Sources that emit radio waves frequently asked questions

A series of questions and answers about exposure from telecommunication sources including mobile phones and their base stations, wi-fi devices, TV and radio antenna, smart meters etc.

What are radio wave emissions?

Radio waves transfer radiofrequency (RF) electromagnetic energy (EME). Radio waves are mainly used for telecommunications purposes. Radio and television broadcasting, mobile phones and their base stations, smart meters and satellite communications all produce RF EME. Other sources of radio waves include microwave ovens, radar, industrial and various industrial and medical applications.

They want to put a mobile phone/NBN tower next to my house. Will I or my family get cancer?

There is no established scientific evidence of increased health risks including cancer for people living or working near a mobile phone/NBN tower. At ground level the electromagnetic energy from the radio waves near mobile phone/NBN towers is very low, much lower than the limits in the Australian Radiofrequency Standard. For more information see the fact sheets on mobile phone base stations and health and NBN base stations and health.

There are telecommunications antennas on top of our roof. Should we be concerned?

There is no established scientific evidence that exposure to radio waves for people living or working under telecommunications antennas increases health risks. Telecommunications antennas are designed to direct radio waves outwards and not directly below.

They have just installed a smart meter in my house. Should I be concerned?

The scientific evidence suggests that the low level exposures to the radio waves produced by smart meters do not pose a risk to health. The combination of the relatively low power of the smart meter transmitters, their location on the outside of buildings and the very short time spent transmitting means that the overall exposure from smart meters is very low. For more information see the fact sheet Smart meters and health.

Will the smart meter that was installed on the other side of my bedroom wall affect my pacemaker?

ARPANSA strongly advises people with cardiac pacemakers and other implanted medical devices to always seek and follow advice from your cardiologist or the manufacturer of your medical device in relation to electromagnetic compatibility issues. Modern pacemakers are highly unlikely to be susceptible to interference from the low-level smart meter signals.

Am I likely to get sick or develop brain cancer by using mobile phones?

There is no established evidence that exposure to radio waves from using a mobile or cordless phone causes health effects including cancer. The possibility of some risk cannot be ruled out and for this reason ARPANSA offers advice on how exposures can be significantly reduced. For more information see the fact sheet Mobile phones and health.

Is it safe for my kids to use mobile phones?

There is no established evidence that exposure to radio waves from mobile phone used by children causes health effects including cancer. Research on children is limited and for this reason ARPANSA recommends parents encourage their children to reduce their exposure. For more information see the fact sheet Mobile phones and health.

Which mobile phone (brand/model) puts out the least radiation?

All mobile phones must meet the Australian Radiofrequency Standard. If you want to find out how much electromagnetic energy you absorb when using a particular phone (reported as the Specific Absorption Rate or SAR) check the phone manual or contact the manufacturer. However it should be noted that a phone's reported SAR may not give the best indication of exposure, due to the phone's technology and how and where it is used.

I have purchased a cover/sticker for my mobile phone to stop the dangerous radiation. Will this work?

ARPANSA does not recommend the use of any protective devices other than approved hands-free accessories that let you keep the phone away from the head during use. Exposure to the electromagnetic energy emissions can be minimised by limiting the duration of mobile telephone calls, making calls where reception is good, using speaker options, or by texting. For more information see the fact sheet How to reduce exposure from mobile phones and other wireless devices.

My children's school has just installed wi-fi. Will this affect their health?

There is no established scientific evidence showing that the low exposure to radio waves from wi-fi adversely affects the health of children. The electromagnetic energy from wi-fi, even from multiple devices, is expected to be much lower than the Australian Radiofrequency Standard. For more information see the fact sheet Wi-fi and health.

How close can I be next to the wi-fi router?

There is no established evidence that exposure to radio waves from wi-fi at any distance affects human health. In conditions of normal use (with the router 10 to 20 cm or more from the body) exposures are far less than the limits set out in the ARPANSA Radiofrequency Standard. For more information see the fact sheet Wi-fi and health.

I use a Bluetooth headset all day at work, does this pose a health risk?

