Chapter 04: The Beginner’s Guide to
Radio Frequency Fields
Learn about Cell Phones, Wi-fi and Bluetooth and their possible dangers.
Learn About RF Fields →
Survey Your Home Levels →
Review & Compare the Results →
Action: Reduce Your Exposure →
Resources & Case Studies →
Footnotes & Explanations →
What are Radio Frequency Fields, In a Nutshell?
Radio frequency fields can come from a multitude of internal and external sources.
In a nutshell, if you are in close proximity to external cell towers01 or radar installations or have functioning Wifi & bluetooth devices, cellular phones, cordless phones, wireless baby monitors or a microwave oven, you will have the presence of radio frequency fields in your home.
Unfortunately, the ambient levels of RF radiation in most cities is surprisingly high.02 Even if you lived like a Luddite and removed all wireless devices from your home you can still have high levels of RF simply from your city’s infrastructure and your neighbors’ tech devices.
More on this and how to lower your RF exposure from the various tech devices in your home later in the chapter.
An Overview of Radio Frequency Fields
If you take a moment to examine the Electromagnetic Spectrum graphic03 above, you’ll see that radio frequency (RF) radiation is the portion of the spectrum located between 3kHz and 300 GHz.
This portion of the spectrum is commonly divided into two sections: Radio Waves and Microwaves.
Radio waves encompass the following:
- AM Radio (535 kilohertz to 1,700 kilohertz)
- Shortwave Radio (5.9 megahertz to 26.1 megahertz)
- CB Radio (26.96 megahertz to 27.41 megahertz)
- FM Radio(88 megahertz and 108 megahertz)
- TV Stations (54 – 88 megahertz and 174 – 220 megahertz)
Some of the Microwave emitting devices include:
- Cell/mobile phones & towers (0.5 – 2.2 GHz and higher for 5G)
- Smart meters used by electric/gas/water utilities (0.9 – 2.4 GHz)
- Wi-fi (2.4 – 5.8 GHz)
- Cordless phones (DECT phones, especially)
- Devices that utilize bluetooth
Common Sources of Radio Frequency Fields
- Cell towers
- Radar installations near airports
- Cell phones
- Smart meters used by electric/gas/water utilities
- Wifi routers
- Wifi enabled tablets (iPad, Kindle, Nook)
- Cordless phones (CT1+, CT2+, DECT)
- Bluetooth devices (speakers, watches, clocks)
- Wireless baby monitors
- Wireless doorbells
- Wireless security systems
- Wireless security cameras
- Wireless lighting switches
- Smart appliances (Wifi enabled fridges, stoves)
- Smart thermostats
- Smart speakers (Amazon Echo, Google Home)
- Microwave ovens (this should be no surprise)
Unlike extremely low frequency AC magnetic fields and AC electric fields, the higher frequency RF radiation acts less like a wave and more like a beam. These pulsating beams allow the data transfers that make cell phones and wireless internet possible.
The downside to these amazing innovations is that these pulses may also be triggering biological effects throughout the human body. More on this below in the RF health section.
To view more sources, please visit our guide, 199+ Common Sources of EMFs.
4 Common Household RF Exposure Sources
Almost every adult has one and the phones are almost never turned off or put in airplane mode in the home environment.
WiFi routers and WiFi devices that are communicating with the routers, such as laptops and tablets, produce RF exposure.
Home Smart Devices
Smart devices such as smart speakers, thermostats, lighting switches and appliances are pushing electrosmog into your home.
The newer DECT cordless phones can provide more RF exposure than some cell phones.
The voluntary exposure of the brain to microwaves from hand-held mobile phones... [is] the largest human biological experiment ever.
Professor Leif Salford04
Head of Research
Lund University, Sweden
Health Concerns with RF Fields
National Toxicology Program Study
Unlike with AC Electric and AC Magnetic Fields, there is a formidable epidemiological study for the harmful biological effects of radio frequency radiation on animals.
In 2016, the National Toxicology Program (known as the NTP and part of the National Institutes of Health) conducted the most comprehensive study yet on the effects of RF radiation. This $30 million dollar study provided confirmation that RF radiation from cell phones increases the risk of brain and heart tumors in rats.05
The study concluded the following:
The NTP studies found that high exposure to radio frequency radiation used by cell phones was associated with:
Clear evidence of tumors in the hearts of male rats. The tumors were malignant schwannomas.
Some evidence of tumors in the brains of male rats. The tumors were malignant gliomas.
Some evidence of tumors in the adrenal glands of male rats. The tumors were benign, malignant, or complex combined pheochromocytoma.
You, your family, or your pets may not be subjected the power or duration of exposure that the rats were in the study, but this study proves that non-ionizing radiation has biological consequences.
And as mentioned in the opening overview, the average city-dweller is awash in RF radiation from Wifi, cell phones, and cell towers.
Interestingly, it was suspected that RF radiation was a problem prior to the NTP study.
