What input data are needed to accurately model electromagnetic fields from mobile phone base stations?

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The increase in mobile communication technology has led to concern about potential health effects of radio frequency electromagnetic fields (RF-EMFs) from mobile phone base stations. Different RF-EMF prediction models have been applied to assess population exposure to RF-EMF. Our study examines what input data are needed to accurately model RF-EMF, as detailed data are not always available for epidemiological studies. We used NISMap, a 3D radio wave propagation model, to test models with various levels of detail in building and antenna input data. The model outcomes were compared with outdoor measurements taken in Amsterdam, the Netherlands. Results showed good agreement between modelled and measured RF-EMF when 3D building data and basic antenna information (location, height, frequency and direction) were used: Spearman correlations were >0.6. Model performance was not sensitive to changes in building damping parameters. Antenna-specific information about down-tilt, type and output power did not significantly improve model performance compared with using average down-tilt and power values, or assuming one standard antenna type. We conclude that 3D radio wave propagation modelling is a feasible approach to predict outdoor RF-EMF levels for ranking exposure levels in epidemiological studies, when 3D building data and information on the antenna height, frequency, location and direction are available.

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