An Introduction to the Electromagnetic Spectrum

Image depicting the electromagnetic spectrum in rainbow colors from radio waves to gamma rays

The electromagnetic spectrum is a description and categorization of the many variations of electromagnetic radiation, and organizes these variations by their frequency, wavelength, sources that generate them, and their practical uses. Electromagnetic radiation is created anytime that an electric field (produced by charged particles such as electrons and protons) consistently oscillates (moves back and forth), which automatically generates a magnetic field. This occurs the other way around, also, as an oscillating magnetic field will create a corresponding electric field. This electromagnetic radiation moves directionally as waves that radiate outwards and have various lengths, and the length of the waves (wavelength) determines the frequency.

The lower the frequency, the longer the wavelength. Frequency is measured in hertz (Hz), which means “cycles per second”, referring to how long it takes for the wave to move through a full wave cycle and return to the same point on a plane as where it started. The more cycles per second (higher frequencies), the shorter the wavelength.

As an example, extremely low frequency (ELF) radio waves are used in high-voltage AC power lines at 60 Hz, and each one of these wavelengths is 6,000 kilometers long! Then on the high end of the radio wave band are the microwaves, some of which have frequencies around 300 gigahertz (GHz), which has a wavelength of just 1 millimeter.

These millimeter waves are the higher end of the 5G (5th Generation cellular technology) spectrum, which we will discuss more later.

All transverse (versus longitudinal) electromagnetic waves travel at the speed of light (minus obstructions). Actually, electromagnetic radiation IS light! Light is just a different term that can be used to describe EM radiation. We don’t usually use that term for it, as we use light to describe the very small portion of the EM spectrum that we can see with our eyes. Within the electromagnetic spectrum, that small portion is referred to as visible light. We cannot see the vast majority of the EM spectrum, but all of it technically is light, as it consists of photons that move energy.

We can also feel some kinds of EM radiation as heat, especially in the infrared, visible light and ultraviolet bands, but certainly others as well.

The sound we hear with our ears is not technically electromagnetic, but is produced by mechanical vibrations. They are mechanical waves, with their own frequencies and wavelengths. They are still frequencies, but with different properties, and are generally purely longitudinal waves (not the transverse electromagnetic waves of the EM spectrum). Human ears cannot hear the full spectrum of sound waves, but the sound is still produced and many animals and insects are able to hear the lower and higher frequencies on the sound spectrum. With all that said, sound is not part of the EM spectrum, but it deserves a mention because it is a form of frequency – one of the few that our bodies can perceive, in addition to light and heat!

Frequencies are everywhere, all around us all the time, whether or not we can perceive them with our senses. Just because we can’t perceive them doesn’t mean they aren’t affecting us. Our bodies are highly tuned electrochemical systems, and our cells perceive and respond to the entire electromagnetic spectrum, even frequency bands that are completely invisible, inaudible and undetectable to our five senses.

Let’s move into the different subranges of the electromagnetic spectrum. These ranges were named and categorized only for the sake of understanding the different properties and uses as you move up and down the spectrum. The truth is that they are all contiguous frequencies with the same basic properties and functions, with boundaries that overlap considerably.  

Radio waves

Radio waves generally fall within a wide frequency spectrum, from 3 kilohertz (kHz) to 300 gigahertz (GHz). You can imagine how wide this range is: a frequency of 3 kHz has a wavelength that’s 100 kilometers long! In contrast, a 300 GHz frequency’s wavelength is only 1 millimeter. There are lower frequencies that are sometimes considered part of the radio frequency spectrum, such as 60 Hz high-voltage power lines, but generally radio frequency refers to the portion of the spectrum that radios, TVs, mobile communication devices, and radar use to broadcast information through space without using wires.

Natural forms of radio waves include the Schumann resonance of the Earth, which generates frequencies in the ELF (extremely low frequency) range of around 7.83 Hz to 33.8 Hz. There are objects in space, including the Sun, Jupiter, and certain types of stars, that emit radio waves which often reach into the Earth’s atmosphere, since the radio frequency spectrum moves in and out of the atmosphere fairly easily (compared to most of the EM spectrum). Lightning storms also generate natural radio waves. We have evolved with this symphony of frequencies, and the subtle variance of many different frequencies at different amplitudes that these natural elements produce is usually healthy for human bodies and other living organisms.

