Studying Population Exposure to Radiofrequency Energy Emitted by Mobile Communications Devices

Studying Population Exposure to Radiofrequency Energy Emitted by Mobile Communications Devices

23.12.2016

We want to establish the patterns of exposure of the human body to the radiation and ascertain to what degree RF may affect our health

In recent years, we have witnessed the very rapid evolution of mobile communications. Just two decades ago, this technology was limited to a single device—the mobile phone—and a single use. People used mobile phones almost exclusively to make voice calls and they held the device close to their ears. Today, we use many different types of mobile devices (smart phones, tablets, portable computers, intelligent watches, etc.) and we use them in a myriad of ways: surfing the internet, text messaging, streaming video, making video calls, etc. These developments have been accompanied by the emergence of new types of networks (2G, 3G, 4G, Wi-Fi, LTE) and network configurations.

We must first understand how people use mobile communications technologies, how much they use them, and where they are used

The use of these technologies is associated with exposure to radiofrequency (RF) radiation, and the distribution of such exposure depends on the ways we use our devices. In the ISGlobal Radiation Programme, our objective is to characterise and assess the exposure of the general population to RF radiation. We want to establish the patterns of exposure of the human body to the radiation and ascertain to what degree RF may affect our health. Mobile devices are objects we use continuously and hold very close to our bodies.

The last phase of the study has now been launched within the framework of the European CREST project (Characterization of exposure to radiofrequency energy associated with the use of new technologies and mobile communication devices) funded by the French National Agency for Food, Environmental and Occupational Health and Safety (ANSES).  In this final phase, letters will be sent to a randomly selected sample of the population inviting the recipients to participate in an online survey (maximum 20 minutes) about their typical pattern of use of various technologies.

If we are going to assess the RF exposure associated with the use of new technologies, we must first understand how people use mobile communications technologies, how much they use them, and where they are used.

1. How: To evaluate how people use mobile technologies, we study the position of the device with respect to the body during its use. The exposure received varies greatly depending on the distance between the user and the device. For example, RF exposure associated with the use of a phone held close to the head to make a voice call differs enormously from that associated with watching a movie on a tablet placed on a surface at a distance of more than 50 cm from the user's body.

If you use your phone when travelling by public transport, the device is constantly searching for a signal to connect to and this increases the emission of RF and consequently your exposure

2. How Much: We also want to know for how long the devices are used each day. The results of using a single device for five minutes a day are not the same as the exposure associated with using three different devices simultaneously for eight hours.

3. Where: Finally, we want to know where these devices are being used. Exposure increases when the user is moving. For example, if you use your phone when travelling by public transport, the device is constantly searching for a signal to connect to and this increases the emission of RF and consequently your exposure.

The data collected in the course of this study, together with the results of the analysis of networks and devices conducted by the team of engineers on the project, will be used to develop exposure matrices that will help us to better estimate actual exposure levels in current studies and, what is more important, in future studies.

You can take part too! You will find all the information on our webpage at radiation.isglobal.org\crest