Non-ionising radiation

Examples of non-ionising radiation include:

  • ultraviolet radiation
  • visible light
  • infrared radiation
  • microwaves
  • radio and radar waves
  • wireless internet connections (wifi)
  • mobile phone signals

Overall, there's little evidence to suggest most types of non-ionising radiation are harmful at levels you're normally exposed to, but some forms of non-ionising radiation are potentially dangerous.

Ultraviolet light

The main proven danger of non-ionising radiation is damage to the skin caused by ultraviolet (UV) light. UV light primarily comes from the sun, but is also produced by sunbeds and sunlamps.

Low levels of exposure to UV lightare actually beneficial to health sunlight helps our bodies produce vitamin D, which is important as it helps keeps bones strong and healthy.

However, high levels of exposure to UV light can be harmful as it can cause Sunburn , as well as increasing your risk of developing melanoma and non-melanoma skin cancer.

Telecommunications devices

Some people have also arguedtelecommunications devicesthat use non-ionising radiation, such as mobile phones or wifi, could be potentially dangerous.

But as yet, a number ofBritish and internationalstudieshaven't identified any health risks associated with these devices.

A research programme known as the Mobile Telecommunications and Health Research (MTHR) Programme is ongoing in the UK. Their reports in 2007 and 2012 concludedthere's no evidence that short-term use of mobile phones increases the risk of cancer, or affects the normal functioning of the brain.

This has been supported by further studies, whichalso showno link between mobile phones and problems such as cancer.

However, as evidence is only based on mobile phone use over the last 20 years, there's still some uncertainty about possible long-term risks or associated problems.

Exposure to ionising radiation can increase the risk of cancer . High doses can cause serious damage, including radiation burns.

One of the most common sources of exposure to man-made ionising radiation is during medical tests or treatments.

However, while it may sound dangerous, the radiation used in medicine is closely controlled, and the risk of any problems resulting from exposure to radiation is very small.

Examples of using ionising radiation to treat or diagnose a condition include:

  • testssuch as X-rays and CT scans a low level of ionising radiation is used to produce images of the inside ofthe body
  • nuclear medicine for example, amild radioactive substancecan be injected into the bloodstream so it shows up better on an imaging scan
  • radiotherapy acommon cancer treatment that usesionising radiation to kill cancerous cells
Content supplied by the NHS Website

Medically Reviewed by a doctor on 21 Dec 2018