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Exposure modeling of high-frequency electromagnetic fields


We developed a geospatial model that calculates ambient high-frequency electromagnetic field (HF-EMF) strengths of stationary transmission installations such as mobile phone base stations and broadcast transmitters with high spatial resolution in the order of 1 m. The model considers the location and transmission patterns of the transmitters, the three-dimensional topography, and shielding effects by buildings. The aim of the present study was to assess the suitability of the model for exposure monitoring and for epidemiological research. We modeled time-averaged HF-EMF strengths for an urban area in the city of Basel as well as for a rural area (Bubendorf). To compare modeling with measurements, we selected 20 outdoor measurement sites in Basel and 18 sites in Bubendorf. We calculated Pearson's correlation coefficients between modeling and measurements. Chance-corrected agreement was evaluated by weighted Cohen's κ statistics for three exposure categories. Correlation between measurements and modeling of the total HF-EMF strength was 0.67 (95% confidence interval (CI): 0.33–0.86) in the city of Basel and 0.77 (95% CI: 0.46–0.91) in the rural area. In both regions, κ coefficients between measurements and modeling were 0.63 and 0.77 for the total HF-EMF strengths and for all mobile phone frequency bands. First evaluation of our geospatial model yielded substantial agreement between modeling and measurements. However, before the model can be applied for future epidemiologic research, additional validation studies focusing on indoor values are needed to improve model validity.

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We thank M. Camenzind for contributing to the measurements in Basel, H. Ziegler, who carried out the measurements in Bubendorf, and H. Ryser of METAS for his help in the determination of the detector noise. The study was funded in part by the Swiss Federal Office for the Environment (FOEN) and the Air Quality Agency Basel.

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Correspondence to Martin Röösli.

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Bürgi, A., Theis, G., Siegenthaler, A. et al. Exposure modeling of high-frequency electromagnetic fields. J Expo Sci Environ Epidemiol 18, 183–191 (2008).

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  • non-ionizing radiation
  • exposure assessment
  • electromagnetic fields
  • model
  • mobile phone base station
  • broadcast transmitter


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