There is no established evidence that the very low levels of electromagnetic energy from the radio waves emitted by Bluetooth devices pose any risk to human health. The radio waves from Bluetooth devices are very low because they are used to transmit information over short distances, typically only a few metres.

Am I affecting my health by using a cordless phone instead of a corded home phone?

There is no established evidence that exposure to radio waves when using cordless phones causes adverse health effects. Since cordless phones use radio waves to communicate between the handset and the base unit, people who are concerned about exposure to electromagnetic energy should consider using corded phones. For more information see the fact sheet Mobile phones and health.

I want to buy a property close to a radio/TV antenna. Are there any long term health risks to my family?

There is no established evidence that exposure to radio waves when living near radio and TV (broadcast) towers poses short term or long term health risks. Radio and TV (broadcast) antennas produce weak radio waves at ground level in the everyday environment. Access to the base of AM radio towers is restricted, to prevent the general public entering areas where the Australian Radiofrequency Standard may be exceeded. For more information see the fact sheet Broadcast Towers and Health.

My neighbour has installed a satellite dish which is facing directly into my house. Is he allowed to do that? Will this harm my family?

Most satellite dishes in homes are passive, signal-receiving devices and therefore do not contribute additional radio waves to the environment. A satellite dish that transmits needs a direct line of sight with satellites in the sky so although a dish may look like it is pointing towards a property; the radio waves are directed towards the satellite in the sky. Exposure to the public at normally accessible positions to a satellite dish that transmits is at levels much lower than the limits of the Australian Radiofrequency Standard.

Is it safe to cook food in the microwave oven?

There is no evidence to suggest that the using a microwave oven in accordance with the manufacturer's instructions will cause health effects. When maintained in good working order leakage of the microwaves used to heat food from the oven is minimal and poses no danger. For more information see the fact sheet Microwave ovens and health.

A company has sent us a letter advising that we have to get the microwave oven in our workplace staff room tested. Is this true?

There is no Australian regulation requiring periodical aftermarket leakage testing of domestic microwave ovens. Ovens only need to be tested for leakage if damage is suspected. For more information see the fact sheet Microwave ovens and health.

Are the new body scanners that they have recently installed at airports in Australia dangerous?

Australian airport body scanners transmit very low level radio waves for a short duration. There is no established evidence that exposure to radio waves from airport body scanners pose a health risk to the travelling public or the operators. For more information see the fact sheet Airport passenger screening technologies.

How safe are induction cooktops?

When in use, induction cooktops can expose a nearby person to higher than normal electromagnetic fields. Electromagnetic fields produced by these appliances have not been shown to cause health effects, however few studies have been carried out in this area and the possibility of a small risk cannot be ruled out. People with implanted electronic medical devices should follow manufacturers' safety advice and talk to their doctor before using an induction cooktop.

The International Agency for Research on Cancer has deemed RF radiation as possibly carcinogenic, so why do people have to be exposed to the radiation from smart meters, mobile phone towers and other devices?

The IARC classification of 'possibly carcinogenic' does not necessarily mean that RF EME (or radio waves) is dangerous. The IARC classification was based on limited evidence of brain tumours among heavy users of mobile phones (not the environmental exposure from mobile phone towers, smart meters and other wireless devices). Even when taking the IARC decision into account the overall evidence suggests that the RF EME emissions of mobile phone handsets and other wireless devices are not harmful to the user. Typical environmental EME levels from radiofrequency sources are very low and well below the Australian Radiofrequency Standard.

People are exposed to radiofrequency (RF) electromagnetic energy (EME) from various sources in the everyday environment. Is that dangerous to people's health?

Exposure to RF EME reduces very rapidly with distance so although we may be exposed to RF from various sources (such as smart meters, mobile base stations and other wireless communication transmitters), it is close proximity to a particular source (e.g. when using a mobile phone) that will typically dominate the exposure. Measurement surveys have shown that exposure to RF EME in the environment from various sources is very low and typically much lower than the allowable limit for safety in the Australian Radiofrequency Standard.