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  • ICNIRP Guidelines


    International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection*

    AbstractVGuidelines for exposure to visible and infrared radi-ation were first proposed by ICNIRP in 1997. Related guidelineson limits of exposure to ultraviolet radiation (UVR) and laserradiation have been published. This document presents a revi-sion of the guidelines for broadband incoherent radiation.Health Phys. 105(1):74Y96; 2013


    SINCE IT is necessary to consider contributions of UVRto retinal hazard assessment for incoherent broadband ra-diation, the action spectra recommended in these guidelinesfor the retina extend to 300 nm. Thus, there is an overlap interms of wavelength range of these guidelines with theguidelines for ultraviolet radiation that only consider skin,cornea and lens (ICNIRP 2004).

    Since the publication of the ICNIRP Guidelines onLimits of Exposure to Broad-Band Incoherent OpticalRadiation (0.38 to 3 mm) in 1997 (ICNIRP 1997), furtherresearch on thermally induced injury of the retina has ledto the need to revise the guidance given so far. In particu-lar, the exposure limit dependence upon source size is nowa function of the exposure duration. Further, the retinalthermal hazard function has been revised. The specific ra-tionale for these changes is provided in Appendix A.


    The purpose of these guidelines is to establish themaximum levels of exposure to incoherent optical radia-tion from artificial and natural sources with the exceptionof lasers. Exposure below these maximum levels is notexpected to cause adverse effects.

    The guidelines assist the development of principlesof protection to the eyes and the skin against optical ra-diation hazards. Separate guidelines are defined for ex-posure to laser radiation (ICNIRP 1996; ICNIRP 2000).The guidelines are intended for use by the various expertsand national and international bodies who are responsiblefor developing regulations, recommendations, or codes ofpractice to protect workers and the general public from thepotentially adverse effects of optical radiation.

    The exposure limits given are for wavelengths from380 nm to 1 mm. However, the action spectrum for pho-tochemically induced photoretinopathy extends to 300 nmin the ultraviolet radiation (UVR) wavelength range andshould be applied for the evaluation of broad-band sourceswhich may also emit UVR. Separate guidelines apply forthe exposure of the skin and the anterior parts of the eye toUVR (ICNIRP 2004).

    Injury thresholds are well defined for the effects thatare in the scope of these guidelines. Therefore, the guide-lines for optical radiation in general do not differentiatebetween exposure to professionals and exposure to thegeneral public. The only exception concerns the actionspectrum for photochemically induced photoretinopathy,where for children below 2 years of age the aphakic haz-ard function should be applied.

    The exposure limits apply to the full wavelength rangeof up to 1 mm even though the determination of theexposure level can be limited to the wavelength rangebelow 3,000 nm. Non-laser sources do not emit enoughpower in the wavelength region above 3,000 nm to cause ahealth hazard other than the possibility of heat stress(ICNIRP 2006).

    There is paucity of threshold data for long termchronic exposure. Therefore, the guidelines are based onthe dataset of threshold data for short delay (up to 48 h)onset of damage. However, current knowledge suggeststhat there are no effects of chronic exposure to infraredradiation (IRR) below the exposure limits provided.

    These guidelines do not apply to deliberate exposurefor medical (diagnostic or treatment) purposes.


    *ICNIRP c/o BfSVG. Ziegelberger, Ingolstadter Landstr. 1, 85764Oberschleissheim, Germany.

    The author declares no conflicts of interest.For correspondence contact: G. Ziegelberger at the above address or

    email at accepted 22 January 2013)0017-9078/13/0Copyright * 2013 Health Physics Society

    DOI: 10.1097/HP.0b013e318289a611

    Copyright 2013 Health Physics Society. Unauthorized reproduction of this article is prohibited.

  • Detailed measurement procedures and calculationmethods are beyond the scope of this document andare provided elsewhere (Sliney and Wolbarsht 1980;UNEP et al. 1982; McCluney 1984; CIE and ICNIRP 1998;Schulmeister 2001; Henderson and Schulmeister 2004).


    Electromagnetic radiation in the wavelength rangebetween 100 nm and 1 mm is widely termed optical ra-diation. A subdivision of this spectral band is defined bythe International Commission on Illumination (CIE 2011)and can be useful in discussions of the photobiologicaleffects of optical radiation, although the predominant ef-fects have less sharply defined spectral limits. The opticalradiation waveband consists of ultraviolet, visible, and in-frared radiation. According to the CIE, ultraviolet radiation(UVR) ranges between 100Y400 nm (CIE 2011). A preciseborder between UVR and visible radiation cannot be de-fined because visual sensation at wavelengths shorter than400 nm is noted for very bright sources. Similarly, a pre-cise border between visible and infrared radiation cannotbe defined because visual sensation at wavelengths greaterthan 780 nm is noted for very bright sources. The infra-red region is often subdivided into IR-A (780Y1,400 nm),IR-B (1,400Y3,000 nm), and IR-C (3,000 nmY1 mm).

    Exposure limits for optical radiation are expressed inradiometric quantities, depending on the tissue and dam-age mechanism (Table 1). A complete definition of sym-bols used is found in Appendix B.

    Exposure limits that relate to the skin, the anteriorpart of the eye or to potential retinal photochemical injuryunder the small source condition are expressed in theradiometric quantities of irradiance, E (W mj2) and ra-diant exposure, H (J mj2). The quantity of radiant expo-sure is also sometimes referred to as dose, and irradiancecan be understood as dose-rate. Radiance, L (Wmj2 srj1),and radiance dose D (J mj2 srj1) also referred to as time-integrated radiance, are used for exposure limits that relateto retinal injury from extended sources, i.e. sources that re-sult in an image on the retina. Radiance is convenient sinceit is directly related to the irradiance at the retina (Slineyand Wolbarsht 1980; Henderson and Schulmeister 2004)For completeness it is noted that in the CIE International

    Lighting Vocabulary (CIE 2011), the symbol for time in-tegrated radiance is Lt and the symbol D is reserved forthe detectivity of a detector. Since the ICNIRP guide-lines make use of additional subscripts, a dedicated singleletter symbol was deemed advantageous for the radiancedose, D.

    Depending on the type of interaction, the effectivenessto produce an adverse effect can be strongly wavelengthdependent. This wavelength dependence is accounted forby an action spectrum that is used to spectrally weigh therespective exposure quantities. These weighted exposurequantities are then referred to as effective quantities, forinstance, effective irradiance.


    Optical radiation from artificial sources is used in awide variety of industrial, consumer, scientific and medi-cal applications, and in most cases the light and infra-red energy emitted is not hazardous to the general public.However, people with certain medical conditions may beat risk from exposures that are otherwise innocuous. Incertain unusual exposure conditions, potentially hazardousexposures are accessible. Examples include; arc welding,use of some arc lamps in research laboratories, very highintensity flash lamps in photography, infrared lamps forsurveillance and heating, a number of medical diagnos-tic applications, and even printing and photocopying. Ex-cessive light and IRR are typically filtered or baffled toreduce discomfo


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