What are EMFs? Your Guide to The Types & Sources

baby emf kitchen nursery Jul 10, 2017

Here's what you need to know about EMFs

We're all in love with technology, from the addictive scrolling through Facebook on our mobile devices to our children's obsession with video games. This digital world that we live in is growing at such a fast pace and is now part of our everyday lives. While this digital fun might not seem like a problem for most, there's a growing concern that our exposure to EMFs, created from these very devices, can have negative effects on our health and wellbeing.

So what are EMFs? I'm glad you asked. EMF stands for Electromagnetic fields - a term used to describe invisible forces of energy associated with the use of electrical power. EMFs are made up of electric fields, magnetic fields and a mixture of both electric and magnetic fields at levels of high frequency. They can occur both naturally and artificially from man-made devices.

When a wire is plugged into an outlet, electric fields are formed, even when the device is switched off. The higher the voltage, the stronger the electric field. Magnetic fields, however, are present only when the device is switched on. The greater the flow of the electric current, the stronger the magnetic field.

For example, if a power cord of an electrical item, such as a baby monitor, is inserted into a wall socket, an electric field flows along the cord, even when not switched on. When the baby monitor is switched on, that flow through the cord creates a magnetic field. During this time, the electric field is still present. Electric and magnetic fields cannot be separated at these high-frequency levels; this is known as electromagnetic fields.

Types of EMFs

EMFs are generally characterized by their wavelength and frequency. The human body reacts differently to the various types of EMFs because of their specific qualities. Basically, the higher the frequency the higher the energy from the EMFs created and the higher the energy of the EMFs the higher the potential of damage to the body.

There are two key categories: ionizing and non-Ionizing

1) Ionizing (mid-to-high-frequency). The higher frequency EMFs are strong enough to break the bonds between molecules. This is known as ionizing radiation which includes X-rays and cosmic rays.

Common Sources of Ionizing Radiation:

  • Radon - a naturally occurring gas in soils and rocks.
  • Thoron - like radon, this is naturally occurring and the principal source in indoor environments is building materials.
  • Cosmic - radiation that comes from our sun or outside of our solar system.
  • Natural Radiation in Soils - natural radiation in soils has existed since the creation of the earth. This can be transferred to our foods in very small amounts but is not a health concern.

Source: EPA

Our exposure to ionizing radiation from the sources listed above is generally very low. There are some instances where our exposure to these sources can increase including at high altitudes or from plane travel (closer to the sun) or in some buildings where natural radiation from the soil and rocks accumulates in buildings (or from building materials).

2) Non-ionizing (Low to mid frequency). When the EMFs are at a lower frequency, they are not strong enough to break molecular bonds so are referred to as non-ionizing radiation, such as cell phone radiation. But exposure to these lower frequencies can still have a serious effect on your health and we are much more exposed to this type of radiation.

Sources of non-ionizing radiation ranges from UV rays from all the way to microwaves from microwave ovens and more. I’ve included a list of some non-ionizing emitting appliances in our daily life below.

Learn More: Are EMFs Harmful?

The EMF Situation Today

There's never been more concern about EMF exposure than today. Man-made EMFs have exploded in recent years alongside the growth of electrical devices, especially those devices that are mobile.

Did you know there are more mobile devices in the world than humans? According to a report dated August 2015 by connected-uk.com, there are 8.6 billion devices vs. 7.3 billion people!

Wireless devices contributing to EMFs include (but not limited to):

  • Computers
  • Tablets
  • Laptops
  • Game consoles
  • Baby monitors
  • Kitchen appliances
  • Wifi routers
  • Wired products

As you can see, these are normal everyday devices that we all hold in our homes, but they pollute indoor environments and often referred to as "dirty electricity". With all the 8.6 billion devices emitting harmful EMFs, some steps should be taken to reduce your exposure.

Learn More: Dangers of EMFs from Appliances

The Ultimate 21 Day Digital Detox  

Our Ultimate 21-day digital detox is a great introduction to reducing your EMF exposure. Use the program to review the most common contributors to your EMF exposure and collaborate to identify the steps to reduce your average EMF exposure comfortably.

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About Ruan Living

Ruan Living simplifies a nontoxic lifestyle through its Practical Nontoxic Living podcast, free detox workshops, online D-Tox Academy, and transformative 40-Day Home Detox. It aims to help you avoid toxic chemicals, heavy metals, and electromagnetic fields (EMFs) from what you buy, own, and do— without compromising your joy and convenience. Ruan was founded by Sophia Ruan Gushée, author of the bestselling critically acclaimed book A to Z of D-Toxing: The Ultimate Guide to Reducing Your Toxic Exposures and several detox workbooks. A graduate of Brown University and Columbia Business School, Sophia has served on the Brown University School of Public Health Advisory Council and Well+Good Council. A popular nontoxic living speaker, consultant, and teacher, Sophia lives in New York City with her husband and three daughters. Her passion for empowering others to enjoy nontoxic living began with the birth of her first daughter in 2007. Everything she creates is a love letter to her children and for the healthiest, brightest future possible. You can learn more here: Sophia’s Impact.


This article is for informational purposes only. This information is provided “as is” without warranty.

It is not, nor is it intended to be, a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment and should never be relied upon for specific medical advice. We do not offer medical advice, course of treatment, diagnosis, or any other opinion on your conditions or treatment options. To the extent that this article features the advice of physicians or medical practitioners, the views expressed are the views of the cited expert and do not necessarily represent the views of Ruan Living.

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