Hazardous Substances: Safe, or Not?
Interview with Martin Meisenburg, Managing Director at Narda: How Radiation Exposure Can Be Checked Reliably
National and international limits have been set for dangerous substances, including radiation exposure, and these limits must be adhered to. To assess whether these limits are being kept to or not, there is a need for reliable measurement procedures and measuring instruments. GIT SECURITY spoke to Martin Meisenburg, Managing Director at Narda Safety Test Solutions, about the latest developments in this field. Since its establishment in 2000, his company has grown into one of the world’s leading suppliers of RF test equipment solutions thanks to their development of reliable, high-quality precision measuring instruments.
GIT SECURITY: Mr. Meisenburg, you have been Managing Director of Narda STS for one year now. Can you give us a summary of your company’s activities that are relevant to safety?
Martin Meisenburg: Narda Safety Test Solutions develops, produces and markets measuring devices for various applications. Alongside our RF testing and EMC measurement areas, our Safety area covers electromagnetic field (EMF) test equipment for measuring non-ionizing radiation for environmental and occupational safety. Our product range covers electric, magnetic and electromagnetic fields with frequencies from 0 Hz up to 100 GHz and beyond. Within this sector, we make a distinction between high frequency and low frequency field sources. Some of the common high frequency sources are radar, broadcasting and cellphone transmitters or base stations, satellite communications, microwaves, and also leaks from electric cables and waveguides, to name a few. Low frequency radiation or magnetic fields can emanate from power supply equipment for instance for railroads or public transport systems, or can be found close to industrial plant used for welding, smelting, and tempering, for example. Narda provides calibrated and accredited calibrated test equipment for environmental and occupational safety for making the necessary safety measurements. These devices deliver reliable, proven evidence of whether or not the national or international health and safety limit values are being adhered to.
What are your particular tasks?
Martin Meisenburg: I’ve been responsible for the technology company as its managing director for about a year now. My main task in this capacity is to progress the profitable growth of the company. The main thrust of this is to anticipate the challenges in the EMF sector and be on top of the technology through the development of innovative products. That will make sure that we can continue to support our customers in the best possible way with attractive, future-proof products and services.
What new developments from Narda are there in the areas mentioned so far?
Martin Meisenburg: In the Safety sector, we recently introduced the new generation of our personal safety monitors with the RadMan 2. This device follows on from the original, first generation RadMan, which for over 20 years as the market leader provided operatives all over the world in the RF sector with reliable warning of danger due to impermissibly high exposure levels. As well as this, we have begun further development work on our SRM-3006 frequency selective EMF meter to meet the upcoming requirements of the next mobile communications standard 5G with our usual reliability.
Where are these personal safety monitors used?
Martin Meisenburg: The new RadMan 2 is a personal safety monitor that is worn on the person. This personal monitor, as part of the personal protective equipment (PPE), monitors electromagnetic fields and reliably warns operatives when the field strength is impermissibly high. Such fields can be expected when working in the vicinity of industrial plant, broadcasting or mobile telecoms stations, radar equipment, or any source of electromagnetic radiation. As well as the standard RadMan 2LT version, which covers up to 8 GHz, there is an extended version, the RadMan 2XT, which reliably warns technicians at frequencies up to 60 GHz. This device can therefore be used when working on tasks that involve the new 5G mobile telecommunications standard. Both versions of the personal monitor give audible, visible and even haptic warnings: unmistakably loud, very bright 270° wide angle beacon, and an additional vibrating alarm.
Which instrument would you recommend for monitoring radiation exposure in the context of the new 5G mobile communications standard?
Martin Meisenburg: Concerning the new 5G mobile telecoms standard, for one thing our frequency selective meter the SRM-3006 will be extended with the addition of a new antenna to cover the upcoming cellphone frequencies in the millimeter wave range. This will also allow measurements to be made at these high frequencies that are going to be used in future industrial processes as part of Industry 4.0. As well as this, the SRM-3006 will be expanded by adding the so-called code based measurement, or extrapolation. The difficulty with measurements on systems, now including 5G, that involve beamforming and massive MIMO (Multiple Input Multiple Output) is that the results are highly dependent on the location and time of the measurement. The code base measurement provides advantages here.
EMF measurements are a sensitive issue right now. Can you give us an idea of what should be done while there are still no definitive regulations?
Martin Meisenburg: We already have test equipment for checking that limit values are not exceeded in the form of personal protection equipment, and broadband and selective measuring devices. The only thing that still has to be standardized and ratified by various national and international bodies is the technique for extrapolation from the received mobile signal. This extrapolation means being able to calculate the system maximum output from the cellular signal received at a particular moment. This involves automatically extrapolating to the maximum possible radiation level from the signaling – information that is continuously transmitted alongside the traffic as a permanent part of the signal. This is completely independent of the current traffic volume of a base station at the time. The test technician does not have to wait until the system is actually operating at maximum load to make the measurements. This type of extrapolation is already used for the older mobile communications standards such as LTE (FDD, TDD), and is employed throughout the world as a way to reliably determine the worst case scenario, that is, the maximum possible radiation from a mobile communications transmitter at any time.
Your practical handbook gives assistance for fast, reliable safety assessment in high frequency electromagnetic fields. Who is this guidebook aimed at?
Martin Meisenburg: Our practical handbook on field strength measurement is primarily directed at all current and future users of our SRM-3006 frequency selective meter. The guide essentially provides a broad range of users with the exclusive content of our special training courses and seminars on how to use the SRM-3006. The information it contains is drawn from scores of practical situations, users’ actual measurement tasks, and the innumerable courses that Narda has run for our customers. These customers are mainly regulatory and frequency monitoring authorities, but they also include mobile telecoms providers, broadcasters, and RF security network providers as well as environmental authorities. The SRM-3006 has for many years now established itself as the standard instrument for rapid and reliable safety assessments in high frequency electromagnetic fields.
Everybody is talking about 5G. Sceptics warn of the dangers of blanket 5G coverage. How do you view the technology, and what can be done to bring the discussion back down to the factual level?
Martin Meisenburg: As a manufacturer of test equipment, we do not wish to be involved in discussions about how dangerous or how safe the new mobile communications standard may be as regards the health of the general public or of workers. What concerns us is the ability to dependably verify the applicable limit values. The various national and international limit values set by ICNIRP, IEEE, or Safety Code 6 were determined by qualified experts, including medical professionals. Our measurement solutions provide support for these limit values. It is only on this basis that an electromagnetic field can be assessed to determine if it is dangerous or harmful to health.
It is our observation that public concern about possible health risks is always greatest when a new mobile communications standard is introduced, like with GSM back in the nineties, UMTS in around 2000, and LTE in 2010, and of course now with the introduction of the new 5G standard. But, such fears usually subside in the course of time.
We can, however, contribute to safety by providing facts and figures by means of reproducible measurement results, as we make the trustworthy measuring equipment available to monitor these limit values. It is because of our many years of experience in the extremely complicated, not to say complex field of EMF safety that we are always able to combat uncertainties regarding electromagnetic fields with reliable measured values. If there is a need to bring the sometimes quite emotional discussions back down to a factual level, unlike practically any other company Narda can check compliance with internationally applicable limit values in the field by means of actual, dependable measurements.