From our post yesterday, recall that electromagnetic waves have both electric and magnetic fields, perpendicular to each other, that travel through space in an invisible wave-like pattern at the speed of light.
All forms of electromagnetic energy are collectively known as the electromagnetic spectrum.
The EM spectrum categorizes types of energy based on frequency, wavelength, and energy.
- Frequency is measured in cycles per second (hertz). One thousand hertz is referred to as a kilohertz (KHz), 1 million hertz as a megahertz (MHz), and 1 billion hertz as a gigahertz (GHz).
- Wavelength is measured in meters, and it describes the distance between peaks of a wave. Radio waves range in length from very big, like the size of a tall building, to small, like the size of a football.
- Energy is measured in electron volts, or sometimes units called Joules or kilocalories. It is directly proportional to frequency.
RF waves correspond to the part of the electromagnetic spectrum where electromagnetic waves have frequencies in the range of about 3 kilohertz (3 kHz) to 300 gigahertz (300 GHz).
This is the frequency range in which radio is broadcast, which gives us the common name for this range. RF have low frequencies and long wavelengths, as opposed to something like an x-ray or gamma ray that have high frequencies and shorter wavelength. RF waves also have lower total energy than x-rays or gamma rays.
Microwaves (MW) range from about 1 GHz to 30 GHz. RF and MW radiation are usually treated together, because they have similar characteristics.
RF waves are emitted by celestial bodies like planets and clusters of gases, as well as by Earthly electronic devices.
The most common use for RF energy is in telecommunications. The RF waves emanating from an antenna are generated by the movement of electrical charges in the antenna. Radio and TV broadcasting, cell phones, radio communications for emergency services, and satellite communications are some of the many telecommunications applications that use RF energy.
So what does all this mean for human health?
The short answer is that it depends on your source.
Science has undoubtedly established that the higher the frequency, the greater the risk to human health. Some consider RF radiation to be high frequency, while others brush it off as too low a frequency to pose any danger.
Research is still mixed on what threats cell phones, cordless phones, mobile antennas, broadcast towers, electrical security systems pose to people, although it is well known that the closely related microwaves can cause harm from disruption in sleep cycles to changes in DNA.
Here are some considerations:
- Radiation does not equal radioactivity. Radiation waves are generally invisible, have no weight or odor, and have no positive or negative charge. Radioactive particles, on the other hand, are also invisible, but they have weight and may have a positive or negative charge. Some radiation waves can be seen and felt (such as light or heat), while others (like x-rays) can only be detected with special instrumentation.
- Radio and TV signals, microwaves, and laser light are said to be nonionizing types of radiation. The energy levels associated with RF and microwave radiation are not great enough to cause the ionization of atoms and molecules.
To better understand the potential health effects, it is important to understand the difference between ionizing and nonionizing radiation:
Ionizing radiation has a lot of energy that can cause changes in atoms. X-rays, gamma rays, alpha particles, and beta particles are ionizing radiation.
Ionization is a process by which electrons are stripped from or added to atoms and molecules. This process can produce molecular changes that can lead to damage in biological tissue, including effects on DNA, the genetic material of living organisms. X-radiation and gamma radiation are a few types of EM radiation with enough energy to ionize biological material. Therefore, X-rays and gamma rays are examples of ionizing radiation.
Nonionizing radiation has far less energy than ionizing radiation. Many scientists standardly classify and accept radio and TV signals, microwaves, and laser light as nonionizing types of radiation and therefore conclude they have little effect on human health.
That said, "the WHO/International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) has classified radiofrequency electromagnetic fields as possibly carcinogenic to humans, based on an increased risk for glioma, a malignant type of brain cancer, associated with wireless phone use" (source)...which is certainly anything but harmless.
More research is warranted, and we will soon conduct a series of experiments to measure the effects of RF waves for ourselves.
It is definitely worth noting that while all RFs are EMFs, not all EMFs are RFs.Higher energy waves are not conducive to supporting full thrival and are actually detrimental to health. In upcoming posts, we will go further into this topic.
We hope we have empowered you with a little more knowledge about RF energy and how it works so you can make wise choices to protect your health! We also hope that you are inspired to do more research for yourself.
For additional resources on this topic, please check out some of these links and the ones above: