Many consumer and industrial products make use of some form of electromagnetic energy. Because of its regulatory responsibilities in this area the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) often receives inquiries concerning the potential safety hazards of human exposure to radio-frequency (RF) energy. The information on this page provides answers and information to inquiries regarding RF Safety.
FCC Policy on Human Exposure to Radio Frequency Electromagnetic Fields
The FCC is required by the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969, among other things, to evaluate the effect of emissions from FCC-regulated transmitters on the quality of the human environment. Several organizations, such as the American National Standards Institute (ANSI), the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, Inc. (IEEE),and the National Council on Radiation Protection and Measurements (NCRP) have issued recommendations for human exposure to RF electromagnetic fields. On August 1, 1996, the Commission adopted the NCRP's recommended Maximum Permissible Exposure limits for field strength and power density for the transmitters operating at frequencies of 300 kHz to 100 GHz. In addition, the Commission adopted the specific absorption rate (SAR) limits for devices operating within close proximity to the body as specified within the ANSI/IEEE C95.1-1992 guidelines. (See Report and Order, FCC 96-326) The Commission's requirements are detailed in Parts 1 and 2 of the FCC's Rules and Regulations [47 C.F.R. 1.1307(b), 1.1310, 2.1091, 2.1093]. The potential hazards associated with RF electromagnetic fields are discussed in OET Bulletin No. 56, "Questions and Answers About the Biological Effects and Potential Hazards of Radio frequency Electromagnetic Fields."
FCC Maintains Current RF Safety Rules: On November 27, 2019, the FCC voted to take a number of steps in its ongoing review of various rules pertaining to the implementation of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) requirements related to radiofrequency (RF) emissions from radio transmitters. The FCC’s multipronged effort is divided into four parts: Resolution of Notice of Inquiry and closure of ET Docket No. 13-84, a Report and Order and a Memorandum Opinion and Order and closure of ET Docket No. 03-137, a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking opening a new docket, ET Docket No. 19-226. In the Resolution of Notice of Inquiry the FCC concludes that the best available scientific evidence, including our consideration of the opinions provided by expert U.S. federal health agencies, supports maintaining the existing RF exposure limits. In the Report and Order and a Memorandum Opinion and Order, the FCC adopts several issues since they were initiated in 2003 and further extended by proposals in 2013 that revise and update its regulations implementing NEPA. Specifically, the FCC: (1) streamlines its criteria for determining when a licensee is exempt from our RF exposure evaluation criteria; (2) provides more flexibility for licensees to establish compliance with our RF exposure limits; (3) specifies methods that RF equipment operators can use to mitigate the risk of excess exposure, both to members of the public and trained workers (such as training, supervision, and signage); and (4) upholds its prior 2013 decision to consider the exposure limit for the outer ears to be the same as for other body extremities. In the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking the FCC proposes to formalize additional limits for localized RF exposure and the associated methodology for compliance for portable devices and wireless power transfer (WPT) equipment on top of its already existing limits that apply in the frequency ranges over which these devices will operate (100 kHz to 100 GHz), and considers extending the applicable frequency range to frequencies outside of this range as well (3 kHz to 3 THz).
Report and Order: Word | Acrobat
FCC Advances Procedures on RF Safety Rules: On March 27, 2013, the FCC voted to advance its review of its various rules pertaining to the implementation of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) requirements related to radiofrequency (RF) emissions from radio transmitters. The FCC has divided this process into three parts: a Report and Order (Order) and a Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (Further Notice) in ET Docket No. 03-137, and a Notice of Inquiry (Inquiry) in a new docket, ET Docket No. 13-84. In the Order the FCC concludes several technical and semantic issues initiated in 2003 that revise and update its regulations implementing NEPA. In the Further Notice the FCC proposes to further update and revise its procedures beyond its 2003 proposals. In the Inquiry the FCC requests comment to determine whether its RF exposure limits and policies need to be reassessed. Since consideration of the limits themselves is explicitly outside of the scope of ET Docket No. 03-137, the FCC opens a new docket, ET Docket No. 13-84, with the Inquiry to consider these limits in light of more recent developments. The Inquiry is intended to open discussion on both the currency of our RF exposure limits and possible policy approaches regarding RF exposure. While the FCC has continuously monitored research and conferred with experts in this field, and is confident in its RF exposure guidelines and the soundness of the basis for its rules, it is a matter of good government to periodically reexamine regulations and their implementation. The FCC looks forward to developing a complete record by soliciting the input of qualified expert agencies and organizations and the public, to determine whether the current rules and policies should remain unchanged, or should be relaxed or tightened.
Report & Order: Word | Acrobat
Human Exposure to RF
- Radio frequency Energy FAQs This section contains answers to the most frequently asked questions receive d by the Commission concerning RF fields and their application. Also, see OET Bulletin 56 and the following brief addendum (added in September of 1997) regarding guidelines for evaluating human exposure.
