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Assessment of Radio Frequency Exposures in Schools, Homes, and Public Places in Belgium

Verloock, Leen*; Joseph, Wout*; Goeminne, Francis*; Martens, Luc*; Verlaek, Mart; Constandt, Kim

doi: 10.1097/HP.0000000000000149
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Characterization of exposure from emerging radio frequency (RF) technologies in areas where children are present is important. Exposure to RF electromagnetic fields (EMF) was assessed in three “sensitive” microenvironments; namely, schools, homes, and public places located in urban environments and compared to exposure in offices. In situ assessment was conducted by performing spatial broadband and accurate narrowband measurements, providing 6-min averaged electric-field strengths. A distinction between internal (transmitters that are located indoors) and external (outdoor sources from broadcasting and telecommunication) sources was made. Ninety-four percent of the broadband measurements were below 1 V m–1. The average and maximal total electric-field values in schools, homes, and public places were 0.2 and 3.2 V m–1 (WiFi), 0.1 and 1.1 V m–1 (telecommunication), and 0.6 and 2.4 V m–1 (telecommunication), respectively, while for offices, average and maximal exposure were 0.9 and 3.3 V m–1 (telecommunication), satisfying the ICNIRP reference levels. In the schools considered, the highest maximal and average field values were due to internal signals (WiFi). In the homes, public places, and offices considered, the highest maximal and average field values originated from telecommunication signals. Lowest exposures were obtained in homes. Internal sources contributed on average more indoors (31.2%) than outdoors (2.3%), while the average contributions of external sources (broadcast and telecommunication sources) were higher outdoors (97.7%) than at indoor positions (68.8%). FM, GSM, and UMTS dominate the total downlink exposure in the outdoor measurements. In indoor measurements, FM, GSM, and WiFi dominate the total exposure. The average contribution of the emerging technology LTE was only 0.6%.

*Department of Information Technology, Ghent University/iMinds, Gaston Crommenlaan 8, Box 201, B-9050 Ghent, Belgium; †Department of Environment, Nature and Energy (LNE), Flemish government, Koning Albert II-laan 20, Box 8, B-1000 Brussels, Belgium.

The authors declare no conflicts of interest.

For correspondence contact: Wout Joseph, Department of Information Technology, Ghent University/iMinds, Gaston Crommenlaan 8, Box 201, B-9050 Ghent, Belgium, or email at wout.joseph@intec.UGent.be.

(Manuscript accepted 23 April 2014)

© 2014 by the Health Physics Society