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ISGlobal Radiation Programme

Radiation is the process by which energy—in the form of waves or particles—moves through media which are not required for its propagation. Radiation is classified as either ionising or non-ionising depending on whether or not it has sufficient energy to cause atomic changes in the matter through which it passes. Both kinds of radiation are found in the environment and exposures to them may occur as a result of both natural and anthropogenic processes. Increases in the application of non-ionising radiation as a means of transmitting data—for example, in mobile communications—have raised concerns about potential risks to health. Similarly, new ionising radiation imaging and treatment modalities are increasingly used in both diagnostic and therapeutic procedures in many areas of medicine, and understanding potential risks to health of both patients and medical staff are paramount in maximising the efficacy of treatments while ensuring their safety. Understanding potential risks associated with occupational and accidental exposures to ionising radiation in relation to the nuclear industry is also key to radiation protection and public health.

Exposure to non-ionising radiation from a variety of sources has been potentially associated with a number of health outcomes including some cancers, but mechanisms explaining such associations are largely missing. Epidemiological research continues to contribute to exploring how non-ionising radiation might affect human systems. Exposure to ionising radiation has been conclusively linked to the risk of cancer and other health outcomes in a variety of studies. However, the nature of such risks at low doses is much less well understood.

The overall objective of the Radiation Programme is to better understand the potential risks associated exposure to radiation. Ultimately this aim serves the radiation protection of the general public, patients and those exposed in their work, and informing policy to achieve this goal. In addition, our research contributes to better understanding the processes by which radiation affects human physiology and human health.

The group is led by Professor Elisabeth Cardis. Researches working in the group include Magda Bosch de Basea (EPI-CT), Gemma Castaño (Mobi-Kids, GERoNiMO), James Grellier (Alpha-Risk, INT-Thyr, GERoNiMO), Elisa Pasqual (ProCardio, Spain-CCSS, OPERRA), Michelle Turner (INTEROCC, GERoNiMO, EPILYMPH) and Javier Vila (INTEROCC, GERoNiMO). 


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Caractérisation de l’exposition aux radiofréquences (RF) induite par les ouveaux usages et les nouvelles technologies des systèmes de communications mobiles (CREST)

In the 1990’s, mobile phones were mainly used close to the head for voice calls. Much work has gone into characterising this kind of exposure. New technologies and devices, however, have lead to a rapid evaluation of uses, with phones, tablets, portable computers and other devices being used to surf the internet, download data and send text and video messages. At the same time, new types of networks (Wifi, LTE) and network configurations (Femtocell) are rapidly being developed, leading to different RF exposure distributions in the population. We have little information, currently, concerning the patterns of use of mobile communication devices and technologies in the population or their impact on personal RF exposures. This is an important limitation for exposure assessment in epidemiological studies and for the assessment of the potential health impact of RF in the general population. The main objective of CREST, therefore, is to characterize RF exposure from new mobile sources (including smartphones, tablets, laptops) in the general population as a function of technology and new uses related to these technologies. In order to achieve this objective, we have several operative objectives: 
1. The conduct of a general population survey (based on a questionnaire and an APP on smartphones) to characterise typical uses (surfing, voice calls, data download, text messages, etc.) in different contexts (home, work, school, transport, etc.) and positions (device close to the head, on the lap, etc.);

2. The evaluation of power emitted by different mobile sources, based on existing measurements and tools (mobile test system (TEMS)), for different uses (voice call – on standard networks or VoIP), close to the head or using loud-speaker or hands-free kits; data use (3G, LTE, Wifi, Femto cells);

3. The evaluation of exposure related to different uses and positions, based on a compilation of existing dosimetric data and additional measurements for specific configurations. Specific dosimetric studies will be conducted if necessary ;

4. The development of RF exposure matrices for different devices, technologies and uses based on data on typical uses and related exposure derived within the project. These matrices will be an important asset for exposure estimation in the general population and in epidemiological studies.

Work in this project will be carried out by two complementary teams (epidemiologists and engineers) who will collaborate to achieve the project’s objectives. The plan of work will be developed jointly and specific activities conducted in parallel. The work is broken down into 5 complementary Workpackages as follows :

WP1. Characterisation and evaluation of uses in the general population

WP2. Identification and characterisation of networks and systems – existing and foreseen – that can be used for the uses identified in WP1.

WP3. Evaluation of emitted power for the sources identified in WP2

WP4. Evaluation of exposure related to different uses and functions

WP5. Development of appropriate indicators to quantify RF exposure related to new devices, uses and technologies.

The estimated project duration is 36 months.

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