Human exposure to electromagnetic fields and SAR: Evidence, evolutions and regulations

Thanks to the ever-increasing diffusion of electrical and electronic equipment and new technologies for telecommunications, the theme of the’human exposure to electromagnetic pollution has gained greater importance.

Let's talk clearly about intentional emissions – such as those generated by radio frequency or microwave telecommunications systems – but also of what is produced by the so-called involuntary emitters, like device tools, devices related to the wireless universe, electromedical equipment, power distribution lines and many other technologies.

In a constantly changing landscape it is essential to ensure the health of exposed users, carrying out the assessment of human exposure which is, As is well known,, mandatory for all electrical and electronic equipment marketed.

Verification of human exposure to electromagnetic fields

The verification of human exposure to electromagnetic fields – theme to which a monograph by the Italian Electrotechnical Committee – are a key element of the tests related to the safety of an electrical or electronic product.

This type of verification can be carried out by applying a good variety of methodologies, in relation to the type of product, the type of electromagnetic field source and the position that the product will occupy with respect to users.

Specific methodologies are used to examine equipment for use near the human body and different systems for all those equipment intended to be positioned, for example, on a table or wall. In the same way we intervene on the devices that for their use must be placed near the ear – like mobile phones – with dedicated methodologies, given the peculiarity related to the use of this type of device.

SAR tests (Specific Absorption Rate)

For all portable equipment to be used in the vicinity of the head or body it is necessary to proceed to the measurement of the SAR (Specific Absorption Rate) i.e. the measure that indicates how much radiofrequency energy is absorbed by the user's body or head. The values in question make it possible to verify that the limits are respected for safe exposure to electromagnetic fields.

Following the guidelines defined by 'International Committee for Non-Ionising Radiation Protection (ICNIRP), the European Union, the United States, it Canada, Japan, Australia and other countries, have approved harmonised standards setting maximum permitted emission levels to keep absorption within certain safety thresholds. SAR limits are therefore essential to protect consumers emissions from radio devices exceeding the expected radio frequency transmission threshold.

Have the human exposure tests and SAR measurement, from a specialized laboratory such as Sicom Testing, according to all European standards on electrical devices, electronic and radio is a particularly important obligation to proceed with the’placing products on the market, as well as their durable marketing, safe and risk-free.

Human exposure, SAR and regulations

Net of the different regulations that, in all countries of the world, limit maximum exposure levels, the European situation refers in particular to two contents. The first is the Recommendation of the European Council 1999/519/EC which defines the guidelines for the "Limitation of exposure of the population to electromagnetic fields from 0 Hz to 300 Ghz".

The Recommendation examines the reference levels for electric fields, magnetic and electromagnetic. The limitations in question derive from international scientific studies of the International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection. (ICNIRP), published in 1998 and substantially reconfirmed in the 2020. The EU Recommendation leaves Member States the possibility to define more stringent levels of protection than those proposed.

The Directive 2013/35/EU, instead, contains the minimum health and safety requirements concerning the exposure of workers to the risks arising from electromagnetic fields (EMF). The scope of the Directive includes all known direct biophysical effects and indirect effects, caused by electromagnetic fields.

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