Cause

The omnipresence of electrical appliances in everyday life is cause for concern. To date, no scientific study has been able to demonstrate harmful effects due to non-ionizing electromagnetic fields. Some studies have revealed statistical correlations, without, however, being able to explain the link between cause and effect. If in doubt, apply the precautionary principle.

Natural sources

Electromagnetic fields and radiation are naturally present in our environment:

  • cosmic radiation originates from space and increases rapidly with altitude
  • the earth's magnetic field (current flowing through the Earth's core) rotates the compass needle
  • solar magnetic radiation
  • the electric field in a thunderstorm which produces lightning
  • the heart's electrical activity measured by an electrocardiogram
  • brain electrical activity measured by an electroencephalography
  • radioactive gases like radon emitting from rocks and soil. 

Artificial sources 

Electromagnetic fields and radiation are present in the medical and industrial environment but also in our everyday environment: 

  • high-voltage power lines
  • railways, trains
  • electrical installations, lamps, household electric appliances
  • telephone, television, computer, mobile phone
  • UV beds
  • radio, MRI, CT scan, X-ray
  • welding equipment, radars.

Electromagnetic fields (EMF) from human activity are much greater than those of natural origin.

Ionizing radiation

Ionizing radiation can be very harmful to the body if it is improperly used (intense and/or long-lasting exposure). However it has many beneficial applications in various fields:

  • medicine (medical imaging, radiotherapy, sterilization of medical devices etc.)
  • food (food decontamination)
  • industry and Research (plastic processing, material research, spacecraft propulsion, etc.).

There are two types of ionizing radiation exposure:

  • internal exposure (inhaled, ingested radionuclides, etc.)
  • external contamination (dust, liquid, aerosols which are deposited on the skin or clothing). 

DID YOU KNOW? The main sources of ionizing radiation to which we are exposed are of natural origin (58%): radon (34%), terrestrial radiation (11%), cosmic radiation (7%), mineral water and food (6%). The main artificial source of ionizing radiation is medical exposure (41%). Nuclear industry and nuclear testing only represents 1% (Institut de Radioprotection et de sûreté Nucléaire)

Sciensano is a member of the Superior Health Council and advises on the risks associated with mobile communication and other types of non-ionizing radiation, in particular radio frequencies.

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