Asked Questions
SF Health Network
Environmental Health

Radio Frequency Program

The goal of the Radio Frequency Program is to ensure radio frequency (RF) exposure limits in San Francisco are within a regulated standard and do not cause human health hazards.

Principal Activities and Services

  • Review radio frequency reports from wireless telecommunication carriers operating in San Francisco.
  • Respond to any public concern or complaints regarding a radio frequency transmitter in San Francisco.

Radio Frequency Energy

Radio waves are made up of electrical and magnetic energy and are commonly called electromagnetic waves. Radio frequency energy is an example of what is called non-ionizing radiation, which does not have enough energy to create ions.

Radio frequency energy can come from both natural and manmade sources; manmade sources include broadcast television, radio and communication devices like cordless and cellular phones.

Public Health Effects

The Department of Public Health has performed an extensive review of the literature regarding radio frequency energy and its effects on health. The Department concluded that scientific evidence does not support the existence of any adverse health effects from radio frequency energy at exposures found in the population. For more information about the Department's review, click here.

Exposure in San Francisco

The department routinely measures radio frequency energy levels in publically accessible areas in San Francisco. Levels found on public streets are typically less than 1% of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) public exposure standard. Locations with radio frequency energy levels approaching the FCC standard are occasionally found on the roof top areas directly in front of antenna faces.

Cellular Base Stations

A cellular base station is a combination of the cellular antenna and its related electronic equipment. All of the major cell phone carriers operate base station antennas in San Francisco. There are currently close to 800 cellular base stations in San Francisco and they are typically located on the roof tops of buildings or towers. Most cellular antennas are mounted between 50 and 100 feet off the ground. Double click on the map below to view a PDF version of the cellular base map of San Francisco.

Federal Regulation of Radio Frequency Energy

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is the agency with the regulatory authority to set the radio frequency energy standards. The FCC has created standards for both occupational exposure and public exposure. The public exposure standard is 1/5 the level allowed for occupational exposure. In general, these standards are based upon the protection of both workers and the public's health and safety.

Making a Complaint

If you would like to make a complaint regarding a cellular base station or a radio frequency transmitter, click here.

Related Agency

Federal Communications Commission