Personal RF-EMF exposure from mobile phone base stations during temporary events

Environ Res. 2019 Aug;175:266-273. doi: 10.1016/j.envres.2019.05.033. Epub 2019 May 21.


Background: In recent years, radiofrequency electromagnetic fields (RF-EMF) exposure has increased owing to new communication technologies. Simultaneously, increased exposure to RF-EMF has led to society's growing concern about the possible effects they may have on human health. Many studies have described personal RF-EMF exposure by using personal exposimeters to know a population's daily exposure to mobile phone base stations and to other sources whose installations tend to be permanent. Nonetheless during special events like concerts or fairs, where many people gather, permanent installations might not suffice to cover demand. So telephone companies install temporary stations for these events, and modify the exposure pattern of these areas or populations.

Objective: To study if installing temporary antennae for large events, and high concentrations of mobile phones, modify the exposure pattern compared to usual situations.

Methods: Personal RF-EMF exposure from mobile phones (uplink) and mobile phone base stations (downlink) installed at the 2017 Albacete Fair (Spain) was recorded. Between 7 and 17 September, more than 2,500,000 people visited this Fair. Measurements were taken by two Satimo EME SPY 140 personal exposimeters, placed one each side of a research team member's waist. These exposimeters were programmed to take measurements every 4 s at different time of day; morning, afternoon and night; and in several places, around the Fair Enclosure (zones Ejidos and Paseo) and inside the enclosure (Interior). These measurements were repeated on a weekday, at the weekend and the day after the Fair ended after temporary base stations had been removed. They were also taken for 1 h in all three zones, for each time of day; that is, 9 h were recorded for each study day.

Results: The mean RF-EMF recorded exposure from base stations (downlink-DL) on the days the Fair opened (morning, afternoon and night) for the three studied zones was 791.8 μW/m2, while the exposure produced by mobile phones (uplink-UL) was 59.0 μW/m2. These values were 391.2 μW/m2 (DL) and 10.3 μW/m2 (UL) a few days after the event ended. In study zones Ejidos and Paseo, both outside, the highest mean exposure was recorded at the weekend as 1494.1 and 848.1 μW/m2 respectively. For the Interior zone, the mean value recorded during the Fair was 354.8 μW/m2. These values contrast with those recorded in the three zones after the event ended: 556.37 (Ejidos), 144.1 (Paseo); 473.21 μW/m2 (Interior). The fact that the mean exposure recorded at Interior was slightly higher after the Fair could be due to signal shielding by so many people. The reduction in exposure in Paseo after the Fair was outstanding, probably due to the antennae being placed on low towers. Major differences were also found in the RF-EMF exposure from UL. In this case, the weekend values taken during the Fair were between 28.2 μW/m2 at Interior (weekday) and 98.1 μW/m2 at Ejidos (weekend), which dropped to 5.5 at Paseo after the Fair, to 11.7 μW/m2 at Interior and to 13.6 μW/m2 at Ejidos.

Conclusions: Installing mobile phone base stations, and a dense public using mobile phones, imply a significant increase in personal RF-EMF exposure compared to that recorded during normal periods in the same area. However, the recorded measurements were below legally established limits.

Keywords: Exposimeter; Personal exposure; Radiofrequency electromagnetic fields (RF-EMF); Temporal events.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Cell Phone*
  • Communication
  • Electromagnetic Fields*
  • Environmental Exposure*
  • Humans
  • Radio Waves*
  • Spain