Everything there is to know about RF meters

An RF meter or EMF meter is a device that can detect the surrounding ambient levels of radiofrequency electromagnetic radiations (RFEMR). The primary artificial sources of these emissions are wireless digital technology, such as mobile phones and cordless phones. Other sources include structures used for telecommunications purposes like radio masts and towers, Wi-Fi routers and devices, Bluetooth, and smart meters. RF-EMG fields also originate from industrial heaters, microwave ovens, radars, and some medical applications.

With such tremendous industrial appliance, everyone, to some extent, is exposed to electromagnetic radiation's notorious health effects. Radiofrequency meters allow for detection and measurements of transient or (broadband) EMG frequencies, which can be used to evaluate the degree of exposure to those fields, either at home, in public places, or at work. An RF meter is especially useful to assess when workers are exposed to higher levels of radiations like radio operators, electric line installers, and repairers.

Unlike electric fields, magnetic fields penetrate the human body unabated and cause some dysfunctions on the cellular level when their frequencies are very high. However, the most commonly observed effect is the heating of tissues due to the absorption of radiation energy. 

In this article, we will cover the history of EMF Sensors, their work, and the occupational situations where people need them. Also, the health effects of non-ionizing radiation and measures of prevention will be discussed.

History and RF meters

Humans have always been exposed to EMG fields from natural sources like the earth, the sun, and the ionosphere (the ionized component of the earth's upper atmosphere). Natural emissions, however, are very low and thus insufficient to cause biological harm to creatures. During world war II, with the introduction of radars, the interest in their biological effects increased significantly. This research level was sustained through the 1980s and could prove that the previous assumptions of radiofrequency fields being harmless are wrong.

During the seventies, the deterioration of the terrestrial electromagnetic environment was recognized by Dr. Robert O. Becker. In the 1990s, those studies' interest shifted to EMF exposure with the appearance of cellular phones and the rapid increase of their use by the general public through the mid-1990.

Nowadays, exposure to electromagnetic waves is inevitable through all the technological gadgets of the modern world. Detection of such exposure by EMG measurements using RF meters is necessary for some occupations with very high risk. 

Indications to use RF meters

The medical interest in using an RF meter consists of detecting dangerously high levels of EMF in work environments and identifying possible sources of exposure when having clinical symptoms of chronic non-ionizing radiation contact.

Injuries Caused by Radiofrequency & Microwave Radiations

Injuries can result in two mechanisms: thermal effects due to acute exposure to radiations and non-thermal effects of chronic low-level exposure. Broadly defined, radiofrequency and microwave radiations are energy waves traveling at the speed of light. These waves have two components: the electric field and the magnetic field. Their vectors are perpendicular to each other. Thus, the absorption of the wave energy by the body depends partly on its orientation to the EMG fields. The energy carried by these waves is not enough to cause molecular ionization, but it does cause rotation and vibration associated with the heating reaction of biological tissues.

The thermal injury is more eminent with higher intensities and frequencies of radiation. It is characterized by protein denaturation, cellular dysfunction, and necrosis at the site of heating.

Symptoms and clinical manifestations of RF-EMG thermal injury

When someone is exposed to an acute high-dose of RF-EMG, the first thing he or she notices is that one part of the body gets warm, followed by the sense of a hot or burning skin, and there may be a sensation of buzzing or clicking while being exposed.

Other symptoms of electromagnetic field exposure that one could experience are headache or light-headedness, irritability, vertigo, pain at the site of exposure, a gritty eye sensation, or watery eyes. Also, there may be anorexia, abdominal cramps, and nausea. Localized inflammatory reaction (thermally induced) may appear after days of exposure. It consists of coagulation necrosis and interstitial edema after the skin appears sunburned, with slight induration, erythema, and vesiculations or bullae. Systemic manifestations may include high blood pressure, and CPK values may be elevated. Electroencephalographic and brain scan findings, hematologic values, electrolyte values, and sedimentation rates are usually normal limits. Beyond the immediately apparent thermal injury, no long-term structural complications are anticipated. However, there could be an association of symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder, insomnia persisting for as long as one year.

Genotoxic effects of EMF

The controversial issue of whether RF-EMG fields can cause cancer has no evident answer because of the contradicting research results in this matter. There is evidence that mobile phones' excessive use is associated with increased risk of developing gliomas (a malignant brain cancer). Other types of diseases that could be induced are breast cancers, leukemia, and brain tumors. Similarly, the teratogenic effect has been questioned, considering that RF-EMF exposure can damage mitochondrial and cellular DNA and the findings of anomalies in the offspring of physical therapists. Likewise, due to the lack of a precise biological mechanism, the hypotheses of the magnetic field–induced teratogenicity is not verified.

Occupational exposure to RF-EMG radiations:

Occupational exposures are expected in any workplace that involves the generation, transmission, and use of electricity, especially the use of dielectric heating equipment (for drying of wood and sealing of plastics), radio communications, physiotherapy, and maintenance of antennae and high-power electrical apparatus. The WHO/International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) described radiofrequency electromagnetic fields as possibly carcinogenic to humans (Group 2B). Researches showed that in animal studies, thermal injury caused superficial and deep tissue necrosis, cataract, and testicular damage.

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) acknowledges the potentially harmful effects of EMG radiations stating that exposure to high levels of radiofrequency radiation is harmful because of the heating process of tissues. The most vulnerable areas of the body are the eyes and testes.

How do RF meters work?

In ionizing radiation (gamma rays, X rays, and ultraviolet radiation), the individual photon energy is high, and the wavelength is so short that it causes irreparable molecular lesions leading to the destruction of cells or significant disruptions in their physiological mechanisms (DNA damage and mitochondria mitogenesis). Thus, ionizing radiation exposure is a known risk factor for all major forms of leukemia and thyroid neoplasms and skin and lung cancers.

However, non-ionizing radiations (visible light, microwaves, radio waves, and very low frequencies) are low in energy with long wavelengths. They cannot affect cellular mechanisms in the same ways as ionizing radiations. Still, experimental studies in vitro showed that radiofrequency fields alter biological functions through unknown mechanisms.

Radiofrequency meters quantify EMG fields by measuring the electromagnetic radiation flux density or detecting variabilities in an electromagnetic field over time. 

Depending on the structure and design of RF meters, the probes can receive the fields on three axes (three directions) at once or on only one axis. In the latter case, the device must be turned and titled in the three orthogonal directions (X, Y, and Z) to get the direction of its axis of symmetry parallel to the electric field component.  

Based on that principle: there are two categories of radiofrequency meters, monoaxial or three axials, the three axial RF meters are more expensive, but they take less time to complete a survey. The device then displays the peak signal strength on its LEDs and LCDs.

Market leaders of RF meters

Different RF meters exist for different needs. Some RF meters can detect faint signal traces. Others are capable of detecting strong ones. Below are enlisted the tools that provide the most sensitive and accurate results:

- TriField EMF Meter Model TF2: with its high-quality sensors, it can detect even the most rapid EMF pulses. Its wide range of performance (40 Hz to 100 kHz) is the most suitable device for general practical use.

- Advanced GQ EMF-390: this instrument is designed for both general purposes of using (cell phones and power lines) and for scientific testing and government surveys.

Acoustimeter RF Meter Model AM-10: not only this meter has excellent sensitivity. It is one of the simplest devices you will come across. With a straightforward display of the various readings.


With the industrial and technological progress of humanity, came the infinite need for electricity. Its generation, transmission, and use, especially for telecommunication purposes, expose the nearby individuals to high-level RF-EMG radiations, with research results contradicting their effects on human health. One thing is for sure is that those radiations are not safe.

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