Do Phones and Other Tech Devices Really Emit Dangerous Radiation?

Do Phones and Other Tech Devices Really Emit Dangerous Radiation?

We all use tech devices everyday, specially our mobile phones. We wake up with them and go to sleep with them right by our sides. Therefore it’s important that we get informed about the damages they can cause us through radiation. The answers below are from the internet that discuss whether this danger is myth or fact.


No, they don’t.

Phones and other devices that broadcast (tablets, laptops, you name it …) emit electromagnetic (EM) radiation. EM radiation comes in many different forms, but it is typically characterized by its frequency (or wavelength, the two are directly connected).

Electromagnetic radiation

Most mobile devices communicate with EM signals in the frequency range running from a few hundred megahertz (MHz) to a few gigahertz (GHz).

So what happens when we’re hit with EM radiation? Well, it depends on the frequency. The frequency of the radiation determines the energy of the individual photons that make up the radiation. Higher frequency = higher energy photons. If photons have sufficiently high energy, they can damage a molecule and, by extension, a cell in your body. There’s no exact frequency threshold from which point on EM radiation can cause damage in this way, but 1 petahertz (PHz, or 1,000,000 GHz) is a good rough estimate. For photons that don’t have this much energy, the most they can hope to achieve is to see their energy converted into heat.

Converting EM radiation into a heat is the #1 activity of a very popular kitchen appliance: The microwave oven. This device emits EM radiation with a frequency of about 2.4 GHz to heat your milk and burn your noodles (while leaving parts of the meal suspiciously cold).
The attentive reader should now say to themselves: Wait a minute! This 2.4 GHz of the microwave oven is right there between the “few hundred MHz” and “few GHz” frequency range of our mobile devices. So are our devices mini-microwave ovens?

As it turns out, 2.4 GHz is also the frequency used by many wifi routers (and devices connecting to them) (which coincidentally is the reason why poorly shielded microwave ovens can cause dropped wifi connections when active). But this is where the second important variable that determines the effects of EM radiation comes into play: intensity.

A microwave oven operates with a power of somewhere around the 1,000 W (depending on the model), whereas a router has a broadcast power that is limited (by law, in most countries) to 0.1 W. That makes a microwave oven 10,000 more powerful than a wifi router at maximum output. And mobile devices typically broadcast at even lower intensities, to conserve battery. And while microwave ovens are designed to focus their radiation on a small volume in the interior of the oven, routers and mobile devices throw their radiation out in every direction.

So, not only is EM radiation emitted by our devices not energetic enough to cause direct damage, the intensity with which it is emitted is orders of magnitude lower to cause any noticeable heating.

But to close, I would like to discuss one more source of . A source from which we receive radiation with frequencies ranging from 100 terahertz (THz) to 1 PHz or even slightly more. Yes, that overlaps with the range of potentially damaging radiation. And even more, the intensity of this radiation varies, but can reach up to tens of W. That’s not the total emitted, but the total that directly reaches a human being. Not quite microwave oven level, but enough to make you feel much hotter when exposed to it.

So what is this source of EM radiation and why isn’t it banned yet? The source is none other than the Sun. (And it’s probably not yet banned due to the powerful agricultural lobby.) Our Sun blasts us with radiation that is far more energetic (to the point where it can be damaging) than anything our devices produce and with far greater intensity. Even indoors, behind a window, you’ll receive so much more energy from the Sun (directly or indirectly when reflected by the sky or various objects) than you do from the ensemble of our mobile devices.


The big fuss is that when people say “radiation” they are conflating anything that emits/radiates energy (i.e. anything but the cold vacuum of space) with “ionizing radiation” – x-rays and gamma rays. The normal stuff like light, infrared, UV, radio is so common and harmless, we don’t think of it as radiation, except when speaking scientifically.

The reason ionizing radiation is dangerous is that high concentrations of ionizing radiation are so powerful they penetrate all but the most dense matter (ex. lead). Ionizing radiation has so much energy, when it’s traveling through matter, it smashes through it, breaking apart molecular bonds. When these molecular bonds are in your DNA, your DNA can get messed up and that cell in you body won’t function properly any more. A few cells here and there, your body can handle, the cells self-destruct or are otherwise cleaned up. But if too many get messed up DNA, they get out of control, these cells run amok. We call that cancer.


Here’s a handy chart from Randall Munroe (XKCD):

You may notice that cell phones and other tech are not on this chart. This is because the radiation emitted by these devices is so weak, they are not capable of altering your cells (non-ionizing radiation).


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