Evaluation of Specific Absorption Rate as a Dosimetric
Quantity for Electromagnetic Fields Bioeffects
Dimitris J. Panagopoulos1,2*, Olle Johansson3, George L. Carlo4
1 Department of Biology, University of Athens, Athens, Greece, 2 Radiation and Environmental Biophysics Research Centre, Athens, Greece, 3 Experimental Dermatology
Unit, Department of Neuroscience, Karolinska Institute, Stockholm, Sweden, 4 The Science and Public Policy Institute, Institute for Healthful Adaptation, Washington, D.C.,
United States of America
Purpose: To evaluate SAR as a dosimetric quantity for EMF bioeffects, and identify ways for increasing the precision in EMF
dosimetry and bioactivity assessment.
Methods: We discuss the interaction of man-made electromagnetic waves with biological matter and calculate the energy
transferred to a single free ion within a cell. We analyze the physics and biology of SAR and evaluate the methods of its
estimation. We discuss the experimentally observed non-linearity between electromagnetic exposure and biological effect.
Results: We find that: a) The energy absorbed by living matter during exposure to environmentally accounted EMFs is
normally well below the thermal level. b) All existing methods for SAR estimation, especially those based upon tissue
conductivity and internal electric field, have serious deficiencies. c) The only method to estimate SAR without large error is
by measuring temperature increases within biological tissue, which normally are negligible for environmental EMF
intensities, and thus cannot be measured.
Conclusions: SAR actually refers to thermal effects, while the vast majority of the recorded biological effects from man-made
non-ionizing environmental radiation are non-thermal. Even if SAR could be accurately estimated for a whole tissue, organ,
or body, the biological/health effect is determined by tiny amounts of energy/power absorbed by specific biomolecules,
which cannot be calculated. Moreover, it depends upon field parameters not taken into account in SAR calculation. Thus,
SAR should not be used as the primary dosimetric quantity, but used only as a complementary measure, always reporting
the estimating method and the corresponding error. Radiation/field intensity along with additional physical parameters
(such as frequency, modulation etc) which can be directly and in any case more accurately measured on the surface of
biological tissues, should constitute the primary measure for EMF exposures, in spite of similar uncertainty to predict the
biological effect due to non-linearity.
Citation: Panagopoulos DJ, Johansson O, Carlo GL (2013) Evaluation of Specific Absorption Rate as a Dosimetric Quantity for Electromagnetic Fields
Bioeffects. PLoS ONE 8(6): e62663. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0062663
Editor: Nils Cordes, Dresden University of Technology, Germany
Received November 21, 2012; Accepted March 22, 2013; Published June 4, 2013
Copyright: - 2013 Panagopoulos et al. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits
unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.
Funding: The authors have no support or funding to report.
Competing Interests: The authors have declared that no competing interests exist.
* E-mail: dpanagop biol.uoa.gr
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