Artificial (manmade) forms of radio waves include AM radio, FM radio, TV, cell phones/cell towers, Wifi, “Smart” meters and “Smart” home devices. While these are within the same frequency spectrum as natural sources of radio waves, they have a considerably different structure. Each signal generally fixates on one frequency, and repeats that frequency over and over again, 24/7. We will talk more later about how this difference is a primary cause of the stress that these manmade EMF sources put on our bodies.

AM and FM radio have different ways of delivering their audio information. AM means “amplitude modulated” and FM means “frequency modulated”. When radio frequencies are broadcasted, there are several ways the base signal can be modulated to carry information. When AM radio broadcasts the signal of a certain station, that station will have a base frequency that remains constant, which is indicated in the name of the channel, i.e. a channel called “1280 AM” has a base frequency of 1280 kilohertz (kHz). While the frequency remains the same, the amplitude of the carrier signal will be modulated, which becomes the audio that you hear when you tune into the station.

FM radio is pretty much the opposite. The amplitude of the carrier signal remains constant, while the frequency varies intricately around one base frequency. An FM radio station called “95.6 FM” uses a base frequency of 95.6 megahertz (MHz), with frequency variations that occur above and below to a small degree. The FM radio stations have to be further apart in base frequency to allow these variations, but it’s a more accurate way to carry nuanced information, making FM radio a better delivery system for good quality musical output. AM is primarily used for talk radio, due to the lower quality of the sound transmission.

AM radio is between 540 and 1600 kHz, while FM radio occurs between 88 and 108 MHz. TV broadcasting is in a larger frequency spectrum that starts between the AM and FM range, with the high end being higher than FM radio. TV uses a combination of amplitude and frequency modulation, to carry both visual information (AM) and audio information (FM).  

Microwaves (high end of the radio wave spectrum)

Microwaves are the high end of the radio wave spectrum, but we’ll give them their own section because manmade microwave radiation sources are increasing exponentially each decade, and they’re especially relevant to the subject of EMF protection. They have also been the subject of a large percentage of the studies done on the harms that electromagnetic fields have on biology.

The microwave part of the spectrum could be defined as anywhere between 300 MHz (one meter wavelength) and 300 GHz (one millimeter wavelength). Contained within this range of frequencies is all the bustling activity of the electronic communications devices all over the world. This includes radar, cell phones/cell towers, Wifi routers, “smart” meters, “smart” home devices (such as baby monitors, wireless doorbells, ovens/toasters that connect to the internet, etc). It also includes the microwave ovens that many people still use to cook or heat up food, due to the ability of microwave frequencies to dramatically accelerate electrons in food and water, which has a rapid heating effect.

The term “microwaves” just means they are smaller than the waves of radio broadcasting, not that they are in the micrometer range. Microwaves are used by communications devices because the higher the frequency, the more information you can transmit per unit of time on that carrier signal. Much more complex and nuanced information can be carried at a frequency of 6 GHz, compared to 600 MHz. The downside is that the higher you go on the frequency spectrum, the harder it is for that signal to move around objects that are directly between the source and the destination, such as a building or tree between a cell tower and any given cell phone.

This is why a 3G or 4G cell tower can reach cell phones very far away, and be relatively unphased by obstructions within its path; the wavelength is long enough to move around obstructions more easily. A 5G signal, on the other hand, which may have wavelengths that are only a centimeter or even just a millimeter long, will be instantly blocked by small obstructions such as trees. For these higher frequencies with larger loads of information to reach their destination devices, there need to be enough towers and antennas to transmit or relay the signal, considering obstructions. This requires infrastructure densification, or basically having to place antennas every 300 feet or less to maintain consistent 5G availability in a given area. It can even mean having to place 5G “small cell” antennas inside of buildings, as the signal can have difficulty moving through walls! A much different situation than just needing one large cell tower every few miles.

