Is Ham Radio Safe

Ham radio or amateur radio is a methodology of peer to peer communication with another person or persons via electromagnetic radio waves without the need of dependence on an external conveyance such as a landline, mobile phone service, an Internet connection, or commercial satellites.  It also does not rely upon any civil facilities such as police, fire or disaster communications.  Ham radio is its own license class and is not a part of any military communications including the Military Auxiliary Radio System (MARS) administered by the Department of Defense, the SHAred RESources (SHARES) High Frequency[1] (HF) Radio administered by the Department of Homeland Security, or any other forms of government/military communications.

The amateur and amateur-satellite services are for qualified persons of any age who are interested in radio technique solely with a personal aim and without pecuniary interest.

Pecuniary Ė defines any communication that derives from, to or about any monetary profitability.  These can include communications about business, sales, employment, etc.  An amateur may discuss the sale of personal radio equipment as long as itís not linked to his or her pecuniary business interests. 

Twenty-seven small frequency bands throughout the spectrum are allocated to the amateur radio service internationally.

The FCC issues six license classes, each authorizing varying levels of privileges. The class for which each licensee is qualified is determined by the degree of skill and knowledge in operating a station that the licensee demonstrates during an examination to volunteer examiners (VEs) in his or her community. Operator class license classes are:

Currently Granted:

  • Technician

  • General

  • Amateur Extra

Grandfathered Operator Classes:

  • Novice

  • Technician Plus

  • Advanced

Today most new amateur operators start at the Technician Class and then advance to the General Class or Amateur Extra Class operator license.

Ham radio is an avocation or hobby that has a lot of mystique as well as controversy surrounding it.  It is seen by many as costly nerdy pastime.  Its antennas are seen as an eyesore.  Its radiations are believed to be detrimental to humans as well as other living organisms. 

This paper is not necessarily about the safety of ham radio equipment or about Amateur/Ham Radio as an avocation.  Itís more about changing the perceptions of people who are not licensed hams and are not truly knowledgeable about ham radio. 

Who could these people be?

The American Radio League says that in 2016 there are approximately 730,000 licensed hams in the United States.  In 2016, the population of the US was said to be 323.1 million.  That means there are 322,380,000 people in the US who potentially know very little or nothing about ham radio.

The Pew Research Center stated that in 2016, 95% of the US owned a cellphone of some kind.  That means of the 322,380,000 people in the US who potentially knew very little or nothing about ham radio, 306,261,000 of them possessed a cell phone.  It is estimated that of the remaining 16,119,000 people in the US who didnít have cell phones and who potentially knew very little or nothing about ham radio, there may be an extremely tiny fraction of these 16,119,000 people who didnít have immediate access to any sort of telephone or two-way radio communications.  Ham radio, it is said, has had a role in filling this gap.

At this point, we should describe what Ham Radio is.

Amateur (ham) radio is the use of certain bands of the radio frequency spectrum for purposes of non-commercial exchange of messages, wireless experimentation, self-training, private recreation, radio-sport, contesting, and emergency communications.  The term "amateur" is a legal term which is used to specify "a duly authorized person interested in radio-electromagnetic practice with a purely personal aim and without either direct monetary or other similar rewards and to differentiate itself from commercial broadcasting, public safety such as police and fire or other professionals, two-way radio services such as maritime, aviation, taxis, CB, FRS and GMRS.  Depending on the country, amateur radio is assigned their own set of frequencies or bands. 

Amateur radio is officially represented and coordinated by the International Amateur Radio Union (IARU), which is organized in three regions and has as its members the national amateur radio societies which exist in most countries.

  • IARU Region 1: Europe, Africa, Middle East and Northern Asia
  • IARU Region 2: The Americas
  • IARU Region 3: Asia-Pacific

Not all countries in these regions are participants.

