review literature on the distribution of radiofrequency electromagnetic field (RF-EMF) exposure in the everyday environment in Europe and summarize key characteristics of various types of RF-EMF studies conducted in the European countries. We systematically searched the ISI Web of Science for relevant literature published between 1 January 2000 and 30 April 2015, which assessed RF-EMF exposure levels by any of the methods: spot measurements, personal measurement with trained researchers and personal measurement with volunteers. Twenty-one published studies met our eligibility criteria of which 10 were spot measurements studies, 5 were personal measurement studies with trained researchers (microenvironmental), 5 were personal measurement studies with volunteers and 1 was a mixed methods study combining data collected by volunteers and trained researchers. RF-EMF data included in the studies were collected between 2005 and 2013. The mean total RF-EMF exposure for spot measurements in European "Homes" and "Outdoor" microenvironments was 0.29 and 0.54 V/m, respectively. In the personal measurements studies with trained researchers, the mean total RF-EMF exposure was 0.24 V/m in "Home" and 0.76 V/m in "Outdoor". In the personal measurement studies with volunteers, the population weighted mean total RF-EMF exposure was 0.16 V/m in "Homes" and 0.20 V/m in "Outdoor". Among all European microenvironments in "Transportation", the highest mean total RF-EMF 1.96 V/m was found in trains of Belgium during 2007 where more than 95% of exposure was contributed by uplink. Typical RF-EMF exposure levels are substantially below regulatory limits. We found considerable differences between studies according to the type of measurements procedures, which precludes cross-country comparison or evaluating temporal trends. A comparable RF-EMF monitoring concept is needed to accurately identify typical RF-EMF exposure levels in the everyday environment.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Cell Phone
  • Electromagnetic Fields
  • Environmental Exposure / analysis*
  • Environmental Monitoring / methods
  • Europe
  • Humans
  • Public Health
  • Radiation Monitoring / methods
  • Radio Waves*
  • Transportation