Which Wavelengths and Frequencies Are Most Dangerous?
•••Updated May 14, 2018By John Papiewski
Electromagnetic radiation, found in a wide range of wavelengths and frequencies in the electromagnetic spectrum, includes visible light, radio, television signals, microwaves and X-rays. Generally, radiation with wavelengths much shorter than visible light have enough energy to strip electrons from atoms. Scientists call this ionizing radiation. In general, the shorter the wavelength, the greater the danger to living things. Although longer wavelengths also have their hazards, very short wavelengths, such as X-rays and gamma rays, can easily damage living tissue.
TL;DR (Too Long; Didn’t Read)
The most dangerous frequencies of electromagnetic energy are X-rays, gamma rays, ultraviolet light and microwaves. X-rays, gamma rays and UV light can damage living tissues, and microwaves can cook them.
The Power of X-Rays
X-rays have wavelengths ranging from .001 to 10 nanometers, or billionths of a meter. These waves are smaller than an atom and can pass through most materials as sunlight passes through glass. Although X-rays have many beneficial applications, using them requires caution since exposure can cause blindness, cancer and other injuries. X-rays once had novelty uses, such as the shoe-store gadgets that let you see your foot inside a shoe to judge how well it fits. These devices have long since been outlawed. Today, states require licenses to operate X-ray devices.
Ultraviolet, or UV, light gets its name from the fact that its wavelengths are shorter than violet visible light. Its wavelengths lie in the range of 10 to 350 nanometers and come in several bands, such as UVA and UVB. The sunlight that reaches the Earth’s surface has naturally-occurring amounts of UV. Too much can cause sunburn, skin cancer, and retinal damage. Hospitals use shorter-wavelength UV to kill germs in the air, and sewer treatment plants use it to kill bacteria in liquid waste. Light from a germicidal UV lamp can cause blindness if you look directly at it. Because it has longer wavelengths than X-rays, UV causes less damage to tissue, but even so, it is still not completely safe.Brought to you by Sciencing
Beyond X-rays are even shorter wavelengths called gamma rays. Nuclear processes in atoms produce this kind of radiation, which has more energy and greater penetrating power than X-rays. Food producers use gamma ray devices to kill mold, germs, and parasites in fruits and vegetables. People can work with gamma radiation only behind thick lead shielding.
Microwaves Excite Molecules
Although microwaves have wavelengths too long to be ionizing, the power in microwaves can make them dangerous. Microwaves have wavelengths between .01 and 5 centimeters, much longer than those of visible light. They produce heat by causing certain molecules, like water, to vibrate strongly. Cell phones and other gadgets emit microwaves although they are generally considered too weak to affect living tissue. Your microwave oven, on the other hand, can produce more than 1,000 watts of microwaves and cause serious harm. Fortunately, microwaves are easily shielded.Did you find this page helpful?👍👎
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What Are Six Types of EMR?
•••Updated April 25, 2017By Peter Lancett
Electromagnetic radiation, or EMR, includes all of the types of energy that can be seen, felt or recorded. Visible light is an example of EMR, and visible light, reflecting off objects enables us to see those objects. Other forms of EMR, such as X-rays and gamma rays, cannot be seen by the naked eye and can be dangerous to humans. EMR is measured in wavelengths, and the shorter the wavelength, which is the distance of the trough between two high points in the EMR wave, the greater the energy used to create the radiation.
The light we see, reflected off objects, has a wavelength measured in nano-meters, or nm for short. A nano-meter is one billionth of a meter. The light that we can see with our own eyes is known as the visible spectrum, and varies from person to person, depending on the sensitivity of a person’s eyes. The visible spectrum is in the range of 380nm to 750nm, although the Harvard University website states that the astronomical range for visible light is 300nm to 1,000nm.
Radio waves have a much greater wavelength than visible light. Radio waves are the ones we create to transmit radio and television signals through the atmosphere. AM, or amplitude modulation radio waves, are longer than FM, or frequency modulation radio waves, and are better at bending around large objects, meaning that they are useful for transmissions in mountainous regions. AM wavelengths can be measured in hundreds of meters, while FM wavelengths run to just over a hundred meters. FM signals usually produce better sound quality, because FM signals are less susceptible to interference from other EMR waves, such as those made by overhead cables or passing vehicles.
Ultra Violet Light
Ultra Violet light, or UV light, is the light that causes sunburn on human skin. In our solar system, most of the UV light that reaches Earth is created by the hot gas of the sun. The Earth’s atmosphere absorbs most of the UV light that reaches it, in a layer of the upper atmosphere known as the ozone.
Infrared light has a wavelength that is longer than that of standard red light, and although considered part of the red color spectrum, infrared wavelengths are still much shorter than, for example, radio waves. Infra-red waves occur in the range from 1,000nm to a millimeter in length. Infrared radiation is created by objects with a temperature of less than 1,340 degrees Fahrenheit, or 1,000 degrees Kelvin. Human beings, with body temperatures of 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit, give off infrared radiation, and this is what is seen when you look through night-vision goggles to see people through the darkness.
It takes a high output of energy to create X-rays. X-rays occur in the 0.01 to 10nm range. X-rays used to create photographs of bones in the human body are created at wavelengths of about 0.012nm, which is near the shortest limit of the X-ray spectrum. X-rays at this wavelength will not penetrate through bone, but will penetrate human tissue. The resulting shows the area of bone that was photographed. Over-exposure to X-rays is harmful to humans, so people working with X-rays have to take precautions to remain shielded from the radiation created.
Gamma rays need extremely high sources of energy to create them. According to the Harvard University website, gas at a temperature of a billion degrees is needed, so that solar flares and lightning strikes can be sources of gamma radiation. Nuclear explosions also generate gamma rays, and gamma rays have wavelengths of less than 0.01nm. Gamma rays can penetrate human tissue, and even bones, and are extremely harmful to humans.
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