Microwave radiation can be divided into 3 categories: Extremely High Frequency (EHF), Ultra High Frequency (UHF) and Very High Frequency (VHF). EHF is also called millimeter waves, and range between 30 and 300 GHz. This is where the more intense higher 5G frequencies fall, which are not yet in common use in most places, but will likely be needed to achieve the “driverless car” level of the 5G vision. The UHF range can be called the centimeter range, as its 3 to 30 GHz wavelengths are between 1 and 10 centimeters long. Wifi, radar, microwave ovens, and satellite communications are within this range. The VHF range includes Wifi, 4G cell phones and towers, cordless phones, walkie talkies, some TV broadcasting and satellite communications, and many other applications. VHF is the “decimeter band”, which is between 10 centimeters and one meter, and consists of frequencies between 300 MHz and 3 GHz.

Most Wifi frequencies are around 2.4 GHz, but many companies are also now using a 5 GHz signal to improve speed and data transmission. If you see a Wifi connection on your phone, you may see the name of the network, then another option that’s the name of the network with “5G” at the end. This means 5 gigahertz, and is not the same 5G that refers to 5th generation wireless technology. That said, a lot of the current 5G cell deployments are close to the same frequencies as 5 GHz Wifi, and the 6 GHz to 24 GHz bands are currently being widely used for 5G.

Radar is another common application of microwaves. Radar systems use microwave echoes to determine the distance to a wide variety of objects, from clouds to aircraft. It can determine the speed of moving objects or the intensity of weather fluctuations.  

Infrared light

When we move past the millimeter waves of the most intense microwave radiation around 300 GHz, we approach the terahertz (THz) range, and this is where the infrared waves reside. Infrared is most commonly known for its heat production. The heat that our bodies produce is a form of infrared radiation. 49% of the heat from the Sun is from its infrared rays. In fact, most objects and environments that we interact with produce infrared radiation! Objects and living organisms, including the Earth itself, absorb infrared radiation from the Sun, then re-radiate infrared into the environment. Thermography, via infrared cameras and other equipment, can be used to detect and “see” heat-emitting life forms where there is little to no visible light.

There are 3 categories of infrared radiation, with different properties and uses. Far infrared has the longest wavelengths, and exists from 300 GHz to 30 THz. Far infrared somewhat overlaps with the microwave frequency spectrum. Certain portions of this sub-millimeter range are used for astronomy. Mid infrared is from 30 to 120 THz. Human skin and fingerprints radiate in the lower end of this spectrum, as well as other hot objects. Near infrared is from 120 to 400 THz, and is the closest infrared frequency to visible red light, although its wavelengths are still just outside the human eyesight perception range. One wavelength in the near infrared range can be as small as 750 nanometers (nm)!

Near infrared in the 700 to 1000 nm range can be used for medical and therapeutic healing purposes, alone or in combination with the visible red light spectrum. Infrared and red light have similar effects on the mitochondria of our cells, by increasing energy (ATP) generation at the cellular level. Red light is more beneficial for skin surfaces, as it does not penetrate further than 25 millimeters. Near infrared will penetrate more deeply, allowing therapeutic treatment deeper into tissue, potentially even into bone and internal organs if the infrared light source is strong enough. Many studies point to a wide range of potential uses and benefits of red and infrared light therapy, including skin conditions, anti-aging, regulating hormones and glands, improving oral and dental health, stimulating metabolism/weight loss, stimulating collagen production (for healthy skin and hair growth), treating arthritis, and more.

As with all therapeutic uses of electromagnetic fields, less is more, and although infrared and red light therapy is generally regarded as safe and beneficial, too much of a good thing can be bad since it will expose your body to repetitive EMFs. This chronic repetition will stimulate your cells too much in the same way, canceling out the therapeutic benefits. Red/infrared light therapy sessions are usually 5-15 minutes at a time, usually no more than once per day.  

