How Much RF-EMR Exposure is Safe?

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Biologically-Based RF Microwave Radiation Exposure Guidelines

BioInitiative, 2020: “A scientific benchmark of 30 µW/m² for lowest observed effect level for RF microwave radiation is based on mobile phone base station-level studies. Applying a ten-fold reduction to compensate for the lack of long-term exposure (to provide a safety buffer for chronic exposure) or for children as a sensitive subpopulation yields a 3 to 6 µW/m² RF Microwave Radiation exposure guideline”

Similar scientifically-based RF Microwave Radiation Exposure Guidelines are published by the International Institute for Building-Biology & Ecology:

No Hazard Slight Hazard Severe Hazard Extreme Hazard
< 0.1 µW/m² 0.1 µW/m² to 10 µW/m² 10 µW/m² to 1,000 µW/m² > 1,000 µW/m²

  • µW/m² = millionths of a Watt per square meter (a measurement of power flux density)
  • Power flux density (PFD) = the amount of electromagnetic power that flows through a unit area: expressed as microWatts (µW) per square meter (m&sup2).
  • PFD measures only the rate of electromagnetic power, NOT the total electromagnetic power delivered over time, which requires the rate to be multiplied by the time of exposure and then requires reporting the results in a more relevant unit: µW-seconds/m² or µJoules/m²
  • Average µW/m² readings, as specified by the FCC, significantly under-report the levels of pulsed, data-modulated, RF microwave radiation exposures for two reasons —
    1. Peak RF microwave radiation exposures meter 100x–1000x higher than average RF microwave radiation for data-carrying, modulated, high-crest signals like Wi-Fi, 4G/LTE and 5G because of the duty cycle, inherent in these RF signals. Inexplicably, the FCC RF microwave radiation exposure guidelines only consider average RF microwave radiation exposures, which is a significant error because living organisms’ biology reacts to the sharp changes of RF microwave radiation from zero to peak levels and back again. This is more fully explained here: Palo Alto Whitewashes RF Microwave Radiation Exposure Hazards
    2. The FCC RF microwave radiation exposure guidelines consider neither the time of exposure nor the total electromagnetic power delivered over time, which is utter nonsense and scientifically unsound. This is more fully explained here: RF Microwave Radiation Counter.

1997 FCC Office of Engineering and Technology Bulletin 65: FCC Guidelines for Human Exposure to Radiofrequency Microwave Radiation

Power Flux Density in Far-Field Region from RF-EMR Source in µW/m²

OET-65 Equation 5: PFDfar = (EIRP / 4 × π × R2) × 10,000,000

  • Far-Field = region beyond 3 wavelengths

    • For 600 MHz, that is the region beyond 60 inches from an RF-EMR source antenna
    • For 2,100 MHz that is the region beyond 18 inches from an RF-EMR source antenna
  • µW = millionths of a Watt
  • RF-EMR = Radio-frequency Electromagnetic Microwave Radiation
  • PFD = Power Flux Density: the rate of electromagnetic power flowing through an area of about 39 in. by 39 in.
  • EIRP = Effective Isotropic Radiated Power — a spherical-shaped radiation pattern. EIRP is a cousin of Effective Radiated Power (ERP) — a bagel-shaped radiation pattern

Adapted from a March 14, 2019 Investigate Europe article here.


"Densified 4G + 5G infrastructure will require many more Wireless Telecommunications Facility (WTF) base stations, which raises a growing acknolwedgement that pulsed, data-modulated, Radio-frequency Electromagnetic Microwave Radiation (RF-EMR) exposures are harmful to health. Scientists wary of potential health risks from Densified 4G + 5G infrastructure point out that very little research has been done. Nobody has been asked whether we want to go down this path; we are heading into this future without consultation and with insufficient public debate.

Investigate Europe: How Much RF-EMR Exposure is Safe?
IIEEE Public Relations: What is a 5G Network?

Radiation Authorities Rely on a Controversial Private Club for Safety Opinions

Many scientists are sounding the alarm about potential health risks caused by radiation from mobile technology. Completely unfounded, assure most radiation safety authorities. They take advise from a small circle of insiders who reject alarming research – and who set safety limits.

