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Environmental radiofrequency electromagnetic field levels in a department of pediatrics

Abstract : Preterm neonates constitute a vulnerable population that is highly sensitive to its environment. Given the increased use of wireless communication devices (mobile and digital enhanced cordless telecommunications, WiFi networks, etc.), neonates hospitalized in a department of pediatrics are potentially exposed to radiofrequency electromagnetic fields (RF-EMF). Strikingly, data on RF-EMF levels in pediatric units have not previously been published. The objective of the present study was thus to quantify the RF-EMF levels in a 34-bed tertiary department of pediatrics with a neonatal critical care unit (NCCU) and a neonatal intensive care unit (NICU). To this end, we used triaxle antenna dosimeters to map the RF-EMF levels in the environment and to measure spot emissions from medical devices. In a first set of experiments, RF-EMF levels at 144 points in the staff area and in the children's rooms in the NCCU and NICU were evaluated over a 24-h period. In a second set of measurements performed in a Faraday chamber, we measured the RF-EMF levels emitted by the medical devices to which neonates are potentially exposed in the department of pediatrics. The RF-EMF levels were significantly higher in the NCCU than in the NICU (p < 0.05). Although the two units did not differ significantly with regard to the average maximum values, the single greatest value recorded in the NCCU (6 V/m GSM + UMTS 900 (UL) frequency band, in the staff area) was more than twice that recorded in the NICU (3.70 V/m in the UMTS 2100 (UL) frequency band, in the children's rooms). The NCCU and NICU did not differ significantly with regard to the time during which the RF-EMF level at each measurement point was more than two standard deviations above its mean. The RF-EMF level was significantly higher during the day than during the night (p < 0.001). The various medical devices used in the NICU did not emit detectable amounts of RF. Overall, RF-EMF levels in the NCCU and NICU were very low. It is probable that the RF-EMFs measured here were primarily generated by the parents' and staff members' activities, rather than by medical devices. However, a combination of low-level, chronic exposure with transient, elevated peak values in a vulnerable population of preterm neonates may be of particular concern. In a department of pediatrics, decreasing preterm neonates’ exposure to RF-EMFs should primarily involve a limitation on the use of wireless communication devices by staff members and parents.
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Submitted on : Tuesday, August 3, 2021 - 9:23:33 AM
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Dimitri Besset, Brahim Selmaoui, Pierre Tourneux, André Leke, Stéphane Delanaud, et al.. Environmental radiofrequency electromagnetic field levels in a department of pediatrics. Environmental Research, 2020, 181, pp.108894. ⟨10.1016/j.envres.2019.108894⟩. ⟨ineris-03229713⟩



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