June 07, 2022 8 min read

Throughout time, every population has been exposed to various degrees ofEMF. There has, however, been a tremendous increase in EMF levels over the last century, and this will only continue to rise as technology improves. 

This has necessitated a need for an EMF exposure regulation or standard.

The WHO (World Health Organization) created theglobal EMF Project in 1996 to study the scientific evidence of EMF health effects via the frequency range of 0 -300 GHz and develop internationally acceptable EMF exposure standards to serve as EMF regulations globally. 

Despite attempts by the WHO andICNIRP (International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection) to have a unified global EMF standard or regulation, some regions or countries adjusted or chose not to abide by the international recommended guidance.

Read on to see the current EMF regulations in the US, Europe, Australia, and Asia.

Overview of International EMF regulations 

TheICNIRP is an independent commission established to provide science-based advice on limiting exposure to non-ionizing radiation. It aims to protect people and the environment from the harmful effect of non-ionizing radiation by determining exposure limits for electromagnetic fields utilized by devices like cellular phones. ICNIRP is also the de-facto radiation safety setter in much of Europe and in the world. 

In 1998, the organization set guidelines for public exposure to time-varying EMFs up to 300 GHz with the radiofrequency EMF spectrum. (Seethe 1998 ICNIRP updated radiofrequency EMF guidelines)

Despite the global guidelines and recommendations by the WHO and ICNIRP, diverse EMF regulations are carried out in every region since there are no compulsory safety standards for EMF exposure.

Currently, the WHO offers an overview of global standards for restricting exposure to EMFs in its WHO Global Health Observatory portal. The organization allows clear comparisons of standards or regulations among countries.

Also, there are the EU (European Union) guidelines and recommendations for restricting the general public or worker's exposure. This has become a common ground for EMF legislation in several European countries. 

In the two EU guidance documents, the restrictions are derived from the ICNIRP recommendations. However, there have been differences in the EU member states' execution of the guidelines and recommendations. 

Note-Some of these recommendations may be outdated and might not be satisfactory in the present dispensation.

The EMF Regulations in the United States

There's no uniform regulation to restrict electromagnetic radiation in the US.

However, some states have set standards for transmission line fields.  

Some US states of Connecticut, Maryland, Colorado, Hawaii, and Ohio apply the model of “prudent avoidance,” in which the population exposure to 60 Hz fields needs to be restricted, but at considerable cost. 

For states like Minnesota, Florida, New Jersey, New York, Montana, and Oregon, fixed limits are seen for the power line fields lying between 0.2x and almost 2.5x of the 1999 European Council recommendation reference levels.

And for radio systems, the US federal legislation puts the fundamental limits identical to the European Council Recommendation. 

But because of another calculation approach, the reference levels are higher. In particular, at 900 MHz by 1/5 for the electric and magnetic field strengths and by 1/3 for the power density.

Find more about the specificregulation governing the use of EMF in the United Stateshere to gain a more in-depth understanding of the subject matter. You can also go to theNational Institute of Environmental Health Sciences' EMF Q&A pamphlet to see more information about the American state standards or regulations. 

OnWifi cell phones and 5G technology, while the US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has created safety guidelines to limit RF energy exposure, Environmental Health Trust (EHT) experts have spoken against the FCC’s outdated limits that have put Americans at risk, including with new 5G technologies. 

The FCC licenses facilities and transmitters that generate RF energy. And has agreed on exposure limits for RF energy. 

The organization wants all wireless devices in the US to comply with the limits.

However, in 2021, EHTwon a court case against the FCC concerning its inability to update its 1996 exposure limits for wireless radiation from wireless devices, cell towers, and cell phones.

The court discovered that theFCC has failed to answer evidence that RF radiation exposure at levels below present limits might create adverse health impacts.

The court ruling wants the FCC to offer a “reasoned record of review” of the evidence before maintaining or updating its guidelines. 

Meanwhile, check thiswebpage to see information about the FDA’s function in cell phone regulation. And thispage lists FCC’s function in wireless device safety. 

The EMF Regulations in Europe

The EU member states are bound byguidelines and recommendations of the European Parliament and the Council

The member states execute the recommendations and guidelines through laws and regulations in their national laws. 

They comply with the restrictions put in place by the EU guidelines, including the permissible exposure upper limits. Though countries define additional stringent national limits to the minimum requirements

This leads to diverse national regulations for general occupational and public exposure. 

And for daily life devices like electrical households and cell phones that create low-frequency or high-frequency fields, the emissions are being controlled via item standards the producers should comply with.

Some countries applied partially stricter restrictions in their national policies than the ones recommended by the EU and ICNIRP. 

The countries are Netherlands and Switzerland for low-frequency ranges. For high-frequency ranges, including mobile communications, the countries are Luxembourg, Italy, Belgium, and Switzerland.  



The German government aims to minimize EMF when creating or modifying alternating current and direct current facilities with voltages bigger than 1 kilovolt. 

And that high-voltage power lines for alternating current on new routes shouldn't pass buildings designed for long people stay.

Generally, the compliance limit for general humans in low-frequency and radiofrequency field ranges is regulated by law (Ordinance on Electromagnetic Fields).

