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Last Updated on October 3, 2023
From watching the news, you have probably heard the controversial back-and-forth about if low-energy Electromagnetic Radiation (EMR), or Electromagnetic Field (EMF) radiation, can damage cells and cause adverse health effects.
Usually, when we hear the word “radiation”, positive images don’t pop up in our minds. Nuclear power plant explosions or giant mushroom clouds, however, are specific types of radiation that everyone can agree are harmful and dangerous.
Different types of radiation exposure can cause different levels of harm in the body. It can cause cancer. It can deform babies. It can make men sterile.
While the danger of radiation overexposure is real, your fears may make be making radiation seem much scarier than it is in reality. Radiation is everywhere and in everything that gives off energy. This includes the Earth!
So what does that mean to you?
Understanding exactly what radiation is can help you deal with its unavoidable appearance in modern life, as well as help you lessen the risks of unwanted long-term exposure.
What is Electromagnetic Radiation?
Simply defined, radiation is a process by which energy particles or waves travel though space. Energy is radiation. While radiation is a word many people fear, in fact, radiation is essential to life. It is what powers the sun as well as what the sun gives off. It’s what lets us turn on the lights at night. It is the light.
Radiant Energy is made up of small packets, called photons. Photons can do neat things like travel alone or move around together in synchrony. When photons move together, they can do so in waves for power in numbers.
The higher the energy of these photons, the more dangerous they become. Radiation is comprised of traveling photons, of different energy levels.
These energy frequencies, all categorized on the electromagnetic spectrum, behave differently, with different effects on the environment around it.
It produces waves with three main properties of interest: energy (E), wavelength (λ), and frequency (f). Energy is how much “juice” it carries. Wavelength describes the distance over which the wave shape repeats, and this repetition is the frequency.
As you can probably guess, there is a relationship between these properties. The energy of a wave actually is directly proportional to the frequency and inversely proportional to wavelength. That means when energy increases the frequency increases and wavelength decreases.
To visualize these different spans of waves, scientists came up with the Electromagnetic Spectrum.
Pretty much all energy falls somewhere on this Electromagnetic Spectrum.
To give you some perspective, visible energy or the light energy we see with our eyeballs lands in the middle of the spectrum. Visible light energy is generally not harmful. It’s considered a safe zone.
To the right of this, you have high energy radiation which is obviously bad for you. Ultraviolet light is famous for wrinkling skin and causing melanoma. Even further out, X-rays or Gamma rays are capable of annihilating atomic structure.
So you may ask yourself, what about lower energy waves? In the video below, learn the difference between low energy, non-ionizing radiation vs higher energy, ionizing radiation.
Watch: Non-Ionizing vs. Ionizing Radiation
Non-Ionizing EMF Radiation
Electromagnetic Radiation is commonly referred to as EMF radiation, or EMR, and is what we call the lower-energy radiation that enables electricity to function. This resulting current can cause action to happen, such as computer microprocessors communicating. Scientists have been able to harvest this energy to make awesome tools for mankind like computers and the Internet.
In the modern age, it is what surrounds us when we turn on our TVs, cell phones, tablets and laptops. In the words of Neo from the Matrix, “it is everywhere.”
Despite its omnipresence, a lot of people still are vague on what comprises Electromagnetic Radiation.
How can you avoid exposure if Electromagnetic Radiation is everywhere? We need it to listen to the radio, navigate to a new place, communicate with people on phones or laptops, power our homes, and even blow dry our hair! Anything that needs a plug or battery is emitting some EMF energy.
As with anything, a little bit of radiation may be good for you, but too much radiation creates poison.
Computers and laptops give off low energy Electromagnetic Radiation, such as Radio Frequency (RF) and Extremely Low Frequency (ELF) radiation.
When you expose yourself to these forms of low-level energy radiation should you be worried? They are, after all, on the left side of the spectrum and visible light is safe. Unfortunately, even at the low end of the spectrum, radiation can be dangerous, and in some ways, even more dangerous. The reason being, you don’t necessarily see danger right away when the changes it cause take time.
For example: if you shine a high energy laser beam on a penny, it will melt right away. However, if you shine a low energy beam on a stone, nothing might happen for a really long time. Overtime though, you could potentially carve a gigantic hole in the stone. The Grand Canyon was carved by a trickle of water over centuries!
You may immediately notice the damage of high level of energy radiation, but lower level energy radiation can have just as serious side effects.
It was thought by the scientific community for a long time that the only way lower level energy radiation can cause harm is by the energy having a thermal effect on our bodies; basically, with high power levels this low-energy radiation can heat up our cells and tissues, and cause heat damage. It wasn’t thought that biological effects could be present without a paralleled heating effect.
However, new research has established that biological effects on cells do exist, regardless of any heating effects!
This shows that it is possible for lower-energy radiation, like that coming from cell phones and laptops, to affect our bodies. This level of Radio Frequency and Extremely Low Frequency radiation exposure has already been linked to a variety of health conditions, including: fertility problems, burn injuries, as well as cancer and neurological disease.
While it doesn’t have quite the health effects of atomic warfare, small effects in cells can interfere with cell communication, the transport of hormones and neurotransmitters, and can eventually cause shifts of entire processes in your body. It can become a serious problem with chronic exposure, but it is something that is easy to mitigate in your daily living, even as the world becomes more and more hyper-connected.
What You Can Do to Lower Your Exposure
More and more research is being conducted and published each day, and in the meantime, you can avoid unnecessary exposure to Electromagnetic Radiation.
Protect yourself from things you can control such as keeping electronic devices like laptops, tablets, and cell phones at least one foot away from your body. Turn them off, or put them in Airplane Mode as often as you can.
Learn more about Electromagnetic Radiation and how exposure can affect your health, and If need be, consider using protective EMF shielding when you use mobile devices.
Watch: How to Protect from EMFs