Ham Radio Has History

Amateur radio came into being after radio waves (proved to exist by Heinrich Rudolf Hertz in 1888) were adapted into a communication system in the 1890s by the Italian inventor Guglielmo Marconi. ... Following Marconi's success, many people began experimenting with this new form of "wireless telegraphy"

Amateur radio is a hobby and, by law, completely non-commercial.  Individual amateur "ham" radio operators pursue the avocation for personal pleasure through building their own radio stations and communicating with their fellow hams globally, and for self-improvement via study and practice of electronics, computers, and radio and TV wave behavior.  Radio amateurs are, thus, "amateurs" in the true sense of the word: pursuit of an activity only for the love of it. Radio amateurs cannot broadcast or transmit music and other general public entertainment programming. The amateur radio use of the air waves is for personal satisfaction and for forwarding the "state of the art" of electronics and communication techniques.  Amateur radio operations can be detected in designated bands throughout the radio spectrum, using a variety of modulation methods including Morse code, voice and digital modes, and image modes such as television and facsimile.

For more information, see:

Where did ďHamĒ come from?

Hertz-Armstrong-Marconi. It is sometimes claimed that HAM came from the first letter from the last names of three radio pioneers: Heinrich Rudolf Hertz, Edwin Armstrong, and Guglielmo Marconi. However, this cannot be the source of the term as Armstrong was an unknown college student when the term first appeared.

The term "ham operator" was commonly applied by 19th century landline telegraphers to an operator with poor or "ham fisted" skills.

Early radio (initially known as wireless telegraphy) included many former wire telegraph operators, and within the new wireless service, "ham" was employed as a pejorative term by professional radiotelegraph operators to suggest that amateur enthusiasts were unskilled. 

For more about HAM, see: Etymology of Ham Radio.

Ham Radio License

To qualify for transmitting on the amateur bands, prospective hams must pass a technical exam for the class of license being sought.  In the US, there are three levels of exams: Technician (intro, limited frequencies and modes), General (most frequencies and all modes), and Amateur Extra (all frequencies and all modes).  To increase privileges, one must take the next exam in the series.  The exams exponentially increase in level of difficulty.

Note.  In the United States, it is legal for anyone to receive amateur radio communications.  In fact, it is legal to receive any and all radio transmissions.  A post WWII saying was: If you can receive it, itís yours.  However, it is illegal to copy or redistribute copyrighted material.  Also today in the digital age, there are laws governing what it is you can do with these transmissions.  Basically, it is illegal to decrypt encrypted transmissions i.e. military, encrypted broadcast OTA digital TV or radio, satellite, WIFI, Bluetooth and mobile phone. Basically, you may be able to tune it in, but you canít do anything to decrypt it.

Why Amateur Radio

Amateur radio is very popular among people of all ages.  There are over 2 million legally licensed amateurs in participating countries in the three International Amateur Radio Union (IARU) regions. 

Throughout the decades, ham radioís popularity did fluctuate.  Due to a variety of circumstances, more or less people would take up the avocation or keep their license active.  Several examples that may have led to the ladder 20th century decline of licensees include the advent of home computer technology, dial-up bulletin boards, and the birth of the internet.  Also included was the burgeoning cell phone industry.

An example of this phenomenon was what happened at the location of the Dayton Hamvention, Hara Arena.  The Dayton Hamvention was and still is listed as the worldís largest ham radio convention.  This convention has occurred yearly since 1952.  However, in 1975, a new trade show came onto the forefront.  It seemed the Dayton Computerfest might top Hamvention in attendance.  Computers were a new thing and everyone wanted to see what they were all about.  But this would be short lived.  By 2003, the wondrous Computerfest was almost defunct, whereas Hamvention continues to prosper.  Today the Dayton Hamvention is at its new home at the fairgrounds in Xenia Ohio.

To counter the drop in interest in ham radio, testing for an amateur license became easier.  For example, in 2007, the Morse code[2] requirement was eliminated.

Prior to 1999, testing for a ham radio license was still rather difficult.  The requirements were more stringent and also included a requirement for fluency in Morse code.  As the privileges of classes of license increased, so did the speed requirement of the Morse code.  The licensee had to hear, interpret and understand increased speeds of the code.  In 2007, the Morse code requirement was eliminated motivating more people to take part in Ham Radio.

Until the 1960s, the license tests for all except the Novice were a mixture of multiple-choice, essay, draw-a-diagram and show-your-work questions.  All the questions were secret.  The questions and answers in the ARRL Amateur Radio License Manual were similar but not identical to the questions on the test. After the 1960s, all questions were multiple choices.  Starting in the 1980s, the FCC made public both the exact questions and answers.

