EME Newsletter banner

Greetings from ARPANSA’s Radiation Research and Advice team. 

Welcome to the fourth issue of ARPANSA’s Electromagnetic Energy (EME) newsletter where we update you on the progress of our 2020-2024 EME Action Plan.

As we start to think about silver white winters that melt into spring, we also start to look towards the final stages of our 2020-2024 EME action plan. This update provides a summary on what we have achieved so far. 

This newsletter will also detail the workshops, meetings, and conferences that the team have attended. In the last 8 months we’ve published two research papers: our Melbourne measurement study, and a systematic map into the effects of EME on plants and animals. 

The second half of 2023 promises to be just as busy for our team. 

If you haven’t already, please make sure to follow us on social media so that you get updates on our activities. 

Yours sincerely,
Sarah Loughran
EME Program Director

On behalf of the Radiation Research and Advice team:
Associate Professor Ken Karipidis, Assistant Director Health Impact Assessment

Dr Stuart Henderson, Assistant Director EMR Exposure Assessment

Dr Chhavi Bhatt, Science Officer (Measurement)

Dr Chris Brzozek, Science Officer (Research)

Rohan Mate, Science Officer (Research)

David Sibenaler, Science Communications Officer

Engagement with international health authorities

ICNIRP 25 - 27 June 2023

Ken Karipidis and Sarah Loughran met with the main commission of the International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection (ICNIRP) in Munich to discuss the progress and advance the work of key guidelines and statements including: 

  • Guidelines on exposure to low frequency electromagnetic fields
  • Statement on protection of the environment from non-ionising radiation
  • Statement on long term effects of chronic ultraviolet radiation exposure

The main commission also approved the draft statement on short wave light. Our engagement with ICNIRP is vital to our work influencing and adopting international best health and radiation safety practices. Ken is a member of the main commission, and Sarah is a member of the ICNIRP Scientific Expert Group.  

BioEM 18 – 23 June 2023

Ken Karipidis, Chhavi Bhatt and Sarah Loughran attended the annual BioEM conference at Oxford University, UK. Bioelectromagnetics is a science branch that looks at the biological effects and applications of electromagnetic fields. Areas of study include the effects of high-frequency wireless technology, like 5G, on humans, plants and animals. At the conference, Chhavi delivered a presentation on changes to personal RF exposures that were measured at various Melbourne microenvironments in 2015 and 2022. Chhavi also presented a poster on the measurement survey conducted in 2022 of radio wave exposures at public places in Melbourne, results from this study were also recently published in a peer-reviewed journal – more details on that paper below. Ken presented on the systematic map that he and the team conducted with Swinburne University of Technology on what evidence exists on the impact of radio waves from artificial sources like 5G on plants and animals in the environment – further details on that study can also be found below. BioEM is a key research conference that allows us to share knowledge, network with key stakeholders, and consider the totality of the latest science to ensure safety standards remain evidence-based and risk informed.

WHO EMF Project International Advisory Committee meeting 5 – 8 June 2023

Sarah Loughran represented ARPANSA at the World Health Organization (WHO) EMF Project International Advisory Committee meeting in Geneva, Switzerland. Sarah was given the opportunity to provide an update on our EME program to WHO and its member nations. She also provided an update on Australia’s optical radiation activities such as our work with the Cancer Council Victoria on ultraviolet radiation protection, including the introduction of the SunSmart Global UV app. Ken Karipidis dialed into the meeting from Australia and provided updates to WHO on ICNIRP’s draft statement on airborne ultrasound. Attending WHO’s EMF Project International Advisory Committee meeting is an opportunity for ARPANSA to engage with the international organisations and countries that are leading efforts to assess the health and environmental effects of EME exposure.

5G measurement workshop 23 – 25 May 2023

Our exposure assessment team, Stuart Henderson and Chhavi Bhatt, and communications officer, David Sibenaler, attended a workshop on techniques to measure radio waves in the 24–30 GHz range – frequencies that are now being used in the latest implementation of the 5G network. 

In a news story on our website, Stuart said: ‘The workshop provided an opportunity to discuss and explore those best practice methods to collect accurate measurements at 24-30 GHz. These techniques are outlined in recently updated standards by the International Electrotechnical Commission and have been adopted by Standards Australia.’

The workshop was a great opportunity to learn from Narda and other radio wave measurement experts on how to use the latest technology to ensure we can continue to accurately assess the community’s radio wave exposure. 

Research on EME and health

What evidence exists on the impact of radio waves from human sources like 5G on plants and animals in the environment?

In May 2023, Ken Karipidis led a research team to publish a systematic map which paints the research landscape of the effects of radio waves on plants and animals in the environment. It found that much of the research has not investigated the effects of radio waves on plants and animals from new and emerging technologies like the 5G network. 

In many countries, humans are protected from harmful radio wave exposure by safety standards that are aligned with guidelines by the International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection (ICNIRP).

However, there are currently no recognised international guidelines to specifically protect plants and animals.  

While there is currently no substantiated evidence of harm, more research needs to be done on the effects of radio waves including from high-frequency wireless technology to inform radiation and environmental protection agencies and ensure that the environment is protected from the harmful effects of radiation. 

