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Health hazard evaluation report: HETA-2007-0095-3063, nonionizing radiation exposure to technicians at a satellite communications facility, U.S. Department of Commerce, Wallops Command and Data Acquisition Station, Wallops, Virginia.

Eisenberg-J; Sylvain-D; Durgam-S
Cincinnati, OH: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Public Health Service, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, HETA 2007-0095-3063, 2008 Jun; :1-15
On January 12, 2007, the National Weather Service Employees Organization submitted a HHE request on behalf of civilian employees at the U.S. Department of Commerce WCDAS, Wallops, Virginia. The request concerned two incidents in which electronic technicians repairing equipment were believed to have been exposed to high levels of nonionizing RF radiation. The request noted that two employees involved in these incidents reported persistent neurological symptoms and that the facility had no RF safety program. In response to the HHE request, a NIOSH team of a medical officer and two industrial hygienists visited the facility on March 14-15, 2007. During the site visit, the team toured the facility and interviewed employees in a confidential setting. We reviewed OSHA 300 Injury and Illness logs after the site visit along with a report from an RF survey conducted at WCDAS by EME Technology International 2 months (February 28, 2007) after the second incident. This report revealed two measurements that exceeded limits published by IEEE in the C95.1-2005 IEEE Standard for Safety Levels with Respect to Human Exposure to Radio Frequency Electromagnetic Fields [IEEE 2005]. One of these measurements was in the waveguide area while the other measurement was taken near the SATAN auxiliary triplexer, an area not routinely accessible to employees. Aside from reports of warmth and "sunburn" on an exposed extremity that had resolved prior to the site visit, no other medical findings were consistent with workplace RF exposures. Current neurological problems reported during confidential employee interviews were not health effects associated with RF exposure and employees' medical records suggested other causes for some of the reported symptoms. Other findings of the site visit included lack of consistent training among the electrical technicians for the repairs they were expected to perform, inconsistent documentation of repairs performed during each shift, and lack of adherence to facility policy for immediate medical evaluations of employees after suspected RF exposure. NIOSH investigators concluded that no evidence exists of ongoing RF overexposure to electrical technicians, but the potential exists for overexposure to RF for employees who work on this equipment without adequate safety training and lack of repair documentation. Recommendations are provided in this report for training employees, conducting monitoring for RF leaks, and prompt medical evaluation after possible RF overexposure.
Region-3; Hazard-Unconfirmed; Nonionizing-radiation; Radio-waves; Electromagnetic-energy; Electromagnetic-fields; Electromagnetic-radiation; Burns; Neurological-system; Neurological-reactions; Author Keywords: Administration of General Economic Programs; nonionizing radiation; radio frequency radiation; RF; electromagnetic fields; EMF; burn; neurological effects
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Field Studies; Hazard Evaluation and Technical Assistance
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National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health
Page last reviewed: September 2, 2020
Content source: National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health Education and Information Division