Answer to Question #8635 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:

A ground-based weather radar operating in the C band and 400 meters from my home has been installed. They say it has a one degree beamwidth and does not pose a threat.  Is there a threat to my family and the other 1,600 residents in my area?


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.

In addition to existing regulatory requirements, there also 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. Their 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, radio transmitters and their emissions are regulated by the Federal Communication Commission (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.

I am attaching several URLs from several organizations, some of which provide additional links. As you can see there is quite a lot of information on this subject.

The FCC Web site answers frequently asked questions.

The FDA Web site covers a broad range of such electromagnetic products.

The Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration Web site 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.

I hope this is useful information.

Orhan H. Suleiman, MS, PhD

Answer posted on 4 November 2009. 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.