Haha @HoosierLawnGnome - the Baofeng did me in as well!
I can hit repeaters 10miles away on a simple hand held radio (ht) that runs 5watts. You can check out repeaterbook.com to see what’s close to you. I typically only use 10w on my main rig and hit all of my local repeaters within 10/20 miles easily. I’ve done this with an antenna in the house (a mag mount on a pizza pan) and with my, now external, antenna. I don’t have an antenna in the attic, but it is just as close being on the peak of my roof. The RF exposure you may be worried about is driven by wattage and duration of time you’re actually talking. There are lots of articles on that. You can check out the ARRL website for good info.
As far as HF, FWIW from a relatively new ham, I got bored listening to people talk on the local repeaters and didn’t have anyone to talk simplex with (radio to radio), so I quickly moved towards HF. 2M and 70cm are great, but HF is a lot more fun IMO. I live near a small regional airport that’s extremely busy and haven’t had much issue with it creating noise. It was cool to recently hear The President roll into the airport on his recent visit on the Air band.
Keeping it REEL in the ATL: Yes Honey, I need to mow again.