Study of levels of exposure to electromagnetic fields from mobile phones base-stations in Khartoum & Khartoum Nort

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1 Study of levels of exposure to electromagnetic fields from mobile phones base-stations in Khartoum & Khartoum Nort Dr. Kamal Eldin Eltayeb Yassin, Maha M khair and Shima K. Yasin Abstract Radio-frequency electromagnetic fields (RF EMF) of mobile communication systems are widespread in the living environment, yet their effects on humans are uncertain despite a growing body of literature. The measurements for the field strength and the power density were taken in some selected locations with special focus on busy streets, squares and other public places such as bus stations, student hostels and hospitals during February Measurements were carried using the reliable and most advanced monitoring device (Spectran HF 4040). Measured Power density,using stata 9 program was found to lay between a minimum of E-07W/m² and a maximum value of W/m², which is quite small compared to the international standard limits like those adopted by The International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection(ICNIRP) which is 4.5W/m² for the public and 22.5W/m² for those professionals involved in telecommunications industry. Since strict adherence to national safety standards will protect everyone in the population, further research is recommended on the subject along with setting of Sudanese standards to cover different aspects of the issue namely local climatic conditions, quality & specifications of base-stations and total exposure. It is worth mentioning that other countries have their own standards and specifications in the field. مستخلص مع تطور مجاالت اإلتصاالت وإزياد إستخدام الھواتف المحمولة وبالتالي تنفيذ العديد من أبراج التقوية في المناطق السكنية ارتفعت نسبة التعرض لموجات الراديو EMF) ( RF التي قد تسبب بعض األضرار الصحية. ورغم تعدد الدراسات حول تلك اآلثار إال أنه ال يوجد دليل قاطع علي مدى تأثيرھا المباشر سلبا على اإلنسان. يھدف البحث الي دراسة مستوي التعرض لموجات الراديو (RF) المنبعثة من أبراج تقوية الھواتف المحمولة التي ذاد إنتشارھا كثيرا في اآلونة األخيرة خاصة في والية الخرطوم. 1

2 تم إستخدام جھاز مسح متطور يسمي HF4040) (Spectran لقياس كثافة الطاقة density) (Power ومدي قوة المجال( strength (field في المواقع المختارة في والية الخرطوم وكان التركيز علي الطرق المزدحمة والميادين العامة مثل مواقف المواصالت العامة و سكن الطالب والمستشفيات. أوضحت نتائج المسح باستخدام برنمج ستاتا 9 االحصائى أن كثافة الطاقة المنبعثة من تلك األبراج تتراوح ما بين / W m² كحد أعلي و E-07W/m² كحد أدني وھي مقاييس منخفضة نسبيا مقارنة بالمعايير العالمية وخاصة مواصفة الوكالة الدولية للحماية من اإلشعاع الغير متأين (ICNIRP) والتي تحدد مستوى التعرض األقصى لھذه أالبراج بما يساوي 4.5W/m² للعامة و 22.5W/m² للعاملين في مجال اإلتصاالت. تتمثل أھم توصيات الدراسة في وضع معايير سودانية تأخذ في إعتبارھا الظروف المناخية فى السودان ونوعية ومواصفات أبراج التقويه المستخدمة و التعرض الكلي exposure) ( total لھا علما بأن بعض الدول لھا مرجعياتھا الخاصة في ھذا اإلطار مبنيه علي األساس أعاله. Introduction Recently, the use of mobile phones has increased tremendously and still on the rise. As a result of this an increasing numbers of people are being exposed to electromagnetic fields used for data transfer between base stations& mobile phones. This raises the question whether such an exposure may result in negative health consequences [1]. Mobile phone base stations are known as base transceiver stations or telecommunications structures. They are low-power, multi-channel two-way radios. Antennas, which produce RF radiation, are mounted on either transmission towers or roof-mounted structures. These structures need to be of a certain height in order to have a wider coverage. When you communicate on a mobile phone, you are connected to a nearby base station. From that base station phone call goes into the regular fixed-line phone system. As the mobile phones and their base stations are two-way radios, they produce RF radiation to communicate and therefore expose the people near them to RF radiation. However, as both the phones and the base stations have low-power (short range) transmitters in them, the RF radiation exposure levels are generally very low. The consensus of the international scientific community is that the power from these mobile phone base station antennas is far too low to produce health risks as long as people are kept away from direct contact with the 2

3 antennas. The difference between antennas and towers, it is the antennas that one need to keep a distance from and not the towers that hold the antennas. The designs of mobile phone base stations vary in their power and characteristics, as well as their potential for exposing people to RF radiation [2]. The general objective of this research is to Study levels of exposure to electromagnetic fields from mobile phones base-station in Khartoum state through : Studying, via literature review, the impact of radiofrequency energy from mobile phone base station on human health. Conducting experimental work on the emissions from base stations and comparing the results obtained with local and international standards. Recommending, based on the findings, further research requirements and necessary precautions to be taken to cater for any negative effects. Mobile phones and their base stations Mobile phones allow people to be within reach at all times. These low-power radio wave devices transmit and receive signals from a network of fixed low power base stations. Each base station provides coverage to a given area. Depending on the number of calls being handled, base stations may be from only a few hundred meters apart in major cities to several kilometers apart in rural areas. Mobile phone base stations are usually mounted on the tops of buildings or on towers at heights of between 15 and 50 meters. The levels of transmissions from any particular base station are variable and depend on the number of and the callers' distance from the base station. Antennas emit a very narrow beam of radio waves, which spreads calls out almost parallel to the ground. 3

4 Figure (1): GSM base station In Jamhoria Street (Khartoum) Guidelines would only be exceeded if a person were to approach to within a meter or two directly in front of the antennas. Concerns about other so-called non-thermal effects arising from exposure to mobile phone frequencies have also been raised. These include suggestions of subtle effects on cells that could have an effect on cancer development. Effects on electrically excitable tissues that may influence the function of the brain and nervous tissue have also been hypothesized. However, the overall evidence available to date does not suggest that the use of mobile phones has any detrimental effect on human health. The main effect of radiofrequency energy is the heating of tissue. Consequently, exposure guidelines for radiofrequency fields and microwaves are set to prevent health effects caused by localized or whole-body heating. Compliance with the guidelines will ensure that heating effects are sufficiently small not to be harmful. At present, speculations about potential long-term health effects cannot form the basis for the issuing of guidelines or standards. Adding up the results of all scientific studies, the overall weight of evidence does not indicate that electromagnetic fields cause long-term health effects such as cancer. National and international bodies set and update standards on the basis of the latest scientific knowledge to protect against known health effects. Precautionary approaches: 4

5 International guidelines safety standards for electromagnetic fields are developed on the basis of the current scientific knowledge to ensure that the fields humans encounter are not harmful to health. To compensate uncertainties in knowledge (due, for example, to experimental errors, extrapolation from animals to humans, or statistical uncertainty), large safety factors are incorporated into the exposure limits [1]. Beams from base station a. Shapes and directions: The power from antennas used with macrocellular base stations is radiated in conical fan-shaped beams, which are essentially directed towards the horizon with a slight downward tilt. This is illustrated in figure (2) and it causes the radio wave strengths below the antennas and at the base of masts to be very much lower than directly in front of the antennas at a similar distance. Figure (2) Beam Shapes and Directions The beams from the antennas spread out with distance and tend to reach ground level at distances in the range m from the antennas. The radio wave levels at these distances are much less than those directly in front of the antennas.at distances closer to the mast than where the main beam reaches ground level, exposure occurs due to weaker beams known as sidelobes [3]. b. beam characteristics: The antennas transmit the electromagnetic fields mainly in a forward horizontal direction in which the beam is targeted at a downward angle of between 3 and 6 degrees. In the most usual construction of a base station there are three antennas. 5

