Radio waves – perceived or real health threat?

Radio waves – perceived or real health threat?

Bilde av en kvinne som tar på øret

Is wireless communication between humans, between things, between everything so important that potential risk for health hazards is ignored? Many worries that radio waves from mobile phones, smart meters, the coming 5G network and other devices are health threats. Some claims to be electromagnetic hypersensitive; they experience headaches or other symptoms when being exposed. Worries and belief about harmful effects may also cause health problems.

Do we need better communication about risk for health hazards due to radio wave exposure, or must exposure levels be considerably reduced to protect health? What are possible consequences of these issues and how to solve them? These and other questions concerning radio waves and worries and health effects related to the exposure are relevant project topics.
 

Relevant competency

The village is open for master students from all study programmes, and topics for team projects are suitable for different disciplines. To illustrate the broad range of disciplines that are relevant, below are examples of expertise that are involved in this research area:

  • Psychology and communication – effects of communication on risk perception
  • Electronics, radio technology, mathematics and IKT – measurements and modelling of exposure, exposure reduction
  • Biophysics – interaction between electromagnetic fields and cells/molecules
  • Biology – biological effects of exposure to radio waves
  • Medicine and health – health effects of radio waves and of worries
  • Statistics – statistical methods and analysis in studies

About the village

External partner and relevance of the village theme

Projects proposals are developed in cooperation with Norwegian radiation and Nuclear Safety Authorities to fit their interests, and their experts may contribute in the supervision of relevant projects.

Projects in this village are also useful for the research of the village supervisor and particularly for her involvement as a member of an international commission (ICNIRP) that develops guidelines for exposure limits.

Project topics

Each team can choose the topic, within the theme of the village, based on their background and interest.  Here are some examples of possible topic and relevant questions:

How to reduce exposure, - if required
Some claims that exposure limits should be much lower than those currently accepted by Norway and very many other countries.

  • What are exposure levels from existing or emerging technologies (e.g. 5G) compared to exposure limits?
  • What technological consequences would it have and what technological solutions could be relevant for wireless communication if the exposure levels must be reduced to 1 or 10% of the current exposure limits?
  • Would such lower limits reduce the risk for adverse health effects?
     

How communication influences perceived risk for health hazards – risk communication plan
We are influenced by what we see and hear, and research indicates that media articles influence people’s perception of being “electromagnetic hypersensitive”.

  • What characterize the communication by interest groups, people being electromagnetic hypersensitive and authorities regarding health hazards due to radio waves?
  • What do people know or assume about the health risk due to radio wave exposure compared to research-based knowledge, and what are their sources of information?
  • Develop a risk communication plan for the Norwegian radiation and Nuclear Safety Authorities.
     

Reasons for worries due to new radio wave emitting technology
New technologies like Smart meters, and the 5 G networks tend to create health worries.

  • Is it correct that people perceive exposures from smart meters/5G networks as more harmful than exposure from older technologies?
  • How does exposures from smart meters or 5G networks differ from exposures from 3G and 4G mobile phone technologies?
  • May such differences explain a higher risk for adverse health effects?
     

How to explain huge exposure limit differences between countries
Some countries apply much lower exposure limits for radio waves than others. The focus on and perceived health risk by radio-wave exposure also varies.

  • What are the exposure limits in some selected countries?
  • What are the rationales behind these different limits?
  • Is there a relation between exposure limits and health worries due to the exposure, and in case how may the relation be explained?
     

Methods to be applied

Among methods that may be relevant to use are mapping of exposure levels by measurements or by internet information, surveys among students or people in various countries by online survey tools, comparisons information provided by different groups such as authorities, interest groups and scientists or by different countries, review of scientific literature, and interviews with experts. You can also suggest creative solutions.


Facts about the village

Course Code: TTT4851
Village Title: Radio waves – perceived or real heath threat?
Type: Semester-based
Language: English
Village Supervisor: Gunnhild Oftedal
Contact Information: gunnhild.oftedal@ntnu.no
Semester: Spring 2020

Important information about EiT:

Important information about EiT:

  • The focus on teamwork skills and group processes is the unique feature of Experts in Teamwork (EiT).
  • EiT's teaching methods depend on the contribution and presence of every participant throughout the semester. For this reason, attendance is compulsory on every village day.
  • In contrast to many courses, the first few days are especially important in EiT. During this period, the team members get to know each other and discuss what each individual can contribute. You will also draw up the compulsory cooperation agreement and start preparing a shared research question.
  • For additional information about Experts in Teamwork, see the page for students.