Non-ionizing electro-magnetic (EM) radiation lacks enough energy to remove tightly bound electrons from their orbits around an atom’s nucleus. Examples of this radiation include microwave, radio-frequency (RF), infrared light (IR), visible light, extremely low frequency (ELF) fields, and fields produced by video display terminals. Extremely low frequency fields are produced by basic building electrical current. Ionizing radiation is radiation with enough energy to remove tightly bound electrons from their orbits around an atom’s nucleus when the two interact.

Non-ionizing forms of EM energy are generally not dangerous, with some exceptions:

  • High-energy radio waves microwaves and IR light can cause destructive heating of biological tissue;
  • Intense visible light can cause blindness; and
  • Intense UV can cause blindness and superficial skin burns in high doses over a short period of time. Skin cancer and cataracts of the eye at lower doses over long periods of time are also associated hazards.

Harmful effects of long-term exposure to moderate-to-intense radio-frequency (RF) fields and ELF fields are still being debated.

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