Answer to Question #10050 Submitted to "Ask the Experts"

Category: Micro/Radio Waves, Radar & Powerlines — Microwaves and Radiofrequency

The following question was answered by an expert in the appropriate field:

We are contemplating working on and living near a government radar and radio installation. The radars have a wide band width and operate on L band, KA band, W band, and C band. Is there any correlation with cancer and/or sterility and these types of radar systems? We will be moving there with our children and are concerned about their exposure.
In general there is nothing to worry about. There are government standards to protect both the public and occupational workers. Microwave emissions from radar sites must be below certain levels, while higher levels must have restricted access, usually achieved with fencing or distance, sometimes by mounting on a tower. This assures that the radar emissions are safe when exposed to the general public  The bands you referred to are simply specific channels authorized by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). These are all radiofrequency or microwave radiation and are not associated with any serious illness, especially not cancer.

However, there continues to be a lack of credible scientific evidence to show that such emissions pose a safety issue for the public.

Microwave radiation, the type emitted from radar, is also similar to the type used by cell phones. The primary mode of biological interaction is heating, unlike ionizing radiation (x rays, radioactivity).

However, there may be situations, particularly workplace environments near high-powered radiofrequency (RF) sources, where recommended limits for safe exposure of human beings to RF energy could be exceeded. In such cases, restrictive measures or actions may be necessary to ensure the safe use of RF energy. The workplace is regulated by the Department of Labor (DOL), radio transmitters and their emissions are regulated by the FCC, and emissions may also be regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), or the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The military also regulates such environments and conducts its own safety surveys.

There is quite a lot of information on this subject: The FCC has standards. The FDA also has the authority to establish such standards when they consider it a safety issue. Their site covers a broad range of such electromagnetic products.The DOL’s Occupational Safety and Health website provides some excellent information. The American Cancer Society also considers such radiation safe. The EPA has an excellent and informative site. And finally, I will refer you to our own Health Physics Society site.

Simply search on "radar" for additional answers to related questions.

Orhan H. Suleiman, MS, PhD
Answer posted on 12 January 2012. The information posted on this web page is intended as general reference information only. Specific facts and circumstances may affect the applicability of concepts, materials, and information described herein. The information provided is not a substitute for professional advice and should not be relied upon in the absence of such professional advice. To the best of our knowledge, answers are correct at the time they are posted. Be advised that over time, requirements could change, new data could be made available, and Internet links could change, affecting the correctness of the answers. Answers are the professional opinions of the expert responding to each question; they do not necessarily represent the position of the Health Physics Society.