Answer to Question #11408 Submitted to "Ask the Experts"

Category: Pregnancy and Radiation — Power lines, magnets, computers, airport screening, cell phones, radar

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

Q

I work in traffic engineering and use a handheld radar gun to conduct speed surveys. I know there are many articles that suggest these guns cause cancer, but now that I am pregnant I am concerned that the radar may harm my baby. Does prolonged or short-term use of these devices cause birth defects, miscarriages, or any other harm to the fetus?

A

Thank you for your question. Use of the radar gun will not cause harm to the fetus.

The radiofrequency used for most radar guns is in the range of 18–40 gigahertz (GHz). According to the National Council on Radiation Protection and Measurements, frequencies in the radiofrequency range of 300 kilohertz (kHz) to 300 GHz do not have enough energy to damage DNA or other molecules. The effect of concern is heating of the tissue.

Given the low energy of radiofrequency emissions around the 18–40 GHz range, it is unlikely any energy would even reach the fetus (the energy would probably only penetrate a centimeter [cm] or two into the abdominal tissue and the fetus sits behind at least 15 cm of tissue). There certainly would not be enough energy reaching the fetus to cause any heating.

The radar gun is safe to use during pregnancy.

Kelly Classic
Certified Medical Health Physicist

Reference
National Council on Radiation Protection and Measurements. Preconception and prenatal radiation exposure: Health effects and protective guidance. Bethesda, MD: National Council on Radiation Protection and Measurements. NCRP Report No. 174; 2013.

Ask the Experts is posting answers using only SI (the International System of Units) in accordance with international practice. To convert these to traditional units we have prepared a conversion table. You can also view a diagram to help put the radiation information presented in this question and answer in perspective. Explanations of radiation terms can be found here.
Answer posted on 30 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.