And for the low-frequency range, the German Federal Office for Radiation Protection compiled the limits and regulations in Europe in an overview.

Thisexposure overview limits in diverse countries are in the ranges of 50 Hz fields and mobile communication fields like GSM-1800 and GSM-900 for the general human and occupational exposure.



Netherland applies the low-frequency reference levels for power lines based onICNIRP guidelines

There's also, the Dutch Ministry of Infrastructure and the Environment recommendation in 2005 applies to new power lines around sensitive areas in which a 0.4 µT magnetic flux density shouldn't be exceeded.

And in the electric field, the reference level of 5 kV/m by ICNIRP remains unchanged.

For the power frequency field for general public exposure, the Netherland ministerial recommendation says grid companies and local authorities should avoid creating new structures in areas close to overhead high-voltage power lines featuring yearly magnetic flux density bigger than 0.4 microteslas. 



In Switzerland, the restriction for power line 50 Hz magnetic fields depends on the1998 ICNIRP recommendations. It's 100 µT, identical to the German reference level.

Also, for the emission precautionary limitation, the Swiss government puts a reference level of 1 µT for magnetic field installations constructed since February 2000. 

In the range of radiofrequency fields, the 2000 ordinance used comes from the ICNIRP restrictions for public accessible places.



For the radiofrequency range, Italy doesn't use the ICNIRP guidelines. Its reference levels in the range 3 MHz and 3 GHz are fixed.

In the 900 MHz mobile communication frequency, the limit for the magnetic field strength is 45% of the ICNIRP recommendation limit. And for power density, it's 22% of the ICNIRP limit.



The Belgium ministerial recommends that new power lines shouldn't pass over childcare and school centers while homes should be maintained to a minimum distance.

And new childcare centers and schools shouldn't be placed in the magnetic field zone with annual average exposure bigger than 0.4 microteslas.

The limit lies at 0.5% of the ICNIRP recommendation corresponding limits for the mobile communication frequency range.



For the power frequency field for general public exposure, the French ministerial recommendation says that the prefectures should avoid creating new childcare facilities and hospitals near cables, power lines, and transformers where children can be exposed to magnetic fields more powerful than 1 microtesla.



Luxemburg's ministerial recommendation advises its populace not to establish living spaces around overhead power lines for the power frequency field for general public exposure.

The EMF Regulations in Australia

In Australia, there's no government regulation for general population exposure to EMF with frequencies less than 3 kilohertz.

The ARPANSA (Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency) maintained that the ICNIRP low-frequency guidelines are in line with its general public protection from EMF low-frequency exposure.

Also, the grid operators use a ‘prudent avoidance’ approach to take considerable steps to restrict field exposures from substations, underground cables, and power lines at low or no cost. 

For radiofrequency fields, the basic restrictions are identical to theEU recommendation.

For occupational exposure under power-frequency fields, the basic restrictions and reference levels are identical to the 2010 and 2009 ICNIRP 

guidelines on low and static frequency fields. 

Also, in the occupational exposure under radiofrequency fields, the restrictions and reference levels are set by the national radiation protection standard and are equally identical to the1998 ICNIRP guidelines.

The EMF Regulations in Asia

Like in the US and Europe, there's no uniformEMF regulation in Asia.



In China, the power frequency magnetic fields limit is identical to the reference levels in theEU recommendation, which is about 800 hertz. However, it's lower for frequencies bigger than 800 hertz. 

And for electric fields, the restrictions are lesser than the EU recommendation reference levels for all frequencies. 

For radiofrequency field exposure to the general public, the country puts some restrictions on EMF environmental exposure, but they don't apply to wireless communication terminal equipment. 

The limits are lesser than the EU recommendation reference levels. 

For occupational exposure to the power frequency field, China's limits for workplace physical agents give a restriction of 5 kilovolts per meter.

In the radiofrequency field for occupational exposure, China's limits for workplace physical agents provide a restriction for radiofrequency EMF with frequencies ranging from 100 kilohertz to 300 gigahertz.

For these frequencies, the exposure restrictions are 8% to 41% of the EU directive action levels.

Meanwhile, the restrictions for partial body exposure are 10x higher than the ones for full-body exposure



In India, there's no federal regulation of the strength of EMF power frequency. 

The ministerial memorandum puts the limits on EMF general public exposure. 

The restriction is 33% of the EU recommendation reference levels for magnetic and electric field strength plus 10% for the power density. 

There's no legal limit on occupational exposure to EMF power frequency. 

Also, there are no legally binding limits on occupational exposure to EMF power frequency.



The Japanese ministerial regulations for standards of railways and electrical equipment limit power frequency  magnetic fields tothe 2010 ICNIRP 

guidelines reference level.

The restriction for power frequency electric fields is lesser than the EU recommendation and ICNIRP guidelines. And they're designed to prevent any electric shock.

The ministerial radiofrequency radiation protection guidelines for EMF human exposure have a mandatory restriction for mobile phones similar to the EU recommendation. 

There's no legal limit on occupational exposure to EMF power frequency. 

Also, there are no legally binding limits on occupational exposure to EMF power frequency.

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