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The technology in today’s world has been evolving rapidly to keep up with the growing requirements of humans (Avendano et al. 2012). Numerous field and electrical energies are used in modern technology; and they also use electromagnetic spectrum. All energy’s including micro waves, visible light, and hazardous high energy gamma radiations are present on that spectrum (Khurana et al. 2010). It was inevitable that these transformations will have its consequences; and that consequence has come up in the form of electromagnetic radiations (Calventeet al. 2010). There are several types of radiation, which affect humans on varying levels. The type of electromagnetic radiation determines the level at which it is harmful for the humans (Khurana et al. 2010).
The movement of energy, in the form of the electromagnetic waves, through free space or material medium is known as the electromagnetic radiation or EMR (Avendano et al. 2012). The electromagnetic waves include microwaves, gamma rays, radio waves, radar waves, ultraviolet and infrared radiation (Calventeet al. 2010). The theory of electromagnetic waves was first established in 1873 by James Clerk Maxwell, a Scottish physicist (Urbinello et al. 2014). The basic idea of this theory is regarding the interaction of electrically charged particles with magnetic fields and with each other as well. The frequency of the wave’s oscillation varies from 10^20 Hertz to only some circles per second (Khurana et al. 2010). These waves are transverse waves in which both electric and magnetic waves are perpendicular to each other and also to the direction of the movement of the waves (Calventeet al. 2010). The properties of electromagnetic radiation have similarities with different forms of waves like interference, reflection, refraction, and diffraction (Calventeet al. 2010). The interaction of the electromagnetic takes place because of elementary particle photon. The radiation crosses over a wide range of wavelength and frequencies, this is known as the electromagnetic spectrum. The spectrum includes increasing frequency and energy and decreasing wavelength (Ruppin, 2006).
EMR come from two sources, human made and natural. The natural source of EMR cannot be controlled, but the human made EMR can be controlled (Calventeet al. 2010). Sunburn is the most common form of health hazard, which is caused because of exposure to natural electromagnetic radiations (Franzellitti et al.2010). This also results in more than one million people being affected with skin cancer every year. RF or radio frequency traffic is the most common and largest source of EMR (Boyce, 2010). Several electronic devices emit EMR, however, the level of emission depends on various factors like mobile communication networks, wireless sets, and TV and radio broadcast (Calventeet al. 2010). All these systems have varying demands for utilisation, number of users, communication distance and frequency range (Levitt & Lai, 2010).
The EMF radiation can be wireless, electric, magnetic or ionizing (Avci et al. 2012). The radiations have their own energy and frequency due to which, they can be majorly categorized into ionizing radiations (IR) and non-ionizing radiation (NIR). The electromagnetic waves having a frequency which is extremely high, is known as ionizing radiation (Xu et al. 2010). Gamma rays and X-rays are some examples of IR; they have an abundance of photon energy, which helps them in producing ionization. The portion of the electromagnetic spectrum which has extremely weak photon energies that cannot even break atomic bonds is known as NIR (Campisiet al. 2010). Non-ionizing radiations do not result in ionisation; nevertheless, they have various other biological effects which include induction of electrical current, heating or alteration in chemical reaction in cells and tissues. Products like the antenna of the TV, radio, and mobile phone are some of the products which transmit higher frequency radio waves (Perrin & Souques, 2012).
Types of Frequency
Range of Frequency
ELF or Extremely Low Frequency
0 Hz < f ≤ 300 Hz
Electric engines present in tramway, train and cars
IF or Intermediate Frequency
300 Hz < f ≤ 100 kHz
Control systems with hands free access
Anti-theft devices present in shops
RF or Radio Frequency
100 kHz < f ≤ 300 GHz
TV and broadcasting
Stationary and portable radio transceivers
Table 1: Types and sources of frequency
(Source: Williams & Fletcher, 2010)
If the electromagnetic radiation’s frequency is appropriately high, then the photons get enough energy to make the atoms ionized; which means interacting with protons and electrons and interfering with the molecular structure (Ledoigt et al. 2015). This is possible only when the frequency is more than that of visible light – x-rays, gamma radiation and UV or ultraviolet light (Zubair, Mughal, & Naqvi, 2012). The technological gadgets made by humans do not produce them routinely.
1. Just like radio waves, x-rays can pass through almost all types of materials without any hindrance or interaction (Avendano et al. 2012). They do not cause damage to the cells and safe to be used on patients in clinics or hospitals. However, there is a rare chance that a particular exposure to x-rays can damage DNA or cells, due to which the people who use the equipment frequently, like doctors and medics, stand behind a screen so that constant exposure is reduced (Urbinello et al. 2014).