6 c. Field strength within the beam: The field strength within the beam depends upon the power of the antenna and the distance from the antenna. Close to the antenna, in the near-field, there is no linear relationship between the field strength and the distance, but in the far-field there is. The dimension of the source is important for the calculation of the boundary between the near- and far-field. For the antennas most typically used at base stations, the near-field remains limited to a distance of several meters from the antennas. Within the nearfield, the field strength outside of the beam strongly decreases as the distance to the beam increases. The exposure limit for the general public can only be exceeded within the beam and at a distance of no more than 3 meters from the antenna. d. Field strength outside the beam: The field strengths outside the beam are considerably lower than those in the beam and the exposure limits are not exceeded. The actual field strength will vary with respect to time and place. On the one hand, this is because the transmitted power of a GSM 900 or antenna depends on the demand for capacity (which in itself is a function of the number of calls being made at any given time). Exposure Guidelines Countries set their own national standards for exposure to electromagnetic fields. However, the majority of these national standards draw on the guidelines set by the International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection (ICNIRP). This non-governmental organization, formally recognized by WHO, evaluates scientific results from all over the world. Based on an in-depth review of the literature, ICNIRP produces guidelines recommending limits on exposure. These guidelines are reviewed periodically and updated if necessary. At positions where people are exposed to the radio waves from base station antennas, the level of exposure is much more constant over the whole body than when they are exposed to a mobile phone. Under these circumstances, the relevant basic restriction in the ICNIRP guidelines is that placed on SAR averaged over the entire body mass. ICNIRP specifies that this should not exceed( 0.4 W kg -1 ) for workers or 0.08 W kg -1 for the public. Whole-body SAR is not very easy to measure practically; consequently, ICNIRP gives a reference level in terms of the power density below which the 6

7 SAR restriction would be complied with. The reference level is (4.5 W m -2 ) in the 900 MHz GSM frequency band. When considering exposure in the context of the ICNIRP guidelines, it is important to recognize that the guidelines are intended to limit total exposure to radio waves from all sources and not just that part of exposure arising from a particular base station. Table (1) Exposure limits for RF fields (900MHz) W/m² W/m² 0.02 W/m² W/m² 0.1 W/m² 0.16 W/m² 0.24 W/m² BUND recommendation "Precautionary limit" in Austria Exposure limit in Russia ECOLOG-recommendation (Germany) Exposure limit in Poland Exposure limit in Italy Exposure limit in CSSR 2 W/m² Exposure limit in New Zealand 3 W/m² Exposure limit in Canada (Safety Code 6,) 4.5 W/m² Exposure limit in Germany and ICNIRP recommendation No exposure limit according to Sudanese standards but it is usual to follow ICNIRP for non ionized radiation Exclusion Zones: Close to some base station antennas, the power density can exceed guideline levels. Operators calculate compliance distances in various 7

8 directions from their antennas in order to define a boundary outside which the guidelines can never be exceeded [3]. exclusion zone defines as an area or areas surrounding an RF antenna within which the levels of electric field strength (V/m), magnetic flux density (μt) and power density (W/m2) are above the ICNIRP occupational reference levels [6] for electromagnetic radiation exposure for the particular frequencies involved [7]. Preventative measures such as administrative procedures or physical barriers are implemented to ensure that people do not accidentally enter regions defined as exclusion zones. The design of sites would normally be such that the general public would not be able to stray into regions designed as exclusion zones. It is known that, No person should enter an exclusion zone whilst the antennae are transmitting. The manufacturer usually demonstrates that all reasonably practicable steps to restrict unauthorized access to exclusion zones e.g. barriers, position of aerials etc have been taken. It is important to note that suitable warning signs are clearly displayed at the perimeter of all exclusion zones, or at more appropriate positions around the supporting structure so long as these positions are not within an exclusion zone. A minimum of 3 warning signs must be erected around each exclusion zone. Each must be no smaller than A4 in size. They must bear the Standard warning symbol for RF radiation and details of the wording must be provided prior to installation. For large macrocellular base stations radiating up to 100 watts or more, exclusion zones in the range m may be required in front of the antennas to ensure exposures remain within the ICNIRP guidelines for public exposure. In other directions such as below and behind the antennas, the exclusion zones would extend for lesser distances. Low power microcellular base stations radiating around 1-2 W would require much smaller exclusion zones than macrocells and it may be possible to fully encompass all regions where exposure could exceed guidelines within the plastic cover of the antenna. The general public cannot normally approach regions designated as exclusion zones around base station antennas because the antennas tend to be mounted at the top of masts or on rooftops with controlled access. Typical 8

