What is EMR? (Electromagnetic Radiation)
Our bodies are bio-electromagnetic beings. And the earth carries its own unique electromagnetic field. From the beginning of time, all of life on earth has evolved to exist within a natural electromagnetic environment. It was only during the comparatively recent 20th century that man created electricity, thereby introducing an artificial electromagnetic field into our otherwise natural environment. And from the warm glow illuminated from the very first lightbulb, this unexpected by-product of modern electricity kicked off a rapid expansion of man-made electromagnetic fields never-before seen in the history of the earth.
Today, we are witnessing an exponential growth in wireless technology, with 5G wireless and the Internet of Things poised to launch omnipresent, worldwide radiofrequency radiation, further contributing to the earth’s soup of “electromagnetic pollution.”
Take a moment to familiarize yourself with the basic science of electromagnetic fields (EMFs). Your knowledge will help you take precaution with EMFs at home, at work, and in public; employ protective measures with your personal wireless and electrical devices; and learn what you need to safeguard your living environment.
So, what exactly is an EMF?
EMF stands for Electromagnetic Field. All EMFs have an electric field component and a magnetic field component. The study of electromagnetism encompasses how electrically charged particles interact with each other and with magnetic fields. For the purposes of home EMF safety, we will predominantly be talking about man-made EMFs.
EMR stands for Electromagnetic Radiation. This part of the overall EM spectrum includes radio waves, microwaves, X-rays and gamma rays.
The four types of man-made EMFs are:
- AC Electric Fields created by voltage within 60 Hz (50 Hz in Europe) unshielded electrical wiring, plastic AC electrical cords, and electrical devices. The higher the voltage, the higher the electrical field.
- AC Magnetic Fields are present when there is electrical current running through a wire, metal, an appliance or the ground. Common sources include power lines, home appliances, home wiring, wiring errors (i.e. Neutral to Neutral, Neutral to Ground), and electrical current running on metal water pipes or the home’s grounding system.
- Radiofrequency radiation is technically pulse-modulated microwave radiation. RF radiation is emitted from Wi-Fi routers, wireless enabled devices, gaming consoles, cell towers, Bluetooth devices, smart gadgets, smart meters, and more.
- Harmonics (commonly referred to as “dirty electricity”): These are frequencies other than the standard 50 Hz/60 Hz cycle generated by things like solar inverters, dimmer switches, florescent lighting, solar inverters, variable speed motors, new electronic systems with switch mode power supplies (SMPS), and other sources. These higher-frequency electrical fields conduct along the home’s wiring system and radiate into the living environment, causing a great deal of electromagnetic interference (EMI) in the home.
What does EMF stand for?
Here are some common terms when discussing EMFs:
Electrical field: A basic property of a charged particle, most commonly the electron. An electric field creates a force that causes other charges to move. The strength and direction of the forces that would be exerted on a charge within the electrical field is determined by voltage between charges a distance apart. An electrical field is measured in volts per meter (V/m).
Magnetic field: Created by a moving charged particle or current. A time-varying magnetic field creates a force that also causes charges to move. A magnetic field is measured in units called gauss (G) or tesla (T).
Frequency: The number of times per second that either the electrical or the magnetic field completes a full cycle. Measured in cycles-per-second (CPS) or hertz (Hz).
Hertz (Hz): The unit of measurement of frequency. Hertz is the number of cycles or vibrations completed in one second.
Current: Movement of flow of charge, measured in amperes (A).
Alternating Current (AC): An electrical current that reverses direction at a given frequency. AC is associated with an oscillating frequency or vibration. Utility companies provide electricity through AC at 60 Hz in North American (50 Hz in Europe).
Direct Current (DC): Electric current that moves in one direction only, such as current produced by a battery.
Wavelength: The length of one cycle of an electromagnetic wave. High frequencies have shorter wavelengths than low frequencies. Lower frequency (longer wavelength) EM waves penetrate materials better up to light frequencies. Measured in km, m, cm, mm, etc.
Ionizing vs Non-Ionizing Radiation
Ionizing radiation is radiation with enough energy to knock the tightly-bound electrons out of molecular orbit. This in turn causes the atom to become charged or “ionized,” which can alter the way the molecule functions. It is widely accepted that ionizing radiation can cause DNA damage. Examples include gamma rays and x-rays.
Non-ionizing radiation is the term given to radiation in the lower frequency part of the electromagnetic spectrum where there is insufficient energy to cause ionization. Radiofrequency radiation from cell phones, wireless devices, cordless phones, gaming consoles, and other wireless-enabled or “smart” devices all generate non-ionizing radiation. The same can be said of low-frequency EMFs from home appliances and their corresponding power lines. Most EMF safety guidelines do not consider the potential harm from non-ionizing radiation because it is not powerful enough to cause a heating or “thermal” effect. These 20-year-old guidelines, however, are both incorrect and obsolete, as there is significant and mounting evidence pointing to biological damage from non-thermal, non-ionizing EMF sources. This fact makes it prudent to learn how to measure and mitigate your EMF exposure, particularly at home and in your sleep areas.
- Blank, M. Overpowered: What Science Tells Us About The Dangers of Cell Phones and Other WiFi-Age Devices. Seven Stories Press, 2014.
- Johnson, J. How to Create a Healthy Home: A Step-by-Step Guide to Finding and Creating a Low-EMF Home. Jeromy Johnson. 2016.
- Singer, K. An Electronic Silent Spring: Facing the Dangers and Creating Safe Limits. Portal Books, 2014.
- LiveScience. “What is Electromagnetic Radiation?” 2015. https://www.livescience.com/38169-electromagnetism.html