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EMF Study
(Database last updated on Sep 1, 2019)

ID Number 805
Study Type Social Sciences
Model Mobile phone RF exposure in Germany and Switzerland and analysis of general public risk perception.
Details

Human volunteers (n=250) in both the German speaking part and the French speaking part of Switzerland were evaluated to determine their perception of health risks due to mobile phone RF exposure using seven-point rating scale. Prior to these studies, several literature reviews of MW related concerns and human health were performed. Initial studies also examined whether precautionary measures would be feasible or effective in mitigating the perception of risk of potential hazards beyond current exposure limits in the mind of the public. The studies also examined the effects of uncertainties in risk assessment. The authors conclude that exposure to RF EMF below international exposure guidelines was not harmful to health, and that precautionary measures may not be effective or beneficial (may cause unnecessary worry). In a follow-on report, experts at four German scientific institutions were asked to assess potential risk of mobile phone RF exposure from the current available literature on RF bioeffects including human, animal, and epidemiologic studies. The independent assessments were collected and analyzed comparatively. Only 5% (16 of 320 studies) were interpreted consistently by all members of the expert panel, and literature selection and prioritization varied widely. Statistical significance, dosimetry, relevance to human health endpoints, and replication were not considered equally by all experts. The authors interpret this to indicate that independent scientists apply diverse selection criteria, and emphasize the need to make selection and evaluation criteria explicit prior to any risk assessment. Further studies with different subjects again verified the prior findings above. In a recent report (2006) the authors tested an additional 197 subjects to determine the level of concern associated with EMF exposure and reports of EMF bioeffects (from "cancer" studies to "calcium efflux" studies). The authors report that prior belief had a major effect on risk perception, and that providing research-based information in either a "pro-risk" or "non-risk" manner did not significantly influence the responses from most participants - those that had prior beliefs that EMFs were dangerous continued to feel that way, and those believing otherwise generally remained convinced that EMFs did not pose a risk. Such entrenched belief and emotionality should be factored into evidence-based risk communication. In a subsequent study, when SAR was specifically explained to volunteers (n = 16) under test, they then ranked SAR over price as a factor influencing their purchase of new mobile phone handsets. In a recent study, the authors polled volunteers (n = 225) and concluded that the way information on a new base station site to be erected was presented to local authorities and the public was not of consequence, although the findings did suggest some level of participation in the decision making process was desired, with the most favorable option being a round table discussion with residents. The authors conclude that more information and participation may not guarantee acceptance of a base station siting or increased trust in the safety of low-level RF exposure. AUTHORS' ABSTRACT: Wiedemann et al. 2013 (IEEE #5363): In the past decade, growing public concern about novel technologies with uncertain potential long-term impacts on the environment and human health has moved risk policies toward a more precautionary approach. Focusing on mobile telephony, the effects of precautionary information on risk perception were analyzed. A pooled multinational experimental study based on a 5 × 2 × 2 factorial design was conducted in nine countries. The first factor refers to whether or not information on different types of precautionary measures was present, the second factor to the framing of the precautionary information, and the third factor to the order in which cell phones and base stations were rated by the study participants. The data analysis on the country level indicates different effects. The main hypothesis that informing about precautionary measures results in increased risk perceptions found only partial support in the data. The effects are weaker, both in terms of the effect size and the frequency of significant effects, across the various precautionary information formats used in the experiment. Nevertheless, our findings do not support the assumption that informing people about implemented precautionary measures will decrease public concerns. AUTHORS' ABSTRACT: Wiedemann et al. 2014 (IEEE #5558): In May 2011, the International Agency on Cancer in Research (IARC) issued an official statement concluding that cell phone usage was possibly carcinogenic to humans. There have been considerable doubts that non-experts and experts alike fully understood what IARCs categorization actually meant, as possibly carcinogenic can be interpreted in many ways. The present study is based on an online survey indicating that both the characterization of the probability of carcinogenicity, as well as the description of the risk increase given in the IARC press release, was mostly misunderstood by study participants. Respondents also greatly overestimated the magnitude of the potential risk. Our study results showed that IARC needs to improve their scientific communications. AUTHORS' ABSTRACT: Wiedemann, Boerner and Repacholi 2014 (IEEE 5675): In May 2011, the International Agency on Cancer in Research (IARC) issued an official statement concluding that cell phone usage was "possibly carcinogenic to humans." There have been considerable doubts that non-experts and experts alike fully understood what IARC's categorization actually