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Radio Frequency Radiation and the Roofing Industry

The Cost of Convenience 

Amidst the danger commonly associated with roofing, an evolving technically centered world is posing new challenges for the industry. A booming expansion of wireless communication has rendered most building as “hot zones” of radio frequency radiation. This RF radiation is composed of energy that is being exuded from antennae or transmitters for wireless communication that poses some very serious health effects. In this context, radiation is the energy moving through space as waves or particles. According to CTIA- The Wireless Association ®, “the industry’s growth has been astronomical.” In 1998, there were 60.8 wireless subscribers in the United States- there are now more than 285 million subscribers, representing roughly 91 percent of the country’s total population. This constituted an increase from fewer than 23,000 wireless antenna sites in the U.S. to more than 500,000.

 The Causal Link between Exposure and Health

These antenna systems have been investigated regarding safety by the FCC and the IEEE (Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers). Their conclusions demonstrate a real health risk of high exposure to such traces of radiation. With science on their side, the IEEE clearly showed that such exposure causes “behavioral disruption” in laboratory subjects. This disruption stems from the loss of ability to perform “food-motivated learned behavior.” This inability exemplifies the real link between exposure and behavioral, cognitive and/or psychological damage that includes memory loss, mood disorders, sleep disorders, depression and impaired or diminished cognitive function, according to the IEEE website. Additionally, biological effects can occur- exposure can lead to the heating of tissue, referred to as “thermal” effects. The FCC performed additional research and concluded that while a concrete causal relationship is hard to establish, even minuscule expose to radiation can lead to negative effects to the function of the immune system, brain tissue and DNA.

 The Shockingly Concealed Truth

The most shocking and alarming aspect of this threat is that absent a thermal injury, an individual may not be aware of being overexposed. Symptoms may take a while to surface and while sleep problems, mood swings and memory loss may be experienced early on, these are commonly blamed on other factors. Another chilling fact stems from the fact that while on a roof, it is pretty difficult to know you are being exposed to radiation. It is impractical for wireless carriers to monitor and control all antenna site activity and the mandatory use of “stealth” antennas inhibits roofers from knowing where the sites are located. Additionally, signs are often outdated in an industry where mergers are commonplace and comprehensive, ongoing probing to ensure worker safety is not consistent. With the affinity for these companies to outsource work to cut operational costs and skimp when it comes to training for third party workers, it doesn’t seem like a solution is coming soon. In fact, wireless companies thoroughly safeguard their own employees with rugged protective gear because “they have no idea how well signs on rooftops depict the actual situation and they have no control or knowledge of the rationale for their placement.” If only workers outside these companies got to utilize the same preventative measures.

 Taking Matters into Our Own Hands:

As industry professionals, we are passionate about vying for the safety of our workers. No government regulations currently exist that require signage or barricades to bring to the attention of workers the presence and intensity of RF exposure around the rooftop antennae. Following are a couple of tips for taking matters into your own hands. First and foremost, NRCA proposes asking the building owner or facility manager about transmitter locations and meticulously scouring for warning signage. There also exist pocket protection monitors that indicate level of current exposure but they carry many limitations. To use the monitor, you must be trained to work in RF environments and the machine only alerts you while are already being exposed to radiation. The device is expensive and deemed impractical for anyone not in the RF industry, but having one for your company to bring to particularly hazardous jobs may not be the worst idea. While reform and legislative action is necessary for a complete solution, for now, it is important to educate all workers about these dangers! Though the NRCA has exhausted considerable efforts in order to do this, more need to be done. A new criterion regarding RF safety needs to immediately be implemented in order to keep workers safe. Ultimately however, the wireless companies will need to chip in majorly as well. Until we see real change, it cannot be emphasized enough the power that knowledge has in this movement. Educate yourself and your workers to ensure safety, prevention of harm and longevity.



If you are in the Puget Sound region of Washington State and are in need of roofing, decking, waterproofing, or skylight installation services contact Chase Construction North West, Inc. today. Make sure to fill out our free estimate form or call us at (253) 544-3651 today!


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