Answer to Question #11359 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:

Q

I live in a new home in a retirement community. Just recently my switches have been tripping. The company that did the electrical work for all these homes told me that it isn't the switches that are bad, but that there is a new ham radio group with 73 members using their radios to chat. The company said they have gotten dozens of calls about switches tripping.

I was also informed that the radio waves could be bad for my health and the health of people with pacemakers. It seems there are no ham radio regulations where I live. What can I do, if anything, regarding these ham radio operators?

A

This is indeed a recognized problem with a certain brand of arc fault circuit interrupter (AFCI) breakers but not with other brands. See the National Association for Amateur Radio website at http://www.arrl.org/news/arrl-helps-manufacturer-to-resolve-arc-fault-circuit-interrupter-rfi-problems. Apparently the AFCI manufacturer will try to help you fix the problem.

There are regulations governing radio frequency (RF) emissions by ham radio operators, under Code of Federal Regulations, Title 47, Part 97, and limits for power output for the various frequencies are specified. National Council on Radiation Protection and Measurements (NCRP) Report 86 and American National Standards Institute (ANSI) Standard C95.1-2005, Appendices B and C, give an excellent overview of the literature and would refute the statement that RF is "bad for your health" unless you are in a region that exceeds Federal Communications Commission (FCC) limits.

However, RF interference with sensitive electronic devices can occur at power levels well below those that cause health effects, and there are very few studies on RF interference with pacemakers and other implanted devices. Therefore it is suggested that if you have a pacemaker, you speak to your physician and the manufacturer of your implanted medical device to ascertain if there are any problems that might occur when exposed to RF fields that are below FCC limits.

Thomas Johnson, CHP, PhD

Answer posted on 9 November 2015. 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.