In May of 2011, the World Health Organization (WHO) went ahead and reclassified RF radiation from cell phones into the Group 2B category which is indicative of a possible carcinogen, joining other 2B category members such as DDT, lead, engine exhaust, choroform and glyphosate.06
We link to many more studies on our EMF Health Studies page.
With the National Toxicology Program study proving that non-ionizing radio radiation can cause severely negative biological effects, it’s also probably safe to assume RF fields are contributing to a less restful, less restorative sleep for you, your family and your pets.
Insomnia and quality of sleep are complicated issues, but we feel confident saying that having your Wi-fi router and your cell phone next to your bed contributes to poor sleep hygiene.
“Go to bed early, sleep well, eat moderately at breakfast; the future looks brighter. The world’s outlook may not have changed, but our capacity for dealing with it has.”
– Arthur Lynch
RF Radiation Health Studies
Recap of Possible Radio Frequency Field Health Concerns
The National Toxicology Program Study showed that high exposure to RF was associated with certain tumors in rats.
The World Health Organization classifies RF radiation from cell phones as “possibly carcinogenic.”
Radio frequency exposure is thought to be a main cause of Electromagnetic Hypersensitivity.
Melatonin & Sleep
The theory is radio frequency fields may lead to less melatonin production and result in poorer and less restorative sleep.
The Government & Wireless Industry are Looking Out for Our Health, Right?
Processing the National Toxicology Program study can be overwhelming at first.
In Chapter 01 – What are EMFs? we discussed that the FCC guidelines were written in 1996 and haven’t since been updated.07
With this in mind, waiting for the FCC and the federal government to take the initiative in ensuring the safety of these devices is foolhardy.
Realistically, this means that our external, urban environments are going to have elevated radio frequency radiation levels from the surrounding wireless infrastructure.
You do, however, have a lot of control over your internal environment and should focus on reducing or eliminating these sources of the RF radiation. More on this later in the chapter.
Having said this, it’s always important to fight for your rights as a citizen to not be inundated with RF everywhere you go. Learn more about how to make noise politically by visiting our EMF Action page (coming soon).
How Radio Frequency Fields are Measured
An RF meter is used used to discover and measure the power density of the radio frequency fields. Many of the RF meters on the market are dual-use or triple-use and are combined with field voltage meters (for electric field measurement) and gaussmeters (for magnetic field measurement).
Radio frequency fields are most commonly measured in microWatts per meter squared (µW/m2).10 However, they can also be measured in microWatts per square centimeter (µW/cm2), milliWatts per square meter (mWm2) or Volts per meter (V/m).
Surveying Your Home: Contact an EMF Pro or DIY?
Testing for radio frequency fields is something that a layperson can do and there are reasonably priced entry-level RF meters that can give you a decent approximation of your microwave radiation exposure levels. We’ll go over some of these below in our DIY EMF section.
As with other EMF measurements, the benefit of hiring EMF consultants is they will provide extensive experience and training, professional-grade meter accuracy and will help you determine and move forward with an appropriate EMF mitigation program.
Mitigation and shielding expertise is one advantage of hiring an EMRS or BBEC for the RF or overall EMF survey. They often know contractors and electricians that have experience providing these types of services.
RF logging is another valuable service that a consultant with a professional grade meter can provide.
DIY EMF surveying, with the help of this guide, is less costly, but may take longer and be out of the comfort zone for some people. There’s also no reason that you can’t do some of the work yourself in concert with EMF consultants, too.
Most EMF consultants will have reasonable hourly phone consultation rates. Here are some remote EMF consultants if you’re interested and don’t have a local professional.
To better appreciate the pros and cons of contacting an EMF professional vs. doing-it-yourself, please see our page titled, “Contact an EMF Consultant or DIY?“
DIY – Selecting a Meter to Measure Radio Frequency Fields
As previously mentioned, radio frequency fields are primarily measured using an RF meter.
Measuring properly with a either can give you an accurate assessment of your radio frequency field exposure, which in turn allows you to draw up a mitigation plan.
One of our recommended entry-level RF meters is the Trifield TF2 EMF meter. Read our review of the Trifield TF2. The TF2 also includes a gaussmeter and field voltage meter for magnetic and electric field detection.
If you only need radio frequency field detection, the Safe and Sound Pro is and excellent choice. Use the coupon code DIYEMF to save 5% on your purchase from Safe Living Technologies.
The Trifield TF2 and three other alternatives can be seen below.
DIY – How to detect RF Fields with an EMF meter
Please visit our page on “How to detect RF Fields with an EMF meter” (coming soon) to learn how to survey your home or work for RF fields.
DIY – Worksheets to Use When Taking RF Field Measurements
We offer printable PDFs of worksheets to record your radio frequency field measurements and other EMFs to those readers that support our cause by purchasing a PDF or kindle version of the Beginner’s Guide to EMFs. It makes a great gift for those family members that may be unaware of what EMFs are or how the fields may be affecting them.
Please consider supporting this worthy cause by purchasing this EMF Guide (PDF, Kindle or eReader) or providing us with a small donation.
Compare the Results
Understanding the results of your RF Field study
Below are the Building Biology guidelines for radio frequency fields in sleeping areas. You can read the original PDF here.
