How much am I exposed? Exploring public perceptions of EMF exposure from mobile Communication technology and 5G

Authors: Sarah Link, Marie Eggeling, Ferdinand Abacioglu, and Christoph Böhmert;
Presentation by Sarah Link

BioEM 2023, 18-23/06/2023, Oxford, United Kingdom



In order to understand citizens’ reactions to the 5G roll out, their perceptions of electromagnetic fields (EMFs) exposure need to be explored. While precursor studies on 2G to 4G have investigated exposure perceptions mostly quantitatively, the present study applies a qualitative exploratory approach. To do so, 35 individual interviews and six focus groups were conducted. Participants were recruited from several locations in Germany, where 5G roll out is at different stages. Interactive tasks, particularly a sorting task and a base station siting task encouraged participants to consider their exposure perception regarding 5G. Data were analyzed using an exploratory content analysis. The sorting task indicated that ~60% of the participants feel more exposed from base stations than from mobile devices. In the siting task, most participants chose a location outside the village (16 short distance, 15 remote). Besides exposure, aesthetic aspects and reception were frequently mentioned as reasons for/against a location. After informing participants that for regular smartphone users, individual exposure increases with increasing base station distance, 53% of those initially choosing a remote site changed to a closer location. However, results are mostly in line with the literature on 2G to 4G and do not indicate a substantially different exposure perception for 5G. As with other EMF sources (e.g., power lines), siting preferences are influenced by many factors. Consequently, perceived exposure is only one factor in judgments of 5G base station locations. Further research needs to address the complexity of individual 5G assessments.