Study type: Epidemiological study (observational study)

Effects upon health of occupational exposure to microwave radiation (radar) epidem.

Published in: Am J Epidemiol 1980; 112 (1): 39-53

Aim of study (acc. to author)

The effects of occupational exposure with microwave radiation (radar) on the health of Naval personnel of the USA were studied in two cohorts of approximately 20,000 men with maximum opportunity for exposure (electronic equipment repair) and 20,000 with minimum potential for exposure (equipment operation) who served during the Korean War period (1950-1954).

Further details

Occupational groups of Naval personnel were classified as maximally exposed to microwave radiation (radar equipment repair) and minimally exposed (radar equipment operation) based on measurements on ships by the Navy since 1957. The high exposure cohort is made up of electronics technicians, fire control technicians, and aviation electronics technicians (the last group was included due to the low number of fire control technicians). The low exposure cohort (below 1 mW/cm²) includes radiomen, radarmen and aviation electrician's mates.
The assessment of the potential exposure was made for a subgroup consisting of all men who died from disease, suicide or homicide (435 men) and a 5 % randomly selected sample (960 men). Potential exposure was assessed in terms of occupational duties, length of time in occupation and power of equipment at the time of exposure.

Endpoint/type of risk estimation



Exposure groups

Group Description
Group 1 low exposure: radioman
Group 2 low exposure: radarman
Group 3 low exposure: aviation electrician's mate
Group 4 high exposure: electronics technician
Group 5 high exposure: fire control technician
Group 6 high exposure: aviation electronics technician


Study size

Type Value
Total 40,000

Results (acc. to author)

No adverse health effects were detected in this study that could be attributed to potential microwave radiation exposure during the period 1950-1954. Mortality differences appear to be linked to amount of flying, and perhaps to alcohol consumption.
The authors stated that it was not possible in this study to determine occupational exposure to microwaves after discharge from service, hospitalization outside the Navy and Veteran Administration systems, occurence and nature of nonhospitalized medical conditions during and after service or reproductive performance and health of offspring.

Limitations (acc. to author)

It was not possible to assign exposure doses to any individuals in this study.

Study funded by

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