ARPANSA is engaging in public consultation on the draft Standard for Limiting Exposure to Radiofrequency Fields – 100 KHz to 300 GHz.
Radiofrequency (RF) electromagnetic energy (EME) is the transfer of energy by radio waves in the frequency range between 100 kilohertz (kHz) to 300 gigahertz (GHz). RF EME is mainly produced by wireless telecommunications equipment such as radio and television broadcasting, mobile telecommunications including the new 5G network, Wi-Fi networks and personal devices. Other sources of RF EME include microwave ovens, radar, industrial sources and some medical applications.
Measurement surveys around mobile phone base stations and in schools have shown that exposure to RF EME in the environment from various sources is very low. Higher levels of exposure to RF EME can occur to workers in the broadcasting and communications industries when they work in close proximity to RF transmitting antennas. Some industrial processes that use RF EME to heat materials can also lead to higher levels of exposure to workers.
After many decades of research, it is well established that exposure to very high levels of RF EME can cause excessive heating of the human body which can lead to a variety of serious health effects. The amount of RF EME routinely encountered by the general public from a variety of telecommunications sources is too low to produce significant heating or increased body temperature. There is no established evidence that exposure to low level RF EME can cause any short or long term health effects.
In order to protect people from the harmful effects of high exposure to RF EME, the Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency (ARPANSA) published in 2002 the Radiation Protection Standard ‘Maximum Exposure Levels to Radiofrequency Fields - 3 kHz to 300 GHz’, RPS3 (2002).
RPS3 sets limits of exposure to RF EME for the public and workers. The exposure limits set out in the Standard are well below the level at which harm may occur. The limits in RPS3 are largely based on guidelines published in 1998 by the International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection (ICNIRP), which is the international body recognised as leaders in non-ionising radiation protection.
RPS3 also includes requirements for protection of the general public and the management of risk in occupational exposure from RF EME, together with additional information on verifying compliance with the limits of the standard.
Since the publication of RPS3, research in the area of RF and health has grown rapidly and in March 2020 ICNIRP published updated guidelines for RF EME taking into account current knowledge of how RF EME affects the human body. The new ICNIRP guidelines have triggered ARPANSA to develop a new standard called ‘Standard for Limiting Exposure to Radiofrequency Fields – 100 KHz to 300 GHz’ (RPS S-1).
RPS S-1 has a new name which better describes the intention of the standard and includes a more accurate frequency range for effects related to RF EME.
A review of the scientific evidence since the publication of RPS3 has shown that excessive heating caused by high exposure levels remains the only established health effect of RF EME. Consequently, the exposure limits set in the new RPS S-1 are similar to those in RPS3 with some refinements. The limits in the new RPS S-1 have been refined to account for increased knowledge on how temperature rises within the human body when exposed to high RF EME levels. The main changes in the limits of the new RPS S-1 relate to additional restrictions for RF EME exposure at higher frequencies, above 6 GHz, which is of importance to 5G and other future technologies using these higher frequencies.
Apart from refining the exposure limits the new RPS S-1 provides other updates, including:
The exposure limits for the public within the new RPS S-1 continue to provide protection against all known adverse health effects from RF EME exposure. RPS S-1 covers all RF EME frequencies including those used by 5G and future technologies.
The exposure limits for workers within the new RPS S-1 also continue to provide protection against all known adverse health effects from RF EME exposure. RPS S-1 covers all RF EME frequencies including those used by telecommunications and industrial sources.
The new RPS S-1 now contains clear classifications of different groups of workers who may be occupationally exposed to RF EME, for example, maintenance workers that work on rooftops near telecommunications equipment are now classified as being occupationally exposed to RF EME. This will improve the safety of non-telecommunications workers performing their duties in close vicinity to RF transmitters.
No. The Office of Best Practice Regulation advised ARPANSA that no consultation Regulatory Impact Statement was necessary for the new RPS S-1. The proposed amendments to RPS3 reflect international best practice on limiting exposure to RF EME.
The consultation is now closed. Thank you to everyone who made a submission.
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Your submission is not automatically accepted and published. ARPANSA may decide not to accept your submission if it does not address the draft standard directly.
Depending on workload, ARPANSA may take several weeks to consider and process your submission.
If you agree, your submission will be published online at the end of the consultation period.
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