Electromagnetic radiation and health

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Electromagnetic radiation can be classified into ionizing radiation and non-ionizing radiation, based on whether it is capable of ionizing atoms and breaking chemical bonds. Ultraviolet and higher frequencies, such as X-rays or gamma rays are ionizing. These pose their own special hazards: see radiation and radiation poisoning.

Non-ionizing radiation, discussed here, is associated with two major potential hazards: electrical and biological. Additionally, induced electric current caused by radiation can generate sparks and create a fire or explosive hazard.

Contents

Types of hazards

Electrical hazards

The oscillating electric and magnetic fields in electromagnetic radiation will induce an electric current in any conductor through which it passes. Strong radiation can induce current capable of delivering an electric shock to persons or animals. It can also overload and destroy electrical equipment. The induction of currents by oscillating magnetic fields is also the way in which solar storms disrupt the operation of electrical and electronic systems, causing damage to and even the explosion of power distribution transformers,[1] blackouts (as in 1989), and interference with electromagnetic signals (e.g. radio, TV, and telephone signals).[2]

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