In order to protect the population living around base
stations and users of mobile handsets, governments and
regulatory bodies adopt safety standards, which translate to
limits on exposure levels below a certain value. There are
many proposed national and international standards, but that
of the International Commission for Non-Ionizing Radiation
Protection (ICNIRP) is the most respected one, and has been
adopted so far by more than 80 countries. For radio
stations, ICNIRP proposes two safety levels: one for
occupational exposure, another one for the general
population. Currently there are efforts underway to
harmonise the different standards in existence.
Radio base licensing procedures have been established in the
majority of urban spaces regulated either at
municipal/county, provincial/state or national level. Mobile
telephone service providers are, in many regions, required
to obtain construction licenses, provide certification of
antenna emission levels and assure compliance to ICNIRP
standards and/or to other environmental legislation.
Many governmental bodies also require that competing
telecommunication companies try to achieve sharing of towers
so as to decrease environmental and cosmetic impact. This
issue is an influential factor of rejection of installation
of new antennas and towers in communities.
The safety standards in the U.S. are set by the Federal
Communications Commission (FCC). The FCC has based its
standards primarily on those standards established by the
Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE),
specifically Subcommittee 4 of the "International Committee
on Electromagnetic Safety".
 Evolution of safety standards
The following is a brief summary of the wireless safety
standards, which have become stricter over time.
* 1966: The ANSI C95.1 standard adopted the standard of 10
mW/cm2 (10,000 μW/cm2) based on thermal effects.
* 1982: The IEEE recommended further lowering this limit to
1 mW/cm2 (1,000 μW/cm2 or 10 W/m2) for certain frequencies
in 1982, which became a standard ten years later in 1992
* 1986: The National Council on Radiation Protection and
Measurements (NCRP) recommended the exposure limit of 580 μW/cm2.
* 1992: The ANSI/IEEE C95.1-1992 standard based on thermal
effects used the 1 mW/cm2 (1,000 μW/cm2) safety limit. The
United States Environmental Protection Agency called this
revised standard "seriously flawed", partly for failing to
consider non-thermal effects, and called for the FCC to
adopt the 1986 NCRP standard which was five times stricter.
* 1996: The FCC updated to the standard of 580 μW/cm2 over
any 30-minute period for the 869 MHz, while still using 1 mW/cm2
(1,000 μW/cm2) for PCS frequencies (1850-1990 MHz).
* 1998: The ICNIRP standard uses the limit of 450 μW/cm2 at
900 MHz, and 950 μW/cm2 at 1900 MHz. The limit is frequency
More stringent standards
A few nations have set safety limits orders of magnitude
lower than the ICNIRP limits. A resolution adopted at a
conference in Salzburg in 2000 called a limit of 0.1 μW/cm2
(10,000 times lower than ICNIRP) for "…pulse modulated
high-frequency facilities such as GSM base stations…".
In September 2008, the European Parliament adopted a
resolution on the mid-term review of the European
Environment and Health Action Plan 2004-2010. The resolution
covered several topic areas, such as Mental Health and
Global Warming, and included under the topic "Dangers of new
technologies" the statement "… that the limits on exposure
to electromagnetic fields which have been set for the
general public are obsolete."
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