Does Energy Emission from an RFID Device Have Potential Harms to the Human Body?

This could be a problem many people is concerning about. In fact, not much research has been conducted in this area, but still there has been some.

Daniel W. Engels, director of the University of Texas at Arlington’s Radio Frequency Innovation and Technology Center, and an associate professor in the college’s Department of Electrical Engineering, has worked with Darmindra D. Arumugam, a graduate from the university, to write a paper entitled “Specific Absorption Rates in the Human Head and Shoulder for Passive UHF RFID Systems at 915 MHz”.

According to their research, in an ideal absorption environment, an RFID reader located 10 centimeters (3.9 inches) from the human head presents a specific absorption rate above 1.6W/kg — the maximum value allowed by the United States’ Federal Communications Commission (FCC).

“The basic result of all of our work is that really close proximity to UHF [ultrahigh-frequency] RFID readers has potential health issues, particularly when close to the eyes,” said Engels, “The eyes are perhaps the most vulnerable part of our bodies to RF radiation.”

To avoid any potential harm to humans, Engels said, UHF RFID interrogators should be set back at least 0.5 meter (1.6 feet) from anyone who might receive constant exposure. He suggests having the read zone cover the body below the neck, which is presumably where the tag would be placed.

If the interrogator is within legal power output limits, and is kept at least 1 meter (3.3 feet) from the human body, the incident radiation — even on the eyes — is at a level well below maximum allowable levels. Engels cautions against turning reader emissions on and off to reduce RF exposure, noting that his early-stage research indicates this could have an impact on pacemakers.