Currently in the US, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) offers three Amateur Radio license levels or license classes; Technician class license, General class license and Extra class license. Per FCC Rule 97.523 only one question pool may exist for each license examination level. Each question pool must contain at least 10 times the number of questions required for a single examination. The question pools are normally valid for 4 years.

For more information, see Amateur Radio Licensing in the United States.

Ham Radio Saves Lives

If one were to Google "ham radio saves livesĒ one would get over 1200 hits just on that exact phrasing.  If one were to Google ďham radio" saves lives, one would get over 600,000 hits.  The point being, there are lots of stories about ham radio and saving lives.  Since the Internet has an average shelf life of two or three years, itís reasonable to assume that there are a lot more incidents of life-saving ham radio events.  Also, there are countless incidents of ham radio coming to the rescue or providing communications for those in need or who didnít have access to common carriers.  In essence, ham radio does save lives. 

This has been repeatedly proven especially by a number of recent natural and manmade disasters and catastrophes that has knocked out all forms of common communications.  It is at these times when the amateur radio has been requested to come into service.  

Yes, there are public safety forms of communications.  But these are often overworked, damaged, or destroyed after a catastrophe.  Potentially during times of these events such as 911, Hurricanes Andrew, Harvey, Katrina, the January 2016 Blizzard Ö common carrier communications often fail. The above are a very tiny but notable list of natural and manmade disasters where emergency services were rendered inoperable.  In all of these, it was ham radio that was the predominant form of communication.

It is commonplace for many small towns and rural areas to lose telephone or cellphone access to emergency services.  It is also common for Ham radio to fulfill these needs.

In international crises, it is ham radio that is called upon for emergency communications.  One of many examples includes the recovery efforts after Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico.  Most if not all communications were rendered inoperative.  US amateur volunteers were called upon by the Red Cross to manage communications for this devastated island nation.

Conquering a Nation

Throughout history, rogue nations have attacked other nations often times defeating their armies and overthrowing their governments.  In 20th century history, most European countries have been attacked, some several times.  In practically all of the Middle East, wars are commonplace.  In the Far Eastern nations including China and the USSR were radical governments who have repeatedly oppressed their people.  They have also been the conqueror of nations.

In all of this, the US has been spared the indignantly of being attacked.  Though 911 was considered an attack, it was a minuscule loss compared to what most other nations had to face in the 20th century.  The US has been fortunate in not having to face bombardment or attack by a foreign armed military force.  

However, there have been a number of times in our post WWII history where our diplomacy has been, shall we say, not up to snuff.  The Bay of Pigs incident was said to have almost led to the possibility of nuclear devastation in the US. 

The following are a few weaknesses of the US.

  • An ability to freely and covertly move from state to state.Vast open unpatrolled spaces.
  • No harden border protections on either the Mexican or Canadian borders.
  • There is a significant difficulty of ascertaining who is illegally in the US.
  • The ability to come and go by boat without scrutiny.
  • The pragmatic complacency of the citizenry.
  • At times, a weak military.

The question is, why did the US dodge the invasion bullet?  The answer is the conquering armies would have had to overcome the following three deterrents within the US. 

  1. The US has a nuclear arsenal.  This deterrent is characterized as MAD or Mutual Assured Destruction.
  2. The civilian population of the US possesses 268 million guns.  During WWII, Switzerland avoided attack because every citizen possessed firearms and were trained in their use.
  3. Ham Radio. There are over 700,000 organized individuals who potentially have access to and are able to use non-dependent self-contained forms of short and long range reliable peer to peer communication antennas and devices.

The point here is, if it werenít for the above three deterrents, we would probably have been vulnerable to attack.  One of those deterrents is amateur radio. 

Unlike many other countries, the US encourages licensees to take part in open and free[3] global capable communications on hundreds of over the air radio frequencies or channels within 27 bands ranging from longwave to microwave.  The US also promotes Amateur Radio Emergency Service (ARES) which consists of licensed amateurs who have voluntarily registered their qualifications and equipment, with their local ARES leadership, for communications duty in the public service when disaster strikes. 

