Electromagnetic fields are present nearly everywhere in the environment, but are invisible to the human eye. They include both magnetic fields, which are created when electric current flows, and electric fields, which are created by differences in voltage. Unlike magnetic fields, an electric field can exist even when there is no current flowing.
Electromagnetic fields don’t just emerge from electronic devices — there are many natural sources as well. Often, electric fields are produced by the build-up of electrical charges in the atmosphere before or after a thunderstorm. The earth also has a natural magnetic field as well — that’s what causes the needle of a compass to orient in a North-South direction.
In recent decades though, electromagnetic radiation has been increasing due to fields generated by a number of human-made devices. Often when we hear the word radiation, we think of MRIs or X-rays used in medical settings. But the electricity that comes out of the power sockets in your house also generates low frequency electromagnetic fields. And various kinds of higher frequency radiowaves are used to transmit information via TV antennas, radio stations and mobile phone base stations.
We did our best to round-up some of the most significant sources of electromagnetic radiation from human-made devices. It is not an exact science though, as the strength of the magnetic field can vary a lot even for one particular device. For example, while some electric razors are surrounded by a very strong EMF, others hardly produce any field at all.
Here is a list of the top 5 electrical devices generating EMFs in homes and workplaces:
1. Hair Dryers (6-2000 µT at 3cm distance)
- Hair Dryer is the High Radiation? (Rumors Killer)
2. Vacuum Cleaners (200-800 µT at 3 cm distance)
3. Fluorescent Lights (40-400µT at 3 cm distance)
- Recommendations for Low EMF Lighting (ElectricSense)
4. Microwave Ovens (73-200 µT at 3 cm distance)
- To Nuke or Not to Nuke? Microwave Facts (The Chicago Tribune)
5. Portable Radio (16-56 µT at 3 cm distance)
Read yesterday’s post, Health Risks of Electromagnetic Fields, for tips on how to reduce exposure to EMFs in your life.
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Source: Federal Office for Radiation Safety, Germany 1999