Introduction on Health & Radiofrequencies, i.e. wireless communication devices
BBEMG's activities are dedicated to extremely low frequency electromagnetic fields like those generated by power lines or other electric appliances. This means that we do not provide information or perform research on wireless communication devices such as mobile phones, wifi, etc.
It is nevertheless clear that there are also many uncertainties and questions related to radiations from this part of the electromagnetic spectrum (microwaves which are part from the radiofrequency band). We therefore would like to point to a number of relevant websites where you can find adequate information. Some of them also provide information on other types of electromagnetic fields and other environmental agents.
You will also find answers to questions received and further useful information in Frequently asked questions below.
Frequently asked questions
1. I am concerned about the presence of a base station in the vicinity of my house. What are the risks? What is considered as a safe distance from such a station? Could you help me?
The BBEMG is mainly studying the effects of electric fields and magnetic induction generated by the transport and use of electric power in our everyday life or in our workplace (50 Hz). Therefore we cannot directly answer your question.
Below you will find a list of references or links that could help you to better understand the base station issue:
- Document from the Belgian Superior Health Council
- Fact sheets from World Health Organization (WHO)
- U.S. Food and Drug Administration: Protecting and Promoting Your Health
For questions related to the health effects of radio-frequencies, feel free to contact Toxicology team.
2. I'd like to install a wireless network in my home, in order to move my laptop computer easily from one room to another. A friend of mine tells me that she distrusts 'fields' that this kind of network generates. I do not know what to think. I have not found anything concerning Wi-Fi in your website. Many thanks in advance for any further information.
As our research group is mainly interested in extremely low frequencies (50-60 Hz), you will therefore not find any information concerning wireless networks (called Wi-Fi) in our internet pages. However, you can contact Mr Pirard from the "Institut Scientifique de Service Public" (ISSeP - firstname.lastname@example.org) or Prof. Luc Martens (Universiteit Gent - Martens@intec.ugent.be) for further information concerning the physical features of Wi-Fi network.
As for health effects, very few studies exist about this quite new technology but you must keep in mind that radio-frequency signals of Wi-Fi systems are emitted at a frequency (2,4 GHz) of the same order of the ones of mobile phone antennas (900 MHz, 1,8 GHz and 2,1 GHz for UMTS). Although this emits low power, a wireless network produces, in the house where it is installed, a field markedly higher that the ones generated by mobile phone antennas which could be present in the vicinity, because the distance is shorter. Moreover, the user is more exposed to radio-frequencies emitted by her/his computer when connected to internet than to the wireless modem itself.
Measurements taken by ISSeP indicate that, in front of a laptop computer, fields at head level are about 1 V/m (peak value) and 0,3 to 0,5 V/m (mean value). The field produced by the modem is, in principle, lower because this is farther away. Nevertheless, the values given remain well below the field produced by a mobile phone at head level which can reach 50 V/m (mean value). It is obvious that exposure can be reduced by turning the modem on only when accessing the internet.
You will find further information in internationally recognized expert group reports such as WHO Factsheet on the question of base stations and wireless technology.
3. Who can I go to to have electromagnetic fields measured (multidirectional relay antennas 20m from my home) ?
As our group is mainly involved in matters regarding the transport and use of electricity (50Hz), we are not directly qualified in the range of radiofrequencies.
In Belgium, to get such measurements done we suggest that you contact the IBPT (Institut Belge des services Postaux et des Télécommunications). The page mentioned below contains the necessary information: http://www.sites.bipt.be/index.php?language=EN (see EMF exposure menu).
The IBPT internet site contains a list of the antennas installed on Belgian territory, as well as the characteristics of these antennas. You will find this information at:
4. Do laptop computers (without WLAN use) emit waves? If so, are they significant? In your opinion, could they lead to effects several meters away, through walls?
These fields are not inexistant but are extremely small. They may cover large bands of frequencies, as a laptop is powered by 230V 50 Hz, includes an internal power that generates lower voltages, and is also made up of numerous electronic circuits, including a clock signal. Some frequencies are also generated by the screen. However, these signals are very weak, and they decrease with distance. At several meters it is therefore almost impossible to detect fields from the laptop.
5. I am a professor of Sciences and I work with my students on electromagnetic fields in homes: measurements and risks. We are looking for a device that can measure radiofrequency fields (Wi-Fi, GSM, microwave etc). Could you tell me where I could buy or rent such device?
Your approach is very interesting, but I would like to warn against measuring devices. There are many cheap devices that are not very reliable, that do not correctly filter frequencies (e.g. a device to measure high frequencies, but that does not properly filter out 50Hz).
The best alternative is renting. With the keywords "rental electromagnetic field meter" in an Internet search engine, you should find addresses in your area, but it's still probably pretty expensive at the scale of a school.
You can contact ACE team for further information.
Documents & Liens
- Belgian Federal Public Service - Health, Food chain safety and Environment
Comments on Mobile phone and Health and Wireless devices.
- Antenna Sites Register in Belgium
- Gezondheidsraad (The Netherlands)
Website from the Dutch Health Council which provides reports on different health issues including mobile phones. The website is in Dutch and English and documents are free of access.
- Het Antennebureau (The Netherlands)
The "Antennebureau" is the information agency of the Dutch government concerning antennas. It answer questions on health, legislation and technical aspects of antennas. The website is in Dutch and English.
- Greenfacts (B, EU)
The GreenFacts Initiative is a non-profit project founded in 2001. It brings the factual content of complex scientific consensus reports on health and the environment to the reach of non-specialists. It includes peer reviewed consensus reports on mobile phones and other radiation types.
- International Commission on Non Ionizing Radiation Protection (ICNIRP)
Comments on Mobile phones, Base stations and Wi-Fi
- World Health Organization (WHO)
Comments on Mobiles phones (WHO, 2014) and Base stations and wireless technologies (WHO, 2006)
- The Health and Environment Alliance (EU)
The Health and Environment Alliance is a European not-for-profit organisation addressing how the environment affects health in the European Union (EU). It demonstrates how policy changes can help protect health and enhance people’s quality of life. It also includes mobile phone and other related issues.
- EMF Explained (AUS)
The EMF Explained Series is an information resource referencing national and international health agencies developed by the Australian Mobile Telecommunications Association in conjunction with the GSM Association and Mobile Manufacturers Forum. It is especially devoted to radiofrequencies.
- Public Health England (UK)
Public Health England is the UK’s primary authority on health protection, and carries out research to advance knowledge about protection from the risks of radiation. Information on health effects from radiation (including mobile phones) can be directly downloaded from: https://www.gov.uk/health-protection
- INERIS (Institut National de l’EnviRonnement Industriel et des RisqueS, France)
This website provides various information on electromagnetic fields and health (mobile phones and others). The website is French but several reports that can be downloaded free of charge are in English.
The EMF-Portal is a web-based information platform regarding the effects of electromagnetic fields on humans and on interaction with biological systems or body aids. A large part is devoted to microwaves (mobile phones).
- Publications Edition Wissenschaft, Forschungsgemeinschaft Funk e.V. (FGF) - Reasearch Association for Radio Applications