Sun Tzu ďIf words of command are not clear and distinct, if orders are not thoroughly understood, the general is to blame. But if his orders ARE clear, and the soldiers nevertheless disobey, then it is the fault of their officers.Ē  Analogy: If words of command are clear and distinct, but they are not heard, then it is the fault of the communications.  There are a number of other benefits to having a reliable system of communication including early warning.

Is ham radio safe?

I ask this of the 322,380,000 people in the US who potentially know very little or nothing about ham radio. 

Unlike other hobbies, Amateur radio is and has been highly regulated since 1912.  Unlike most other avocations, ham radio by its very nature exposes this activity such that everyone else can monitor what is going on.  Basically, with a common generalized multi-band receiver, anyone hammy or non-ham is free to hear what is being transmitted.  And the ham operator is fully aware of this.  It is two-way radio communications.  Anyone in that chat-room or rather tuned to that frequency can hear, see, or read what is going on.

The airwaves represent a valuable communications commodity.  Although wired networks have replaced much of the conveyances of home entertainment, it is never-the-less still limited real estate especially when it comes to mobile activities.  It is very easy for someone to interfere with critical communications.  So, governments worldwide have drafted strict rules governing on-air behaviors.

For the US, amateur radio regulations are found in the Federal Communication Commission (FCC) Title 47 CFR Part 97óAmateur Radio Service Rules.  These describe all regulations regarding amateur radio operations including rules, practices, and restrictions.  These also include safety as well.

The Electronic Code of Federal Regulations (e-CFR) is a regularly updated, editorial compilation of the Code of Federal Regulations (C.F.R.) material and Federal Register amendments produced by the National Archives and Records Administration's Office of the Federal Register (OFR) and the Government Printing Office. 

It is required that amateurs keep up to date on these regulations.

Chat Ė Ham Radio vs. the Internet

The question has often arisen: why do ham radio when you could chat online with anyone anywhere in the world?  As Iíve said above, one is not umbilically tied to a provider.  Thereís a certain feeling of freedom that comes with ham radio.  Also, those into ham radio who worked to obtain a license and to build up their equipment and antennas have a feeling of accomplishment and take pride in communications and protocol.  Hams experiment and build within the confines of the laws.   Unlike the internet, hams seek out and communicate with others of a similar ilk.

Other Hobbies

If you read, I said that I didnít get into ham radio until much later in life.  There were other pursuits that kept me occupied including my career and other activities such as restoring several historic homes.  The other activity I was involved with was my vocation which spilled into my home life.  This was dial-in bulletin boards, the precursor to the internet.  Later when the World Wide Web was established and made available, live chat became popular among us geeks.  At first, the people and messages were centered on the hobby of computer technology.  This lasted until the mid-90s when more non-computer users got involved.  Soon it stopped being computer oriented and turned into something like Twitter or Facebook are today.

After that, my US Robotics modem became obsolete and probably ended up being donated to the Salvation Army Ė as I was working on another old house as well as my career.  Also, in 1994 I got my first cell phone.  I called a cell provider and a fellow eagerly came to my workplace with a phone and gladly demonstrated its functionality.  Today I canít even get T-Mobile to fix exorbitant erroneous charges caused by errors in their system.

Five Watts around the World

Always in the back of my mind I wanted to do ham radio.  The idea of sending with a few watts of electricity a message half way around the world fascinated me.  The notion of talking to someone in this cabin in a far off wilderness in Alaska Ė just intrigued me.  I guess itís like a surfer. Öcatchin' a wave and sittin' on top of the world.  Itís like the simplicity of posting on a dial-in bulletin board.  Itís reminiscent of my first Internet experience with Gopher[4].  Then in 1992, I used for the first time the Mosaic[5] web browser to cruise the various universities that were on line.  Now these computer activities seem primitively archaic.

Today Amateur radio is experiencing a revival.  Many people are discovering a form of communication free from the entanglements found with commercial forms of communication.  Itís still believed that those on the other end of a ham radio conversation (QSO) have similar interests.  Also, because of the strictness of the use of transmitting equipment, one has better assurances about the other person at the other end of the conversation.  Unlike the Internet, the ham community does look out for its own.

