It often feels like science and new technology can outpace health and wellness, particularly when there is money to be made. In some cases, this worry is well-founded while, in other cases, that worry dips into pseudoscience and false information.

Today, we are going to take a look at EMFs in order to understand their potential dangers, while also learning some common misinformation surrounding them. By the end, you’ll be able to tell if EMFs are dangerous, plus know which devices emit them.

Let’s get started!

What is an EMF?

An EMF stands for electric and magnetic fields. An electric and magnetic field is simply a region (or field) that is affected by the movement of electricity, or the presence of magnetism. These fields surround anything that uses or creates electricity and are totally invisible to the naked eye.

Oftentimes, these fields are referred to as “radiation,” although the word can be a bit misleading. When people usually think of radiation, they think of dangerous nuclear radiation from a power plant or bomb. In the world of physics, however, radiation generally just means energy. With that in mind, you can actually consider your body heat to be ‘thermal’ radiation!

In the case of EMFs, radiation is simply the energy associated with the electric and magnetic fields. This radiation is often abbreviated as EMR, or electromagnetic radiation.

Electromagnetic radiation is extremely common and is created by any particle with an accelerated charge. Generally, the “strength” of the radiation is related to the strength of the field. Electric fields are measured in Volts/meter (V/m), while magnetic fields are measured in microteslas (µT).

What Sort of Things Emit EMFs?

Now that we understand what an EMF is, we can look at the sorts of things that create them. To recap, an EMF is a field of energy created by any particles with acceleration and charge.

What sorts of particles out there have acceleration and charge? The most common examples are photons and electrons. Photons are the particles that make light, while electrons are the particles that make electricity. This essentially means that all light and electricity are a form of EMF.

Knowing that, let’s go over a few things that emit an EMF in the form of EMR (radiation):

  • Cell phones (electric batteries)
  • Visible light from the sun
  • Microwave ovens
  • Cars and car batteries
  • Computers
  • Cell-phone towers
  • Radio towers
  • Wi-Fi signals (like those in a home)
  • Bluetooth devices
  • MRI machines
  • X-Ray machines

As you can see, nearly every aspect of our life has an element that involves EMF or its associated radiation. With so much EMF exposure, is there anything to be worried about?

Electromagnetic spectrum
The electromagnetic spectrum is very wide, and most of these things we come into contact with every day (completely safely)!

Are EMFs Dangerous?

Like most things, there isn’t a clear ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer to this question.

In the same way that it’s not useful to say that heat is always dangerous, it’s not useful to say that EMFs are always dangerous. In some contexts, heat is good (when it’s cold out, when you need to melt something, or when you are cooking, for example), while in other contexts, it’s bad (when something catches fire that isn’t supposed to or you accidentally touch an oven). This applies to EMFs too: some EMFs can be good while others can be dangerous if used incorrectly.

The most dangerous forms of EMFs are those that emit ionizing radiation and those that operate at extremely high energies. Ionizing radiation and high levels of energy can knock electrons out of an atom’s orbit or cause physical damage. Examples of ionizing radiation include certain frequencies from sunlight and X-rays. Too much exposure to either of these can cause damage over time. That’s why we wear sunscreen outside and lead vests while getting X-rays at the doctor!

Other forms of EMF aren’t dangerous, especially those that operate at low frequencies. Low-frequency EMFs include Wi-Fi routers, cell phones, radio waves, and most visible light. These are all EMFs, just not the dangerous kind.

Current Research Into ELFs

There has been a lot of talk about ELFs, otherwise known as “extremely low-frequency fields.” Examples of ELFs include:

  • Shavers
  • Hair dryers
  • Electric blankets
  • Most power lines

…and many more examples that aren’t listed.

This range includes non-ionizing radiation between 1 Hz to 300 Hz and is present all around us.

Some worry about this type of EMF has been vocalized, but multiple studies have shown any danger to be inconclusive. Generally, it’s best to avoid extremely high levels of ELF, but it isn’t something that the average person needs to be worried about.

The strongest ELFs, for example, are found in the electric motors of EVs, although they are only 20% of the recommended upper limit for ELF exposure (and that’s only if you placed your head next to them).

Overall, most EMFs are completely safe to be around, and there is no need to worry!

Up Next

What Emits Electric & Magnetic Fields (EMFs)? FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions) 

What does EMF stand for?

EMF stands for electric and magnetic fields.

What is EMR?

EMR stands for electromagnetic radiation and is a charged particle of an electromagnetic field.

What is an example of EMR?

The most common example of electromagnetic radiation is visible light.

What sorts of things emit EMFs?

Anything that uses electricity or is magnetic will have an EMF, including cell phones, microwaves, and power lines.

Are EMFs dangerous?

The majority of EMFs aren’t dangerous, although ionizing radiation like the sun or X-rays can cause damage over time.

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