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Nonionizing Radiation

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Just the facts


Physical Information

Name: Nonionizing Radiation

Use: power transmission, communication, heating, cooking, vision, photosynthesis (sun light), etc.

Source: Ultraviolet light, visible light, infrared radiation, microwaves, radio & television, power transmission

Recommended daily intake: different depending on source

Absorption: depends on source

Sensitive individuals: variable, i.e. fair skinned children (sunburn)

Toxicity/symptoms: depends on source. solar radiation: sun burn, cataracts, cancer; microwave radiation; warming of skin or internal organs, controversy exists around exposure to low frequency energy such as AC power lines.

Regulatory facts: government regulates exposure

General facts: long history of use

Environmental: our dependency on energy results in a range of consequences for example drilling for oil and mining coal to run power plants to generate electricity, in turn Mercury is released in the atmosphere from burning coal

Recommendations: depending on indicidual sensitivity; limit exposure to solar radiation (ultraviolet radiation); reduce energy concumption



Nonionizing radiation is ever-present yet, apart from prolonged exposure to the sun, is relatively harmless.

Products That Depend on Nonionizing Radiation:

  • Cellular Phones
  • Cellular Telephone Base Stations
  • Radio Towers
  • Microwave Towers
  • Lasers (including laser pointers)
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)
  • Radio Transmissions
  • Short-wae Radio Transmitters
  • Satellite Transmissions
  • Electrical Blankets
  • Appliances
  • Light Bulbs
  • Computer and TV Moniters
  • Microwave Ovens
  • Power Lines (both large and small)
  • Visible Light
  • Ultraviolet Radiation
  • Radar

Health Effects

Most of the nonionized radiation is harmless. However, prolonged exposure at higher levels of nonionized radiation can be harmful.

This is the case with Solar Radiation. Overexposure to the UV Rays, both from the sun and artificial sources such as tanning beds, can cause acute cellular damage and result in melanoma, or Skin Cancer.

Overexposure causes cellular damage to the skinwhich leads to increased vascular circulation (vasodilation) which inreases blood flow to the area resulting in the redness ande the hot feeling of the skin. In lighter skinned people, UV radiation stimulates the production of the pigment melanin, which absorbs the UV radiation and protects the skin. The increase in Melanin results in a tan, the body's natural defense against the UV radiation.

UV radiation can also do cellular and DNA damage. Extreme overexposure to the UV rays can overwhelm the DNA's repair mechanism which leads to permenently damaged DNA and melanoma. Skin cancer accounts for approximatley one-third of all cancers diognosed yearly. Thinning of the O-Zone Layer is suspected as being a prime cause of an increasing rate melanoma witnessed recently.


There are three ways to reduce exposure. First, limit the time spent near the source of radiation. Second, distance oneself from the source of radiation. Thirdly, shield yourself from the Radiation. For example wear a hat or long clothing while exposed to the sun for long periods of time or request a lead apron while getting x-rayed. Heavier Alpha Particles can be stopped by a mere piece of paper but once they are inside they can do terrific cellular damage and nearly always cause Cancer

External Links

European, Asian, and International Agencies

North American Agencies

Non-Governmental Organizations


Radium Girls: Women and Industrial Health Reform, 1910-1935
by Claudia Clark, Publisher: University of North Carolina Pr; ISBN: 0807823317; (June 1997). 384 pages.

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