Electromagnetic Fields

Written by Tara Peris
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Electromagnetic fields exist everywhere, assuming many shapes and forms. The electric charges they create make them useful for a wide variety of purposes, and they are integral to most modern technology. At the same time, all electromagnetic fields are radiation sources that need to be monitored and tracked for their effect on human well-being.

At the Speed of Light

If you're wondering why you never noticed all these electromagnetic fields, the answer is simple. You can't see them. These charges move through space at the speed of light, and they allow communication from radio, television, and cellular phones among other things. Almost every major appliance relies on both electric and magnetic fields.

Electromagnetic fields are considered synonymous with the electromagnetic radiation (heat) they produce. This radiation typically is categorized as ionizing and non-ionizing, with the former considered dangerous to humans and the latter considered relatively safe. The x-rays you get at the doctor or dentist are examples of ionized radiation, which is why you require a protective gown during imaging. Microwaves, by contrast, produce non-ionized radiation, which is basically just heat.

An issue of growing interest pertains to how these electromagnetic fields interact with the human body. Research suggests that our bodies may be vulnerable to both low and high frequency fields because of the electrical activity they stimulate. Although it is clear that our bodies respond to this stimulation, it is not clear whether the currents disrupt functioning or produce damage at the cellular level.

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