Wireless Electrical and Electromagnetic Pollution News
15 July 2010
The possible effects of Electromagnetic Radiation and Radio Frequency Radiation
As a former Radio Frequency Manager, I was aware of the possible dangers of RF and EMR emanating onboard our ships and wireless shore stations.
In 1965, I was serving on Royalist and during our work-up at Pearl Harbour, some of us visited the Submarine transmitter site (VLF) at Naval Communications Station, Honolulu. We were warned prior to getting off the bus, not to touch the sides of the door as we got out. As we approached the transmitter building, it was noticed that a lot of dead birds were in the area that encircled the building. (The 900ft vertical wire aerial fed directly from the transmitter). Inside the building, the transmitter (rated at 500,000 Watts) was encircled by a copper mesh shield. Sticking out of this mesh was a fluorescent tube – it wasn't connected but brilliantly lit. This suggested that the transmitter was radiating! We were there for about 45 minutes - was this the start of my health problems? About 7 to 8 years later, I was diagnosed as having a low sperm count and high blood pressure.
The Type 12 frigates (Otago, Taranaki and Blackpool) had red lines painted in a semi circle radiating from the base of the two main whip aerials – one port and the other on the starboard side of each waist. These red lines theoretically meant that one should not loiter within that half circle for more than two minutes at a time. This was the extent of our knowledge of Radiation Hazards regarding High Frequency. We also had RADHAZ Boards for Fuelling, Man Aloft and Ammunitioning. But, to what extent did we really know what was going on?
Tempest Radiation (EMR) – This came about as a result of the Government Communications Security Bureau working with our Allies – the US military had discovered that electromagnetic teleprinters emanated secure information in the clear, even though the wireless office onboard ships was surrounded by quarter inch steel. If it can get through that, then imagine what it can do to do the human body. As a matter of interest, many things in the home cause EMR – laptops and VDU screens are at the top of the list as being the worst. A cheap AM, transistor radio with a telescopic aerial will pick up EMR from electronic/electrical equipment. I purchased one from The Warehouse for $9 and use it at the hospital where I work as a Biomedical Engineer to check what is causing EMR interference to biomedical equipment - equipment that is connected to patients.
In 1975/76, I was the Chief RS on the Otago. Communications on the SE Asia station at that time were non-existent. There were no major communications facilities from Commonwealth radio stations that could cover the whole of our operational area that we had in the old days – Hong Kong, Singapore and Darwin. Hong Kong had a duplex, radioteletype, secure system available, but could only handle one ship at a time. I had requested that facility six months prior to sailing from NZ and was told that it was fully booked for a RN ship – fair enough.
NZ Defence Communications in Singapore could only handle a CW and a SSB Voice circuit – neither was conducive to strategic communications back to the command. Otago managed to maintain communications for about a month with Naval Communications Station Darwin using a duplex, secure, radioteletype circuit. It was prior to this that I remembered a problem that occurred on Taranaki during Longex 1970. The tuning base of the port aerial had developed a crack and every time the ship transmitted, a blue arc passed from the base tuner to the deck. The RN tanker refused to come alongside to pass fuel – not surprising. What was surprising, was the distance covered by the arc – it went well over the red circle and made contact with the guardrail, approximately 4 metres away(on top of this, the OOW was obviously not aware of the correct RADHAZ procedures for RAS fuelling!!). As a result of this, when we transmitted using the secure circuit between Otago and Darwin, I had a bigger, physical barrier put up using brooms, mops and rope to ensure that personnel did not come within close proximity of the base of the whip. This was supplemented by regular broadcasts over the Ship's main system to make personnel aware of the possible danger. In 2009 I carried out some research at home with my radio equipment and discovered that 2.5 watts radiating from a vertical wire, exceeded the near field effect recommended by the RNZN up until the 1990's of 1.24 metres for 1 kilowatt (BR222 - The Users Guide to Wireless Equipment Chapter 1.11 - Radio Hazards. This publication repeats in part from BR2924 Handbook for Radio Hazards - both were RN publications and were in use in the RNZN). My tests have picked up radiation from over 5 metres! The updated version of NZBR2924 HF Hazards in the RNZN states that for 1 kilowatt the safety radius should be 3.2 metres and for 500 watts should be 2.4 metres.
