During the 2nd and 3rd of February 2023, the city of Basel in Switzerland was the stage of a practical workshop that marks the start of a measurement campaign to assess exposure to radiofrequency electromagnetic fields (RF-EMF) from current and newly introduced technologies, including 5G.

In ten European countries, researchers will conduct activity-based micro-environmental surveys to measure exposure to RF-EMF in different indoor and outdoor microenvironments. The selected microenvironments are comprised by a set of outdoor areas (e.g., downtown areas, residential areas), public spaces (e.g., schools, shopping malls, parks) and public transports (e.g., buses, trains), measured in different urban and rural areas in each country. In this way, we will be able to understand potential spatial variabilities in RF-EMF exposure within and between countries.

Day 1 of activities – Adriana Fernandes Veludo initiates the workshop activities with a first round of introductions. (Credits: Martin Röösli)

During this two-day workshop, the Swiss Tropical and Public Health Institute hosted researchers from several European institutions, in order to prepare for the fieldwork activities that will occur in the following months. The first day of the workshop entailed mainly lectures, where researchers were trained on how to set-up the measurement devices that will be used during this campaign. In sum, researchers will be equipped with a backpack containing a personal exposimeter (ExpoM-RF 4) and a mobile device equipped with an add-on RF-EMF sensor.

The ExpoM-RF 4 allows measuring a set of different far-field electromagnetic sources, ranging from broadcasting sources to mobile communication. The mobile device equipped with an add-on sensor will allow the researchers to simulate different scenarios of data transmission and measure the respective estimated exposure in the different microenvironments. Simulating different scenarios of data transmission is nowadays very important due to the adaptive characteristic of the 5G base stations equipped with Massive MIMO technology, causing personal exposure to be user dependent.

The group was divided into Blue Team (on the left) and Green Team (on the right) that are now prepared to take measurements in the first microenvironment. (Credits: Marianne Rutschi)

The last day of the workshop consisted mainly on a simulation of what will be a typical fieldwork day. Here the researchers got hands-on in the devices and were able to put into practice the knowledge gathered during the previous day. The RF-EMF measurements were conducted in different microenvironments, including the old town area of Basel and several public transports. Luckily, the weather was perfect for a ferryboat trip crossing the Rhine River that marked the closure of the workshop activities.

Setting up the mobile phones to simulate the scenarios of data transmission. (Credits: Adriana Fernandes Veludo)

This measurement campaign is part of the work package one (WP1) task force, embedded in the European GOLIAT (5G expOsure, causaL effects, and rIsk perception through citizen engAgemenT) project. The overarching aim of WP1 is to assess RF-EMF exposure patterns and levels in young people and workers. The kick-off of the measurement campaign is foreseen to start on February 20th in Belgium, France, Hungary and Switzerland. Later in the year, the measurements will also be conducted in Spain, UK, Italy, Austria, Poland and in the Netherlands.