2. Gamma rays can be found in the outer space and they are formed because of atom bombs, nuclear reactors and radioactive decay (Khurana et al. 2010).
3. Ultraviolet rays are the only rays in this category which humans are exposed to on a daily basis, and which is harmful for their skin (Calventeet al. 2010). This is produced by the sun and its frequency is higher than light. Most substances absorb it, including our skin; due to which the most common form of skin problems and cancer are caused (Ruppin, 2006).
The most common type of frequency source which is used by the whole world is Radio Frequency; its major examples are industrial and medical application, broadcasting and mobile phones (Franzellitti et al.2010). However, accurate information regarding the exposure of an individual to these radiations and its effect on them is scarce. RF sources can be divided into three types based on its frequency bands (Boyce, 2010):
Sources of RF close to the human body – The major example of this type of RF radiation is mobile phones (Levitt & Lai, 2010). At least 1.5 billion people around the world use mobile phones. However, when the phones are switched off, then no exposure occurs and when they are standby mode, then the exposure is much lower as when compared to usage at maximum power (Avci et al. 2012). If these existing systems are used according to the requirements of the manufacturers and below the limit of exposure, then they are safe to use (Xu et al. 2010).
Sources of RF away from the human body – Usually these sources of RF are fixed and have been installed somewhere (Campisiet al. 2010). Base stations are an example of this, which are important for mobile communication network and link the network with the mobile phones. Similar radiation is emitted by these sources as that by mobile phones (Perrin & Souques, 2012).
Medical applications – Therapeutic applications like diathermy, hyperthermia used for treating cancer, and appliances for healing soft tissue (Williams & Fletcher, 2010). In these cases, the patients are exposed to radiations which are much are higher than the recommended level, because otherwise the intended biological effects will not take place (Ledoigt et al. 2015). Though, there has been no evidence of any health hazard due to being exposed to these radiations.
Extensive research has been done to find out the effects on health due to being exposed to RF fields of low intensity (Zubair, Mughal, & Naqvi, 2012). According to the overall evidence, less than 10 years of usage of mobile phones do not pose any risk for acoustic neuroma or brain tumour. For longer use of phones than that, the effects are uncertain, as there is a scarcity of data (Avendano et al. 2012). However, if the existing data is considered, then it can be said that the long term users have no risk of development of brain tumours. The studies available currently on reproductive and neurological effects do not indicate any risk if the exposure to radiations is below the given guidelines (Urbinello et al. 2014).
Though innovation in technology has made our life much easier by providing various comforts, it also has some negative effects as there are several components involved due to which the quality of life gets impaired (Khurana et al. 2010). The electromagnetic waves’ effects on the ecology of the world have been studied since the 19th century, when electricity was discovered (Calventeet al. 2010). These waves can travel long distances and have a major role in the everyday life of humans. Radio Frequency waves, in particular, have widespread use and are used in indoor wireless systems, cellular networks, television and radio broadcasting, and communications. Usage of these electromagnetic fields is growing with the increased use of these technologies, and because of this people are getting exposed to higher level of electromagnetic waves (Perrin & Souques, 2012).
The EMF radiation also affects the environment’s element like humans and animals. The degree of exposure to the electromagnetic radiation affects the health of the user of the electronic devices (Ledoigt et al. 2015). The radiation destroys the healthy cells of the human body and also makes the immune system weak. Cancer, chronic fatigue, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, daily headaches, asthma, and allergies are some of the health problems and diseases which are caused due to the close association with the electromagnetic poisoning (Ruppin, 2006). Each individual is affected at a different speed by the EMF exposure. If the person has high-stress level, pre-existing health problems, weak immune system, Lyme disease or low iodine level, that person would strongly react to the EMF radiations (Franzellitti et al.2010).
In particular, the increase in the number of users for mobile phones has become a cause of concern because of its potential damage (Boyce, 2010). The mobile phone networks’ impact on the health of the public can be adverse as they are constantly positioned near the bodies of the humans. In addition to that, they need a massive amount of base station antennas (Levitt & Lai, 2010).