Itís like the resurgence of vinyl LP records.  The new generation of vinyl fans have discovered that LPs have a greater fidelity than that of the ubiquitous but dying CD.  Many people cringe when they discover how poor in quality their downloaded MP3s have.

For more information on todayís fidelity, see: Vinyl LPs vs Digital Technology.

FCC Regulation Enforcement

Though the task of enforcement[6] is the primary responsibility of the FCC, the FCC does rely upon the amateur community to monitor and report violations of the regulations.  There are hundreds of thousands of participating hams who do regularly monitor activities on the bands.  Also, amateurs do keep logs of their activities.  With modern-day inexpensive computers connected to radio equipment, activities are easily logged and stored indefinitely.

The FCC regulations not only cover transmissions including frequency, content and license validation; they also cover public safety including spurious emissions, harmful radiation and potentially hazardous equipment.  For example, it is illegal to transmit using more than the designated legal power for a particular band.  It is also illegal to interfere with any kind of external equipment including a neighborís, TV, radio or other device.  It is illegal to place equipment including antennas where someone could be near or come in contact with it and be injured or killed. Finally, the FCC part 97 regulations state that radio equipment and wiring must adhered to the local building codes and regulations.

Antennas and Local Ordinances

In 2001, the FCC adopted PRB-1 which disallowed local municipalities from enforcing a ban on antennas for aesthetic reasons.  However, there are still areas in the United States where antennas are illegal.  These areas are designated as private land use governed by contractual Covenants Conditions and Restrictions (CC&Rs).  This increasingly includes more and more of the US.  Today most suburban homes are found in HOAs or other CC&R areas.  A significant number of new developments in the inner cities are also adopting these restrictions.  In 2017, there was a proposed amendment to the FCC rules called  The Amateur Radio Parity Act to disallow this restriction, but this has been postponed indefinitely.

For one personís experience, see: Han Radio Ė to HOAs, a Radical Oddity.

So again I ask: Is Ham Radio Safe

Lately there have been many concerns about electromagnetic radiation.  Radiofrequency (RF) electromagnetic radiation (EMR) is the transfer of energy by radio waves.  RF EMR lies in the frequency range between 3 kilohertz (kHz) to 300 gigahertz (GHz).  RF EMR is non-ionizing radiation, meaning that it does not have sufficient energy to break chemical bonds or remove electrons (ionization).

It is theorized that large doses of radio waves are believed to cause cancer, leukemia and other disorders.  Some people claim that the very low frequency field from high voltage overhead power cables near their homes has affected their health.  However, none of this has been reliably proven.

Visible light, infrared, microwaves and radio waves are all forms of non-ionizing radiation. Excessive exposure to ionizing radiation can damage our cells and DNA, potentially causing burns, sickness or cancer.  Non ionizing radiation can cause heating - this is how microwave ovens work.

High doses of RF radiation can cause injuries through heating.  For example, some people accidentally exposed to large amounts of RF radiation from radar equipment have developed severe burns.  But it has not been proven that exposure to lower levels of RF radiation, even over long periods of time, can have harmful health effects.

Biological effects that result from heating of tissue by RF energy are often referred to as "thermal" effects.  It has been known for many years that exposure to very high levels of RF radiation can be harmful due to the ability of RF energy to rapidly heat biological tissue.

Ham radio transmissions are RF energy which is a form of non-ionizing electromagnetic radiation.  Ionizing radiation, such as that produced by x-ray machines and CT scanners, can pose a cancer risk at high levels of exposure. However, it has not been proven whether the non-ionizing radiation emitted by cellular telephones is associated with a cancer risk.

Human population centers are flooded with massive amounts of powerful wireless microwave radiation. Cell phone towers emit high-frequency radio waves or microwaves that can travel as far as 45 miles over level terrain. The closer you are, the greater the energy levels.

Wi-Fi wireless routers as well as Bluetooth and similar wireless devices give off electromagnetic radiation in the low-gigahertz frequency range.  However, there still aren't any good explanations for how Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, or mobile phones might cause cancer. The radiofrequency electromagnetic radiation they transmit and receive is very weak. This radiation does not have enough energy to damage DNA, and cannot directly cause cancer.