meant, as "possibly carcinogenic" can be interpreted in many ways. The present study is based on an online survey indicating that both the characterization of the probability of carcinogenicity, as well as the description of the risk increase given in the IARC press release, was mostly misunderstood by study participants. Respondents also greatly overestimated the magnitude of the potential risk. Our study results showed that IARC needs to improve their scientific communications. AUTHORS' ABSTRACT: Freudenstein, Wiedemann and Varsier 2015 (IEEE #5820): The presented study is part of the EU-Project Low EMF Exposure Future Networks (LEXNET), which deals among other things with the issue of whether a reduction of the radiofrequency (RF) electro-magnetic fields (EMF) exposure will result in more acceptance of wireless communication networks in the public sphere. We assume that the effects of any reduction of EMF exposure will depend on the subjective link between exposure perception and risk perception (RP). Therefore we evaluated respondents RP of different RF EMF sources and their subjective knowledge about various exposure characteristics with regard to their impact on potential health risks. The results show that participants are more concerned about base stations than about all other RF EMF sources. Concerning the subjective exposure knowledge the results suggest that people have a quite appropriate impact model. The question how RF EMF RP is actually affected by the knowledge about the various exposure characteristics was tested in a linear regression analysis.The regression indicates that these features  except distance  do influence peoples general RF EMF RP. In addition, we analyzed the effect of the quality of exposure knowledge on RF EMF RP of various sources. The results show a tendency that better exposure knowledge leads to higher RP, especially for mobile phones. The study provides empirical support for models of the relationships between exposure perception and RP. It is not the aim to extrapolate these findings to the whole population because the samples are not exactly representative for the general public in the participating countries. AUTHORS' ABSTRACT: Freudenstein, Wiedemann and Brown 2015 (IEEE #6117): The presented survey was conducted in six European countries as an online study. A total of 2454 subjects participated. Two main research questionswere investigated: firstly, howdoes the cognitive,moral, and affective framing of radio frequency electromagnetic field (RF EMF) exposure perception influence RF EMF risk perception? Secondly, can the deployment ofmobile phone base stations have greater acceptance with RF EMF exposure reduction? The findings with respect to the first question clearly indicated that the cognitive framed exposure perception is the main determinant of RF EMF risk perception. The concomitant sensitivity to exposure strength offers an opportunity to improve the acceptance of base stations by exposure reduction. A linear regression analysis supported this assumption: in a fictional test situation, exposure reduction improved the acceptance of base stations, operationalized as the requested distance of the base station from ones own home. Furthermore, subjects with high RF EMF risk perception were most sensitive to exposure reduction. On average, a 70% exposure reduction reduced the requested distance from about 2000 meters to 1000 meters.The consequences for risk communication are discussed. AUTHORS' ABSTRACT: Wiedemann et al. 2017 (IEEE #6779): An implicit assumption of risk perception studies is that concerns expressed in questionnaires reflect concerns in everyday life. The aim of the present study is to check this assumption, i.e., the extrapolability of risk perceptions expressed in a survey, to risk perceptions in everyday life. To that end, risk perceptions were measured by a multidimensional approach. In addition to the traditional focus on measuring the magnitude of risk perceptions, the thematic relevance (how often people think about a risk issue) and the discursive relevance (how often people think about or discuss a risk issue) of risk perceptions were also collected. Taking into account this extended view of risk perception, an online survey was conducted in six European countries with 2454 respondents, referring to radio frequency electromagnetic field (RF EMF) risk potentials from base stations, and access points, such as WiFi routers and cell phones. The findings reveal that the present studys multidimensional approach to measuring risk perception provides a more differentiated understanding of RF EMF risk perception. High levels of concerns expressed in questionnaires do not automatically imply that these concerns are thematically relevant in everyday life. We use thematic relevance to distinguish between enduringly concerned (high concern according to both questionnaire and thematic relevance) and not enduringly concerned participants (high concern according to questionnaire but no thematic relevance). Furthermore, we provide data for the empirical value of this distinction: Compared to other participants, enduringly concerned subjects consider radio frequency electromagnetic field exposure to a greater extent as a moral and affective issue. They also see themselves as highly exposed to radio frequency electromagnetic fields. However, despite these differences, subjects with high levels of thematic relevance are nevertheless sensitive to exposure reduction as a means for improving the acceptance of base stations in their neighborhood. This underlines the value of exposure reduction for the acceptance of radio frequency electromagnetic field communication technologies.

Findings Not Applicable to Bioeffects
Status Completed With Publication
Principal Investigator Forschungszentrum Julich, GmbH, FRG
Funding Agency ?????
Country GERMANY
References
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