The good folks over at Safe Living Technologies also have an Education section with Building Biology and International EMF Guidelines that you can download and use as a reference.
It’s important to note that these are specific recommendations for sleeping areas. The Building Biology field views bedrooms and sleeping areas as especially important due to the restorative nature of sleep. As such, the guidelines are some of the most conservative you’ll come across.
Learn more about the Building Biology profession and their guiding principles.
Take Action: Reduce or Eliminate
Taking action in reducing you, your family’s and your pet’s exposure to radio frequency fields often takes the form of five steps:
a) creating distance from external RF field sources
b) reduction or elimination of cell phone use
c) reduction or elimination of Wi-fi use
d) reduction or elimination of bluetooth use
e) creating distance from other internal RF field sources
Creating Distance from External Sources
Cell phone towers are the main external source of radio frequency fields, but wi-fi and boosters from neighbors can also be factors.
The farther you are from these external sources the lower your radio frequency radiation exposure will be.
If you do find yourself with elevated levels due to external sources, there are shielding options which we get into below.
An example would be canopies (for sleeping and working in) that use RF blocking fabric. If installed, these effectively provide “RF Safe Zones.”
Reduction or Elimination of Cell Phone Use
Cell phones are an extremely common RF radiation source for people.
While we realize it’s difficult to give up your phone completely due to obligations, here are some steps to lower you and your family’s exposure:
1) Put the phone in “airplane mode” when not in use. Make sure the wi-fi and bluetooth functions on your phone are turned off, as well.
You can then check your phone for messages or texts every half hour to hour, if need be.
2) When talking on the phone, put the phone in “speakerphone” mode and place it on a surface adjacent to you. You don’t want the phone near your head and, preferably, touching you body at all.
3) If a child is using a phone for entertainment, make sure the phone is in airplane mode, during the duration of use.
Reduction or Elimination of Wi-fi Use
If you don’t need wi-fi for essential medical or security systems, we recommend turning off your wireless router entirely and using shielded, cat 6 cable to connect to the internet.
Your internet speed will improve considerably and an audio/video installer can provide outlets in all the places in your home where you might need to plug in.
Reduction or Elimination of Bluetooth Use
Bluetooth is incorporated a lot of products these days, from speakers to electronic components to wearable tech.
We recommend researching all these products before purchasing to ensure that you can turn off this functioning and utilize the product with wired connections.
Learn more about some of these sources in our guide “199+ Common Sources of EMFs.”
Creating Distance from Internal Sources
If you can’t eliminate the internal RF sources simply create distance between the sources and where you, your family members or pets spend time.
This can mean putting the wi-fi router at the opposite end of the home from where the bedrooms in the house are. Or making sure that you take off your Apple Watch before going to bed, so that you aren’t sleeping with it directly against your head.
In our guide, 199+ Common Sources of EMFs in Your Home, we go over the items in your bedroom, office and family rooms that may be causing excessive exposure to AC electric fields.
Shielding RF Fields
Shielding radio frequency fields can be achieved through a few different ways, such as window film, RF blocking base paint and grounded canopies.
To learn more please visit our section on Radio Frequency Field Shielding (coming soon).
Stories from EMF Specialists – EMF Case studies
We’ll have these up shortly.
Many of these experts are available for remote EMF consulting via Telephone/Zoom/Facetime/Skype and can be extremely helpful in locating problematic areas of electromagnetic exposure.
EMF Resources – RF Fields
To learn more about EMF research and epidemiological studies, many dealing with radio frequency fields, please visit Chapter 20 – EMF Learning Resources (coming soon).
A Final Note on RF Fields and RF Radiation
It’s important to be aware and mitigate RF exposure in the sleeping and working environments. The NTP study proves biological harm, but, at a minimum, the fields are likely influencing the quality and duration of your sleep.
If there isn’t a need for WiFi to be on at night (an alarm system, health monitoring system or something like that), turn the router off during sleeping hours. If you aren’t expecting an important telephone call, put your phone in airplane mode.
As they say in the Building Biology09 field, “Nature is the gold standard.”
So, provide your family, your pets and yourself the most restorative sleeping environments possible.
Radio Frequency Field Chapter Notes
01 – Cellular Technology
Our page detailing the basics of cellular technology will be available soon.
02 – Ambient RF Levels
More on this coming soon.
03 – Graphic Note
The original graphic is used with permission from the National Cancer Institute, with some additions made to better illustrate where man-made EMF sources are located.
04 – Professor Salford
His university page is located here.
More information on Professor Salford and a list of his articles can be found here.
05 – National Toxicology Program Study
06 – World Health Organization
Here’s the WHO press release detailing their change in classification. On the page is a downloadable PDF.
07 – 1996 FTC Cell Phone Guidelines
08 – microWatts per meter squared (µW/m2)
While EMF specialists tend use this most commonly, you will have people use V/m, as well.
09 – Institute of Building-Biology and Ecology
Learn more about Building Biology and IBE.
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Beginner's Guide to EMFs
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