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Electromagnetic radiation hazard

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Types of Hazard

There are essentially three major potential hazards associated with electromagnetic radiation:

  1. Electrical hazards
  2. Fire hazards
  3. Biological hazards

Electrical Hazards

Strong electromagnetic fields can generate an electric current in other metal objects by electromagnetic induction. The induced current can cause an electric shock to persons or animals. It can also overload and destroy electrical equipment. This can be a particular hazard in the vicinity of military ordnance, since an electrical overload can cause ordnance to discharge or explode.

Fire Hazards

Again by electromagnetic induction, a strong electromagnetic field can cause electric currents which may flow across an air gap to ground, causing sparks. These sparks can then ignite flammable materials or gases, possibly leading to an explosion or a fire.

Biological Hazards

The main biological effect of electromagnetic fields is to cause heating. For example, touching an antenna while a transmitter is in operation can cause severe burns. Birds sitting on very high-power antennas when transmission begins can be instantly cooked by RF energy. In fact, that is the principle behind the operation of a microwave oven.

This heating effect varies with the frequency of the electromagnetic energy. The eyes are particularly vulnerable to RF energy in the microwave range, and prolonged exposure to microwaves can lead to cataracts. Each frequency in the electromagnetic spectrum is absorbed by living tissue at a different rate, called the specific absorption rate[?] or SAR, which has units of watts per kilogram (W/kg). The IEEE and many national governments have established safety limits for exposure to various frequencies of electromagnetic energy based on SAR.

US Military Definition

Electromagnetic radiation hazards (RADHAZ or EMR hazards): Hazards caused by a transmitter/antenna installation that generates electromagnetic radiation in the vicinity of ordnance, personnel, or fueling operations in excess of established safe levels or increases the existing levels to a hazardous level; or a personnel, fueling, or ordnance installation located in an area that is illuminated by electromagnetic radiation at a level that is hazardous to the planned operations or occupancy. These hazards will exist when an electromagnetic field of sufficient intensity is generated to: (a) induce or otherwise couple currents and/or voltages of magnitudes large enough to initiate electroexplosive devices or other sensitive explosive components of weapon systems, ordnance, or explosive devices; (b) cause harmful or injurious effects to humans and wildlife; (c) create sparks having sufficient magnitude to ignite flammable mixtures of materials that must be handled in the affected area.

Source: from Federal Standard 1037C and from the Department of Defense Dictionary of Military and Associated Terms

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