The Research

Is pulsed, data-modulated, Radio-frequency Electromagnetic Microwave Radiation (RF-EMR) from mobile cellular and Wi-Fi devices and infrastructure antennas dangerous? As the world is about to enter the Densified 4G + 5G era, engineers, physicists, biologists and cancer doctors can look back at thousands of scientific studies and calculations on negative health consequences from RF-EMR and electromagnetic fields (EMF) form the previous generations of wireless mobile frequencies, branded as 2G, 3G and 4G (700 MHz to 2,100 MHz) and as Wi-Fi (2,450 MHz and 5,800 MHz) in flavors of increasing strength( 802.11n, 802.11ac and — most recently — 802.11ax). There are comparatively fewer such scientific studies for the panoply of 5G frequencies (600 MHz to 90,000 MHz)

The Panoply of Microwave Frequencies/Wavelengths in a 4G/5G World

  • 5G: 600 MHz = waves 20 inches long
  • 4G: 700 MHz = waves 17 inches long
  • 3G/4G: 800 MHz = waves 15 inches long
  • 3G/4G: 900 MHz = waves 13 inches long
  • 3G/4G: 1800 MHz = waves 7 inches long
  • 3G/4G: 2100 MHz = waves 6 inches long
  • Wi-Fi: 2450 MHz = waves 5 inches long (unlicensed)
  • 5G: 3100 MHz to 3550 MHz = waves 3.8 to 3.3 inches long
  • 5G: 3550 MHz to 3700 MHz = waves 3.3 to 3.2 inches long
  • 5G: 3700 MHz to 4200 MHz = waves 3.2 to 2.8 inches long
  • 5G: 4200 to 4900 MHz = waves 2.8 to 2.4 inches long
  • Wi-Fi: 5800 MHz = waves 2.0 inches long (unlicensed)
  • 5G: 24,250 to 24,450 MHz = waves 0.5 inch long
  • 5G: 25,050 to 25,250 MHz = waves 0.5 inch long
  • 5G: 25,250 to 27,500 MHz = waves 0.4 inch long
  • 5G: 27,500 to 29,500 MHz = waves 0.4 inch long
  • 5G: 31,800 to 33,400 MHz = waves 0.4 inch long
  • 5G: 37,000 to 40,000 MHz = waves 0.3 inch long
  • 5G: 42,000 to 42,500 MHz = waves 0.3 inch long
  • 5G: 57,000 to 64,500 MHz = waves 0.3 inch long (unlicensed)
  • 5G: 64,000 to 71,000 MHz = waves 0.2 inch long
  • 5G: 71,000 to 76,000 MHz = waves 0.2 inch long
  • 5G: 81,000 to 86,000 MHz = waves 0.1 inch long

Curiously, one group of scientists dominates the entities that are to provide professional advice on RF-EMR exposure risk. This means research by others fall under the radar of politicians who must use science to make laws and regulations. This constitutes monopoly of opinion, says Einar Flydal. The former social scientist at Telenor in Norway has authored the book “Smart meters, the law and health”. He criticizes the scientific base for the RF-EMR exposure limits that apply in many countries.

Flydal claims

The majority of researchers are defined as dissenters and are simply shut out through a process that is not ethically justifiable. This cannot be understood from scientific results. It must be understood politically, as the result of a battle for interests where radiation protection authorities often become pawns.”

These RF-EMR So-Called "Authorities" Don’t Do the Actual Research

In Norway, everyone looks to the Directorate for Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety (NRPA) for radiation advice. This Noway’s highest professional authority on RF-EMR exposures and health hazards.

The NRPA does not itself conduct research on RF-EMR exposures electromagnetic fields, EMF, according to physicist and director Tone-Mette Sjømoen. “We lean on reviews made by international expert groups. These goups consider available science, evaluate it and draw conclusions based on the overall scientific picture”.

This state of affairs is quite typical among radiation safety authorities in Europe, most of which take or have been taking their advise from some or all of these scientific bodies:

  • The International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection, ICNIRP.
  • The EU Scientific Committee on Health, Environment and Emerging Risk, SCENIHR / SCHEER.
  • The World Health Organization WHO’s EMF Group.
  • The WHO Cancer Unit IARC, International Agency for Research on Cancer.
  • The Swedish Radiation Safety Authority’s Scientific council on electromagnetic fields.
  • Advisory Group on Non-Ionising Radiation, AGNIR, a public UK committee that existed until 2017.
Resonance Beings of Frequency

This number of groups should result in a wide range of scientific opinion. However, that is not the case.

