But remember, the radome, and therefore the beam, is constantly rotating. So even if you’re right next to the radome, you can never be in the beam for more than about a third of the time. And if you actually touch the radome of a 2-kW radar, you’re subjecting yourself to an average power density of about 7 watts per square meter, well on the safe side of the ICNIRP’s general public limit. (The same calculation for a 4-kW radar with a 24-inch scanner gives a power density of 10 watts per square meter.)
But like any modern device, radar is not 100-percent safe. There are justified concerns that some older pacemakers may be susceptible to radar’s electromagnetic interference and some evidence to suggest that long-term exposure to pulsed microwaves, such as those emitted by radar, might damage the light-sensitive cells of the eyes. Overall, though, the message is good: There’s no hard evidence that yacht radars pose a health hazard and plenty of responsible scientific evidence that they do not.
So rest easy. While your microwave oven could theoretically cook you, a small radar can’t because it doesn’t transmit long enough or with enough power. Just don’t go staring at the scanner for hours on end (and be careful if you’ve got an old pacemaker)
This article originally appeared in the June 2009 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.