I was lucky enough to be sent on a Radio Frequency Manager's course to the USAF in 1984. It was on this course that I learnt about the dangers of Radio Frequency radiation and possible cancers.
Prior to this, I had been posted to HMNZS Canterbury in 1981/82. Once again, we ended up in a situation where we were without Communications HF support. We were under the operational control of MODUK(Navy) and our Satellite comms support frigate had to return to Gibraltar for repairs. We ended up using a duplex, radioteletype, HF circuit to the RAF base in Episkopi, Cyprus. This meant that we were transmitting 1 kW on the HF Broadband aerial system for 24 hours a day for about 8 weeks. In addition, the 965 radar (450,000 Watts) was also transmitting, enveloping the Flag Deck.
Canterbury showing Broadband aerial between Foremast and Funnel and 965 radar aerial on the Mainmast. The five wires are physically connected to the Foremast as this is essential to the required radiation pattern.
Showing possible RF coverage from the HF aerial and Radar
After I left the navy in 1988, I didn't think much more about it. It wasn't until the Canterbury visited Dunedin in 2000, that things started to fit into place. The Chief RS on there at the time, invited me down for a look around. When we got to the Boat Deck, I noticed that the ladder leading to the Flag Deck had a RADHAZ plate locked across it. On asking my friend what was that all about, he said that OSH had decreed that all Flag Decks were deemed a possible carcinogenic area. At that stage, I had had a melanoma removed from the right hand side of my stomach – yet, never been sunburnt in that area. I have since had cancer of the prostate – the cancer process can start early on without detection and most of them are not detected until decades later. That's why prostate cancer is known as the Old Man's cancer. It's got nothing to do with old age – it just takes years to surface! I visited HMAS Kanimbla when she visited Dunedin in 2008 and it was interesting to note that the Flag Deck on there was also A RADHAZ - Off Limits area. It would appear that the RAN/RNZN had done further research and had come up with either a different formula or used RF near field measuring equipment to determine that the original distance for the safe radiation line should be twice the distance of what it was - this is being looked into. (new 2010)
My research over the past 10 years has produced the following:
- I researched 8 radio operators who had served on Tui (ex USN). 6 out of 8 had cancer. Three have since passed away. The transmission lines out of the 1kW transmitter were open wire. Cancers ranged from the head area to the lower abdomen.
- A number of radio technicians who worked on the Gunnery Radar system on the Type 12 frigates have died from cancer. This was varying cancer from the chest area to the testicles.
- Ships that had transmitters in the Wireless Offices were possible causes of RF radiation and Electromagnetic radiation – RF radiation caused from open wire feeders, no SWR meters and soot and salt build up on the aerials causing reflected power back into the wireless office - typically the 89Q transmitters on the Bathurst Class and the Lachlan with their well known blue flashes emitting from the sides! EMR caused by radio equipment being switched on all the time, especially transmitters, 1kW amplifiers, radioteletype equipment, cryptographic equipment and receivers. RF radiation was probably present on the upper deck of most ships from W/T and Radar aerials, with the Leander Class being the most prominent.
The following ships may have contributed to health problems:
RF Radiation – Loch Class frigates, Endeavour (I) and (II), Bathurst Class minesweepers, Lachlan, Monowai, Tui (Ex-USN) and Leander Class frigates.
EM Radiation – All the above, all ships and shore stations where you have receivers, teleprinters, cryptographic equipment, etc. I also include Electrical switchboards and Operations Rooms on ships. The ANZAC frigate Ops Rooms are probably just as bad with their computers, VDU's, etc.
As a result of my research, I have come across the following sites to substantiate my findings:
1. Dr Neil Cherry – a former NZ researcher (passed away in 2003) who has world-wide acclaim. Here at
This takes a long time to download. If you would like a copy - email me.
This 63 page report states that there is a connection between EM and RF radiation and health problems.
At first glance, the report seems to be solely about Cell phones. However, the report covers from ELF through the whole radio frequency spectrum to EHF. The author has referred to cell phone operation as MW (microwave). Microwaves are at the upper end of the spectrum and cover from 300 MHz to 300 GHz. Where Dr Cherry has mentioned RF/MW, he is referring to the RF spectrum as being up to 300 MHz and MW as being from 300MHz to 300 GHz. See also 4. below.
2. The US Amateur Radio Relay League report here