Electromagnetic waves

Electromagnetic waves and protection measures

Knowledge is power!

What are electromagnetic waves?

There are infinite electromagnetic wave sources in nature and our daily life. The electromagnetic waves consist of electrical and magnetic fields that travel in a void at the speed of light, i.e. approximately 300,000,000 m/sec.

The reaction of such fields to matter determines the consequences of electromagnetic radiation. This relation is studied by a significant Physics sector and the information produced helps us utilize electromagnetic radiation for the benefit of humanity

The use of electromagnetic fields from mobile telephony Base Stations
The waves used by mobile telephony base stations are composed of non ionizing radiation that does not cause biological alterations and belongs to the same category as the electromagnetic waves used for radio and TV signals. In fact, the intensity of electromagnetic waves emitted by the mobile telephony antennae (maximum 20W) is much weaker than the TV signal antennae (which can some times reach several KW).

Electromagnetic waves and Safe Exposure Limits
Scientists have been studying the potential impacts of non ionizing radiation on human health and living organisms in general since 1970. After years of study scientists have classified the results of such impacts into thermal and non thermal phenomena.

Thermal phenomena
Scientific research considers thermal phenomena to be natural and attributes them to the oscillation of the molecules due to the electromagnetic waves. Thus the energy that is absorbed by human tissues is converted into heat.

According to the leaflet by the Greek Atomic Energy Commission (EEAE) “thermal phenomena do not constitute any long term impact since they decrease and gradually disappear when exposure to such electromagnetic fields stops. Indeed they do not appear at all when the radiation intensity values are low”.

Non thermal phenomena
In relation to the non thermal phenomena, scientific studies carried out over the last 30 years suggest that it is impossible to have negative impacts on people when the intensity of radiation is within the limits of safe exposure.

Within this context the competent international scientific organization, the International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection (ICNIRP) and the World Health Organization (WHO) have evaluated the entire scientific research to date. They have issued strict public protection orders for exposure to electromagnetic radiation that fully assures public health in relation to the proven effects from the operation of mobile telephony networks.

The Recommendation by the Council of the European Union
The relevant Recommendation by the Council of the European Union has been prepared on the basis of these directives, which defines the limits for safe public exposure to electromagnetic radiation, by implementing the precautionary principle. Therefore, the limits imposed the European Union for continuous exposure to electromagnetic fields, contain a safety factor of 50 (50 times more stringent than the demonstrated limits where thermal phenomena appear) by taking into account the most vulnerable target groups such as young children, the sick and elderly

The limits for the safe exposure of the population to electromagnetic waves from mobile telephony base stations laid down by the European Commission through its recommendations have been established to ensure the non-occurrence of thermal and non thermal (or athermal) effects.

The limits for exposure to electromagnetic fields and the installation specifications for Base Stations
The figures used for monitoring the electromagnetic radiation of base stations are the electric field strength (Ε), the magnetic field strength (Η) and the power flux density (Seq). These figures are measured and monitored on the ground at mobile telephony Base Stations with the use of appropriate measuring devices.
The basic restrictions and reference levels for the electromagnetic action of Mobile telephony Base Stations have been adopted through the Recommendation by the Council of the European Union “On limiting public exposure to 0Hz – 300GHz electromagnetic fields” (L. 199,1999/519/EC).

Greek Legislative Framework
In 2000 the Greek Government issued Joint Ministerial Decision (J. M. D.) by the ministers for Development, Environment – Planning & Public Works, Health – Welfare and Transport & Communications based on the European Commission Recommendation. This J. M. D. regarding “Precautionary measures for the public from the operation of antennas installed on land” (No: 53571/3839, OGG 1105/Β/6-9-2000) instituted to further reduce the limits for safe exposure by 20 % for all three figures in monitoring electromagnetic radiation, which makes the Greek Legislative Framework for installing and operating Mobile telephony Base Stations in Greece one of the most stringent in Europe.

  • Under the Law “On electronic communications and other provisions” (Law 3431/06) and despite the fact that not even the European Union or the competent international scientific organizations provide such regulations, the Greek state adopted new more stringent limits for the safe exposure of the public, which were reduced by 30 % compared to the recommendation by the EU.
  • The new legislative framework for the establishment and operation of Mobile telephony Base Stations provides stricter limits by 40 % compared to the recommendation by the EU for installing mobile telephony antennas at a distance less than 300 meters from hospitals, nurseries, schools and nursing homes. However, the use of distance as a factor in determining safe exposure limits is not based on scientific data while internationally the limits are determined by the power flux density of the electromagnetic field and in no case the distance
  • The position taken by the Greek Atomic Energy Commission on this matter: The ICNIRP limits were based on scientific research and obtained by implementing major safety factors (of the order of 50). The implementation of the additional reduction factors in the Greek legislation is not inferred from the scientific data. It was however a purely political decision based on the precautionary principle, i.e. in taking measures without being certain that there is a certain risk. The reduction of limits in the Greek law should not overcome our confidence in the scientific community and the limits that are scientifically based.

It should indeed be noted that in early 2009, the ICNIRP reaffirmed the validity of the directives that apply for protecting the public from exposure to electromagnetic radiation. The scientific literature from 1998 to date shows no adverse effects and does not require an immediate revision of its guidelines on limiting exposure to high frequency electromagnetic fields. Furthermore, no studies with an adequate assessment of the exposure to electromagnetic radiation have demonstrated effects related to health.

Other countries in the world

Regarding comparative data limits applicable in other countries around the world, we indicatively mention that:

  1. Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, the Netherlands, Portugal, Great Britain, Sweden, Malta, Australia, Japan and Egypt have precisely adopted the limits specified in the ICNIRP
  2. Austria, Canada and the U.S.A. have adopted less strict limits
  3. Belgium, Italy, Luxembourg and Spain have like Greece adopted more stringent limits

GAEC, Informative Leaflet on Mobile Telephony and Health, Questions & Answers, July 2006