On 10 October 2018, ITU held a workshop on policies, guidelines, regulations and assessments of human exposure to the radiofrequency electromagnetic field (RF-EMF).
The workshop took place in the framework of ITU’s Telecommunication Development Sector (ITU-D) Study Group 2 Question 7/2 during the ITU-D Study Group 2 meetings. Question 7/2 refers to the study on strategies and policies concerning human exposure to electromagnetic fields. ITU has developed several recommendations on the issue and Member States are encouraged to utilize them at the national level.
International experts from various organizations, including the World Health Organization (WHO), the International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection (ICNIRP), International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC), Mobile & Wireless Forum (MWF), and representatives from administrations and other organizations, presented the latest information on exposure to electromagnetic fields and health, policies, updated guidelines and regulations.
The workshop presented the latest information on the review of the 1998 ICNIRP EMF human exposure guidelines, which serves as a global reference for setting levels of electromagnetic field exposure, and testing of EMF in the context of International Mobile Telecommunications for 2020 (IMT-2020)/5G.
Testing of EMF standards is undertaken in various settings around the world and initial results show that EMF levels for mobile technologies, including 5G, are generally below the existing ICNIRP guidelines. The revised draft ICNIRP guidelines, targeted to protect people exposed to radio-frequency electromagnetic fields, were open for public consultation and comments until 9 October 2018, the eve of the workshop.
Key outcomes from the workshop include:
• Both ITU and WHO encouraged the adoption of harmonized EMF exposure limits based on the Guidelines of ICNIRP.
• With regards to the review of the existing ICNIRP Guidelines, a thorough review of the scientific literature has taken place. While some changes are likely to be recommended, the essential basis for the exposure limits will remain the same and the conservative nature of the guidelines was reaffirmed by ICNIRP.
• It was noted that in the past few years ITU’s Telecommunication Standardization Sector (ITU-T) and International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) have delivered standards and recommendations for EMF assessments of IMT-2020 (5G).
• It was noted that adoption of lower EMF exposure limits is likely to stifle innovation and deployment of networks and may impact on proven social, security and economic benefits that the technology provides to the community.
• Countries reaffirmed that they continue to invest in research in the area of EMF and are moving towards international harmonization of EMF exposure limits.
The workshop report and presentations are available here.
The archived webcast of the workshop is available here.
Pictures from the workshop are available here.
This article has been prepared in collaboration with workshop speakers.