9 locations where the public is exposed are at ground level, in buildings beneath antennas and in buildings facing antennas mounted on masts or other buildings[8]. Safety Zones: If somebody stands within 2 meters of the antenna, the radiation will be strong enough to cause a heating effect. The safety zone is therefore anything outside this immediate 2m danger zone. It is impossible to enter this danger zone accidentally because the antenna is usually 10 to 15 meters above the ground for microcells and up to 50 meters for macrocells. The main signal is directed towards the ground at an angle of approximately 6 degrees. The diagram below shows that the area directly under the antenna is safe because the signal is at its weakest. It also shows that by the time the main beam reaches ground level the power is far too weak to cause a heating effect [8]. Figure (3) Areas of signals strengths around the antenna Materials & Methods study areas: In Sudan, there is no reliable data available for exposure limits. The measurements for the field strength and the power density were conducted at selected locations during February The focus was on busy streets, squares, and other public places such as bus stations, markets, student hostels and hospitals. The field strength levels and power density at the 12 selected sites were measured. The experimental locations are shown on the following plates via Google earth mapping. 9

10 At the ground level, several measurements were taken, the first one at 200 meters from the antenna and the last one at 20 meter. The measurements were made with assistance of experienced staff from the Sudan Atomic Energy Commission, institute of Radiation Safety, following standard procedure of 3 readings every 20 meters. The magnetic Field strength was measured on GSM 900 MHz band Plate (1) Measurement locations in Khartoum- Al Gaama Street (Googl earthmap) 1. Silah AL Asliha (military building). 2. University of Khartoum Basket Ball playing ground. 3. University of Khartoum Foot Ball playing ground. 4. Faculty of science laboratory, ground floor. 10

11 Plate (2) Measurement locations in Khartoum (Google earth map) 1. Plaza Hotel. 2. Sudanese Islamic Bank-Sayed Abed al Rehman Street. 3. Gebra old bus station. 4. Sudanese limited Insurance Company. 5. Balsam Engineering Company. 6. Al Akhawa Building. 7. Farmer s Commercial Bank. 11

12 Hilat Hamad 2. AL Mhata AL Wsta Plate (3): Measurement locations in Khartoum north (Google earth map) Measurements Tools: The measurements were performed using spectrum analyzer called Spectran HF 4040.The Sudan Atomic Energy Commission, institute of Radiation, made available this device, of Germany origin. Figure (4) below shows the different components of the device. 12

13 Figure (4): Spectran HF 4040 Statistical Analysis Data was analyzed using stata 9.0 (Intercooled software).simple descriptive statistic was employed and measures at central tendency (mean) for different areas power densities and signal strengths were obtained, then,the data was plotted and then presented in the form of histogram charts for each area separately (FIGURE 5) 13

14 Al akhwa buliding base station min= , max= , mean= ,corresponding Signal Strength mean=-29.7 Farmer'scommercial bank base station min= , max= , mean= ,corresponding Signal Strength mean=

15 Insurance limited company base station min= , max= , mean= ,corresponding Signal Strength mean=-30.7 Balsam engineering company base station min= , max=0.0013, mean= ,corresponding Signal Strength mean=

16 Sudanese islamic bank base station min= , max= , mean= ,corresponding Signal Strength mean=-28.7 Gebra old bus station base station min= , max= , mean= ,corresponding Signal Strength mean=

17 Blaza hotel station base station min= , max= , mean= ,corresponding Signal Strength mean=-23.6 Faculty of science laboratory, ground University of Khartoum"" e e e e-06 min= , max= , mean= ,corresponding Signal Strength mean=

18 Football playground University of Khartoum"" min= , max= , mean= ,corresponding Signal Strength mean=-18 Basketball playground University of Khartoum"" min= , max= , mean= ,corresponding Signal Strength mean=

