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Assessment of RF Exposures from Emerging Wireless Communication Technologies in Different Environments

Joseph, Wout; Verloock, Leen; Goeminne, Francis; Vermeeren, Gönter; Martens, Luc*

doi: 10.1097/HP.0b013e31822f8e39

Abstract— In situ electromagnetic (EM) radio frequency (RF) exposure to base stations of emerging wireless technologies is assessed at 311 locations, 68 indoor and 243 outdoor, spread over 35 areas in three European countries (Belgium, The Netherlands, and Sweden) by performing narrowband spectrum analyzer measurements. The locations are selected to characterize six different environmental categories (rural, residential, urban, suburban, office, and industrial). The maximal total field value was measured in a residential environment and equal to 3.9 V m−1, mainly due to GSM900 signals. Exposure ratios for maximal electric field values, with respect to ICNIRP reference levels, range from 0.5% (WiMAX) to 9.3% (GSM900) for the 311 measurement locations. Exposure ratios for total field values vary from 3.1% for rural environments to 9.4% for residential environments. Exposures are lognormally distributed and are the lowest in rural environments and the highest in urban environments. Highest median exposures were obtained in urban environments (0.74 V m−1), followed by office (0.51 V m−1), industrial (0.49 V m−1), suburban (0.46 V m−1), residential (0.40 V m−1), and rural (0.09 V m−1) environments. The average contribution to the total electric field is more than 60% for GSM. Except for the rural environment, average contributions of UMTS-HSPA are more than 3%. Contributions of the emerging technologies LTE and WiMAX are on average less than 1%. The dominating outdoor source is GSM900 (95th percentile of 1.9 V m−1), indoor DECT dominates (95th percentile of 1.5 V m−1).

* Department of Information Technology, Ghent University/IBBT, Gaston Crommenlaan 8, B-9050 Ghent, Belgium.

For correspondence contact J. Wout at the above address, or email at

The authors declare no conflict of interest.

(Manuscript accepted 25 July 2011)

©2012Health Physics Society