Electromagnetic fields

The applications of electromagnetic fields are legion today: telecommunication (radiocommunication, mobile telephony, etc.), remote control, anti-theft systems, induction heating, microwave ovens, medical applications (MRI), connected objects, and so on.

In these situations, the electromagnetic field is deliberately generated. In other cases, it is an involuntary consequence of another process: in particular, the passage of an electric current through a conductor (domestic appliance, power distribution network lines, public transport on rails or under catenary, etc.) causes a magnetic field to appear in its vicinity.

Here are two downloadable and printable theme sheets presenting some of our activities:

Workplace measures Telecommunications antennas

Contact: Benjamin Vatovez- 04 229 82 35

Checks on telecommunications antennas

Control of immission generated by stationary transmitting antennas (cell phone base stations, etc.).

In Wallonia, all stationary transmitting antennas must be declared. This declaration must include an opinion from the ISSeP certifying compliance with the immission limit.


Walloon legislation

In Wallonia, electromagnetic emissions in the radio frequency range (100 kHz to 300 GHz) are governed by the decree of April 3, 2009 (M.B. of 06.05.2009) on protection against the possible harmful effects and nuisances caused by non-ionizing radiation generated by stationary transmitting antennas. To be compliant, no antenna can produce a maximum electromagnetic radiation of more than 3 V/m in a living area.

Antennas listed in the ISSeP certificate attached to the operator’s declaration are deemed to comply with the immission limit. In addition, the decree stipulates that in situ checks on compliance with immission limits may be carried out at the request of the municipalities concerned or the official in charge of monitoring. ISSeP regularly carries out such checks, for which it is approved by the Administration. Inspection reports are available on the online antenna register. (for which you can find a tutorial here). They are also available on the Walloon geoportal (for which you can find a tutorial here).


ISSeP carries out electromagnetic radiation checks at the request of private individuals living near transmitting antennas. These are free of charge and subject to certain conditions.

phone-958066_960_720Free inspections only concern electromagnetic radiation emitted by transmitting antennas covered by the decree of April 3, 2009. This excludes checks on electromagnetic fields generated by equipment used by private individuals (GSM, Wi-Fi routers, microwave ovens, etc.) and electricity distribution and transmission networks (high-voltage lines, high-voltage cabins, etc.). A report detailing the results of the inspection is provided to the applicant. If the immission limit is exceeded, the report is forwarded to the Department of Police and Control (DPC), and the antenna operator concerned has 60 days to bring the installation into compliance.

The inspection request must be made to the Wallonia SOS Environnement-Nature call center on 1718, choosing option 2.

ISSeP is also authorized to carry out in situ reception and testing of electromagnetic wave transmitters in the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg.

Legislation on stationary transmitting antennas: cell phone relay antennas, etc.


Brussels-Capital Region

  • Brussels ordinance of March1, 2007 relative à la protection de l’environnement contre les effets nocifs et nuisances provoqués par les radiations non ionisantes (M.B. du 14.03.2007 ), modified by the arrêté du Gouvernement de la Région de Bruxelles-Capitale du 3 avril 2014 modifiant certaines dispositions en matière d’exploitation et de contrôle d’antennes émettrices d’ondes électromagnétiques (M.B. du 30.04.14).

Flemish Region

  • Flemish Government Decree of December 16, 2011 amending various provisions of the Government decree of 1er June 1995 laying down general and sectoral provisions on environmental hygiene and the Flemish Government Decree of November 19, 2010 concerning standards for fixed and temporary antennas for electromagnetic waves between 10 MHz and 10 GHz (16/12/2011 – M.B. of 13/01/2012).

Grand Duchy of Luxembourg

  • Amended law of June 10, 1999 on classified establishments.
  • Amended Grand-Ducal regulation of July 16, 1999 on the nomenclature and classification of classified establishments, amended by the Grand-Ducal regulation of May 5, 2011
  • Operating conditions for high-frequency electromagnetic wave transmitters.

Electrical power transmission and distribution facilities

At the request of private individuals, companies or local authorities, ISSeP carries out measurements of the fields produced by the electrical power transmission and distribution network. The assessment takes account of legal limit values and epidemiological thresholds currently under study.

High-voltage line image Transformer image

Legislation concerning electrical power transmission and distribution installations :

  • Ministerial order of May 7, 1987 (M.B. of 14.05.1987) modified by ministerial order of April 20, 1988
  • General regulations on electrical installations, article 139, supplemented by the Royal Decree of June 20, 1991 (M.B. of 06.09.1991) and amended by the Royal Decrees of December 22, 1994 (M.B. of 09.02.1995) and November 15, 1991 (M.B. of 12.12.1991).

Regulations in Brussels-Capital and the Flemish Region :

For information on accidental electrical hazards, see Accidental Hazards.

Workplace measures

Worker exposure

Electromagnetic fields are ubiquitous and generally result from the use of electricity. Although worker exposure is low in most situations, some industrial installations can nevertheless generate high-intensity electromagnetic fields that may pose a health risk or interfere with active medical implants such as pacemakers, implanted defibrillators, insulin pumps,….

