Humans are exposed to radiation on a daily basis, either from natural sources such as the sun, rocks, soil and water, or from man-made sources that emit radiation, such as mobile phones, microwave ovens, TV sets, diagnostic x-rays and x-ray security systems.
While human exposure to radiation from manmade sources is generally low and not detrimental to health, some people fear that radiation-emitting products can increase the risk of developing cancer. Here, we look at three very common radiation-emitting electronic products and assess whether they are actually harming you:
Mobile phones and mobile phone towers
These use radiofrequency (RF) radiation, a type of non-ionising electromagnetic radiation, to send and receive signals from cellular towers. RF radiation, whether it is emitted by a mobile phone or a mobile phone tower, typically doesn’t have enough energy to damage the DNA inside cells and cause brain tumours, or head and neck cancers as some might fear.
Indeed, the American Food and Drug Administration (FDA) says, “The majority of studies published have failed to show an association between exposure to radiofrequency from a cell phone and health problems.”
Older CRT (cathode ray tube) television sets and monitors emit low energy x-rays, but these have not been found to be harmful for health. Modern flat-screen TVs are an improvement over CRT TVs and don’t have this problem, though they do emit electromagnetic radiation at close range. “It should be emphasised that most TV sets have not been found to give off any measurable level of radiation, and there is no evidence that radiation from TV sets has resulted in human injury,” says the FDA.
Microwave ovens use high levels of a certain frequency of RF radiation to heat foods. They are safe to use under normal circumstances, but ovens that are damaged or modified could harm health by causing burns. “When microwave ovens are used according to instructions, there is no evidence that they pose a health risk to people,” says the American Cancer Society.
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