Radio frequency radiation of millimeter wave length: potential occupational safety issues relating to surface heating

Health Phys. 2000 Feb;78(2):170-81. doi: 10.1097/00004032-200002000-00006.


Currently, technology is being developed that makes use of the millimeter wave (MMW) range (30-300 GHz) of the radio frequency region of the electromagnetic spectrum. As more and more systems come on line and are used in everyday applications, the possibility of inadvertent exposure of personnel to MMWs increases. To date, there has been no published discussion regarding the health effects of MMWs; this review attempts to fill that void. Because of the shallow depth of penetration, the energy and, therefore, heat associated with MMWs will be deposited within the first 1-2 mm of human skin. MMWs have been used in states of the former Soviet Union to provide therapeutic benefit in a number of diverse disease states, including skin disorders, gastric ulcers, heart disease and cancer. Conversely, the possibility exists that hazards might be associated with accidental overexposure to MMWs. This review attempts to critically analyze the likelihood of such acute effects as burn and eye damage, as well as potential long-term effects, including cancer.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Accidents, Occupational
  • Cicatrix / etiology
  • Eye / radiation effects
  • Hot Temperature
  • Humans
  • Keloid / etiology
  • Microwaves*
  • Occupational Exposure*
  • Occupational Health*
  • Radar
  • Radiation Injuries / prevention & control
  • Radio Waves*
  • Skin / radiation effects