Over the years, ISSeP has acquired extensive experience in measuring electromagnetic fields generated by industrial equipment. The equipment listed below is a non-exhaustive list of the cases dealt with:

  • Induction furnace
  • Transformer
  • Magnetic tray
  • Magnetizer/demagnetizer
  • Vibrating platform
  • Industrial microwave oven
  • Soldering station
  • Induction heating
  • Arc disintegrator

Worker headband

Legislation concerning worker exposure :

Exposure of workers in the workplace (industry, medical services, offices, etc.) is governed by Directive
of the European Parliament and of the Council of June 26, 2013. This directive was transposed into Belgian law by the Royal Decree of May 20, 2016 (M.B. of 10.06.2016) and is now incorporated into the Code of Well-being at Work, Book V, Title 7. The limits applicable to workers are based on the recommendations of the ICNIRP (International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection), which take into account proven direct effects and indirect effects that may have an impact on the health and safety of exposed persons. If one of these limits is exceeded, the employer is required to implement preventive measures (reduction at source, collective protection, reduction of exposure by removal, individual protection).


Further information

Electromagnetic fields, electromagnetic waves and non-ionizing radiation

Electromagnetic fields cover a wide range of frequencies (the electromagnetic spectrum) and applications, including :

  • static fields, which vary (practically) with time (frequency between 0 Hz and 1 Hz);
  • extremely low-frequency fields (frequency between 1 Hz and 300 Hz) such as those generated by electrical power transmission and distribution networks (50 Hz or 60 Hz) or by most of the appliances they power;
  • intermediate-frequency fields (300 Hz to 100 kHz), which are mainly used in certain industrial and medical applications;
  • fields in the radiofrequency range (100 kHz to 300 GHz) generated by telecommunications antennas. This range includes microwave frequencies (from 300 MHz to 300 GHz) used by mobile telephony, Wi-Fi and WiMAX technologies, radio frequency identification (RFID) and microwave ovens, among others;
  • infrared radiation ;
  • visible light ;
  • ultraviolet radiation ;
  • X-rays, gamma rays and cosmic rays.

The limits of these frequency ranges are partly arbitrary, since they are not based on any particular physical phenomenon, but rather on the use of these frequency ranges. In particular, the boundary between intermediate frequencies and radio frequencies is sometimes located at 10 kHz.

Electromagnetic spectrum

Source: FPS Public Health, Food Chain Safety and Environment

On the other hand, in the range from static fields to radio frequencies, the term “electromagnetic field” should only be used, in the strict sense, to designate the radio frequency field in the far-field zone. In this zone, the electric and magnetic components of the field are in phase and proportional in magnitude, so measuring one component is sufficient. This is particularly true in the vicinity of a cell phone base station. On the other hand, in the vicinity of a source emitting in the extremely low or intermediate frequency range, we generally find ourselves in the near-field zone where the electrical and magnetic components must be measured independently. It is therefore more correct to speak of electric and magnetic fields.

The use of the term “electromagnetic field” is often adapted to the context (regulation, scientific publication, technical document, etc.). For example, in the text of Directive 2013/35/EUElectromagnetic fields are defined as static electric fields, static magnetic fields and time-varying electric, magnetic and electromagnetic fields with frequencies up to 300 GHz, while the electromagnetic spectrum also includes infrared radiation, visible light, the ultraviolet range and X-rays, gamma rays and cosmic rays. The ISSeP, whose expertise covers the same frequency ranges as the directive, has adopted this convention.

Electromagnetic radiation is a physical phenomenon that can be represented in many different ways. The electromagnetic wave is one of them, while the other takes into account the existence of photons.

A wave is the variation of a propagating quantity. An electromagnetic wave is therefore represented by an electromagnetic field propagating in space, whose electric and magnetic components vary with time. Electromagnetic waves propagate at the speed of light in a vacuum, visible light itself being an electromagnetic wave whose frequencies correspond to the visible spectrum.

This term can therefore be used to refer to the radiofrequency radiation emitted by relay antennas. On the other hand, it should not be used to refer to the electric or magnetic field produced by a power line: these fields are indeed present around the line and can be measured, their frequency being that of the current flowing through it (50 or 60 Hz) but without transport (or displacement) of energy.

Radiation is said to be non-ionizing if the energy transported per photon (which corresponds to the smallest indivisible quantity of energy transported) is insufficient to ionize the atoms or molecules making up living tissue. Static fields, extremely low and intermediate frequency fields, radiofrequencies, infrared radiation, visible light and near ultraviolet light (lower frequencies in the ultraviolet range) constitute non-ionizing radiation. According to current scientific knowledge, they are only harmful above a certain threshold. Biological and health effects differ according to field frequency.

Amateur radio transmitting antennas: what rules apply?

As mentioned in Article1, the Decree of April 3, 2009 on protection against the possible harmful effects and nuisances caused by non-ionizing radiation generated by stationary transmitting antennas does not apply to equipment used by private individuals. In addition, the decree’s comments specifically exclude amateur radio antennas from the scope of application.

The immission due to this type of antenna can, however, be compared with the threshold values of the Council Recommendation 1999/519/EC of July 12, 1999 on the limitation of exposure of the general public to electromagnetic fields (0 Hz to 300 GHz). which is based on the recommendations of theICNIRP. These threshold values depend on the field frequency.