19 Hilat Hamad base station min= , max= , mean= ,corresponding Signal Strength mean=-12.8 Al mhata Al wsta base station min= , max= , mean= ,corresponding Signal Strength mean=-35.9 Figure (5) Histograms showing signal strength in different study areas Results and discussions The main objective of the performed measurements, is to study the impact of radiofrequency energy from mobile phones base stations on humans. The information from each location, where a measurement was performed( about 300 readings in totality ), was displayed as per attached histogram charts, where the exposure levels were compared to those of International Commission for Non Ionize Radiation Protection (ICNIRP). 19

20 The power density and the field strength levels at the 12 selected sites were measured and the results obtained were compared to the limits to protect persons exposed to RF radiation. Power density measured was found to be between a minimum value of ( E-07W/m²) and a maximum of ( W/m²), which is quite small compared to the standard of International Commission for Non Ionize Radiation Protection (ICNIRP) limits. It is important to note that the public exposure limit is (4.5W/m²) and occupational exposure limit is (22.5W/m²). conclusions 1. High frequency radiation exists in free space around us from an increasing number of sources and covers a wide range of the electromagnetic spectrum. 2. By far the most important and rapidly expanding source is the mobile phone base stations. 3. Findings of (power density) around these base stations are below the standard limits set by (ICNIRP) 4. It is of atmost importance to consider high safety precautions in designing new base stations to meet the guidelines set for antennas and their mounting, so that the minimum required distance can be observed for the public access. 5. New trends in the design of such antennas such as the smart antenna concept can be applied in order to further reduce the radiation power levels. Recommendations Based on the findings of this research, indicating the non-existence of harmful levels of exposure, and on the growing telecommunication industry which may lead to possible changes in exposure level, it is recommended that An independent random, ongoing, audit of all base stations be carried out to ensure that exposure guidelines are not exceeded outside the marked exclusion zone and that the base stations comply with their agreed specifications. If base station emissions are found to exceed guideline levels, or if there is significant departure from the stated characteristics, then the base station should be decommissioned until compliance is demonstrated Particular attention should be paid initially to the auditing of base stations nearer to schools and other sensitive sites. The beam of greatest intensity from macrocell base station should not fall on any part of the school grounds or buildings without the prior acceptance of the school and parents. Planning authorities should have the power to ensure that the RF fields to which the public will be exposed will be kept to the lowest practical levels that will be commensurate with the telecommunications system operating effectively. 20

21 To establish a clearly defined physical exclusion zones around base station antennas, which delineate areas within which exposure guidelines may be exceeded. The incorporation of exclusion zones should be part of the template of planning protocols that we advocate. A physical barrier and a readily identifiable nationally agreed sign with a logo should define each exclusion zone. This should inform the public and workers that inside the exclusion zone there might be RF emissions, which exceed national guidelines. warning signs should be incorporated into microcell and picocell transmitters to indicate they should not be opened when in use Further research on the subject along with setting of local Sudanese standards to cover different aspects of the issue. References Radiation,Mobile Phones,Base Stations and Your Health, Ng Kwan-Hoong, Ph.D thesis,september 2003 published for Malaysian Communications and زCommission Multimedia 3. y/base_stations.htm( ) 4. GSM base stations,health Council of the Netherlands: GSM base stations. The Hague: Health Council of the Netherlands, 2000; publication no. 2000/16E. 5. Health Risks of Cellular Telephones, The Myth and the Reality,A position paper adopted by the Ontario Public Health Association (OPHA), Authored by Chérif F. Matta and Susanne Burkhardt, 2oo3. 6. ICNIRP (1998). Guidelines for limiting exposure to time-varying electric, magnetic and electromagnetic fields (up to 300GHz). Health Physics, 74 (4) pp Sir William Stewart (Chairman), Mobile Phones and Health. A report from the Independent Expert Group on Mobile Phones, Chilton, IEGMP Secretariat, (2000) Mobile Phone Base Stations Public Health Considerations و The Swerdlow Report, Advisory Group on Non-Ionizing Radiation (AGNIR), Health effects from radiofrequency electromagnetic fields,

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