Answer to Question #10733 Submitted to "Ask the Experts"
The following question was answered by an expert in the appropriate field:
I was exposed to a satellite transmitting antenna. I had my hands inside the area of radiation directly at the low-noise block (LNB) while checking connector integrity, and my head was next to it, but not directly below the LNB. Total time of exposure was maybe one minute. The antenna was working at the time. This was kind of stupid, but now I would like to know if this can harm my health. The transmitter has a power of 40 W.
The possibility of health effects from exposures at levels that are too low to produce obvious thermal effects has been a matter of discussion by the public and health agencies for many years. However, health agencies have not found any persuasive evidence that exposure to radiofrequency energy below international limits causes any health problems, and (apart from some very specialized cases that are not relevant here) the only clear-cut evidence for harm is associated with excessive heating of tissue. Consequently, apart from possible thermal injury, there is no basis to anticipate any health consequences from your exposure.
Nevertheless, if this incident occurred in the workplace and you think that you may have been exposed at levels above occupational exposure limits, you should request an assessment by a qualified health physicist or industrial health professional and possibly seek medical advice. If you have signs of injury, you should definitely see a health professional.
Kenneth R. Foster
University of Pennsylvania