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Possible Health Effects on the Human Body from Radio Wave Exposure

The Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications (MIC) has implemented various measures to maintain a safer and securer environment for radio waves use. This explanation provides an overview of major issues.

1.Safety Guidelines for Use of Radio Waves

The radio waves currently used for telecommunication or broadcasting are electromagnetic waves (non-ionizing radiation) which do not have enough energy to ionize atoms from materials. Although some of the electromagnetic waves, such as ionizing radiation including X-ray or gamma-ray, have high frequencies and strong energy that ionize atoms, they are very different from the radio waves we are dealing with; that is non-ionizing radiation.

Studies regarding the effects of radio waves on the human body have been made over the last 50 years on a global scale, including Japan. Based on scientific knowledge accumulated by these studies, we formulated the "Radio Radiation Protection Guidelines for Human Exposure to Electromagnetic Fields" (hereinafter referred to as RRPG) taking various safety factors into consideration. The standard values set out in these guidelines are on a par with the values released by ICNIRP (International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection), and are used not only in Japan, but in every country of the world. If these standard values are satisfied, there is no influence on the human health according to WHO (World Health Organization), ICNIRP etc.

In addition, in June 2000 WHO announced their research results as follows: There is no indication that radio waves emissions from cellular phones or their base stations will cause or promote cancer, there are also no other effects on the human body which adversely affect health.

<Formulation of the Guidelines>

The MIC (ex Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications (MPT)) received a report from the Telecommunications Technology Council on June 25, 1990 as a reply to "inquiry number 38 of June 27, 1988 - The Protection Policy for the Human Body from Effects of Radio Waves use". This report showed the RRPG including indicators of strength of radio waves with no adverse effect on the human body.

Moreover, a report on April 24, 1997 from The Telecommunications Technology Council, regarding "inquiry number 89 - Protection from the Radio Waves on the Human Body" (inquiry made on November 25, 1996) set out practical guidelines for radio equipment used in close proximity to the human body such as cellular phones. In addition, they summarized future protection guidelines for radio waves, and the requisite items for future research regarding possible effects on the human body.

2.Binding Observance with the Safety Standard by Relevant Rules

The RRPG that were set out in 1990 and 1997 have been used as guidelines for radio station operations and the manufacture of radio equipment.

To be more thorough than before, and to implement safe and secure radio use, the MIC requires founders of radio stations, in accordance with relevant rules, to install safety facilities for frequency strength. These rules have been enforced since October 1999, and applied mainly to the radio equipment of radio stations for broadcasting and non-mobile radio stations such as base stations for cellular phones. In these rules, we use the value of electromagnetic field strength in the general environment from the RRPG as a standard value.

On the other hand, we have regulated cellular phones etc. which are used close to the human head by radio waves absorption to the human body and have obliged the manufacturers of cellular phones etc. to observe this regulation since June 2002. This regulation uses the local SAR value in general environment which is shown in the RRPG.

<System Overview>
  1. Safety facilities for electromagnetic field strength

    If there is any location where people have normal access but the strength of radio waves discharged from a radio station exceeds the standard values, the founder of the radio station is required to build a fence to prevent easy access by the public.

    The following is a list of radio equipment excluded from this application rule.

    • Radio equipment at a radio station with an average electrical power of less than 20mW.
    • Radio equipment at mobile radio stations.
    • Radio equipment at temporary radio stations set up for emergency situations following earthquakes or typhoons.

    For conformity and confirmation methods for this standard, we have compiled "the Conformity Confirmation Guidelines for Radio Protection"(Japanese-only).

  2. SAR allowance value at human head

    Radio equipments which are used close to the human head must make their SAR (absorbed energy in any 10 grams of tissue over 6 minutes period) value below allowance value (2W/kg).

    The following is radio equipment excluded from this application rule.

    • Radio equipment with an average electrical power of less than 20mW.

3.Research Promotion regarding Effects of Radio Waves on the Human Body.

