Types of Radiation
There are two divisions of radiation: Ionizing Radiation and Non-Ionizing Radiation. Ionizing radiation is type that is dangerous and can cause damage to our bodies. Non-ionizing radiation is the type of radiation that we use in our everyday life, and it does not do damage to our bodies.There is direct correlation between the frequency (how long the wave length is and how fast the cycle is) of any given type of radiation and whether or not it is dangerous. While we are generally aware that there is potential for non-ionizing radiation (like your microwave) to cause damage to our bodies, most people do not think of non-ionizing radiation as actual ‘radiation’.1
Isn’t All Radiation Dangerous?
Many of the people who believe all radiation is dangerous insist that no matter what wavelength the radiation is, with repeated and constant exposure to it, it will do harm to our bodies. They liken it to cooking meat - you can cook meat for a short time at high temperatures (compare to ionizing radiation that we know is harmful) or a long time at low temperatures (compare to the non-ionizing radiation that is not harmful such as your WiFi router or cell phone). Either way, the meat is still cooked - so why doesn’t the same hold true for our bodies?
This comparison would be logical if it weren’t for the fact that nature gives us higher amounts of radiation at shorter wavelengths than our technological conveniences subject us to. One of the biggest sources of radiation exposure in our everyday lives is the earth itself. Uranium is present in the ground everywhere; as uranium decays, it releases radon - a colorless, odorless gas. Uranium is present in large quantities in the western United States, including Arizona, Colorado, Nebraska, New Mexico, Texas, Utah, and Wyoming, but it can be found anywhere.2 On average, a person living in the US is subjected to about 360 millirem of total radiation per year.3 A millirem (or 1,000 rem) is a unit of measurement in regards to radiation. To put this in perspective, a standard x-ray - the kind you’d get at the dentist or a chest x-ray to check for pneumonia - equals 10 millirem.4 Of this 360 millirem per year that the average person is exposed to, 200 millirem is due to radon in the air we breathe.4 It seems, then, if radiation we are exposed to were going to cook us like heat cooks meat, that the earth itself would be doing so considerably faster than any technology we use in our everyday lives.
Radiation in Our Homes
No matter how concerned you are with your health and your environment, you likely use things in your home everyday that subject you to radiation. In fact, the computer or device you’re using to read this blog is subjecting you to radiation. Everything in our homes, and in the world around us, that gives off radiation is not the equal, though. In fact, according to the World Health Organization, that while there has been observation of a biological effect of non-ionizing radiation, “the observation of a biological effect, in and of itself, does not necessarily suggest the existence of a biological hazard or health effect.”5 We have to couple this with the fact that radiation can be blocked from being absorbed by the body. This practice is seen daily on a summer beach, as beach-goers cover themselves in sunscreen to block the sun’s harmful rays. Those harmful rays are the part of the EMR spectrum that is ionizing. Other harmful types of radiation on the EMR spectrum can be blocked something as simple as paper or light clothing (alpha rays).6 If radiation much higher on the EMR spectrum can be blocked by something as simple as paper, cloth, or even a lotion, how difficult is it for us to protect ourselves from non-ionizing radiation? You also have to consider that EMR follows the Inverse Square Law. This says that the further from the source you get, the weaker the signal - every time you double the distance from your router, the EMR is cut by ¼. So unless you have your router sitting within arms reach for a significant portion of the day, the radiation coming from it is only a blip on the radar, especially compared to that which nature subjects us to.
Where Does My WiFi Router Stand?
So with all these numbers, where does that leave our WiFi routers? Unfortunately, I don’t have an answer for you, and that is one of the biggest sticking points in the argument that WiFi is dangerous for you. No matter how much research I did, I could not find a single site - legitimate or not - that said just exactly how much radiation a router subjects us to! Of course, we do know where on the spectrum that WiFi routers fall, as they are constantly interfering with baby monitors, but that does not tell us how strong the output of radiation actually is. It only tells us that WiFi routers fall well below the area of the spectrum that can cause cellular damage in humans. If routers are so dangerous, wouldn’t it stand to reason that the numbers to back up this claim would be easy to document?
In the end, if you are worried that WiFi is dangerous for you and your family, I recommend cutting out everything else in your home that subjects you to higher amounts of radiation first. Even though we don’t know exactly how much radiation your router subjects you to, there are a plethora of items that give off radiation in your home that are closer to you than your router is. Switch to corded phones instead of cordless; use wired headsets on your cell phones, and don’t store them next to your body while they are not in use; stop using the baby monitor; do not stand near your microwave while it is running - and better yet, block the waves coming from it with at least 1” thickness of wood; stop watching your TV; stop using your computer (especially your laptop!).
1 “Ionizing & Non-Ionizing Radiation,” EPA. Environmental Protection Agency, May 17, 2013. http://www.epa.gov/radiation/understand/ionize_nonionize.html Accessed Nov. 24, 2014.
2 “Uranium (U) Toxicity: Where is Uranium Found?” Environmental Health and Medicine Education. Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR). May 1, 2009. http://www.atsdr.cdc.gov/csem/csem.asp?csem=16&po=5 Accessed Nov. 24, 2014.
3 “Radiation and Health,” Information for a Healthy New York. New York State Department Of Health, July 2012. http://www.health.ny.gov/publications/4402/ Accessed Nov. 24, 2014.
4 “Radiation Sources, Doses, & Cancer,” Answers to Questions About Radiation and You. Radiation Answers, 2007. http://www.radiationanswers.org/radiation-and-me/radiation-cancer/radiation-sources-doses-cancer.html Accessed Nov. 24, 2014.
5 Ng, Kwan-Hoong. “Non-Ionizing Radiations - Sources, Bioligcal Effects, Emissions and Exposures,” Proceedings of the International Conference on Non-Ionizing Radiation at UNITEN. WHO, Oct. 22, 2003. http://www.who.int/peh-emf/meetings/archive/en/keynote3ng.pdf Accessed Nov. 24, 2014.
6 “Types of Radiation,” Nuclear Chemistry. Miami Dade College, no creation date present. http://www.mdc.edu/kendall/chmphy/nuclear/types.htm Accessed Nov. 24, 2014.