Extremely Low Frequency (ELF) Radiation


What is Radiation?

Radiation is a natural part of our living environment, and is commonly described as energy travelling as waves or particles. Radiation sources can be natural or artificial (man-made).

All electromagnetic radiation can be broadly grouped into two categories:
  • Ionising radiation (e.g. x-rays, cosmic rays and naturally occurring radioactive materials in soil and food) – ionising radiation possesses enough energy to knock electrons out of atoms and poses a health risk as it can potentially damage tissue and DNA in genes. Long-term exposure to ionising radiation at high levels can harm people’s health.

  • Non-ionising radiation (e.g. visible light, radio waves and microwaves) – non-ionising radiation moves atoms in a molecule around or causes them to vibrate (which would generate heat) but does not have enough energy to remove electrons from atoms and break chemical bonds in our cells.

In general, ionising electromagnetic radiation travel at high frequency/short wavelength and has high energy. On the other hand, non-ionising radiation travels at a low frequency/long wavelength and has low energy. The different kinds of non-ionising radiation as they fall on the electromagnetic spectrum is depicted below.

UK OFCOM EM Spectrum

Source: UK Ofcom - 5G Mobile Technology: A Guide

What is ELF Radiation?

ELF radiation is a form of electromagnetic radiation and it lies in the frequency range between 1 Hz to 300 Hz. ELF radiation, unlike X-Rays, is non-ionising radiation, which means that ELF radiation does not have sufficient energy to cause ionisation (break chemical bonds or remove electrons).

ELF radiation is made up of the electric and magnetic fields – ELF electric fields and ELF magnetic fields. The properties of ELF electric fields and ELF magnetic fields are described in the World Health Organisation’s Environment Health Criteria 238 Extremely Low Frequency Fields.