In layman’s terms electromagnetic radiation is light that travels by oscillating in waves at a constant speed carrying energy.
We often hear about electromagnetic waves; they are all over the place nowadays. Wi-Fi signals moving through the air, mobiles communicating using these waves – these are just two of many examples.
Electromagnetic radiation is vital for our current standard of living. But do we understand what these waves actually are? In layman’s terms, light travels by oscillating in waves at a constant speed carrying energy – interactions with objects vary depending on the energy these waves carry.
The Electromagnetic Spectrum
Electromagnetic radiation (EMR) comprises radio frequencies, microwaves, infrared, light, UV, X-rays, and gamma rays. Human beings cannot “see” or perceive the whole spectrum of electromagnetic (ELM) waves, but they have an essential role in our lives.
From larger to shorter wavelength, the spatial period of the EMR wave, these are the main properties of the ELM spectrum:
- Radio waves: the “larger” waves of the range carry less energy. Their size makes them adequate for long-distance communication in the atmosphere.
- Microwaves: these waves are suitable for line-of-sight communication and heating water, and food, in our microwave ovens.
- Infrared (IR): is the zone of the ELM spectrum corresponding to living beings’ heat radiation. Applications range from thermal vision to weather forecasting.
- (Visible) light: corresponds to the “light” we can see, from red to violet, each of the colors being one wavelength of light.
- Ultraviolet (UV): this part of the ELM spectrum is visible to some species. However, the atmosphere fades most of the UV waves emitted by the Sun, some filters to the surface.
- X-rays: This is very energetic radiation that can pass through soft tissue in our bodies. The most popular application is in the field of medical radiography.
- Gamma rays: the most powerful waves of the EMR come from radioactive decay. Gamma rays are hazardous for living beings.
Is EMR Dangerous?
The short answer is mostly no. Only a narrow range of waves can produce damage to our bodies. Fortunately, the most hazardous wavelengths, namely X-rays and Gamma rays, are not present in typical situations. There is only UV radiation to take care of, which we can do by limiting exposure to sunlight, using sunscreen cream, and so on.
The rest of the EMR range has from little to zero risk for us in any ordinary circumstances. Radio, microwaves, and infrared cannot penetrate our skin, so these waves do not have any effect on our internal tissues. Moreover, tech manufacturers take precautions to stay in the safest zone possible:
- Mobile phones operate using radiation energy way below the levels established as “safe” by law (1.6 watts per kilogram),
- 5G networks will reduce the amount of radiation around us and the energy required to connect.
Wireless devices at home operate in microwave frequencies. This radiation bounces off our skin and has zero penetration; thus, it poses no threat to us. Many people wrongly believe mobiles can produce illnesses due to continuous exposure. The radiation levels are too low to have adverse effects on human beings at all. Otherwise, these devices would not have become so ubiquitous in recent years.
Having our wireless installations checked or updated from time to time helps to prevent malfunctioning. Qualified technicians may recommend how to proceed for each case. In most cases, service providers have their protocols to avoid breakdown and to fix any issues quickly. Although safety measures are enforced by law, it can be helpful to double-check.
To be sure about radiating energy in our surroundings, we can use devices designed for radiation detection. Installations and old transmitters could be operating below the current standards. These devices are user-friendly, enabling the user to check radio frequencies and other radiation types in a matter of seconds. They are also easy to carry and operate.