ICNIRP is a particularly influential group, as it not only evaluates RF-EMR exposures and health risk research, but also provides guidelines for RF-EMR exposure limits that most countries use. It is a private, German-registered organization located outside Munich, behind a yellow door on the premises of the German Federal office for radiation protection. Decisions on who to invite in, are taken by ICNIRP itself.

“ICNIRP does not have an open process for the election of its new members. It is a self-perpetuating group with no dissent allowed. Why is this not problematic?” asks Louis Slesin, editor of the publication Microwave News in New York. He has followed the scientific debate on radiation and health for decades.

There are not enough highly qualified scientists, explains Mike Repacholi, an RF-EMR research pioneer who founded ICNIRP in 1992, to Investigate Europe. The excluded research often does not meet high standards, adds Eric van Rongen, head of ICNIRP. “We are not against including scientists who think differently. But they must fill the profile in a specific vacant position”, says van Rongen.

Major Overlap of Scientists

ICNIRP is the de facto standard-setter of radiation safety limits in much of Europe. Still, it is just one out of several scientific groups. The groups, however, are to a remarkable degree staffed by the same experts. Of 13 ICNIRP scientists, six are members of at least one other committee. In the WHO group, this applies for six out of seven. Every third researcher in the EU commission that gave radiation advice in 2015 was represented in other groups.

The following graphic shows just the close-knit relationships in this controversial private club:

Click on one of the circles to find out more about the person or the organization.

The committees focus on solely one basic premise: the only documented health risk from RF-EMR exposures is the heating of body tissue. The radiation safety limits are set to prevent this from happening.

For most mobile users it is easy to stay be compliant to these permissive RF-EMR exosure guidelines: They are only reached or exceeded by standing directly in front of a Wireless Telecommunications Facilities (WTFs) base station at a distance shorter distance than 30 feet.

Many Studies Identify Negative Health Consequences from RF-EMR Exposures

A significant number of scientists believe that people are harmed by RF-EMR exposures that are far below these limits, especially in the course of many years of use. Oceania Radiofrequency Scientific Advisory Organisation, an Australian entity, examined 2,266 studies and found “significant biological effects or health effects” in 68 percent of them.

Another, the “Bioinitiative Group“, referred to up to 1,800 studies when they concluded that many such bio-effects probably cause health damage if people are exposed for a long time. This is because the radiation interferes with normal processes in the body, preventing them from repairing damaged DNA and creating an imbalance in the immune system, say these scientists. According to the report produced by the Bioinitiative Group, the list of possible damage is substantial, including:

  • Poor sperm quality,
  • autism,
  • alzheimers,
  • brain cancer
  • childhood leukemia.

ICNIRP Serves the Wireless Industry: ICNIRP is at the center of the clash of opinions between scientists. Dutch biologist Eric van Rongen does not dismiss that mobile radiation has effects below the recommended radiation safety guidelines. ICNIRP is in the process of publishing updated EMF radiation limits. The old ones are from 1998. Little indicates that scientists who sound the alarm have influenced the new guidelines.

The conflicts in EMF research have long roots. Historically, science in this field has been associated with the Telecom sector and the military. ICNIRP’s safety limits primarily take into account the needs of the Telecom industry, claims Dariusz Leszczynski, former long-time researcher at the Finnish radiation protection agency. In 2011, he sat on the committee of IARC, the cancer body of the World Health Organization, when it decided that RF-EMR exposures fronm any source is “possibly carcinogenic” to humans. Leszczynski is not represented in ICNIRP, nor in other leading RF-EMR expert groups.

Leszczynski is echoed by Louis Slesin, the editor of Microwave News. “There is a lot of politics in deciding what goes into a study and what is left out. For instance, excluding people over the age of 60 from a brain tumor study in Australia that was recently published, does not make any sense”, says Slesin, pointing out that most brain tumors appear in older age groups.

This particular study, co-authored by two scientists also represented in ICNIRP, concluded that there can be no link between mobile phones and brain tumors because the incidence of brain cancer in the general population has been stable for years. It sharply contrasts a paper published in England last year that showed more than a doubling of glioblastoma, the most aggressive type of brain tumor, between 1995 and 2015.

