Epidemiologic Evidence of Radiofrequency Radiation (Microwave) Effects on Health in Military, Broadcasting, and Occupational Studies

Int J Occup Environ Health. 1995 Jan;1(1):47-57. doi: 10.1179/oeh.1995.1.1.47.


In this opinion piece, the author brings together and discusses the collective relevance of possible health effects of microwave or radar exposure in military, broadcasting, and occupational circumstances, with a view to assuring optimal protective practices. Sources of the information presented include 1) historical data, 2) experiences of Polish soldiers, 3) a study of U.S. naval personnel using radar in the Korean War, 4) preliminary findings of exposures to the Skrunda, Latvia, transmitter, 5) data obtained near Hawaiian broadcasting facilities, 6) occupational studies of electronic and electrical workers, including ham radio operators, 7) reproductive outcomes among physiotherapists using short-wave and microwave diathermy, and 8) U.S. foreign service personnel exposed at Embassies in Eastern Europe. Some of the data are available in the peer-reviewed literature, others in abstracts, reports, or other non-peer-reviewed forms. Some were obtained under Freedom of Information statutes and are incomplete. For some of these, there is reason to believe that further evidence desired by the investigator was not obtained. Some are case-referent studies, but most are not. Some are ecological, and all are retrospective. Few have reliable dose estimations, and none has accurate dosage information on each subject. None includes evidence of tissue heating or any short-term effect. Possible outcomes considered included 1) blood count changes, 2) evidence of somatic mutation, 3) impairment of reproductive outcomes, especially increased spontaneous abortion, and 4) increase in cancer incidence and mortality, especially of the hematopoietic system, brain, and breast. The author presents evidence that sufficient microwave exposures are associated with all four of these outcomes, concluding that the possible effects and their timings with respect to exposure are qualitatively similar to those on ionizing radiation. A prudent course of action would be to provide more protection for those exposed than required by present regulations. No systematic effort to include negative studies is made; thus this review has a positive reporting bias.