Comparison of Thermal Response for RF Exposure in Human and Rat Models

Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2018 Oct 22;15(10):2320. doi: 10.3390/ijerph15102320.


In the international guidelines/standards for human protection against electromagnetic fields, the specific absorption rate (SAR) is used as a metric for radio-frequency field exposure. For radio-frequency near-field exposure, the peak value of the SAR averaged over 10 g of tissue is treated as a surrogate of the local temperature elevation for frequencies up to 3⁻10 GHz. The limit of 10-g SAR is derived by extrapolating the thermal damage in animal experiments. However, no reports discussed the difference between the time constant of temperature elevation in small animals and humans for local exposure. This study computationally estimated the thermal time constants of temperature elevation in human head and rat models exposed to dipole antennas at 3⁻10 GHz. The peak temperature elevation in the human brain was lower than that in the rat model, mainly because of difference in depth from the scalp. Consequently, the thermal time constant of the rat brain was smaller than that of the human brain. Additionally, the thermal time constant in human skin decreased with increasing frequency, which was mainly characterized by the effective SAR volume, whereas it was almost frequency-independent in the human brain. These findings should be helpful for extrapolating animal studies to humans.

Keywords: bioheat transfer equation; human safety; temperature elevation; thermal time constant; vasodilation.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Brain / radiation effects*
  • Electromagnetic Fields
  • Fever
  • Head
  • Humans
  • Models, Biological*
  • Radiation Dosage
  • Radio Waves / adverse effects*
  • Rats
  • Skin
  • Skin Temperature / radiation effects*