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Exposure to nonionizing radiation is ubiquitous in everyday life, from both the natural environment and manmade sources. Ultraviolet radiation (UVR) from sunlight has been linked with skin cancer, the most common cancer in populations of European decent. Radiofrequency radiation is a common exposure in modern life, enabling the use of communication technologies such as AM/FM radio, television, Wi-Fi, and mobile phones. Even if some risks associated with certain types of nonionizing radiation are small, the ubiquity of the exposures could result in a large number of adverse health effects, loss of productivity, and direct and indirect costs. Estimating the magnitude of the health risks and understanding the underlying biological mechanisms of nonionizing radiation can support primary prevention programs and regulations aimed at reducing risks among highly exposed populations.

The electromagnetic spectrum is comprised of a range of all possible frequencies of electromagnetic radiation (Fig. 69-1). The term nonionizing radiation refers to several forms of electromagnetic radiation of wavelengths longer than those of ionizing radiation, where wavelengths represent the distance between the corresponding points of two consecutive waves. As wavelength lengthens, frequency (i.e., the number of waves that pass through a fixed point in a unit of time) decreases, and the energy level of electromagnetic radiation decreases.1 In order of increasing wavelength, nonionizing radiation includes UVR, visible light, infrared radiation, microwave radiation, radiofrequency, low-frequency, extremely low-frequency, and static fields radiation (Fig. 69-1). The wavelength, frequency, and energy range for electromagnetic forces are shown in Table 69-1.


The electromagnetic spectrum. The electromagnetic spectrum represents all of the possible frequencies of electromagnetic energy. It ranges from extremely long wavelengths (extremely low-frequency exposures such as those from power lines) to extremely short wavelengths (x-rays and gamma rays) and includes both nonionizing and ionizing radiation. (Source: U.S. National Cancer Institute Electromagnetic Fields Fact Sheet Electromagnetic Fields and Cancer. Found at


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