Radiation: Effects

Catch up on previous installments here.

Low Intensity Radiation Affects our Bodies Differently than High Intensity Radiation

Different intensities of radiation affect our bodies in different ways. Some of these are very harmful to humans, even on a short-term basis. As previously discussed, high doses of ionizing radiation are the biggest concern. They have enough energy to break chemical bonds, even the nucleus of an atom. Ionizing radiation leaves behind ions which can create free radicals and can trigger all sorts of reactions in our bodies, including the killing and mutation of cells, which can, in turn, lead to cancer.

On the other hand, the radiation we hear a lot of hype about in “crunchy” circles is ELF, which affects our bodies in a completely different way. Right now, we don’t know how they affect us long-term, but we do know that any affect is going to be different from that of ionizing radiation.
How’s that? Non-ionizing radiation in normal doses doesn’t have the energy to damage your cells the way ionizing radiation does. Some say a way to tell this depends on how much heat there is, if the radiation produces a significant temperature rise, then it’s dangerous. However, because non-ionizing radiation is lower-energy, it is much less likely to do this than ionizing because it takes a higher dose of it to cause a rise in temperature (for this reason, ELF is also much less likely to cause thermal damage to the body). The normal long-term concern with radiation is its ability to damage DNA, and while the energy in non-ionizing radiation isn’t enough to do that directly, there is an unconfirmed possibility that it may indirectly interfere with DNA, or even cause other unknown or unconfirmed long-term effects.

Because we don’t know what harm small, chronic doses of non-ionizing, low-frequency radiation might have and we can’t rule out the possibility of it happening, the World Health Organization has classified radiofrequency electromagnetic radiation as a possible group 2b carcinogen. This radiofrequency electromagnetic radiation includes things like mobile phones and wifi. Does this mean we should immediately get rid of anything with radiofrequency radiation? Only if you’re going to get rid of your coffee, too. Class 2B carcinogens are things that WHO can’t rule out as possible cancer causing substances, but it doesn’t mean that they are probably cancer causing substances. There’s always a possibility it will rain today, but if you’re in the desert in the middle of summer then it probably won’t happen. This explains the risk of Class 2B carcinogens a little more, if you’re interested. This considers cell phones more specifically.  So the classification of radiofrequency electromagnetic radiation as a Class 2B carcinogen means the WHO is giving it more study and that while perhaps some caution is necessary, we needn’t go overboard because no clear link has yet been shown between wifi, cell phones, and cancer.

That said, there may be other ways that ELFs can harm us. The communication in our bodies between our cells, especially in the brain, can be electrical. Thus, while it may not cause cancer, ELF radiation may affect our brains negatively, and perhaps also hormones as well (which, depending on which hormones it upsets could have an effect on the risk of cancer). This does explain the possibility of ELF interfering with melatonin levels and therefore sleep, as some people suggest, and say that turning off the wifi at night helps them sleep better. We’ve done this almost every night for the past few months and I haven’t noticed a difference in sleep quality.

However, I don’t believe that ELF affects everyone in the same way. Children are more susceptible to damage by ionizing radiation because their cell growth is more rapid (which means that their DNA is exposed more often). As already stated, ELF affects differently than ionizing radiation, but the likelihood of children being more easily affected is still logical. There are also people who accuse ELFs of many health problems the rest of us don’t have, difficulties that were fixed by eliminating ELFs wherever possible. This makes me think some have an “ELF sensitivity” that others don’t have.

We still don’t know how ELFs affect our bodies on a long-term basis, and it will likely be a while before we know anything about that. However, there is comfort in knowing it doesn’t do what ionizing radiation does. This author thinks it’s harmless, but there’s much out there that disagrees with his stance and I find myself (as does my husband) in the “we don’t know yet” camp, and I want to be cautious. Kitchen Stewardship takes a similar, though perhaps more cautious, position.
“While most research shows that all [EMF] that has little impact on cancer, if I’ve learned one thing on this natural health journey, it’s that we don’t know what we don’t understand until it’s too late. What we don’t know can usually hurt us.”

But can we cut down the amount of radiation we receive?

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