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ICNIRP updates guidelines on 5G

ICNIRP updates guidelines on 5G

The International Commission on Non‐Ionizing Radiation Protection (ICNIRP) has released new guidelines for the protection of humans exposed to radio-frequency electromagnetic fields.

The guidelines cover the upcoming 5G technologies, as well as AM and DAB radio, WiFi, Bluetooth and the currently used 3G/4G mobile phones.

ICNIRP Chairman, Dr Eric van Rongen, said the new electromagnetic field guidelines have taken seven years to develop and are more appropriate than the 1998 guidelines for the higher frequencies that will be used for 5G in the future.

“We know parts of the community are concerned about the safety of 5G and we hope the updated guidelines will help put people at ease,” he said.

“The guidelines have been developed after a thorough review of all relevant scientific literature, scientific workshops and an extensive public consultation process. They provide protection against all scientifically substantiated adverse health effects due to EMF exposure in the 100 kHz to 300 GHz range.”

The ICNIRP first published its international guidelines for protection against harmful effects of radiofrequency fields in 1998. The main changes in the 2020 guidelines that are relevant to 5G exposures are for frequencies above 6 GHz. These include:

  •  the addition of a restriction for exposure to the whole body;
  •  the addition of a restriction for brief (less than 6‐minute) exposures to small regions of the body; and
  •  the reduction of the maximum exposure permitted over a small region of the body.

“When we revised the guidelines, we looked at the adequacy of the ones we published in 1998. We found that the previous ones were conservative in most cases, and they’d still provide adequate protection for current technologies,” Dr Van Rongen said. “However, the new guidelines provide better and more detailed exposure guidance in particular for the higher frequency range, above 6 GHz, which is of importance to 5G and future technologies using these higher frequencies. The most important thing for people to remember is that 5G technologies will not be able to cause harm when these new guidelines are adhered to.”

Other minor changes to the guidelines include:

  •  greater transparency to make the logic and scientific basis of the guidelines easier for the health protection community to engage with;
  •  additional means of assessing compliance with the guidelines; and
  •  greater specification of how to assess complicated exposure scenarios.

The full guidelines are published in the scientific journal Health Physics ‐ ICNIRP. Guidelines for limiting exposure to electromagnetic fields (100 kHz to 300 GHz) and can be accessed at

Clare Petra Matthes

Hi, I'm Clare and I am a freelance writer and Tech journalist as well as the owner and founder of where I review tech devices and also cover emerging technology news. Outside of I write for a number of publications and have regular tech slots on chaiFM radio station and eNCA's Tech Matters national breakfast TV news show.

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