The general opinion of most scientists is that getting exposed to RF waves of low frequency has no dangerous effect on the health of the humans (Xu et al. 2010). Studies conducted on the cellular level, in which slightly higher frequencies are used; show that undesirable effect takes place. However, according to most of the studies, no damage to various cell lines or DNA has been shown because of exposure to electromagnetic waves of different dimensions (Campisiet al. 2010). Whereas, some other studies on the contrary are concerned with the cellular or biochemical affects that can be caused by the EMFs. Few authors believe that exposure to LF waves lead to biological effects in which ions get redistributed and infiltrate into the tissues (Perrin & Souques, 2012).
Several cellular functions are affected because of being exposed to the electromagnetic radiations, which include cell differentiation and proliferation. Electromagnetic waves of intermediate frequency prevent the growth of cells, thus it can be beneficial for the humans if used for treatment purposes (Williams & Fletcher, 2010). High frequency of EMFs has non-thermal and thermal effect on the human’s biological system. If there is an increase in temperature, then the cellular functions get changed because of that, which ultimately leads to cell destruction (Ledoigt et al. 2015). In fact, very small changes in temperature can also affect the cells, but does not damage them. There are theories that these radiations also affect cell destruction, metabolic activity, antioxidant enzyme systems, hormone production, synthesis, protein expression, DNA synthesis and apoptosis. However, no serious risks to health are posed because of exposure to radiation (Zubair, Mughal, & Naqvi, 2012).
It can be said that no consistent effects on health have been demonstrated if the exposure to radiations is below the prescribed guidelines (Avendano et al. 2012). Nevertheless, the data for long term usage of cell phones and other technologies is sparse, and it cannot be said whether long term exposure to electromagnetic radiations can result in brain tumours, cancer or any other health hazard (Urbinello et al. 2014).
Ionizing photons can cause cancer in the following way. The well-known chemical double-helix strand, which controls the manufacturing process of protein in the cells, is the DNA (Khurana et al. 2010). Chemical bonds, which are similar to the other molecules, are used to hold the DNA. Electrons can be knocked out of their orbits by high energy photons, and sometimes these photons also interact with an atom’s nucleus (Calventeet al. 2010). If the radiation’s frequency is not extremely high, then ionisation cannot be caused, even if a high amount of radiation is there. Furthermore, even if the DNA’s absorb radiation, it is rarely cancerous (Ledoigt et al. 2015). The damage gets repaired most of the time because of DNA monitoring’s numerous cellular mechanisms and the double helix structure. The size of a cell is extremely large in comparison to the DNA, which is present in the nucleus, and because of that photons usually do not hit the DNA within a cell (Ruppin, 2006). Additionally, lasting damage is not caused even when DNA is hit by a photon. Besides, even if a cell gets damaged, it rarely happens that the cell gets turned into cancer, as these damaged cells either self-destruct or are destroyed (Franzellitti et al.2010). Thus, it is can be said that it is a myth that radiation leads to cancer, as the radiations from man-made technologies rarely make the cells cancerous.
The negating factors ensure that cancer cannot be caused, until and unless the human body is exposed to appropriate high doses of radiation (Boyce, 2010). Since sun is more larger than Earth by up to 333 thousand times, and is a massive nuclear reactor, it is one source of high radiation. Human technologies which are used every day, are not much harmful and do not pose a risk as compared to the daily exposure to the UV rays of the sun (Levitt & Lai, 2010). In comparison to the ultraviolet light, telecommunication equipment’s frequencies are not that high to be ionising.
Various ways are available by which a person can reduce the health risks caused from getting exposed to EMF radiations (Avci et al. 2012). The best way is to reduce the exposure to the equipment, which has high-frequency radiation like cell phones, microwave oven, power lines, AC and other wireless devices (Zubair, Mughal, & Naqvi, 2012). The wireless internet connection is also harmful as it radiates a lot and is one of the principle pollutants, so it should be switched off by the users when it is not being used. One should also reduce the usage of cell phones; clear the EMF from their room by switching off ACs, TVs, fluorescent lights, LED lights and other electronic appliances when they are not in use (Campisiet al. 2010).
Even though there has been a development in communications skills and invention of new electronic devices that make life easier, there are also some negative effects involved. These negative effects are mostly because of the electromagnetic fields present in the RF or radiofrequency zone, which is mostly used for cellular networks, broadcasting and communications. It can be said that exposure to these radiations do not result in any hazardous effect on the health of the humans. However, it does result in biochemical changes inside the cell, biological effects between and inside the cell, and physiological effect on the body and various organs. These can be prevented by limiting the usage of technologies that emit radiations. However, at present insufficient data is present to be able to determine whether electromagnetic radiations are harmful for humans in the long term.
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