Answer to Question #7923 Submitted to "Ask the Experts"

Category: Radiation Basics

The following question was answered by an expert in the appropriate field:

Can nonionizing radiation turn into ionizing radiation?

I need help figuring out if the below case can actually happen.

"The HD (high definition) frequencies that are being broadcast through the air to the Federal requirement for digital transmission as of February 9, 2009. These signals require either cable, an HD TV, or a digital converter box. When the WiMax frequencies combine with either of the above two kinds of frequencies, then the collective effect is ionized radiation, which breaks down the chemical structure of the the human body."

Taken from:


There is no scientific evidence that I am aware of that combining nonionizing radiations as represented by WiMax transmissions and TV transmissions, digital or analog, can produce ionizing radiation. The author of the piece you cite appears to have some very unconventional ideas about electromagnetic radiation.

Ms. Light advertises herself as a telepathic healer and markets products, such as "Rejuvenizer" jewelry, that are claimed to have protective effects against exposure to EMF (electromagnetic fields). The article you refer to contains a number of misleading and false statements. There is confusion in the article about what kinds of interactions and effects ionizing radiation produces compared to nonionizing EMF. Ionizing radiation is characterized by the fact that the individual photons associated with the radiation are sufficiently energetic to promote direct ionization of materials with which they interact. The effects of ionizing radiation are induced by this stripping of electrons from atoms, leaving ionized atoms and producing some reactive chemical species. Molecules can be damaged by direct ionization, and molecules, cells, and tissues can be further affected by indirect chemical interactions. The production of heat by the ionizing radiation is so little as to play virtually no role in the induced possible damaging effects of exposure.

Many nonionizing RF (radiofrequency) sources interact with susceptible molecules/tissues within the body by way of the vibrating electric field or magnetic field components that make up the radiation. Thermal energy production is one of the major negative effects of absorption of nonionizing electromagnetic radiation and is the major basis on which U.S. protection standards/recommendations are founded (47 CFR 1.1310 Table 1 contains the FCC recommended maximum permitted exposure values); unlike ionizing radiation, the individual photons associated with the EMF do not have sufficient energy to cause ionization in tissue or other material. Other nonthermal effects associated with magnetic field and/or electric field interactions are possible, but these are difficult to quantify and evidence of  actual negative biological impact is hard to establish.

There remains considerable controversy about whether nonthermal effects of nonionizing EMF are a significant health concern, and such concern among the public provides fertile ground for statements and marketing schemes by some entrepreneurs that have no validation among the legitimate scientific community.

It is understandable that many people may be concerned about the widespread promulgation of ever new and more pervasive forms of nonionizing EMF that seem to be associated with advances in communications technology, but it is certainly not true that such nonionizing radiation fields, singly or in combination, are a source of ionizing radiation.

Hope this helps.

George Chabot, PhD, CHP

Answer posted on 13 November 2008. The information posted on this web page is intended as general reference information only. Specific facts and circumstances may affect the applicability of concepts, materials, and information described herein. The information provided is not a substitute for professional advice and should not be relied upon in the absence of such professional advice. To the best of our knowledge, answers are correct at the time they are posted. Be advised that over time, requirements could change, new data could be made available, and Internet links could change, affecting the correctness of the answers. Answers are the professional opinions of the expert responding to each question; they do not necessarily represent the position of the Health Physics Society.