Objectives: Both the public perceptions, and most published epidemiologic studies, rely on the assumption that the distance of a particular residence from a base station or a broadcast transmitter is an appropriate surrogate for exposure to radiofrequency fields, although complex propagation characteristics affect the beams from antennas. The main goal of this study was to characterise the distribution of residential exposure from antennas using personal exposure meters.
Methods: A total of 200 randomly selected people were enrolled. Each participant was supplied with a personal exposure meter for 24 h measurements, and kept a time–location–activity diary. Two exposure metrics for each radiofrequency were then calculated: the proportion of measurements above the detection limit (0.05 V/m), and the maximum electric field strength. Residential address was geocoded, and distance from each antenna was calculated.
Results: Much of the time, the recorded field strength was below the detection level (0.05 V/m), the FM band standing apart with a proportion above the detection threshold of 12.3%. The maximum electric field strength was always lower than 1.5 V/m. Exposure to GSM and DCS waves peaked around 280 m and 1000 m from the antennas. A downward trend was found within a 10 km range for FM. Conversely, UMTS, TV 3, and TV 4&5 signals did not vary with distance.
Conclusions: Despite numerous limiting factors entailing a high variability in radiofrequency exposure assessment, but owing to a sound statistical technique, we found that exposures from GSM and DCS base stations increase with distance in the near source zone, to a maximum where the main beam intersects the ground. We believe these results will contribute to the ongoing public debate over the location of base stations and their associated emissions.
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Funding: This work was supported by the French Agency for Environmental and Occupational Health Safety (grant PC-ERF-2005-002).
Competing interests: None.
Ethics approval: Ethical clearance for this study was granted by the French National Commission for the Confidentiality of Computerized Data (no. 1104049).
Patient consent: Obtained.