Survey of electromagnetic field exposure in bedrooms of residences in lower Austria



Previous investigations of exposure to electric, magnetic, or electromagnetic fields (EMF) in households were either about electricity supply EMFs or radio frequency EMFs (RF-EMFs). We report results from spot measurements at the bedside that comprise electrostatic fields, extremely low-frequency electric fields (ELF-EFs), extremely low-frequency magnetic fields (ELF-MFs), and RF-EMFs. Measurements were taken in 226 households throughout Lower Austria. In addition, effects of simple reduction measures (e.g., removal of clock radios or increasing their distance from the bed, turning off Digital Enhanced Cordless Telecommunication (DECT) telephone base stations) were assessed. All measurements were well below International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection (ICNIRP) guideline levels. Average night-time ELF-MFs (long-term measurement from 10 pm to 6 am, geometric mean over households) above 100 nT were obtained in 2.3%, and RF-EMFs above 1000 µW/m2 in 7.1% of households. Highest ELF-EFs were primarily due to lamps beside the bed (max = 166 V/m), and highest ELF-MFs because of transformers of devices (max = 1030 nT) or high current of power lines (max = 380 nT). The highest values of RF-EMFs were caused by DECT telephone base stations (max = 28979 µW/m2) and mobile phone base stations (max = 4872 µW/m2). Simple reduction measures resulted in an average decrease of 23 nT for ELF-MFs, 23 V/m for ELF-EFs, and 246 µW/m2 for RF-EMFs. A small but statistically significant correlation between ELF-MF exposure and overall RF-EMF levels of R = 0.16 (P = 0.008) was computed that was independent of type (flat, single family) and location (urban, rural) of houses. Bioelectromagnetics 31:200–208, 2010. © 2009 Wiley-Liss, Inc.