For more information about Radiofrequency Radiation: see Microwaves, Radio Waves, and Other Types of Radiofrequency Radiation on the American Cancer Societyís web site.

What about Ham Radio

Between 80 to 90% of ham radio operators use about 200 watts or less of transmitter power.  Rarely do amateurs use the full 1500 peak watts of power.  The FCC regulations strictly forbid the amateur from using this level of power within close proximity of a home or other locations were people might be. 

Next, ham operators donít constantly transmit their power.  This only occurs while they are talking.  Even then, they are not using the full power output, rather the transmissions average less than half the peak power output.  Also, when they are off-the-air, their equipment is powered down.

Thirdly, amateurs are not out to irradiate people.  The object is to send all of the output power into the ionosphere and not into the ground or into people.  The goal is efficiency, not to lose power into where itís not supposed to go. This does not enable the sender to achieve their goal of being heard by the other party thousands of miles away.

As Iíve said before, hams take pride in their equipment, safety and efficiency.  There are constant conversations on how to improve communications.  There are many hams in the sport called QRP.  That is very low power battery communications, often 1 to 5 watts. 

Broadcast Stations

Not far from my home is this rocket engine of a radio station call sign WLW at 700 kHz AM.  This transmitter outputs a signal of 50,000 watts.  In our neighborhood is an FM station call sign WLHS at 89.3 that outputs 85 watts ERP[7].  I grew up within a mile in direct line-of-site of a television transmitting tower.  It was said to have a total output of 100,000 watts. Before digital, a television signal comprised of two analog signals, AM for the video and FM for the audio.  With the changeover to digital and because TV has a wide bandwidth, TV stations can now transmit several different digital program carriers at the same time. 

As for the abundance of cell towers, although the FCC permits an effective radiated power (ERP) of up to 500 watts per channel (depending on the tower height), the majority of cellular or PCS cell sites in urban and suburban areas operate at an ERP of 100 watts per channel or less. Each tower can use up to 56 voice channels as well as several control channels. 

Conclusion about Electromagnetic Radiation

Today with all of our electronic devices including diagnostic X-rays, CT and MRI scans, cell phones, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and other remotely controlled devices, we are exposed to more electromagnetic radiation than any other time in human history.  Yet, there is still no definitive link between EMR and cancer risk. 

According to the National Cancer Institute, cancer rates in the US are declining.  It would seem that with the proliferation of electronic devices radiating radio waves, there would be a significant increase in new cases of cancer between 1992 and 2014.   For more information, see: Cancer Stat Facts.


Ham Radio Antennas

Once the Worldís Largest Ham Antenna

It is the fear of non-hams that something like the above will suddenly appear in a neighborís back yard.  The reality is that the local ordinances wouldnít allow such an antenna in a typical suburban neighborhood much less a home in the city.  The reality is most hams put up much smaller antennas.  Though they may be installed up high, they are for the most part inconspicuous. 

Most hams use tall thin vertical antennas or thin horizontal wire dipole antennas.  I use a small magnetic loop antenna that is six feet in diameter disguised as an art work sculpture.  It is in essence a stealth antenna.  A magnetic loop creates a large invisible magnetic donut which becomes the antenna.  Unlike a regular metal antenna that is cut or adjusted to one or more bands of frequencies, the loop is a much more complicated antenna in that it must be adjusted for every frequency or channel.  Every time the frequency is changed in the radio, the antenna has to be readjusted to the new frequency.  I have a computer connected to the radio and remotely connected to the antenna controller which is mounted under the antenna.  The computer automatically makes the adjustments as I change frequency.  This thing is an electro mechanical marvel. 

The Radio Shack

My radio shack AKA ham shack is located in a finished basement and occupies a 4 foot long table.  It consists of a small 100 watt Icon IC-817 transceiver, an audio filter setup, and a computer.  My system is primarily controlled by the computer including filtering, digital modes, rig control as well as logging.   My vocation was computer programming, so my emphasis is on computer technology.  I got the Icon for about $450 used.  The PC computer was a derelict from work, and the audio console was from my brother when he recorded his guitar music. 

