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Exposure to electromagnetic fields

This summary has been archived and will not be updated, because the summarised document is no longer in force or does not reflect the current situation.

Exposure to electromagnetic fields

This recommendation establishes a common framework for giving the general public a high level of protection against the potential harmful effects of exposure to electromagnetic fields, particularly by limiting exposure to sources of non-ionising radiation.


Council Recommendation of 12 July 1999 on the limitation of exposure of the general public to electromagnetic fields (0 Hz to 300 GHz) [Official Journal L 199 of 30.7.1999].


Basic restrictions and reference levels

The recommendation advocates a system of basic restrictions * and reference levels * for limiting overall exposure of the general public to electromagnetic fields * and ensuring an increased level of protection.

Since there is a safety factor between the basis restrictions and the frequency levels which could have an effect on health, this recommendation covers possible long-term effects in the whole frequency range.

The annexes contain details of the basic restrictions to which the Member States are expected to adhere as regards public exposure. These basic restrictions are designed to take account of uncertainties related to individual sensitivities and environmental conditions, and of the diversity in the age and health status of the general public.

The annexes also contain the reference levels which the Member States are encouraged to use for the purpose of ensuring compliance with the basic restrictions. They set out the formulae to be used for assessing situations where simultaneous exposure to fields of different frequencies occurs.

Action to be taken by the Member States

The Member States ought to guarantee a high level of health protection against exposure to electromagnetic fields by:

  • adopting a framework of basic restrictions and reference levels in line with the recommendation;
  • implementing measures in respect of sources or practices giving rise to exposure of the general public to electromagnetic fields.

The Member states are also encouraged to:

  • evaluate situations involving exposure from sources with multiple frequencies;
  • take account, where appropriate, of criteria such as the duration of exposure, the parts of the body exposed, and the age and health status of the persons concerned;
  • consider both the risks and the benefits in deciding whether action is needed, when they adopt measures in respect of exposure of the general public to electromagnetic fields.

The Member States should provide, in an appropriate format, information to the general public on the health impact of electromagnetic fields and the measures taken in this connection. They are also encouraged to promote research into the effects of electromagnetic fields on human health.

Action to be taken by the Commission

It is hoped that the Commission will:

  • work towards the establishment of European standards for exposure reference levels;
  • foster research into the short- and medium-term effects of exposure to electromagnetic fields;
  • continue to participate in the work of international organisations competent in this field;
  • promote the establishment of an international consensus on the guidelines and advice relating to preventive and protective measures.


The Member States should forward to the Commission reports on the national guidelines adopted and the measures taken in the context of this recommendation. These legislative measures have been published in an implementation report (pdf).

Key terms used in the act

  • Electromagnetic fields: fields which include static fields, extremely low frequency (ELF) fields and radiofrequency (RF) fields, including microwaves, encompassing the frequency range of 0 Hz to 300 GHz.
  • Basic restrictions: restrictions on exposure to time-varying electric, magnetic and electromagnetic fields, which are based directly on established health effects and biological considerations.
  • Reference levels: spatially averaged values over the dimension of the body of the exposed individual, with the proviso that the localised


Second report from the Commission of 1 September 2008 on the application 2002-2007 of Council recommendation 1999/519/EC of 12 July 1999 on the limitation of the exposure of the general public to electromagnetic fields (0 Hz to 300 GHz) [COM(2008) 532 final – Not published in the Official Journal].

The Commission took into account the most recent scientific knowledge when regularly re-assessing the restrictions and reference levels laid down in the Recommendation on electromagnetic fields.

This Report is based on information provided by Member States and on the latest opinion of the Scientific Committee on Emerging and Newly Identified Health Risks (SCENIHR). However, in the absence of new scientific data, no re-assessment was provided for radio frequency fields (RF fields – 100 kHz-300 GHz), intermediate frequency fields (IF fields – 300 Hz–100 kHz), extremely low frequency fields (ELF fields – 0-300 Hz) or static fields. New research should be carried out, in particular as part of the 7th Framework Programme  for Research and Development. The research should extend to new fields linked to the development of new technologies (wireless networks: WIFI and WLAN).

The majority of Member States apply and monitor the maximum exposure levels to electromagnetic fields, in compliance with this Recommendation. Certain Member States have adopted stricter restrictions or implemented legally binding measures. Furthermore, awareness-raising and communication campaigns should be continued in order to respond to the needs of citizens for information on the risks and existing protective measures.

Last updated: 31.10.2008