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​​​​Biological Impacts of

Electromagnetic Fields



      Radio waves, microwaves, infrared, visible & ultraviolet light waves and x-rays are all types of electromagnetic energy and they all travel at the speed of light.  They are differentiated by their frequency or number of waves per second while their wavelength, the distance from one crest of a wave to the next, is inversely proportional to a wave's frequency.  Some uses for radio & microwaves are listed. [302]  The interaction of various wavelengths or frequencies with matter varies accordingly.



      Spectroscopy is the study of the interaction of electromagnetic radiation with matter involving either absorption, emission, or scattering of radiation by the system under study. [303]  This mainly applies to the interaction of molecular-scale objects with radiation of ionizing frequency, that is, any radiation of such short wavelength that its interaction with matter is able to knock electrons off of molecules.  Such could lead to chemical changes in the material under study.  The ultraviolet range and shorter wavelengths like x-rays are considered ionizing radiation while non-ionizing radiation includes wavelengths of visible light, infrared and longer microwave and radiofrequency waves that are of insufficient vibrational energy to be able to rip electrons out from their orbits.  Such waves can bounce electrons about their nuclei while the waves themselves can be

reflected, refracted and/or absorbed by the targeted material medium.

Interaction between different wavelengths with matter [305]

​​      One observation about the interaction between electromagnetic radiation of any frequency - from DC to light and beyond - is that its interaction with matter is most readily apparent when the size of the object is close to the wavelength of the radiation.  AM broadcasting installations are physically large of necessity as their wavelengths are in the order of hundreds of meters.  Such long wavelengths do not have the same effect on living things as wavelengths that are closer to the size of the organisms, organ structures within their bodies.  AM reception is difficult under bridges and inside parking garages because their waves are too big to fit under the bridge or roof.

      The actual radiating and receiving elements of FM, TV or radar stations can be progressively and correspondingly smaller - even if the size of their overall installations are physically large whether to provide height or to direct or focus the radiation to where it

is needed.  It is significant to note that "Researchers consider the “standard man” to be 1.75 meters tall, about 5 foot 9 inches. That makes him resonant at about 86 MHz. So the average adult makes a perfect antenna for Channel 6 [analog] television! [just below the FM radio band]" [306]  Our attention will be on wavelengths longer than those of visible or infrared energy and their interaction with living tissues.

"The exponential increase of the industrial use of electrical power and the communication technologies place the biosphere and mankind in conditions dramatically different than in the middle of the twentieth century.  [...] EMF are characterized with their continuous and comprehensive action through the entire living activity of any organism (Chizevskii, 1976; Kholodov, 1976; Pressman, 1968; Serduk, 1977)." [307]

     Electromagnetic Radiation ranges in frequency from way below that of AC or alternating current, 60 hertz or cycles per second, through the radio wave and microwave

spectrum, up through infrared, visible light, ultraviolet, X-rays and gamma rays.  Shorter wavelengths like ultraviolet, X-ray and gamma rays are called wave ionizing forms of radiation because of their much higher energy.  They can cause electrons to be knocked off of molecules they encounter but should not be confused with Alpha and Beta particles from nuclear isotopes.  Such particles are examples of particulate ionizing forms of radiation. (Further explanation and color charts here) [308]​​​ 

     Non-ionizing radiation encompasses all emissions of visible light and those of longer wavelength such as infrared and radio waves.  Such waves are of lower energy insufficient to knock electrons off the molecules on skin from exposure to visible light waves or the electrons of molecules below the surface in the case of the longer wavelengths of infrared, microwaves, radio waves or power line frequencies.

     Non-ionizing EMFs of a level or intensity sufficient to cause measurable heating of tissues are considered thermal radiation.  The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) which regulates the radio and microwave portions of the electromagnetic spectrum, considers radio-frequency radiation under its purview to be harmless to life if it does not cause heating in living tissues.  Such a conclusion is based on decades of research in which rats, mice and hamsters were exposed to gross amounts of RF power levels at various frequencies, 1 to 4 Ghz, in particular, in pulsed or continuous modes for varying durations within varying stages of development to determine if testes, hearts, brains or other organs were harmed and to what extent.  Much had been

learned of Radio Frequency Radiation's effects on life, including its carcinogenicity in thermal levels.  A relationship was established between wavelength and object size

determining the severity of its effects at comparable power levels (resonance) on living tissues, a 1980s compilation of studies up to that time concluded -


"...the state of the art does not permit one to assume

 that exposure to low-level RF radiation produces a significant effect

 on nervous system morphology, the blood brain barrier,

CNS-active drugs, or neurotransmitters.

Reports of long-term, low-level exposure on the developing and adult

nervous system are conspicuously absent from the

Western European and the U.S. literature.