It has become common knowledge globally that radio waves which satisfy the RRPG do not have adverse effects. However, it is still important to continue to clarify the effects of radio waves scientifically, because it has been raised in view of human health. In order to pursue this issue, the MIC set up "The Committee to Promote Research on the Possible Biological Effect of Electromagnetic Fields" in cooperation with authorities concerned, and medical and engineering experts etc., in 1998. This committee conducts researches and investigates the biological effects of radio waves from a viewpoint of safety based on an overall assessment under the close cooperation by medical, biological and engineering experts who precisely assess exposure with high precision.

Committee to Promote Research on the Possible Biological Effect of Electromagnetic Fields - the Key Points
  1. Objectives

    In order to resolve concerns regarding adverse effects of radio waves on the human body, and to establish an environment where radio waves are used safely and securely, this committee aims to promote research of the biological safety evaluation of the radio waves with an overall coverage of the area from a medical and engineering point of view.

  2. Points for Discussion
    1. Formulation of research plans and evaluation of the research results of the biological safety evaluation of the radio waves.
    2. Promotion of international research cooperation for the biological safety evaluation of the radio waves.
  3. Members

    This committee has been formed with members listed in the attached sheet.

  4. Organization
    1. The committee appoints a chairperson and a deputy for the chairperson.
    2. The committee elects a chairperson from its members.
    3. The chairperson appoints the deputy.
    4. The chairperson will establish subcommittees as the need arises to promote discussions of the committee.
    5. The chairperson appoints chairpersons of the subcommittees and their members.
    6. The chairperson will establish a special committee for protection of personal data to contribute to proper protection of personal data held by the committee.
  5. Conduct

    The chairperson calls the committee and presides over it.

  6. Administration

    The group in charge of administration of the committee is the Electromagnetic Environment Division, Radio Department, Telecommunications Bureau of the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications.

  7. Miscellaneous

    In addition to matters defined here, the chairperson defines the requirements for the committee operation.

Committee to Promote Research on the Possible Biological Effect of Electromagnetic Fields - Members (March, 2005)
(Alphabetical Order)
Name Position
ABE Toshiaki Professor, Jikei University of Medicine
ARIGA Naoki General Manager, Coordination Department, Telecommunications Carriers Association
FUJIWARA Osamu Professor, Graduate School of Engineering, Nagoya Institute of Technology
HONMA Takeshi Director, Department of Research Planning, National Institute of Industrial Health
KIKUI Tsutomu Director, Telecom Engineering Center
MIYAKOSHI Junji Professor, School of Medicine, Hirosaki University
NAGAWA Hirokazu Professor, Graduate School of Medicine, University of Tokyo
NOJIMA Toshio Professor, Graduate School of Information Science and Technology, Hokkaido University
OKAZAKI Hiroshi Director, Communications and Information network Association of Japan
OKUBO Chiyoji Director, Department of Environment Health, National Institute of Public Health, Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare
ONO Tetsuya Professor, Graduate School of Medicine, Tohoku University
ONO Toshihiro Director, Standards Japan, Motorola Japan Ltd.,
SASAKI Kazuyuki Professor, Kanazawa Medical University
SHIMIZU Masato Chief Researcher, Research & Development Head Office, Association of Radio Industries and Businesses
SHIRAI Tomoyuki Professor, Graduate School of Medical Sciences, Nagoya City University
SUGIURA Akira Professor, Research Institute of Electrical Communication, Tohoku University
TAKI Masao Professor, Graduate School of Engineering, Tokyo Metropolitan University
UENO Shogo
Professor, Graduate School of Medicine, University of Tokyo
YAMAGUCHI Naohito Professor, Graduate School of Medicine, Tokyo Women's Medical University
YAMANAKA Yukio Group Leader, EMC Measurement Group, National Institute of Information and Communications Technology
Division in Charge:Electromagnetic Environment Division