EMF Guidelines

National guidelines on exposure to electromagnetic fields (EMF) are based on advice from the International Commission on Non-Ionising Radiation Protection (ICNIRP). This non-governmental organisation, which is recognised by the World Health Organization (WHO), evaluates the scientific peer-review literature on EMF and health and produces recommendations on exposure reference levels. ICNIRP guidelines, which are reviewed periodically, are based on effects of short-term acute exposure to high EMF levels since available evidence on low-level, long-term potential effects is considered insufficient to establish quantitative limits. Current ICNIRP guidelines were approved in 1998 (ICNIRP, 1998), and re-confirmed in 2009 (ICNIRP, 2009). The European Commission issued a recommendation in 1999 based on these ICNIRP guidelines (1999/519/EC). In 2018, after an updated review of the most up-to-date scientific literature, ICNIRP initiated a review of the 1998 guidelines, including a public consultation. The results of this new review have not been released yet. 

The current scientific evidence does not support long-term health effects, such a cancer, due to exposure to EMF, of either low or high frequency. Therefore, well-known short-term acute effects are used in the guidelines to describe threshold limits that could potentially lead to well-known adverse biological effects. The lowest threshold limit is further reduced to derive the reference levels for human exposure. For example, ICNIRP uses a reduction factor of 10 to derive the occupational limits for workers, and a factor of 50 for public exposure. In other words, the exposure reference levels for the public are 50 times below the level of EMF known to cause adverse biological effects. In most circumstances, public exposure to EMF is usually far below these general public reference levels.

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