Source of Funding May Affect Results

At least three studies over the years have documented that there is often a link between conclusions of studies and the source of the money that paid for the research. Science funded by industry is less likely to find negative health consequences than studies paid for by institutions or authorities.

Research money often goes to universities and has “firewalls” between the individual scientist and the money, says Lennart Hardell, cancer doctor and scientist at the University hospital in Örebro in Sweden. “The problem is, however, that one becomes dependent on this money. Most people do not bite the hand that feeds them.”

Hardell studies connections between long-term mobile use and brain cancer and has concluded that one can cause the other. He sat on the IARC committee in 2011, but is not represented on other committees. According to Hardell, his research is funded through his salary from the hospital as well as by funds raised by local cancer foundations and national organizations. “Of course I have also worked a lot on my free time”, he says.

Martin Röösli co-authored one of the studies that documented the link between financing source and results. The associate professor at the Swiss Tropical and Public Health Institute is a member of ICNIRP and other advisory bodies. “Studies which are solely financed by industry are likely to be biased”, Röösli confirms to Investigate Europe. But in his study, mixed financial models with proper firewalls did not result in biased research outcomes – and it had a higher quality. There might also be preferred outcomes in any camp, Röösli asserts: “Researchers may create uncertainties to raise funding for their research”.

Some studies can go on for 15 to 20 years. Such projects are bread and butter for researchers, argues Louis Slesin. Some studies are industry-funded. “Does this constitute a conflict of interest for the scientists involved?” Slesin asks – and answers: “Of course it does”.

Gunnhild Oftedal does not dismiss that the source of funding can affect conclusions – just as “a strong belief that one will find something” can. Such mechanisms were not much considered before. “But today we are concerned about it. I have the impression that scientists are much more cautious about receiving support from the industry – at least direct support”, says Oftedal.

Others believe that Industry should pay for research into potential dangers of their products; but it should only be conducted independently of the funders, thinks Zenon Sienkiewicz, a UK physiologist, He is part of the ICNIRP commission and has previously been on other advisory bodies.

Research is critically dependent on external funding, adds former ICNIRP scientist Norbert Leitgeb, professor at the Institute of Health Care Engineering at the Graz University of Technology in Austria. “The question is not whether industry has provided money, which it should. The important issue is whether there are efficient firewalls established assuring that stakeholders cannot interfere with researchers and influence scientific outcome or conclusions”, he says.

New, Stricter Rules

The debate of a potential industry bias ignores potential bias from NGOs and private pressure groups, asserts Leitgeb. “Groups such as people with Electromagnetic Sensitivity (EMS) would merit the same attention”.

Mike Repacholi founded ICNIRP as well as the WHO EMF project. In the beginning, the WHO project received substantial funding from industry. Upon leaving WHO, Repacholi became an industry consultant.

“There has been such criticism of industry-funded research that the industry now doesn’t fund research. Yet they are the ones causing the concerns about health” Repacholi says.

Both ICNIRP and WHO now exclude researchers who have received support from industry over the past three years.

WHO and the Tobacco Heritage

Both Eric van Rongen and Gunnhild Oftedal are also deeply into the work of the World Health Organization to update this entity’s knowledge of radiation and health.

The WHO “core” group of scientist has been working since 2012, and the work was initially expected to be completed a long time ago. But allegations of one-sidedness have also ravaged this committee. Now the WHO will put together a larger research group that will evaluate the work of the core group. Participants are not yet appointed, but will include “a broad spectrum of opinions and expertise,” a WHO spokesperson assures Investigate Europe.

Many critics of the dominant RF-EMR and EMF research bodies and its historical ties to industry compare the situation with the way tobacco manufacturers were able to maintain doubt about whether smoking was dangerous. “I don’t like that comparison, because there, the harmful effects are clear, whereas with EMF we are still guessing how big or small the problem is”, says Louis Slesin.

The lesson to be learned from the tobacco issue, he thinks, is to be careful not to give too much access and influence to industry. “In 2000, WHO published a major mea culpa report on how it allowed the tobacco industry to influence its thinking. But then the WHO repeated that with EMF. They have never given me an answer to why”, says Slesin.