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Contact us: Catherine.Rosfjord@dhhs.nc.gov 



Radio Frequency Radiation

Smart Meters

Minimize Your Risk

US Regulations

International Perspectives


Research continues on possible biological effects of exposure to RF/MW radiation from radios, cellular phones, smart meters, radar/communication transmitters, microwave drying equipment, and other sources. Some experiments suggest that there may be biological effects at non-thermal exposure levels, but the evidence for health hazard is contradictory and unproven. The scientific community and international bodies acknowledge that further research is needed to improve our understanding in some areas. It is also possible that only a small percentage of the population is actually sensitive to RF and that is why it is taking so long to come to conclusions. 

The International Agency for Research on Cancer classifies radiofrequency electromagnetic fields as possibly carcinogenic to humans based on a malignant brain cancers associated with wireless phone use. 

Some, but not all, studies suggest that long-term exposure to microwaves may have a carcinogenic effect.
Meanwhile the consensus is that there is no consistent and convincing scientific evidence of adverse health effects caused by RF radiation.

IARC classified RF as possibly carcinogenic

FDA Scientific Evidence for Cell Phone Safety

IARC Monographs Non-Ionizing Radiation, Part 2: Radiofrequency Electromagnetic Fields Vol 102

Health Impacts of Radio Frequency from Smart Meters. California Council of Science and Technology.  January 2011.

American Academy of Environmental Medicine Recommendations Regarding Electromagnetic and Radiofrequency Exposure

American Academy of Pediatrics Support Letter


Smart Meters

Smart Meters are being deployed in many places in an effort to create a new generation of utility services based on a "smart grid" that is able to respond quickly, be more efficient, and less costly.  With any new technology, there are some unknowns.  Smart meters generally work by transmitting information wirelessly.  Some people have expressed concern over the health effects of wireless signals, particularly as they become virtually ubiquitous.   The 2011 study by the California Council of Science and Technology Health Impacts of Radio Frequency from Smart Meters had several key findings including:

1. Wireless smart meter, when installed and properly maintained, result in much smaller levers of radio frequency (RF) exposure than many existing common household electronic devices, particularly cell phones and microwave ovens.
2. The current Federal Communications Commission (FCC) standard provides an adequate factor of safety against known thermally induced health impacts of existing common household electronic devices and smart meters.
3. To date, scientific studies have not identified or confirmed negative health effects from potential non-thermal impacts of RF emissions such as those produced by existing common household electronic devices an smart meters.
4. Not enough is currently known about potential non-thermal impacts of radio frequency emissions to identify or recommend additional standards fro such impacts.

If exposure to smart meters is a concern, opt to not use them in your home.  Duke Energy has an Opt Out Program for their utility meters. 


Minimize Your Risk

If exposures to electromagnetic fields in the RF and ELF frequency ranges are of concern, conservative ways to deal with this concern are to (1) reduce the amount of exposure time, for example talk on a cell phone for shorter periods of time and fewer times per day and (2) keep the phone away from the head or other part of the body by using the speaker phone mode or an ear bud & microphone while holding the phone away.  In the case of Wi-Fi in people’s homes, it can be turned off while people are sleeping.  This turning it off when going to bed and back on in the morning can reduce exposure time, and if an automatic electronic switch is used, such as with a plant light timer, one does not need to remember to do that operation twice a day. 

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends limiting cell phone use for children and teenagers. The AAP also reminds parents that cell phones are not toys and are not recommended for infants and toddlers to play with.


AAP’s Cell Phone Safety Tips for Families:

• Use text messaging when possible and use cell phones in speaker mode or with the use of hands-free kits.

• When talking on the cell phone, try holding it an inch or more away from your head.

• Make only short or essential calls on cell phones.

• Avoid carrying your phone against the body like in a pocket, sock, or bra. Cell phone manufacturers cannot guarantee that the amount of radiation you are absorbing will be at a safe level.

Do not talk on the phone or text while driving. This increases the risk of automobile crashes.

• Exercise caution when using a phone or texting while walking or performing other activities. “Distracted walking” injuries are on the rise.