My knowledge of electronics is fairly basic so I donít design my own radios. In fact, most hams no longer build their own gear any more.  Rigs have become so sophisticated that it is more cost effective to purchase one instead of building one from scratch.  Thatís not to say no one builds their own.  There are still people who do build rigs from parts they have laying around or they find at surplus resellers.  There are people who repurpose retired military radios or commercial public service equipment for the ham bands.  Then there is all the vintage ham gear from the tube era.  Thereís a lot of gear that can be found at estate sales.  A quick look at eBay listings for ham gear and one can see where this old equipment still carries a fairly hefty price tag.

EMR from a Ham Station

In calculating EMR from a ham radio antenna is proportional to the distance from the antenna.  An average ham antenna is used to transmit radio frequencies ranging from 3.5 to 29 MHz  Another factor to consider is the physical length of the antenna.  On lower frequencies, the radiation is spread out over the length of the wire.  A good antenna that transmits on 3.5 to 4.0 MHz is one half of 75 meters or about 123 feet long.  This band is labeled the 80 or 75 meter band. 

Is Ham Radio safe? 

If a ham radio emits harmful EMR (Electro Magnetic Radiation) or RFI (Radio Frequency Interference), then you should not put your cell phone up to your ear.  You are exposing yourself to electromagnetic energy dozens of times more powerful than that you would get from an average hamís antenna Ė and a cell phone does it at a much higher frequency Ė microwaves (800,000,000 to 1,900,000,000 Hertz.)  The medical sector still canít prove that cell/mobile/cordless phones cause diseases such as cancer.  These studies include the 40 years of cordless phone usage along with the 100 years of radio equipment exposure.

Itís possible for someone standing within 10 feet of an antenna with 1,500 watts input to be exposed to detrimental amounts of energy.  However, it is illegal for the ham operator to transmit that much power with anyone or any living thing within a certain distance to his or her antenna.  The hammy would be in violation if they install an antenna closer than the allowable distance from any living thing including their neighbor.  

The FCC publication: Bulletin 65 Ė Evaluating Compliance with FCC Guidelines for Human Exposure to Radiofrequency Electromagnetic Fields (Edition 97-01) is required reading by amateurs operating a station.


The amount of cumulative energy we are exposed to in a typical home includes the electrical wiring, mobile phones, Wi Fi, Bluetooth, cordless phones, PCs, microwave ovens, electrostatic air cleaners, TVs, and all other electrical appliances in the home.

The only thing harmful about the aforementioned RF sources is the detrimental affect these things have on my sensitive radio equipment.  In my ham shack, I work diligently to get rid or quiet these sources of RF noise, which in ham terms is called QRM (interference). 

Believe it or not, my neighborís AC heat-pump unit generates a lot of noise across most of the HF bands Ė and when itís on, I cannot receive anything.


[1] HF or High Frequency is an archaic term used in the early 1900s to indicate frequencies between 1600 kHz and 30 MHz  This is also known as the Short Wave Bands. 

[2] Morse code is an alphabet or code in which letters, numbers and punctuation are represented by combinations of long and short signals of on-off tones, lights, or clicks that can be directly understood by a skilled listener or observer without special equipment.

[3] Open and free as specified in Part 97 FCC rules and regulations.

[4] The Gopher protocol /ˈɡoʊfər/ is a TCP/IP application layer protocol designed for distributing, searching, and retrieving documents over the Internet. The Gopher protocol was strongly oriented towards a menu-document design and presented an alternative to the World Wide Web in its early stages, but ultimately Hypertext Transfer Protocol (HTTP) became the dominant protocol.

[5] NCSA Mosaic, or simply Mosaic, is the web browser that popularized the World Wide Web and the Internet. It was also a client for earlier internet protocols such as File Transfer Protocol, Network News Transfer Protocol, and Gopher.

[6] The Enforcement Bureau is the primary organizational unit within the Federal Communications Commission that is responsible for enforcement of provisions of the Communications Act, the Commission's rules, Commission orders and terms and conditions of station authorizations.

[7] Effective Radiated Power