Effects of Electromagnetic Waves on Health


Today, many types of electronic products are used in the home. It is reasonable to be concerned that the use of such electronic products may have an impact on health. This is because improper use of electronic products can cause adverse health effects. When operating all kinds of electronic products that use electricity, an electromagnetic field is formed around them. In particular, high-frequency electromagnetic waves are generated in wireless communication devices. Electromagnetic fields and radio frequency electromagnetic waves are inevitable in modern society, but care must be taken to avoid exposure as much as possible.

Sources of electromagnetic waves

An electric field is formed around a place where a voltage is applied, and a magnetic field is formed around a place where a current flows. This electromagnetic field is generated around all products that use electricity in the home. In addition, wireless devices such as wireless telephones, mobile phones, and radios use electromagnetic waves with a higher frequency than electromagnetic waves generated in the vicinity of voltage or current.

These electromagnetic waves are listed in order from low to high. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) used in hospitals, high-voltage wires or substations, computers used in the workplace or at home, and various home appliances emit extremely low-frequency electromagnetic waves. Intermediate-frequency electromagnetic waves are emitted from the induction oven and microwave. In addition, high-frequency electromagnetic waves are emitted from wireless broadcasting and communication devices such as radio, TV, wireless Internet, wireless telephone, and mobile phone. The higher the frequency, the higher the energy. This means that the higher the frequency, the more energy can be transmitted when exposed to a living body.

1) Ionizing Radiation

It is generally called radiation and has the property of causing ionization directly or indirectly by acting on a substance. Ionization is a phenomenon in which, when radiation passes through a substance, orbital electrons of atoms constituting the substance are thrown out. Radiation belonging to this category includes electromagnetic radiation (X-rays consisting of electromagnetic waves or photons, Ξ³-rays) and particle beams (Ξ±-rays, Ξ²-rays, electron beams, neutron beams, quantum beams, etc.), which are high-speed particles. There is this. X-rays with a frequency of about 1012 Hz can penetrate the body, damaging vital molecules such as DNA, damaging the intestines and tissues, and this process is called ‘ionization’.

2) Non-ionizing Radiation

It is ionization that ionizes substances directly or indirectly when radiation passes through them, but ultraviolet rays, visible rays, and infrared rays cannot be said to have no ionizing ability, but they are called non-ionizing radiation because they are relatively weak. Of these non-ionizing radiation, microwaves of millions of Hz can cause thermal effects on body tissues, and power frequency electromagnetic fields of 50 to 60 kHz have very little energy, so they do not cause ionizing effects and usually have little thermal effect. none. However, it can cause a very weak current to flow through the body. For reference, the frequency of the mobile phone is 800 to 900 MHz or 1,800 to 1,900 MHz depending on the type, and the computer has 15 to 30 kHz or 50 to 90 kHz.

Health effects and related diseases

Electromagnetic waves have higher energy at higher frequencies. The more exposed to high-frequency electromagnetic waves, the more energy is transferred to heat, so that the temperature of living tissue can rise. It is known that electromagnetic energy is not high enough to directly modify or destroy molecular structures such as proteins or genes in living tissue. However, when exposed with other harmful substances, it is not only said that it has the effect of transferring heat, but a possibility has been raised that it can serve to modify the structure or function of a gene or protein.

Epidemiological studies have shown that children living near high voltage lines (extreme low-frequency electromagnetic waves) have a higher risk of leukemia than children in other control areas. Studies have shown that high frequency electromagnetic waves increase the risk of brain tumors when exposure occurs in direct contact with parts of the body, such as mobile phones. However, the WHO announced that it has not found any evidence that cell phones increase the risk of brain tumors in adults. No clear health effects were found in exposure environments that are not in direct contact with the body, such as radio base stations or broadcasting towers. The International Center for Cancer Research (IARC) is focusing on the results of increasing the risk of leukemia in children, and defines ultra-low and high-frequency electromagnetic waves as substances that can cause cancer in humans (Group 2B). In particular, it is recommended to reduce exposure as much as possible in children.

Some people are too sensitive to exposure to electromagnetic waves, complaining of various types of physical symptoms. It is known that this is mainly related to people’s subjective attitude toward electromagnetic waves, and it has not been proven to be related to electromagnetic radiation exposure. These wired and wireless electromagnetic waves, especially in patients using artificial organs or implanted electric devices, may interfere with the function of the device because the electromagnetic waves operating in the device may be interfered with.

In addition, there are reports that teenagers who frequently use the Internet or mobile phones are feeling more depressed or have less academic efficiency. This may be a phenomenon caused by lack of sleep or the influence of the Internet, so it is hardly regarded as a health effect due to exposure to electromagnetic waves. However, it cannot be denied that it is a type of health effect caused by the use of electronic communication devices.

Prevention and management

The basic management principle is to reduce unnecessary electromagnetic exposure. When not using electronic products, it is good to unplug the electric cord. This is because an electric field is formed when electricity is plugged in even if no electric current flows. When using, there are things that do not get too close (at least 30 cm away). In particular, for children and adolescents who may be more sensitive to environmental exposure, it is necessary to be more careful to reduce exposure. In addition, companies need to develop electronic products and communication devices with lower levels of electromagnetic waves, and the government needs to enforce policies that drive technological development in this direction.

Frequently Asked Questions

1) Can I get cancer if I live around high voltage cables?

Adults living near high-voltage wires have not been found to have a significantly increased risk of cancer, but there are reports of increased risk of leukemia in children. The International Cancer Research Institute (IARC) classifies electromagnetic waves as a substance that can cause cancer in humans (Group 2B) as a result of research that may increase the risk of childhood leukemia.

2) Can I get cancer if I live close to the cell phone base station?

High-frequency electromagnetic waves for communication are emitted from cell phone base stations. There are reports that the risk of developing brain tumors increases when using a mobile phone for a long time, but WHO has analyzed that related studies have revealed that there is no evidence that the use of mobile phones causes health disorders such as brain tumors. However, since mobile phones have been popularized for only 20 years, it is necessary to further study the long-term health effects. Other environmental exposures (such as living around the base station) have not been linked to the risk of brain tumors or other cancers.

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