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Electromagnetic radiations

Their nature, their characteristics, their potential danger


When an electric charge is moving (as when a current circulates in a wire when using an electrical appliance) it emits both electric and magnetic energy, that can be described either as an electromagnetic field, or as electromagnetic radiations (or waves) (cf. Glossary).

Modern physics tells us that all matter can be described as composed of atoms made of one or more electric charges (electrons, which are negatively charged) gravitating around a nucleus containing, notably, an identical number of positively charged particles, the protons. Electrons can circulate between several atoms and by so doing create bonds between atoms to form molecules, which can be simple or very complexe. Chemistry can therefore be considered as the physics of electronic interactions between atoms.
We can also see that all matter, whatever the level of observation, from an atom to a whole living organism, or even a planet, produces an electromagnetic field whose properties (intensity, frequencies) depend on the organization of electronic movements within it.

Apart from very special cases (lasers) no matter emits radiations of a single wavelength, but a specific combination of wavelengths called a spectrum. The specificity of these spectra is so high that numerous « spectroscopy » techniques have been developed to determine very precisely the composition and the state of all sorts of materials, living or inert.

Effects on living beings

Electromagnetic radiations from any source can interact with other matter, either close or distant, depending on the intensity of the emitted field, but also, and primarily, depending on the structure of the matter. Any matter can absorb some wavelengths (which can have all sorts of consequences depending on the level of energy transferred) or deviate them without being affected. Some wavelengths can simply pass through some matters without the slightest interaction.

The key determinant of interactions between electromagnetic radiations and any matter is the concordance between the radiations wavelengths and the electromagnetic structure of the matter; when the concordance is sufficiently high (that is when some radiation frequencies correspond to internal frequencies of the matter) there can be «resonance» between the two and part of the energy carried by the radiation can be transferred to the matter, which can have all sorts of consequences for the matter, such as modifying its physicochemical reactivity, or even breaking its structure in some specific ways.

Specific wavelengths can therefore have a major, even dramatic, effect on living matter, even at very weak intensities, whereas others have no or very weak influence, even at high intensities over prolonged periods of time. The specificity of these interactions is even so high that major sensitivity differences may exist between individuals of the same species, because of the genetic differences in the DNA and protein structures. This leads to sufficiently different capacities to resonate or interact with electromagnetic fields that the biological impact is not the same for everyone.

The health consequences of these interactions are potentially infinite in their variety and very damaging in some cases, as has been known for for a long time in the case of X rays. The rapid development of technologies based on the emission of electromagnetic radiations and their increasingly high-paced implementation on a large scale in all sectors of human activity lead to rapidly increasing, but poorly evaluated, risks of major negative impacts on the health of all living beings.
It is therefore very rationally that governments in developed countries have passed laws and regulations based on the precaution principle in order to protect the weakest in the population, such as pregnant women and children. It is also no surprise that insurance companies do not want to cover the health risks associated with the development of modern telecommunication technologies or that some telecom operators have started to inform their clients about the potential health risks. They all clearly perceive major risks and prefer to protect themselves from their potential legal consequences.

Dr Thierry D. LEEMANN
PhD,Clin Pharmacol