Chemistry
Waves Vibrations and Oscillations

How are electromagnetic waves harmful to humans?

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2007-05-30 23:39:23
2007-05-30 23:39:23

The electromagnetic spectrum can be generally broken down into two parts: ionizing radiation and non-ionizing radiation. In general, all ionizing radiation, even at low levels, can be dangerous, whereas non-ionizing radiation is usually safe except at very high levels.
Excessive or intense exposure to any type can be harmful however. For instance visible light is not harmful, but if intense enough can blind you (if exposed to your eyes) or can even burn your skin.
Generally, ionizing radiation are high energy waves and are all harmful, even in low amounts, such as gamma rays, x-rays, and ultraviolet waves. These types of radiation cause ionization of atoms and molecules, leading to destruction of the molecules in cells and DNA. If DNA is destroyed in a cell, that cell can be cancerous.
Lower energy waves, such as visible light, infrared radiation, and radio waves are not harmful (again, except in extreme cases). Exposure to high levels of visible or infrared radiation (for example from a powerful laser) can cause blindness and can burn the skin.
Microwaves are a low energy wave that are in fact fairly harmful. Exposure to intense microwaves can cause intense heating of the tissue, potentially causing severe burning.
See the Web Links to the left of this answer for more information about the safety of microwaves and other radiation.

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