Non-ionizing radiation, like radiation from mobile phones, electric power transmission, and radio frequencies, etc. is regarded by the majority of people as safe to the human body. However the World Health Organization in 2011 stated:

The WHO/International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) has classified radiofrequency electromagnetic fields as possibly carcinogenic to humans (Group 2B), based on an increased risk for glioma, a malignant type of brain cancer, associated with wireless phone use.

This release is not definite, just a possible link, and it has been refuted. I cannot seem to find any good study that shows a direct association between health issues and non-ionizing radiation.

There is this study that showed brain glucose metabolism linked to cell phone proximity, but it has been refuted because it only involved 47 people and didn't control for the effect of the heat generated by the phone. And similar issues with other studies.

So my question is, is there any scientifically accepted link between non-ionizing radiation and health issues?


As @EnergyNumbers pointed out in his answer,

Your question is very broad - you've asked about non-ionizing radiation generally, rather than say specifically about radio waves. And that makes it much easier to answer in the affirmative.

Yes it is very broad, I don't want only radio wave related answers, and he lists some good ones. The only answer I don't wan't is one related to heat; like the heat from a microwave antenna.

Also if anyone cares, I asked this question because of a discussion that took place in the comments of this answer on SE's Electronic site, and I was surprised it hadn't been asked/answered here (there are a lot of somewhat related questions, but I couldn't find what I wanted.)

  • 9
    Non-ionizing radiation was responsible for me seeing Honey Boo-Boo. The damage is irreparable. Jan 7, 2013 at 19:15
  • @LarryOBrien I'm so sorry, hopefully like me, it was only a ~30 second exposure and you'll live otherwise I don't know how you can live with that in your head! Ech!!! Jan 7, 2013 at 19:23
  • @LarryOBrien I wish you could get reputation from comments! I laughed heartilly at that!
    – JasonR
    Jan 7, 2013 at 19:25
  • There is a lot of money spent disputing this claim. But not so much money involved in proving the link.
    – Chad
    Jan 7, 2013 at 21:59
  • @GarrettFogerlie - No he is now addicted and it is worse than heroin to kick... he now lives for reruns of Honey Boo Boo and Junkyard wars.
    – Chad
    Jan 7, 2013 at 22:01

1 Answer 1


Yes, some non-ionizing radiation can cause health problems. Your question is very broad - you've asked about non-ionizing radiation generally, rather than say specifically about radio waves. And that makes it much easier to answer in the affirmative.

See, for example, photochemical damage of the retina from high-intensity visible light:

enter image description here

Also, high-intensity near-infrared radiation will kill cells.

And focussed microwaves are also non-ionizing and aren't particular kind on fat and proteins either:

enter image description here

  • 1
    Similarly, high-intensity microwave/radar radiation can have health effects: WHO's Electromagnetic fields and public health: radars and human health
    – ChrisW
    Jan 7, 2013 at 21:50
  • @ChrisW - good point - microwave note added
    – 410 gone
    Jan 7, 2013 at 21:54
  • @EnergyNumbers +1 for the retna, and cell death, I didn't think of the retna, and didn't know about the cell one. As for the microwave, I originally had a exception for heat, but edited it out cause my explanation made the question a bit confusing. When I was in high school a Darwin Award was given for someone who died because they stood in front of a microwave dish to keep warm. Follow this link for the story, it's funny. Sad and stupid if true. Thx for the answer! Jan 8, 2013 at 0:18
  • @GarrettFogerlie That story was allegedly invented by a member of a Skeptics society, to test whether people believe what they read on the internet - see nmsr.org/darwiner.htm for details. But anyway, the WHO document which I cited says there are known effects, at the following dosages: "whole body or localized exposure to RF fields sufficient to increase tissue temperatures by greater than 1°C"; "An SAR of at least 4 W/kg" in the 1 MHz to 10 GHz range; and "power densities over 1000 W/m2" at above 10GKhz.
    – ChrisW
    Jan 8, 2013 at 0:51
  • @ChrisW Interesting, I'll read the link when I have a sec, thx. I know the story has been around for a long time, my dad was a EE in telecom and he had heard something similar involving a drunk person > 30 years ago. Mythbusters may have even done a show on it, I don't recall the outcome, but my guess would be that at best it would have been plausible. Jan 8, 2013 at 1:03

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