We aimed to assess the personal radiofrequency electromagnetic field (RF-EMF) exposure levels of children and adults through their activities, with consideration to the body shadowing effect. We recruited 50 child-adult pairs, living in Seoul, Cheonan, and Ulsan, South Korea. RF-EMF measurements were performed between September and December 2016, using a portable exposure meter tailored to capture 14 Korean radiofrequency (RF) bands ranging from 87.5 to 5875MHz. The participants carried the device for 48h and kept a time-activity diary using a smartphone application in flight mode. To enhance accuracy of the exposure assessment, the body shadowing effect was compensated during the statistical analysis with the measured RF-EMF exposure. The compensation was conducted using the hybrid model that represents the decrease of the exposure level due to the body shadowing effect. A generalized linear mixed model was used to compare the RF-EMF exposure levels by subjects and activities. The arithmetic (geometric) means of the total power density were 174.9 (36.6) μW/m2 for all participants, 226.9 (44.6) for fathers, 245.4 (44.8) for mothers, and 116.2 (30.1) for children. By compensating for the body shadowing effect, the total RF-EMF exposure increased marginally, approximately 1.4 times. Each frequency band contribution to total RF-EMF exposure consisted of 76.7%, 2.4%, 9.9%, 5.0%, 3.3%, and 2.6% for downlink, uplink, WiFi, FM Radio, TV, and WiBro bands, respectively. Among the three regions, total RF-EMF exposure was highest in Seoul, and among the activities, it was highest in the metro, followed by foot/bicycle, bus/car, and outside. The contribution of base-station exposure to total RF-EMF exposure was the highest both in parents and children. Total and base-station RF-EMF exposure levels in Korea were higher than those reported in European countries.
Keywords: Body shadowing effect; Exposure assessment; Mobile phone base-station; Portable exposure meter (PEM); Radiofrequency electromagnetic fields (RF-EMF).
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