- Update for Information On Human Exposure To Radiofrequency Fields From Cellular Radio Transmitters
In 1996, the FCC adopted updated guidelines for evaluating human exposure to radiofrequency (RF) fields from transmitting antennas such as those used for cellular radio. The new guidelines for cellular base stations are identical to those recommended by the National Council on Radiation Protection and Measurements (NCRP) discussed on page 2 of the FCC information sheet. These guidelines are also essentially the same as the 1992 guidelines recommended by the American National Standards Institute and the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (ANSI/IEEE C95.1-1992), also discussed on page 2, for operating frequencies above 1500 MHz. The FCC adopted guidelines for hand-held RF devices, such as cellular telephones, that are the same as those recommended by the 1992 ANSI/IEEE guidelines, discussed on page 4 of the information sheet.
- Update for Information On Human Exposure To Radiofrequency Fields From Cellular Radio Transmitters
- Cell Phones: Wireless Devices and Health Concerns
- Towers: Cellular and PCS sites
- Human Exposure from Vehicle Mounted Antennas
- General Wireless Device FAQ's
Cellular Telephone Specific Absorption Rate (SAR)
The SAR is a value that corresponds to the relative amount of RF energy absorbed in the head of a user of a wireless handset. The FCC limit for public exposure from cellular telephones is an SAR level of 1.6 watts per kilogram (1.6 W/kg). Specific Absorption Rate (SAR) for Wireless Phones and Devices Available at FCC Web Site. Please see the SAR information page on the Consumer & Governmental Affairs Bureau for links to cellular phone manufacturers. You can also obtain SAR information on many cellular phones from the FCC's database if you have the FCC ID number of the phone or device and if it was produced and marketed within the last 1-2 years.
The FCC ID number is usually shown somewhere on the case of the phone or device. In many cases, you will have to remove the battery pack to find the number. Once you have the number, proceed as follows. Go to the following Web site: Equipment Authorization. Click on the link for “FCC ID Search”. Once you are there you will see instructions for inserting the FCC ID number. Enter the FCC ID number (in two parts as indicated: "Grantee Code" is comprised of the first three characters, the "Equipment Product Code" is the remainder of the FCC ID). Then click on "Start Search." The grant of equipment authorization for this particular ID number should appear. Look through the grant for the section on SAR compliance, certification of compliance with FCC rules for RF exposure or similar language. This section should contain the value(s) for typical or maximum SAR for your phone.
For portable phones and devices authorized since June 2, 2000, maximum SAR levels should be noted on the grant of equipment authorization. For phones and devices authorized between about mid-1998 and June 2000, detailed information on SAR levels is typically found in the "exhibits" associated with the grant of equipment authorization. Therefore, once a grant is accessed these exhibits can be viewed by clicking on the appropriate entry labeled "View Exhibit."
Electronic records for FCC equipment authorization grants were initiated in 1998. Therefore, prior to this date FCC records for grants are in the form of paper records that are not part of our electronic database. At this time, due to staff limitations, we are unable to routinely search through FCC paper records to extract SAR information for grants filed prior to mid- to late-1998.
OET RF Safety Publications
OET Bulletin No. 56: Questions and Answers About Biological Effects Potential Hazards of Radio frequency Electromagnetic Fields (Fourth Edition, August 1999)
This is an informative bulletin written as a result of increasing interest and concern of the public with respect to this issue. The expanding use of radio frequency technology has resulted in speculation concerning the alleged "electromagnetic pollution" of the environment and the potential dangers of exposure to non-ionizing radiation. This publication is designed to provide factual information to the public by answering some of the most commonly asked questions.
OET Bulletin No. 65: Evaluating Compliance With FCC Guidelines for Human Exposure to Radio frequency Electromagnetic Fields
This technical bulletin was issued to provide guidance in the implementation of the Commission's new exposure limits and policies. The bulletin provides acceptable methods of determining compliance to Commission limits through the use of mathematical and empirical models.
- Supplement A: Additional Information for Radio and Television Broadcast Stations
- Supplement B: Additional Information for Amateur Radio Stations
- Supplement C: Additional Information for Evaluating Compliance of Mobile and Portable Devices with FCC Limits for Human Exposure to Radio frequency Emissions
- (Supplement C has been superseded by KDB Publication 447498 D03. KDB URL: https://apps.fcc.gov/oetcf/kdb/forms/FTSSearchResultPage.cfm?switch=P&id=20676.)
A Local Government Official's Guide to Transmitting Antenna RF Emission Safety: Rules, Procedures, and Practical Guidance. The LSGAC and the FCC have developed this guide to aid local governmental officials and citizens in understanding safety issues related to radio frequency emissions from telecommunications towers. [Acrobat | News Release]
FM Model Calculator
FM Model, a program created by Commission staff, is based on a model originally developed by the EPA, to predict ground-level RF power density in the vicinity of towers supporting FM radio broadcast antennas. This model has been found to be very useful for applications when it is desired to predict RF field levels on the ground near simple FM radio installations. If you have any questions about this program please contact the RF Safety Program.
RF Safety Links
Visit the FDA consumer information wireless phone website.
RF Safety bulletins
Bulletin 56 Questions and Answers about Biological Effects and Potential Hazards of Radio frequency Electromagnetic Fields
Bulletin 65 Evaluating Compliance With FCC Guidelines for Human Exposure to Radio frequency Electromagnetic Fields