Exposure limits are the main way the public are protected against possible risks from EMFs.
Various bodies have set limits or published guidelines on exposure to EMFs. Most have set the limits to prevent established effects at high fields - principally induced currents - but have not regarded the evidence for effects at lower fields such as cancer as strong enough to justify setting exposure limits. But there is a debate as to what might be appropriate precautionary measures at these lower fields.
Legal position in various countries
We set out the position in various countries:
- The USA - where there are no Federal limits, but a few States have their own limits
- The UK - which follows ICNIRP for occupational exposures and the EU Recommendation for public exposures - see a summary of UK policy on EMFs
- Europe - where there is both a Recommendation for public exposures and a Directive for occupational exposures
- Other countries - where most countries which have limits at all use ICNIRP but a significant minority have something more stringent as well
Exposure limits from specific organisations
Here we give the details of specific exposure limits with the actual numbers: old NRPB limits from 1993 and the newer NRPB limits from 2004, the ICNIRP guidelines from 1998 and 2010, the European 1999 Recommendation on public exposure and the 2013 Directive on occupational exposure, and the ICES standard from 2002.
In 2010, ICNIRP issued new exposure guidelines for the range of frequencies that includes power-line EMFs. These formed the basis of the 2013 EU Directive on occupational exposure.
Indirect effects are effects caused by objects which are charged up by the electric field - "microshocks" and surface charge effects. We detail how these indirect effects are treated in the various exposure limits here.
Exposure limits at different frequencies
This site is mainly concerned with power frequencies. But we provide an interactive comparison of three of the main exposure limits - ICNIRP 1998, ICNIRP 2010 and ICES 2002 - across a range of frequencies.