EU recommendations

For general public exposure, the Council of European Union adopted in 1999 the recommendation 1999/519/EG on the limitation of the general public to electromagnetic fields.

Only established effects were used as a basis for the proposed exposure restrictions.

The basic restrictions are set to account for uncertainties related to individual sensitivities, environmental conditions, and for the fact that the age and health status of members of the public vary. Safety factors of about 50 between the threshold values for acute effects and the basis restrictions were applied.

Basic restriction

Depending on frequency, various physical quantities (dosimetric/exposimetric quantities) are used to specify the basic restrictions on electromagnetic fields. Between 1 Hz and 10 MHz basic restrictions are provided for current density to prevent effects on nervous system functions.

At 50 Hz, the basic restriction is set to 2 mA/m² (rms).

Reference levels

  • Magnetic flux density: 100 µT rms
  • Electric field: 5 kV/m rms
  • Contact currents: 500 µA

The reference level on contact current were set to account for the fact that the threshold contact currents that elicit biological responses in adult women and children are approximately two-thirds and one-half, respectively, of those for adult men.

Note of the Council:

As noted above, only established effets of acute exposure are used as basis for the proposed exposure restrictions. “However, since there  are  safety  factors  of  about  50  between  the  threshold  values  for  acute  effects  and  the  basis  restrictions,  this recommendation  implicitly  covers  possible  long-term  effects  in  the  whole  frequency  range“.

On 20 February 2013, the European Commission held a workshop in Brussels on “Risk Communication – Electromagnetic Fields and Human Health”.

Here are the conclusions of the presentation regarding the role of the EU institutions in EMF protection:

Regarding the protection of the general public from potential effects of EMF, the EU Treaties give the primary responsibility to the Member States and do not confer the Commission competence to legislate. The Council Recommendation on EMF exposure limits (1999/519/EC) was adopted to propose a common protective framework to guide the action of Member States in the hope to bring coherence among the various national approaches. Following the subsidiarity principle (apart from workers’ protection), the role of the EU institutions is limited to provision of independent scientific advice (SCENIHR’s work) and to coordination and harmonization of the Member States policies as well as promotion of the best practices.

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