ICNIRP guidelines

ICNIRP, “International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection”, is an independant international commission recognized by the World Health Organization (WHO)

The main objective of ICNIRP is to establish guidelines for limiting exposure to electric and magnetic fields (EMF) that will provide protection against all established adverse health effects.

Guidelines are based on the following:

  • Well established effects (from perception of a slight tingling on the surface of the skin to real annoyance) may be caused by exposure to low frequency electric fields.
  • Induction of phosphenes in the retina by low frequency magnetic fields can be used as a model to put forward induced electric fields effects on the central nervous system.

Reduction factor

In view of the uncertainty inherent in the scientific data, reduction factors have been applied in establishing the exposure guidelines. A reduction factor is applied for the exposure of the general public (in comparison with occupational exposure). It is intended to take into account its heterogeneity (age diversity, the health status of the public, environmental conditions, personal sensitivity).

Basic restrictions

Basic restrictions for 50 Hz fields are the values of the internal electric field strength considered as acceptable for people’s well-being. For general public exposure, the maximal value of the internal electric field is:

  • in the central nervous system (CNS: brain and retina): 0,02 V/m
  • in non-CNS tissues (other part of the head and anywhere in the body): 0,4 V/m

Reference levels

Values of induced electric fields are translated into electric quantities allowing direct measurement: external electric and magnetic field strength, magnetic flux density and contact currents. They are reference levels.

The reference levels are obtained from the basic restrictions by mathematical modeling. An additional reduction factor of 3 is applied to these calculated values to allow for dosimetric uncertainty.

The reference levels for exposure to 50 Hz electric and magnetic fields of the public (everyday exposure) are:

  • Electric field: 5 kV/m
  • Magnetic field: 160 A/m
  • Magnetic flux induction: 200 µT

The reference level for 50 Hz contact currents is 500 µA.

As mentioned by ICNIRP, “compliance with the reference level will ensure compliance with the relevant basic restriction”. If the measured or calculated value exceeds the reference level, it does not necessarily follow that the basic restriction will be exceeded.

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