You can read the journal article in Environmental Evidence.

Survey of the radiofrequency environment in Melbourne

In March and April 2022, the EME team conducted a survey of radiofrequency electromagnetic energy in Melbourne.

Our last large-scale public survey of radio waves was published in 2013. At that time, 4G had only just been introduced and analogue TV had recently been replaced by digital TV transmissions. These measurements are the first ARPANSA-led study of radio waves used in the 5G network.

While this survey was led by Stuart, the whole EME team have been involved – Chris Brzozek conducted measurements in the western suburbs, Rohan Mate trawled the northern enclaves of Melbourne and Chhavi covered the southeast. Together, they collected measurements from 50 sites across the city. 

The key finding was exposure was found to be less than 0.15% of the safety limit, or more than 700 times below that threshold, in all locations. 

Stuart and Chhavi analysed the results, and the paper was published in the peer-reviewed journal Radiation Protection Dosimetry and on our website in March 2023. 

We will continue to assess the community’s exposure to radio waves. Our next steps include collecting personal measurements in regional areas and on public transport. 

Task Group on Radiofrequency Fields and Health Risks

At the start of 2023, Sarah Loughran was appointed to the World Health Organization (WHO) Task Group on Radiofrequency Fields and Health Risks. While this role complements what Sarah does at ARPANSA, she joins as an independent research scientist with experts from 14 other countries. 

The task group will consider all the scientific literature on health effects of radio waves and perform a health risk assessment, which will then be published as a monograph. 

The task group’s work is expected to be completed by December 2023.

To learn more, visit the  WHO website.

EME Action Plan 2020 - 2024 progress update

The following is a list of activities and achievements under each action item since the program commenced in 2020. 

Assess EME exposure in the community:

  • Environmental exposure to EME in Melbourne was measured in 2022 with results published in Radiation Protection Dosimetry in March 2023
  • PhD scholarship contribution provided to Monash University for a joint PhD student project on occupational EME exposure
  • Personal exposure measurements are being conducted at public events, on public transport, and at different sites across Australia. Results of these initial measurements were presented at BioEM 2023, and will be published in peer-reviewed journals in the future.

Upgrade ARPANSA’s EME laboratory:

  • The new anechoic chamber officially opened in 2022.

Conduct research on EME and health:

The EME Research Framework has been established, and the following projects have been funded under the program

ARPANSA has published the following research on EME measurements, radio waves and health:

Engagement with international health authorities:

  • Sarah Loughran has been appointed to the WHO Task Group on Radiofrequency Fields and Health Risks
  • Ken Karipidis is a member of ICNIRP’s Main Commission and Sarah Loughran is a member of ICNIRP’s Scientific Expert Group. Key projects and further information can be found on the ICNIRP website
  • Sarah Loughran and Stuart Henderson are engaging with WHO collaborating centres on EMF and Optical Radiation, and David Sibenaler is working with the WHO to edit the Establishing a dialogue on risks from electromagnetic fields’ handbook
  • Ken Karipidis and Chris Brzozek are members of the WHO Systematic Reviews on Radiofrequency and Health
  • Sarah Loughran and Rohan Mate are leading the WHO RF National Policy Survey project
  • Ken is a member of the International Commission on Occupational Health (ICOH): Radiation and Work
  • The team have attended various international engagements virtually and online such as the BioEM 2022 conference in Japan, and the BioEM 2023 conference at Oxford University, UK.

Develop national EME safety standards:

  • RPS-1: The Standard for Limiting Exposure to Radiofrequency Fields – 100 kHz to 300 GHz, was updated in 2021
  • Stuart chairs the Standards Australia committee TE-007: Human Exposure to Electromagnetic Fields.

Provide information on EME and health:

  • The EME team has hosted two public events during National Science Week:
    • 2021: A virtual event on mobile phones and health
    • 2022: An in-person event on EME misinformation
  • Talk to a Scientist service
    • 2020: 207 phones calls; 922 emails; 1129 total enquirie
    • 2021: 444 calls; 585 emails; 1029 total enquiries
    • 2022: 311 calls; 470 emails; 781 total enquiries
  • We use LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter to maintain a two-way dialogue with our audience. Since the action plan commenced, we’ve published specific campaigns to provide clear and reliable information about radio wave exposure to high-frequency wireless technology. Examples include ‘Get the facts on 5G’ and promoting our Melbourne EME measurements. Regarding the ‘Get the facts on 5G’, this 2020 social media campaign had high levels of engagement – 5-9% which is well above the industry standard of 0.09%.
  • Outside of our public and social media engagement, we also provide information to the public through the media. Since 2020, the team has provided 40 interviews related to questions about 5G and EME more broadly.

Each of these deliverables has provided a return on the government’s investment in our EME program. These actions demonstrate to the Australian community that high-frequency wireless technologies are well researched and well managed to ensure public safety. The investment in our research laboratory means we will be at the forefront locally and internationally in providing science-based health advice on EME now and into the future.

Access to information FOI disclosure log Information public scheme