Personal radiofrequency electromagnetic field measurements in The Netherlands: exposure level and variability for everyday activities, times of day and types of area.
BACKGROUND The development of new wireless communication technologies that emit radio frequency electromagnetic fields (RF-EMF) is ongoing, but little is known about the RF-EMF exposure distribution in the general population. Previous attempts to measure personal exposure to RF-EMF have used different measurement protocols and analysis methods making comparisons between exposure situations across different study populations very difficult. As a result, observed differences in exposure levels between study populations may not reflect real exposure differences but may be in part, or wholly due to methodological differences. METHODS The aim of this paper is to develop a study protocol for future personal RF-EMF exposure studies based on experience drawn from previous research. Using the current knowledge base, we propose procedures for the measurement of personal exposure to RF-EMF, data collection, data management and analysis, and methods for the selection and instruction of study participants. RESULTS We have identified two basic types of personal RF-EMF measurement studies: population surveys and microenvironmental measurements. In the case of a population survey, the unit of observation is the individual and a randomly selected representative sample of the population is needed to obtain reliable results. For microenvironmental measurements, study participants are selected in order to represent typical behaviours in different microenvironments. These two study types require different methods and procedures. CONCLUSION Applying our proposed common core procedures in future personal measurement studies will allow direct comparisons of personal RF-EMF exposures in different populations and study areas.