Visible light

As we stated earlier, the entire electromagnetic spectrum is light, but our eyes can only detect a very small portion of this spectrum. This relatively tiny portion is referred to as Visible Light. Each color vibrates at a different frequency, and subtle changes in the frequency will produce different shades of each color. Red is at the lowest frequencies, with the longest wavelengths, just beyond the infrared spectrum. Orange is a slightly higher frequency, then yellow, green, and blue. Violet is the highest frequency of all visible light, with the shortest wavelengths. Red wavelengths are between 620 and 750 nanometers long, while violet wavelengths are only 380 to 450 nanometers.

Most radiation in the electromagnetic spectrum is blocked by the Earth’s atmospheric gases, so very little radiation from space will reach the Earth’s surface. There is a small window that corresponds closely to the Visible Light range, called the optical window, that refers to a spectrum of frequencies that can pass through the atmosphere with little to no attenuation (weakening). A large percentage of the heat from Sun is from the visible light spectrum. The comparatively warm and mild temperatures on the Earth’s surface are due to visible light from the Sun passing through the optical window of the atmosphere, which is absorbed by the surface of the Earth and re-radiated as infrared heat. Infrared does not easily pass through the atmosphere, so this heat gets trapped inside, which results in the moderate temperatures we enjoy here on Earth, compared to the temperature extremes in outer space.  

Ultraviolet (UV)

Beyond visible light, past the range of perception of human eyesight, is ultraviolet radiation. These frequencies are invisible to humans, but visible to a number of insects and birds. The ultraviolet (UV) light we are exposed to on Earth comes from the Sun, but the vast majority of UV rays from the Sun are blocked by the Earth’s atmosphere. UV radiation wavelengths range between 10 nm to 400 nm. Most ultraviolet is classified as non-ionizing radiation, but the 10-120 nm range of “extreme” ultraviolet” reaches the ionizing spectrum of radiation, where the photon energy is high enough to split atoms, causing cell damage and cell death. Ionizing ultraviolet is completely blocked by oxygen in the Earth’s atmosphere. Most of the non-ionizing ultraviolet is blocked by oxygen or ozone. When the Sun is at its highest point in the sky in the afternoon, after atmospheric filtration only 3% of its rays are ultraviolet, which decreases even more when the Sun is at lower angles! UV has powerful effects on biology. When it comes in contact with human skin, it’s solely responsible for production of steroid hormone (“vitamin”) D. Vitamin D is vital for healthy nervous system function, bone growth and bone density, immunity, cell proliferation, insulin secretion and blood pressure regulation.

Ultraviolet light is powerful, and although it’s non-ionizing, UV photons contain enough energy to alter chemical bonds in atoms. It can do more damage to biological molecules than can be accounted for by simple heating effects. Moderate exposure to UV from sunlight can give us a rosy glow, improve the quality of our blood and our overall health, and can give us a suntan. Overexposure to UV rays results in sunburn, from the high energy UV photons causing damage to our skin cells. Consistent overexposure to UV rays can result in permanent damage to the skin, which can even result in skin cancer.  


X-rays & gamma rays

The high end of the ultraviolet spectrum is when radiation becomes energetic enough to be considered ionizing. These powerful photons have enough energy to ionize atoms and disrupt chemical bonds, which in too strong of a dose (or with chronic exposure to lower doses) will harm living tissue.

X-rays and gamma rays have the highest frequencies and shortest wavelengths of the electromagnetic spectrum. They are generally measured and quantified using different terminology than the lower parts of the spectrum. It’s rare to hear ionizing radiation referred to in terms of hertz and wavelength size, and more universal to measure it in photon energy units, aka electron volts (eV).

X-rays and gamma rays have similar photon energies, and although gamma rays are often at higher frequencies than x-rays, the range overlaps considerably. Some x-rays have much higher frequencies than some forms of gamma rays. The difference between the two is primarily their structure and source. X-ray frequencies originate from the electrons of an atom, whereas gamma rays originate from the nucleus.

