RF Health Limits

History of RF Standard Setting in Australia

Australia's RF Health Limits were originally set by Standards Australia with guidelines based predominantly upon an Occupational Setting.  Circa 2000, the Australian Standard guidelines came under increasing pressure to relax limits. 

Lead CSIRO Scientists did not agree with relaxing health limits, nor did the public:

‘Witnesses suggested that since 1985 the Australian Standard has come under sustained industry pressure to revert to much higher levels of exposure; to delete references to fundamental principles of radiation safety; to minimise any explicit references to harmful effects; and to delete the previous acknowledgment of the existence of non-thermal effects on living organisms…. 

The Committee Chair is critical of the decision to transfer the standard setting process to ARPANSA, preferring the process used by Standards Australia and in particular, the involvement of the CSIRO and the community representation and a voting system which provides for public health protection to be given appropriate weight against industry considerations….

Government members also note the Report has ruled ARPANSA out of the standards setting process……….because there are members with industry interests on the ARPANSA working group.'

Ref: The Parliament of the Commonwealth of Australia, Enquiry into Electromagnetic Radiation, 2001.

Against the recommendations of the 2001 Parliamentary Enquiry Chair, the responsibility for setting RF exposure limits was officially taken over by the Australian Government department, ARPANSA, circa 2002. 

In Arpansa’s RP3 Standard, the health limits were relaxed in line with ICNIRP guidelines.

Additionally, ICNIRP and hence Arpansa’s RP3, provide health limits based only upon short term exposure.  

Cumulative dose and delayed chronic effects caused by Long Term Exposure are not considered in limits set by ICNIRP nor RP3.

Currently, Australia’s RF Exposure Limit is in the vicinity of 1000uWatts/cm2, the least stringent in the developed world, being 100 x higher than the World Best Practice limit of 10uWatts/cm2.

Australia’s RP3 Standard and Exposure Limits

The Arpansa RP3 Standard follows the ICNIRP guidelines, hence Australia currently has exposure limits based only upon the Short Term effect of heating:  

‘the only adverse effects on humans that were fully verified by a stringent evaluation were short term, immediate health consequences………. There are also data for chronic low level exposure that indicate that there may be other health effects. It is however ICNIRP’s view that in the absence of support from laboratory studies the epidemiological data are insufficient to allow an exposure guideline to be established.’  Ref: 'ICNIRP Guidelines’ 

However, delayed and cumulative effects have been known to occur for decades:

 ‘effects have been reported at power densities too low to produce biological heating……

Ref: Environmental Health Criteria 16 (‘EHC16’) , 1981.

Current Limits World Wide

Below is a snap shot of current exposure limits world wide.

Reference: RF/Microwave Radiation Risk Awareness, Isaac Jamieson,

Limits in Countries Based Upon Long Term Effects

RF exposure duration is a key component in numerous experimental and research studies in recognition of the potential for delayed and cumulative biological effects.  

Long term exposure limits published in 1981 by the United Nations, World Health Organisation and International Radiation Protection Association were presented in Geneva to aid countries world wide in setting appropriate safe exposure limits.  The chart below is included in this publication.  

Exposure limits in the chart were based upon extensive experimental studies and research. The 24 hour exposure limit set by Russia was 1 µWatt/cm2.  This is 1000 x lower than Arpansa’s RP3 exposure limit.  

Ref: Environmental Health Criteria 16 , 1981.

Similarly, Poland’s public health exposure limit is just 10 µWatts/cm2:

 ‘based on detailed discussions of findings in Czechoslavakia, the USSR and the USA, radiation protection guides, standards and rules and epidemiological analysis of the health status of personnel professionally exposed to microwave (Czerski and Piotrowski 1972)’.   

Ref: Environmental Health Criteria 16 , 1981. 

'It is studies that have been conducted that inform us, not studies

that are yet to be carried out.'

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