If you’re freaking out about the video that’s going around showing the high levels of radiation from the TraceTogether token, there’s really no need to. The ultraviolet radiation from lightbulbs is more dangerous, and we don’t exactly worry about that now, do we?

The viral video in question showed a person measuring the electromagnetic frequency (EMF) from a TT token with a handheld radio frequency (RF) meter. Although the person used his phone to record, he mentioned he enabled the phone’s aeroplane mode and turned off the phone’s Wi-Fi beforehand to avoid his phone influencing the meter’s reading.

The RF meter’s readings showed that the token’s radiation level peaked at around 4,000 microwatts per square metre when it was near the token. It then registered a peak of up to 10,100 microwatts per square metre when the RF meter was above the token.

The person then implied that such a high reading means having a token near your body could be dangerous to your health. After which, he suggested covering the token with something to bring down the radiation level. The RF meter displayed a peak of 9.87 microwatts per square metre after the person covered the token with a “shielding fabric” in the video.

tracetogether token packaged
Credit: Vivian Balakrishnan / Facebook

The video was uploaded a few days before the government implemented the mandatory use of TT tokens or its app counterpart to enter venues that require SafeEntry check-ins.

However, the Singaporean government posted on their website that the token is safe for everyday use. The government stated in their post that the token uses Bluetooth Low Energy to send and receive data. They also mentioned that the device transmits at a lower power compared to mobile phones and Bluetooth headphones.

The government then assured citizens that the token is well within the country’s regulatory limits for short-range devices.

cellphone max RF reading

Keep in mind that the readings from a cellphone can be much higher than the ones shown in the video, with peak readings of over 50,000 microwatts per square metre and max readings of over 82,000 microwatts per square metre when Bluetooth is turned on. Here is a video that uses a similar meter to measure RF emissions from a phone. If one is worried about the token, they should be even more worried about keeping their phones in their pocket.

See Kye Yak, an associate professor from the Nanyang Technological University, supported the government’s announcement. The professor stated that a wireless Bluetooth device, like the token, has a relatively short transmission range – less than 10 metres. The low transmission range that the token has is the reason behind its significantly lower radiation level than that of a mobile phone, which has a transmission range of up to 100 metres.

electromagnetic spectrum FDA
Credit: American Food and Drug Administration

Furthermore, the US Food and Drug Administration stated that Bluetooth devices and smartphones fall under devices that emit non-ionising radiation or RF. This type of radiation does not have enough energy to break chemical bonds or strip electrons from atoms. Although there is no consistent evidence that such radiation increases cancer risk in humans, items that emit RF tend to cause heating in humans – the only recognised biological effect of RF radiation.

The FDA also mentioned that non-ionising radiation has not been shown to cause any harm to people at or below the RF exposure limits set by the Federal Communications Commission.

Overall, Singaporeans can probably rest assured that the TraceTogether token is still safe to be carried around in pockets close to the body.

Written by John Paul Joaquin