Background: Exposure to far-field radiofrequency electromagnetic fields (RF-EMF) has raised public concerns in recent decades. However, it is not known if individuals’ perception towards the health risks of RF-EMF is dependent on their knowledge of the objectively measured personal RF-EMF exposure levels.
Objectives: This pilot study aimed to demonstrate the feasibility of objectively measuring personal RF-EMF exposure from mobile phone base stations (MPBS) and to determine if the risk perception of people to the potential health risk of exposure to RF-EMF from MPBS is dependent on their knowledge of personal RF-EMF exposure levels.
Design: An experimental study was conducted in 383 adults, recruited in Melbourne, Australia. Participants were randomized to one of the three groups: 1) basic information group who were provided with basic information about RF-EMF to read prior to completing a risk perception assessment questionnaire; 2) precautionary group who were provided with an information pack which included precautionary messages; and 3) personal exposure measurement group who were provided with a summary of their quantitative RF-EMF exposure from MPBS. The same basic information about RF-EMF was also given to the precautionary and personal exposure measurement groups.
Results: Participants had a mean (± SD) age of 36.9 ± 12.5 years; 66.7% were women. Overall, 44.1% had noticed an MPBS in their neighbourhood. The mean (SD) values (from 1 to 7) for risk perceptions to RF-EMF from MPBS were 4.02 (1.67) for basic information, 3.82 (1.62) for precautionary messages, and 3.97 (1.72) for the personal exposure measurement groups. These differences were not statistically significant. Nevertheless, the personal exposure measurement group were more confident that they could protect themselves from RF-EMF than the precautionary or basic information groups.
Conclusion: Our findings suggest that providing people with personal RF-EMF exposure measurements may not affect their perceived risk from MPBS, but increase their confidence in protecting themselves.