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THERMAL MECHANISMS OF INTERACTION OF RADIOFREQUENCY ENERGY WITH BIOLOGICAL SYSTEMS WITH RELEVANCE TO EXPOSURE GUIDELINES

Foster, Kenneth R.*; Glaser, Roland

doi: 10.1097/01.HP.0000262572.64418.38
RF Biophysics: Review Article
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This article reviews thermal mechanisms of interaction between radiofrequency (RF) fields and biological systems, focusing on theoretical frameworks that are of potential use in setting guidelines for human exposure to RF energy. Several classes of thermal mechanisms are reviewed that depend on the temperature increase or rate of temperature increase and the relevant dosimetric considerations associated with these mechanisms. In addition, attention is drawn to possible molecular and physiological reactions that could be induced by temperature elevations below 0.1 degrees, which are normal physiological responses to heat, and to the so-called microwave auditory effect, which is a physiologically trivial effect resulting from thermally-induced acoustic stimuli. It is suggested that some reported “nonthermal” effects of RF energy may be thermal in nature; also that subtle thermal effects from RF energy exist but have no consequence to health or safety. It is proposed that future revisions of exposure guidelines make more explicit use of thermal models and empirical data on thermal effects in quantifying potential hazards of RF fields.

* University of Pennsylvania, Department of Bioengineering, Philadelphia, PA 19104; Institute of Biology/Experimental Biophysics, Humboldt University, Berlin, Germany.

For correspondence contact: K. Foster, University of Pennsylvania, Department of Bioengineering, Philadelphia, PA 19104, or email at kfoster@seas.upenn.edu.

(Manuscript accepted 20 February 2007)

©2007Health Physics Society