Electromagnetic waves – The What and How

Off late, I have been observing that a lot is being said in the media about radiation, cancer and EMF. Many articles are published blaming cell towers for causing hazardous effects on health. Most of them lack concrete scientific proof and are propagated by a few interested parties to spread fear among the public.

Starting with this post, I shall publish a series of What and How, in order to bring more clarity. It is my aim to help you make sense of all those reports and distinguish between the facts and farce.




Electromagnetic Waves:

Energy is radiated in waves and together they are known as the electromagnetic spectrum. For scientists in the early human history, the only known component of the electromagnetic spectrum was light. But in the year 1800, William Herschel discovered infrared light. It was an accidental discovery. He was in fact studying the temperature of different colors by moving a thermometer through light split by a prism and noticed that the highest temperature was beyond red. The year after that, Johann Ritter noticed similar behavior on the other side of the spectrum which was then named ultraviolet radiation.

As our knowledge and understanding of electromagnetic fields grew, we found that they are present everywhere in our environment but are invisible to the human eye. Even in nature, electromagnetic waves are found in the atmosphere during thunderstorms. We all know that the compass needle works thanks to the electromagnetic field of the earth.

The difference lies in the strength of energy emitted from these electromagnetic waves. Some electromagnetic waves have so much heat and energy within them that they can cause changes in the composition of molecules. Within the electromagnetic spectrum, gamma rays given off by radioactive materials, cosmic rays and X-rays are the waves that are powerful enough to do so and are called ‘ionizing radiation’. Electromagnetic waves that have insufficient energy an heat to break molecular bonds are known as ‘non-ionizing radiation’. This includes most things created by man in a bid for industrialization and modernization – electricity, microwaves. Everyday objects like electrical power supplies and appliances are the most common sources of low frequency electric and magnetic fields. In our everyday living environment – telecommunications, broadcasting antennas and microwave ovens give out radio-frequency electromagnetic fields which are also non-ionising waves and are therefore harmless.

In this regard, the sun is more harmful that the appliances or even the mobile phones we use at home!

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