In March and April 2022, ARPANSA scientists measured public exposure to radiofrequency electromagnetic energy, also known as radio waves, at 50 sites across Melbourne.
At the locations measured, the public’s exposure to radio waves from wireless technology was found to be well below the limits in the Australian safety standard. The measurements collected in Melbourne represent the typical radio wave exposures that ARPANSA would expect to see in other major Australian cities.
The graph below shows the total exposure to all radio wave sources combined at each location. In all suburbs, the exposure was found to be less than 0.15% of the safety limit or more than 700 times below that threshold.
|Total RF EME exposure mW/m2
In many locations, the largest source of exposure was broadcast radio. This is particularly clear at measurement locations near broadcast radio towers. Similarly, at locations near mobile phone base stations, radio waves from mobile phone technology were the largest source of exposure.
While human exposure to different radio waves sources like Wi-Fi, broadcast media and mobile phones is higher at some locations than others, in every case the exposure was found to be well below the Australian safety standard. The average radio wave exposure in public places across the city was more than 700 times lower than the safety limit. The graph below shows the minimum, maximum, mean and median exposure values when considering all sites and the exposure limit applying to these frequencies.
|Minimum RF EME exposure
|Median RF EME exposure
|Mean RF EME exposure
|Maximum RF EME exposure
|All locations combined
This research aimed to answer the question: what is the community’s typical environmental exposure to radio waves? Measurement sites were selected from a grid of points at 5 km intervals across the city and tended to be in parks, sporting fields and suburban footpaths throughout residential areas of Melbourne. Measurements were collected using a spectrum analyser. Results were grouped by service. For example, AM and FM radio signals were grouped together as radio services, while mobile phone tower signals from all frequency bands were grouped as mobile BTS (Base Transmit Stations). By grouping the measurements this way, we could determine the public’s exposure from different EME sources. The highest measured values for the four most common services are shown in the graph below, along with the permitted limit.
|Maximum measured RF EME
Data from mobile phone towers were also presented according to the technology being used (3G, 4G, 5G). Overall, the environmental exposure to radio waves from 5G was found to be lower than 4G at the places measured. ARPANSA expects this to change over time as more people start using 5G-enabled devices. The graph below shows the largest measured values from each of the three current mobile phone technologies as well as the largest combined value from all mobile phone towers and the permitted exposure limit.
|All mobile BTS
|Maximum measured RF EME
The 2022 Melbourne measurements have been published in the scientific peer-reviewed journal Radiation Protection Dosimetry.
ARPANSA’s 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. The 2022 measurements were the first ARPANSA study of radio waves used in the 5G network.
ARPANSA will continue to assess community exposure and review research into potential health effects of radio wave exposure to provide accurate and up-to-date health advice to the public.
Our current assessment is that there is no established scientific evidence that exposure to radio waves below the safety limit adversely impact human health. More information can be found on our mobile phone/NBN base station fact sheet.