Introduction: Radar workers are exposed to pulsed high frequency electromagnetic fields. In this study, health effects of these radiations in personnel who routinely work with radar systems are investigated.
Materials and methods: The 28-item General Health Questionnaire was used as a self-administered tool for assessment of general mental health and mental distress. One hundred workers occupationally exposed to radar radiations (14-18 GHz) participated in the study. Visual reaction time was recorded with a simple blind computer-assisted-visual reaction time test. To assess the short-term memory, Wechsler Memory Scale-III test was performed.
Results: Twenty to 39% of the radar workers reported different problems such as needing a good tonic, feeling run down and out of sorts, headache, tightness or pressure in the head, insomnia, getting edgy and bad-tempered. Furthermore, 47% of the radar workers reported feeling under strain. In response to this question that if they have been able to enjoy their normal day-to-day activities, 31% responded less than usual. It was also shown that work experience had significant relationships with reaction time and short-term memory indices i.e., forward digit span, reverse digit span, word recognition and paired words.
Conclusion: To the best of our knowledge, this is the first study to show that occupational exposure to radar microwave radiation leads to changes in somatic symptoms, anxiety and insomnia, social dysfunction, and severe depression. Altogether these results indicate that occupational exposure to radar microwave radiations may be linked to some adverse health effects.
Keywords: Health effects; microwave airport surveillance radar; occupational exposure; radiofrequency.