Most of the content that I write about here on EMF Academy is about non-ionizing radiation, but it’s important to understand the difference between ionizing and non-ionizing radiation:
In short, Ionizing radiation has enough energy to free electrons from the atoms or molecules they are attached to, and therefore ionizing them. Non-ionizing radiation lacks the energy to break these same molecular bonds and cannot free electrons from atoms or molecules.
However, there is much more to this answer, so let’s dive a bit deeper into the differences between ionizing, and non-ionizing radiation
Difference Between Ionizing and Non-Ionizing Radiation
Believe it or not, feel it or not, radiation is all around you, almost no matter what. It might be from natural sources like the sun, or it might be from man-made sources, like the EMF radiation from your cell phone, either way, you’re surrounded. All radiation is broken up into two kinds, ionizing, and non-ionizing.
Like i described above, ionizing radiation is much more powerful. Radiation that is ionizing, has the power to force electrons from their orbit around atoms or molecules, therefore ionizing them.
Non-ionizing radiation can also be quite powerful, and does have the power to alter the position of atoms in their orbit, but lacks the energy to completely displace, or ionize, them.
Take a look at the chart below to get a good visual of the different types of electronics that emit ionizing and non-ionzing radiation.
Examples of Ionizing Radiation
Natural sources of Ionizing Radiation:
- Radioactive rocks, soil and minerals
- Cosmic rays from the sun and other stars
- Radon exposure
- Metal mining and smelting
Man made examples of Ionizing Radiation:
- Medical testing equipment such as x-rays, radiotherapy, and tomography
- Nuclear Reactors
Examples of Non-Ionizing Radiation
Natural sources of Non-Ionizing Radiation:
- Thermal radiation
Man made examples of Non-Ionizing Radiation:
- Cell phones
- Microwave ovens
- Cordless phones
- Motion detectors
- Power lines
- Cell towers
- Incandescent light bulbs
Health Concerns With Ionizing and Non-Ionizing Radiation
Although it does not always produce heat, ionizing radiation can still effect and damage the body. Ionizing radiation is extremely harmful, and can cause all types of cancer, heart issues, brain issues and much more. Although acute exposure to ionizing radiation is much less common, individuals who have been exposed are likely to have significant health issues.
The veterans administration in the united states recognizes all sorts of significant health issues for veterans who participated in what they call “radiation-risk activities” during their service, including:
- Cancers of the bile ducts, bone, brain, breast, colon, esophagus, gall bladder, liver (primary site, but not if cirrhosis or hepatitis B is indicated), lung (including bronchiolo-alveolar cancer), pancreas, pharynx, ovary, salivary gland, small intestine, stomach, thyroid, urinary tract (kidney/renal, pelvis, urinary bladder, and urethra)
- Leukemia (except chronic lymphocytic leukemia)
- Lymphomas (except Hodgkin’s disease)
- Multiple myeloma (cancer of plasma cells)
Here at EMF Academy, most of the EMF exposure we talk about from things like cell phones, tablets, WiFi, and most other things, is considered non-ionizing radiation.
But don’t be mistaken, just because non-ionizing radiation does not have the energy to free the atom from it’s rotation, does not mean it does not have the energy to cause alteration and damage to the cells. Simple, more obvious examples of non-ionizing radiation causing damage would be burning of the retinas from sunlight, skin cancer from long-term exposure to the sun, or premature aging.
What is less obvious, is the significant health impacts of EMF radiation from things like your cell phone, including cancer, heart disease, headaches, and symptoms such as:
- Mood Swings
- Heart Arrhythmia
- Fertility Issues
- Digestive Issues
- Memory Problems
- Sleep Issues
Check out my full post on symptoms of EMF radiation.
The difference between ionizing and non-ionizing radiation might be obvious, but don’t be mistaken, they both cause significant damage to the body in different ways.
Is UV Light Ionizing or Non-Ionizing Radiation?
This can be a bit confusing, because most of the ultraviolet (UV) light that we witness or are aware of, is called “near ultraviolet” light. This near UV light, along with the light that you see during the day, microwaves, radio waves, EMF radiation and radio frequencies are all great examples of non-ionizing radiation.
There is however what is called “far ultraviolet light”, which along with x-ray radiation, and gamma rays are all forms of Ionizing radiation.
So in short, most of the UV light that you would come in contact with is non-ionizing, but ionizing UV radiation does exist.
What Type of Ionizing Radiation Penetrates The Farthest?
Usually when we think of Ionizing radiation that “penetrates” and causes significant damage, we think of nuclear radiation. There are three different kinds of nuclear radiation:
Out of the three, gamma is by far the most penetrating, while alpha penetrates the least.
However all three are still considered ionizing radiation, and all three have the power and energy to displace an atom from it’s orbit.
What Materials Block Non-Ionizing EMF Radiation?
Check out the following articles for more on this: