The omnipresence of electrical appliances in everyday life is cause for concern. To date, no scientific study has been able to demonstrate harmful effects due to non-ionising electromagnetic fields. Some studies have revealed statistical correlations, without, however, being able to explain the link between cause and effect. If in doubt, apply the precautionary principle.

Move away from the source

The intensity of an electromagnetic field decreases rapidly when one moves away from the source.

If you have concerns about electromagnetic fields, simply reduce their use, move away and unplug devices when not in use.

DID YOU KNOW? The “precautionary principle” is a policy that takes into account the uncertainty, whereas “prevention” is a policy put in place when the risks are well known and have been thoroughly assessed.

The precautionary principle for mobile phones

Even if no risk has been scientifically proven, uncertainty as to the effects of non-ionizing electromagnetic fields persists. Studies have not managed to demonstrate the absence of risk.

When in doubt, it is advisable to comply with certain precautionary principles in particular for mobile phones, a device used in close proximity to the head: 

  • use a headset
  • text instead of calling,
  • reduce call time,
  • at the start of the call, wait a few seconds before putting the mobile phone against your ear,
  • call when reception is good,
  • choose a mobile phone with a low Specific Absorption Rate (SAR).

Mobile phone manufacturers have to respect the SAR standard: the specific absorption rate must be less than 2w/kg. Generally it varies between 0.1 and 1.5 W/kg (Brussels Environnement).

DID YOU KNOW? In fact, the greatest known risk of mobile phones is the road accidents that occur when the person is distracted by a telephone conversion, even with a hands-free kit!

Living near a high voltage power line 

Don't panic! If you live near a high voltage power line, first ask yourself:

  • what is the voltage of the line (70, 150, 380 kV, etc.)
  • what is your distance from the line.

Metallic conductors, construction materials, trees, walls and buildings give effective protection against electric fields. When the lines are buried, the surface electric field is barely detectable.

However, magnetic fields pose the most problems. But to date, no scientific study has succeeded in demonstrating harmful effects due to them. When in doubt, the precautionary principle prevails.

The Superior Health Council recommends that children of less than 15 years of age should not be exposed for long periods to a magnetic field of an average intensity greater than 0.4 µT (2008, only in French and Dutch).

Exposure Limits

The ICNIRP has established exposure limits for the entire electromagnetic spectrum. These are recommendations, not standards: 

  Extremely low frequencies Low frequencies and radio frequencies
The threshold limit value for occurrence of adverse health effects Magnetic field: 100 µT SAR: 4W/kg
Exposure limits to prevent short-term effects

Magnetic field: 100 µT

SAR: 0.08 W/kg

SAR: 2 W/kg (mobile phone)


27.4 V/m at 100 MHz (FM-radio)

41.3 V/m at 900 MHz (mob. phone 900)

61 V/m at 2 100 MHz (UMTS)

Electric field (50 Hz): 

5 kV/m inhabited area

7 kV/m overhangs, roads

10 kV/m other sites

Sciensano is a member of the Superior Health Council and advises on the risks associated with mobile communication and other types of non-ionizing radiation, in particular radio frequencies.

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