Both penetrate deeply into tissue, which can be extraordinarily harmful to the body, but also has certain therapeutic uses. Since x-rays penetrate deeply through body tissue, but can’t move through bone, they are useful for providing images of the inside of the body in a non-invasive manner, without having to perform surgery or place physical objects into the body to examine the state of its inner workings. Medical x-rays have been streamlined with modern equipment to expose body tissue to the minimum possible levels of radiation, while gathering the needed information.

Gamma radiation (along with alpha and beta particles) is usually a byproduct of radioactive decay, from radioactive isotopes such as potassium-40, cobalt-60, and others. Cobalt-60, with its large emission of gamma radiation, is used as a cancer treatment to target and kill cancer cells. It can be therapeutically useful in that way, but radiation does not distinguish between healthy and unhealthy cells, and can have the side effects of destroying healthy tissue and weakening the entire organism, as well.

Ionizing radiation also occurs in nature, usually in very small amounts that humans and other living organisms are well adapted to. The main cumulative source of exposure is called natural background radiation. It is the tiny quantities of radioactive decay that exist in the air, water and soil in most places. Airborne radon accounts for most of our natural exposure to ionizing radiation. It is part of the uranium/thorium decay process, and emits strong gamma rays. In the vast majority of places on Earth, it is in very small quantities and does not pose a health hazard, but in certain areas of the world it’s naturally more concentrated, and can be especially dangerous if it’s radiating from underneath a house and poor ventilation doesn’t allow easy escape, concentrating it to dangerous levels. You can measure the ionizing radiation currently present in any environment, or being emitted from materials, with a device called a Geiger counter (or a dosimeter, which measures cumulative exposure).

Another natural exposure source is from cosmic radiation, which is constantly moving into our atmosphere from outer space. Exposure intensifies as you move to higher elevations – the cosmic radiation level at mile-high elevations on Earth is about twice what it is at sea level! It becomes exponentially more intense while flying in commercial airplanes.

Wrapping it all up

When you learn about all the different properties, uses and sources of the different portions of the electromagnetic spectrum, just remember that these are all gradations of the same type of energy, and their differences may be less diverse than we think. It’s long been known that the highest parts of the spectrum, ionizing radiation, can damage and kill living cells and even cause cancer. When you move down the spectrum to the longer, lower frequency radio waves, it’s good to assume that there’s at least a possibility that this “non-ionizing” radiation may also have detrimental health effects.

The non-ionizing ultraviolet radiation described earlier is a good example. It was found to have “the ability of doing far more damage to many molecules in biological systems than is accounted for by simple heating effects”, according to a physics course on the EM spectrum.

For a while, it was believed (assumed) that the only harmful effects that non-ionizing radiation could possibly have are at intense enough power levels to heat living tissue. This has since been proven false through thousands of clinical studies, which have shown definite harmful effects from non-thermal (not strong enough to produce heating effects) non-ionizing radiation, from ELF (extremely low frequency) to the microwave frequencies.

Additionally, not all frequency sources have the same effects on biological health. Natural frequencies in the radio spectrum, with their infinite variations of frequencies, amplitudes, and congruent patterns that have similarities with the structure of our own bodies, can tangibly improve our health and well being.

Just go out into nature, to a waterfall or a dense forest, and take note of how you feel. Then go into an EMF dense metropolitan area, and compare the two. I’m sure almost everyone would say there’s a very big difference! We can’t see or hear the majority of these invisible frequencies all around us, but they are certainly still there, and are affecting us whether we realize it or not.

However, most of us can’t just leave the modern world and go live in nature permanently. Therefore, we will still have exposure to these biologically incoherent, manmade EMFs, if we want to live any semblance of a modern life.

Blushield is designed to bridge that gap. It’s a way to remind our bodies of the symphony of frequencies nature provides, which we may not have access to most of the time. The biologically coherent field generated by the Blushield algorithm out-competes the incoherent, repetitive frequencies of the manmade EMF, as your body recognizes and entrains with the familiar natural patterns, restoring immune power and well-being.

Click here to learn more about Blushield, how it works to protect your body from harmful EMFs, and to find the Blushield device that is right for you.

EMF Spectrum Cheat Sheet

EMF Spectrum Cheat Sheet

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