Saturday, July 24, 2010

A little to close for comfort, ahhh, my retinas, and my pacemaker has stopped worki....

I am uncomfortable with the Garmin radar installation below because of the nearly eye level installation, and the about 6 foot proximity to someone sitting at the helm. If the unit had been mounted lower, I most likely wouldn't have looked at it twice. This photo took me off on some research to verify to myself that this radar installation was either safe, or unsafe.

The first thing I looked at was what the manufacturers said about the dangers involved in being to close to the beam of a marine radar. Most of them say about the same thing. For example, Furuno's radar manuals say, "The radar antenna emits electromagnetic radio frequency (RF) energy which can be harmful, particularly to your eyes. Never look directly into the antenna aperture from a close distance while the radar is in operation, or expose yourself to the transmitting antenna at a close distance." It sounds a little ominous doesn't it? It could be really dangerous, or the legal departments of these companies are "showing an abundance of caution", or maybe it's a bit of both. 

On the other hand, there is a fair amount of information that says the radiation levels of a rotating pleasure boat marine radar are actually very low, and hence the hazard level is also very low. I parsed my words a bit here, because high powered, non-pleasure boat radars can be dangerous, and the rotation of the array means the radiation exposure is limited to the time the array is facing you.

So after several hours of reading on the subject, this is what I think. It would not be good for you to get as close as possible, at eye level, to an operating radar array, and stare at it for an extended period of time. I also think, that marine radars, that are installed according to the manufacturers installation instructions, will not adversely affect personnel on a boat. Everything in-between these two extremes is somewhat subjective. Will the installation above smite the owner's pacemaker, or blind him? Most likely not. Would I want to sit at the upper helm while the radar was running? Nope, not if I could avoid it.

Murphy's Laws say that if a piece of toast falls off the table, it will land buttered side down. The odds of winning the Florida lottery are about 23,000,000 to 1. I wonder what the odds would be that a radar could malfunction, and have the array stop while pointing at the owner, and still be transmitting? This would be a long shot, is it possible?

Ben Ellison's Panbo link below has an excellent discussion on this subject, by many more knowledgeable than I, and is a good place to start learning more about this subject. 

Panbo discussion about radar safety


  1. If the captain is a young fella, he's probably having trouble getting his wife pregnant, what with the radiation hitting the little swimmers.

    There's no way I'd pilot this boat with the radar transmitting.

  2. I like to make fun of the engineers, during the day they insist that the radars be shut down when they work on the mast 20 meters away and that evening they can be found peering through the microwave window to see if their popcorn is done. Go figure.

  3. It kills those carrying the y chromosome, he would only have girls, we used to know it as radar technician's syndrome

  4. Younger guys won't know this, but the first microwave was the Amana "RADAR RANGE". They found out that radar could heat things internally when a USAF crewchief accidentally turned on a high powered radar set (might have been navy too, as their arrays were a lot more powerful) and the guy outside working on the antenna got his guts heated up pretty bad before screaming to SHUT IT OFF!

    Radiation damage IS CUMULATIVE. Which makes you wonder about cell phones since they transmit on very close to the same frequency as a microwave oven does. So one watt flush with your skull (your cell phone) a thousand times, or stick your head in a thousand watt microwave oven for a minute? Just because it doesn't hurt immediately doesn't mean damage isn't being done. I think you'll find that the same thing was said by tobacco execs when they testified to congress in the late 1960's that "Smoking does NOT cause lung cancer". Yet they all died from it, every single one that testified before congress. We now know, of course that RADON is actually the leading cause of lung cancer, but radon and cigarettes more than double your chances of lung cancer (my wife died at 40 years old of lung and brain cancer..two packs a day and a cell phone glued to her ear for 15 years.

    So when cell phone MFR's state that cell phones don't cause brain cancer, well, just look how long it took before we had ironclad proof that smoking cigarettes caused lung cancer? Several GENERATIONS. Lung cancer was the biggest killer of adults when I was a kid in the sixties Now it is not. So how many generations of deaths will we need before cell phone MFR's are proven wrong?

    Dave Beem