• If you plan to watch a movie on your device, download it first, then switch to airplane mode while you watch in order to avoid unnecessary radiation exposure.

• Keep an eye on your signal strength (i.e. how many bars you have). The weaker your cell signal, the harder your phone has to work and the more radiation it gives off. It's better to wait until you have a stronger signal before using your device.

• Avoid making calls in cars, elevators, buses. Cell phone works harder to get a signal through metal, increasing its power.

• Remember that cell phones are not toys or teething items


US Regulations

While there is no federally developed national standard for safe levels of exposure to radiofrequency (RF) energy, many federal agencies have addressed this important issue. 

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is required by the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 to evaluate the effect of emissions from FCC-regulated transmitters on the quality of the human environment. Several organizations, such as the American National Standards Institute (ANSI), the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, Inc. (IEEE), and the National Council on Radiation Protection and Measurements (NCRP) have issued recommendations for human exposure to RF electromagnetic fields.  On August 1, 1996, the Commission adopted the NCRP's recommended Maximum Permissible Exposure limits for field strength and power density for the transmitters operating at frequencies of 300 kHz to 100 GHz.  In addition, the Commission adopted the specific absorption rate (SAR) limits for devices operating within close proximity to the body as specified within the ANSI/IEEE C95.1-1992 guidelines.  (See Report and Order, FCC96-326)

The FCC requires that all wireless communication devices sold in the United States follow safety guidelines that limit radiation exposure. The FCC also authorizes and licenses transmitters and facilities that generate RF and microwave radiation. Major RF transmitting facilities under the jurisdiction of the FCC, such as radio and television broadcast stations, satellite-earth stations, experimental radio stations and certain cellular, PCS and paging facilities; are required to undergo routine evaluation for RF compliance whenever an application is submitted to the FCC for construction, modification of a transmitting facility, or renewal of a license. FCC has authority to take action if a wireless phone produces hazardous levels of RF energy.

On March 27, 2013, the FCC voted to advance its review of its various rules pertaining to the implementation of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) requirements related to radiofrequency (RF) emissions from radio transmitters.

FCC Radiofrequency Safety

FCC Radiofrequency Guidelines for Cellular and PCS Sites

FCC Review of RF Exposure Policies

FDA Cell Phone Facts:  Questions and Answers


International Perspectives

National Radiation Protection Board in Great Britain: A Summary of Recent Reports on Mobile Phones and Health (2000–2004) Report reviews studies of brain cancer and neurological effects from the use of cell phones health and highlights any commonality or differences in opinion.


WHO Electromagnetic fields and public health: mobile telephones and their base stations


Low-level Radiofrequency Electromagnetic Fields - An Assessment of Health Risks and Evaluation of Regulatory Practice.  Norwegian Institute of Public Health, 2012.

Frequently Asked Questions about Wi-Fi 
Health Canada

Mobile Telephony and Health Protection Advice  UK Health Protection Agency


Professional Resources

Aerospace and Flight Test Radio Coordinating Council


Radio Frequency (RF) Radiation: The frequency of an RF signal is usually expressed in terms of a unit called the hertz (Hz). One Hz equals one cycle per second. One megahertz (MHz) equals one million cycles per second. Radiofrequency falls between 300 gigahertz (GHz) and 3 kilohertz (kHz). Within this frequency range, there are:
Microwaves in the 300 GHz to 300 MHz frequency range. Sources of microwaves are some mobile/cell phones, microwave ovens, cordless phones, motion detectors, long-distance telecommunications, radar, and Wi-Fi.  Microwaves can cause damage through heating of body tissue.;
Radio Waves in the 300 MHz to 3 kHz frequency range.  Naturally occurring radio waves are made by lightning or by astronomical objects. Human produced radio waves are used for mobile/cell phones, smart meters, televisions, FM and AM radios, shortwave radios, CB radios, cordless phones, broadcasting, radar and other navigation systems, satellite communication, computer networks and other applications.

Health Physics Society (HPS)

Engineering in Medicine and Biology Society, Committee on Man and Radiation Institute of Electronics and Electrical Engineers

Buffalo State Position Statement




NC Radiation Protection Section

1645 Mail Service Center

Raleigh, NC  27699-1600