A New Standard for Assessing Radio-Frequency Fields in the Human Head

The IEEE has recently (June – 2003) approved a new recommended practice for assessing radio-frequency (RF) energy delivered to the heads of users of cellular phones and other personal communication devices. The standard is IEEE 1528 and is entitled “Recommended Practice for Determining the Peak Spatial-Average Specific Absorption Rate (SAR) in the Human Head from Wireless Communications Devices: Measurement Techniques.”

It calls out specific experimental protocols and measurement and validation methods for hand-held wireless transceivers operating between 300 MHz and 3 GHz. It is based on a model of the human head filled with a fluid having microwave electrical properties similar to brain tissue. Measurements under the standard are made using an electric field probe that scans the tissue-equivalent liquid inside the model head and measures maximum SAR in volumes of one or ten grams. The model is intended to give a conservative estimate of the SAR anywhere in the human head from a cell phone or similar device held next to the ear. The standard addresses many complex issues including instrumentation challenges and measurement uncertainties of the challenging SAR measurements.

IEEE 1528 was sponsored by the IEEE Standards Coordinating Committee 34 which is responsible for the development of product performance standards relative to the safe use of electromagnetic energy for specific products that emit electromagnetic energy at frequencies between 0 and 300 GHz. This happens to be the same frequency range covered by IEEE Standards Coordinating Committee 28 – International Committee on Electromagnetic Safety (ICES). The world-famous IEEE C95 standards on safety of non-ionizing radiation are the responsibility of ICES.

The new IEEE standard will help both wireless-device manufacturers and government regulators assess compliance with the requirements of the United States Federal Communications Commission and similar government agencies in other countries around the world. The United States and many other countries limit the RF energy from cell phones and other similar personal communication devices.
The standard has been under development for a number of years and the FCC already references the standard in Supplement C of Bulletin OET 65. Also, the work has been coordinated with the International Electrotechnical Commission’s Technical Committee 106 to assure consistency with their publication on the same topic to be released in 2004.

The standard is a “measurement technique” document and therefore does not set any specific limits for SAR. It can be used for assessing compliance with limits found in regulations and standards on the SAR phenomena.

The Committee on Man and Radiation (COMAR) has issued a Technical Information Statement (TIS) on “Human Exposure to Radio-Frequency and Microwave Radiation from Portable and Mobile Telephones and Other Wireless Communication Devices.” This TIS provides excellent information on RF emissions from cellular phone handsets and can be accessed at http://www.ewh.ieee.org/soc/embs/comar/phone.htm.

We encourage our readers to check this website and other IEEE sources for accurate information on the continuing issue of SAR and cell phones. EMC

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