Is DAB bad for your health?

Are DAB+ frequencies safe for me to have a radio set next to my bed at night?

By James Cridland
Posted 9 March 2015, 1.43pm gmt

An interesting question from a listener in Adelaide, Australia...

I had a question regarding digital radios, and DAB+ frequencies, I recently bought a DAB+ digital radio to keep by my bedside table and I'm wondering if having such a device within close proximity potentially harmful? How safe are DAB+ frequencies in close proximity in over long periods of time?

A mobile phone by your bedside broadcasts every few minutes or so to the nearest cell site to tell Vodafone, or whoever, that it's still there. It also has a connection open to your wifi router, which means every so often it's broadcasting to that, too. Your wifi router is a stronger signal, and your bedroom is probably full of that signal, too.

A DAB+ receiver is just that - just a receiver. It's picking up very low-strength broadcasts and turning them into sound. It's no more scary than an FM radio or equivalent.

How safe are DAB+ frequencies in close proximity in over long periods of time?

You're not in close proximity of them - in Adelaide they're broadcast from Mount Lofty, which is a good 15 or 20 km away from the city. And they're passing through you right now, irrespective of how close you are to a DAB+ receiver.

DAB+ broadcasts are at around 200MHz - similar to your FM set at 100MHz. Up at Mount Lofty there are twelve FM broadcasts. DAB is broadcast at lower strength than FM, and there are only two DAB transmitters up there; so you can see that the amount of energy radiated is significantly lower than FM broadcasts (at least a sixth of FM, if not even smaller).

If you're holding the DAB+ transmitting element in your hands, that's probably not too good for you. Otherwise, you should be fine: we've coped happily with high-power FM transmissions for long enough, after all.

Note: DAB+ and DAB both use the same frequencies. Mount Lofty is a typical example of a large transmission site; London's Crystal Palace operates in much the same way.

James Cridland — James runs, and is a radio futurologist: a consultant, writer and public speaker who concentrates on the effect that new platforms and technology are having on the radio business. He also publishes a free daily newsletter about podcasting, Podnews, and a weekly radio trends newsletter.


6 years, 9 months ago

A salutatory lesson on how little joe public understands about this subject! The DAB explanation is correct, but to be picky the mobile not quite....

In fact mobiles do not routinely talk back that often to the network if they are not moving. The network assumes they are in the same place unless told otherwise - the overhead of doing it every few minutes would not be worth it. From time to time (typically of the order of every 90 minutes) the network schedules mobiles to do a "periodic update". If it does not hear from a mobile for x number of periodic updates it assumes the mobile is out of juice or coverage and marks it absent - so it then does not have to bother paging it for an incoming call and routes callers quicker to voicemail than it would otherwise hunting around the network and not finding them.

WiFi is not so efficient as mobile (when designed it assumed mains-powered or big battery'd equipment)- so it probably does a lot more background communication and flattens your battery more quickly.

Rather than location updates, a bigger cause of background communications on cellular or WiFi would be the apps you have. Many are said to be "chatty" and doing small background data transfers every few minutes - eg: apps that do news, financial information etc.

6 years, 9 months ago

I'd dismiss it altogether. The very single point to dump any further 'ideas' is that this is a receiver. Full stop.
My concerns about a WiFi router had been present for some time though, Glyn. However, I guess it won't be on topic here.

6 years, 9 months ago

If I held my DAB Radio close to a raw chicken, Let's say a 1.5 kg bird, and tuned it to Absolute 60s... how long would it take to cook it? Would it matter if it was stuffed (I use the Sainsburys cheap stuff)

6 years, 9 months ago

Never mind DAB or DAB+_++++-+. What about town and city centre wi-fi? All the towns in North Lanarkshire have it, some towns in South Lanarkshire have it, Glasgow city centre and other hotspots throughout the city has it. Trains have it. Railway stations have it. Supermarkets have it and so on.

Most of the time you can't even see the wi-fi signal senders that are tucked away. Occasionally you spot one hanging off a lamp-post of a wall.

How much radiation is that? If I held my umbrella up to one, would I get electrocuted?

6 years, 9 months ago

The Health Protection Agency has said that sitting in a wi-fi hotspot for a year results in receiving the same dose of radio waves as making a 20-minute mobile phone call. BBC News

Interesting that this piece is essentially rubbishing an edition of Panorama.

6 years, 9 months ago

Will the organism develop the ability to decode the signal straight into the brain after the year?

6 years, 8 months ago

That's nothing compared to some Long Wave radio stations (France Inter - 2000 Kilowattes) or the old Radio Luxembourg which had power consumption of over 1000 Kilowatts.

6 years, 8 months ago

It's not electric source power consumption that's relevant here - it's EMR - electromagnetic radiation.
The emission of radiation in the form of waves or particles - depending on which theory you accept.
The information content or format conveyed is also irrelevant.
But frequency is very important - as the energy absorbed by the receiver - in this case your body - is proportional to the rate that electrons vibrate within tissue.
The original listener in Adelaide should have no concerns about her DAB receiver - or indeed the transmitter a long way away on picturesque Mount Lofty - but if she wants to worry about radio waves - she should be very concerned about the high level of microwave energy being absorbed by her brain, her bloodstream and her genital functions by the continual use of a mobile phone.
But - I would say that - wouldn't I?

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