Higher-level, acute exposure may alter nervous system structure and function, but the effects may not be
specific to the nervous system and could be the
consequence of body heating." [309]


     In 2015 the European Commission's Scientific Committee on Emerging and Newly Identified Health Risks (SCENIHR) issued its final opinion on Potential health effects of exposure to electromagnetic fields (EMF). [310]  The SCENIHR opined that current scientific research shows no evident adverse health effects if exposure remains below the levels recommended by EU legislation and that overall, the epidemiological studies on radiofrequency EMF exposure show no increased risk of brain tumours or for other cancers of the head and neck region.  They found that while previous studies suggested EMF was associated with increased risk of Alzheimer’s disease, new studies did not confirm this link.  Also, while epidemiological studies associate exposure to Extremely Low Frequency (ELF) fields, from long-term living in close proximity to power lines to a higher rate of childhood leukemia, no mechanisms had been identified nor support from experimental studies to explain those findings, which, together with shortcomings of the epidemiological studies prevent a causal interpretation. [310a]

     But unlike light waves, radio waves, including microwaves to a lesser extent, can travel through bodies and buildings.  (see illustration) [311]  As with chemical substances in solid, liquid or gaseous form, RFR, or radio frequency radiation, aka EMFs, or electromagnetic fields, affect plant and animal tissues.  In 2003 the IARC classified the magnetic fields from overhead electric power lines as possibly carcinogenic. [312]  and in 2011 the World Health Organization (WHO) designated wireless RF emissions a Class 2B possible human carcinogen. [313] 

Thermal levels of Non-Ionizing Radiation

      Besides telecommunications, radio and microwave frequency energy are used in microwave ovens; MRIs [314]; therapeutically in medical diathermy machines and, more recently, with COOLIEF Cooled radiofrequency (RF) neurotomy treatments for pain. [314a]       Microwaves are not the only frequencies used for deliberate heating.  Industrially,

27.12 Mhz is used because lower frequencies can penetrate farther, permitting processing of larger bulk amounts.  Until recently, fumigation of rice with methyl bromide (MeBr) to control rice weevil and other stored-grain insects had been used, but this chemical has

environmental and health effects.  Phosphine gas is also used but many of the pests have become resistant.  Radio frequency (RF) heat treatment can effectively and quickly control the pests, while using less energy than convection heating alone.  Moreover, RF heat treatment avoids the surface overheating of traditional surface heating methods.  [315]

RF heating improves the keeping quality of rice and other grains [315b,315c] by

killing insects. [315d] 




302   https://www.fda.gov/Radiation-EmittingProducts/RadiationEmittingProductsandProcedures/HomeBusinessandEntertainment/CellPhones/ucm116338.htm

303   Interaction of Radiation with Matter, Ignacio Pérez-Juste and Olalla Nieto Faza


305   http://hyperphysics.phy-astr.gsu.edu/hbase/mod3.html

306   http://www.rfsafetysolutions.com/RF%20Radiation%20Pages/Biological_Effects.html

307   Protect children from EMF,  M. Markov, of Research International, Williamsville, NY, USA

         and Y. Grigoriev, of Russian National Committee for Protection from Nonionizing

         Radiation, Russia, in Electromagnetic Biology and Medicine, 7 October 2015


308   http://physics.tutorvista.com/waves/types-of-radiation.html

309   Biological Effects of Radiofrequency Radiation, Edited by Joe A. Elder and Daniel F. Cahill,

          Health Effects Research Laboratory, Office of Research and Development,

          U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Research Triangle Park, North Carolina  27711,

          EPA-600/8-83-026F, September 1984, pp 5-51 - 5-52 


310   SCENIHR - Final opinion on potential health effects of exposure to electromagnetic
          fields (EMF)
, European Commission - Scientific Committee on Emerging and Newly

          Identified Health Risks, 27 January 2015

310a http://ec.europa.eu/health/scientific_committees/consultations/public_consultations/


311   http://bemri.org/3-home/81-microwaves-vs-visible-light.html

313   http://www.iarc.fr/en/media-centre/pr/2011/pdfs/pr208_E.pdf
314   https://www.fcc.gov/engineering-technology/electromagnetic-compatibility-division/radio-frequency-safety/faq/rf-safety#Q3

314a http://www.mycoolief.com/information-about-procedure.aspx

315   Industrial-scale radio frequency treatments to control Sitophilus oryzae in rough, brown, and

          milled rice; Liyang Zhou, Shaojin Wang;  Journal of Stored Products Research, 18 March 2016 


315a Radio Frequency Heat Treatment for Controlling Rice Weevil in Rough Rice cv. Khao Dawk

          Mali 105 [Jasmine]; Wornwimol Wangspa, Yaowaluk Chanbang and Suchada Vearasilp;

          Chiang Mai University Journal;  Nat. Sci. (2015) Vol. 14(2) 189


315b Effects of Radio Frequency Heat Treatment on the Postharvest Quality of Rice; Sa-nguansak Thanapornpoonpong, et al.  (22 slides)


315c Aging Milled Rice by Radio Frequency Heat Treatment; Suchada Vearasilpa, Kultida

          Chaisathidvanicha, Sa-nguansak Thanapornpoonpongb, Dieter von Hörstenc and Wolfgang

          Lücke; Tropentag 2011, University of Bonn, October 5 - 7, 2011 Conference on International

          Research on Food Security, Natural Resource Management and Rural Development


315d Developing radio frequency technology for postharvest insect control in milled rice

          Liyang Zhou, Bo Ling, Ajuan Zheng, Bo Zhang, Shaojin Wang; Journal of Stored Products

          Research, 23 March 2015, pp 22-31