Learn about the basic principles of EME so you can better understand how it plays a role in our lives, safely.

17 June 2021

Have you ever heard of EME?

It stands for electromagnetic energy, and it's a part of everyday life.

EME comes from a variety of sources in the natural environment. It's emitted by the sun, the earth's atmosphere--and even the human body.

EME is also produced artificially.

Devices that rely on radio waves to operate like your radio, TV and mobile phone all produce safe levels of artificial EME. And so do other everyday household items like your heater, light bulbs and oven.

While the rollout of new technologies, such as 5G, has caused some people to be worried about the levels of EME they're exposed to, it is important to understand that EME from wireless communications is researched, regulated and safe.

EME and the electromagnetic spectrum

Learning more about the electromagnetic spectrum helps us to understand EME and the way it fits into our day-to-day lives.

“Electromagnetic spectrum” is a catch-all term to describe every form of EME, and how it varies in wavelength and frequency.

Why is this important? Because EME reacts to matter in different ways, based on these variances.

For example, most people feel comfortable having a TV remote control in their living room, but would probably think twice before installing an X-Ray machine in their kitchen.

Both devices emit EME, but they are two very different types with two very different effects on humans.

These two different types of EME are “ionising” and “non-ionising”.  

  1. Ionising - The type of EME produced by X-rays and gamma rays. Ionising EME occurs at very high frequencies above 300 GHz and produces very short wavelengths. Ionising EME has enough energy to strip electrons from an atom. This can cause damage to living tissue which is why you need to be cautious around this type of EME.
  2. Non-ionising - The type of EME produced by radio waves, microwaves, infrared and visible light. Non-ionising EME occurs at frequencies less than 300 GHz and produces longer wavelengths to carry information. This means non-ionising EME is not powerful enough to break up molecular bonds or damage DNA.

How you co-exist with EME in your day-to-day life

When you consider all the applications of EME, it's almost impossible to imagine life without some kind of exposure.

Electrical equipment, mobile devices and wireless communications networks all emit EME.

This means the majority of people are spending most of their lives living near and working around at least some form of artificial EME.

There are a few important points to be aware of:

  1. Exposure to EME from artificial sources isn't new - Humans have been living with devices that emit safe levels of EME for a really long time, some dating back to the invention of the telegraph in the mid-1800s.
  2. Artificial EME is not worse than natural EME - Different types of EME are produced at different frequencies, and behave differently.
  3. Artificial EME can be regulated - This is the important one. Every device, piece of equipment and infrastructure that emits artificial EME is subject to strict guidelines. That's why it's safe to use these devices in day-to-day life.

How EME is regulated in Australia

Australia has a very strict standard when it comes to protecting people from EME from wireless communications. This standard is based on decades of national and international scientific research.

The standard is set by the Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency (ARPANSA), an independent authority that undertakes its own research and provides expert advice on radiation protection to the Australian Government.

In simple terms, ARPANSA outlines how much EME someone can be exposed to at any given time. The ARPANSA Standard for RF EME used in telecommunications is set well within the limits for safe exposure.

This means there is a wide safety margin.

ARPANSA's standard applies to every piece of telecommunications equipment and infrastructure, including devices, transmitters, base stations and antennas and is enforced by the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA).

EME is a safe part of everyday life

When activities like the rollout of the 5G network happen, it's natural for some people to become concerned about the level of EME they're exposed to in their day-to-day lives.

Understanding the basic principles of EME is crucial to understanding how it plays a safe role in our lives.

You can confidently live and work around wireless telecommunication devices that emit EME because the science is robust and up-to-date. That's the science of safe connection.