I'm curious. I think I'm confused because I don't really understand the way ionizing radiation works.

So the Wifi radiation passes through my body, but has no ionizing effects within my body?

  • \$\begingroup\$ Curious is bad with electronics! Things get fried. [I speak from experience.] \$\endgroup\$ Nov 29, 2013 at 3:14
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    \$\begingroup\$ @AnnonomusPenguin: At the same time, all electronics, and all technology have ultimately been created as a result of curiosity. Don't put down people's attempts to learn. \$\endgroup\$ Jun 8, 2014 at 21:52

3 Answers 3


Ionizing radiation is a little complicated, so stay with me as I try to explain it in an easy way...

When talking about ionizing radiation, scientists talk about energy levels. But this refers to the energy level of the photon of electro-magnetic energy, not the quantity of photons. All electromagnetic energy (radio waves, light, x-rays, etc.) can be thought of as either a wave or a particle. The shorter the wavelength, the higher the energy. So when scientists talk about the energy level of ionizing radiation they are talking about the wavelength.

Here's a wiki page showing the electromagnetic spectrum.

Only the higher energy waves are ionizing. Specifically, stuff in the UltraViolet and above (X-Rays and Gamma Rays). Stuff in the visible spectrum and below (including radio waves and microwaves) are non-ionizing.

Wifi signals, which are in the 2.4 to 5.something GHz range are not ionizing.

I should point out that if something isn't ionizing then simply having more of it (at the same frequency/wavelength) is not going to make it ionizing. It doesn't work that way.

Non-ionizing radiation can have an effect on your body, however. It can cause heating. A microwave oven, for example, operates near 2.4 GHz and obviously heats up food. But a microwave does not ionize food.

But let's put all of this into perspective. A typical WiFi device can output about 0.1 watts of energy. A typical LED flashlight will output about 1 watt of light. They are both non-ionizing energy and will have a similar heating effect. The main difference is that the flashlight will heat you 10 times faster and in a more concentrated spot on your body. Yet you wouldn't think twice about shining a flashlight on your hand-- and you shouldn't worry about it.

On the equator at noon the sun puts out approximately 1,000 watts of energy per square meter of ground. The vast majority of this is non-ionizing (the UV part is ionizing). This is about 1,000 times more "radiation" than the LED Flashlight, and 10,000 times more than the WiFi signal. You run more risk going outside than sitting in your house playing on the iPad. Even so, just put on some sunscreen and enjoy the outdoors!

Some electro-magnetic radiation will pass through your body. The higher wavelengths and lower wavelengths in particular will pass through more easily. But passing through means that their energy did not interact with your body. It's the stuff that doesn't pass through that you're interested in. Even so, what I said above assumes that 100% of the energy gets trapped in your body and it still isn't an issue.


A WiFi signal is non-ionizing and is thousands of times less energy than going outside in the sun. Don't worry about it. It's not going to harm you.

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    \$\begingroup\$ +1 for "just put on some sunscreen and enjoy the outdoors!". Priceless in an EE site :) \$\endgroup\$
    – clabacchio
    Mar 15, 2012 at 7:14
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    \$\begingroup\$ While I agree with your descriptions, you are ignoring the possibly different effects of different wavelengths. The 5 inch wavelength of WiFi and microwave ovens can do very different things to us than light with its waves 250k times smaller. There is still much debate and conflicting studies about microwave and longer radiation on the human body. This is not a resolved issue. Saying catagorically to not worry about it is irresponsible because we don't currently know for sure. \$\endgroup\$ Mar 15, 2012 at 13:13
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    \$\begingroup\$ @OlinLathrop All of the scientific literature that is credible (that I've read) does not show any effect other than heating for non-ionizing radiation. Further, there is no known plausible mechanism for such EM radiation to effect human tissue (other than heating). If you know of any scientific study showing me wrong then I will be more than happy to read it and change my opinion should the evidence support the claim. IMHO, there is lots of fear-mongering from the woo-woo people about this subject and we shouldn't let them pass off their anecdotal claims as "good science". \$\endgroup\$
    – user3624
    Mar 15, 2012 at 14:18
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    \$\begingroup\$ There is still legitimate scientific uncertainty. Just because we can't see a immediate mechanism for microwaves to cause harm other than by heating doesn't mean it's not happening. There was a paper in the journal of the American Medical Association (jama.ama-assn.org/content/305/8/828.full) that showed brain activity linked to cell phone proximity. Even they admit they don't understand the mechanism or what it means, but it shows we don't understand everything. Long time ago microwaves were linked to increases in cataracts, so maybe we should be careful until this is understood. \$\endgroup\$ Mar 15, 2012 at 14:27
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    \$\begingroup\$ @OlinLathrop That study only involved 47 people and didn't control for the effect of the phone itself getting warm due to use and warming up the area of the head near the ear-- heating unrelated to RF energy. It is known that metabolism increases at higher temps, so the results of their experiments are not surprising. You'd probably get similar effects by just placing a small non-electric heat pack on the side of your head. While you're correct that there are lots of things we don't know, I prefer to not stress out about it. After all, we can't explain gravity either. \$\endgroup\$
    – user3624
    Mar 15, 2012 at 15:05

Your Wi-Fi equipment most likely does not emmit ionizing radiation. I suggest to read ionizing radiation in the Wikipedia for more information on that topic.

To roughly test whether the signal of a Wi-Fi device can pass through your body, just cover its antenna with your hands and test with another Wi-Fi Device whether the receive signal strength declines. Wi-Fi uses Frequencies around 2.4 GHz or 5 GHz (802.11a). This frequencies are non-ionizing (see non-ionizing radiation in the Wikipedia for a nice graphic of the spectrum). The radiated energy typically is in the hundreds of milliwatts and by most considered to cause no health effects.

But as there even are (very few) people allergic to water, there also may be people that experience electromagnetic hypersensitivity...

I don't think, your health is likely to be affected by Wi-Fi. But your network security may be depending on whether you use unencrypted protocols.

P.S.: Some hyperlinks are cripled because of this sites anti-SPAM measures.

Edit: You really should read the faster answer above mine :-)


I see all the technical words here, but let's be practical. Johnnie Cochran died from a brain tumor on the left side of his brain. He was left-handed. He held his phone to his head a lot. Coincidence? There was a girl who kept her phone in her bra on one side. She was 21. She got breast cancer on that spot. I get a certain kind of headache when I am around these strange signals. There are countless other stories. Practicality speaks volumes.

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    \$\begingroup\$ I put my phone in my left pants pocket. I got a hernia on the right side. \$\endgroup\$ Jul 3, 2021 at 16:35
  • \$\begingroup\$ I am working 18h/day on a computer and havent gotten anything yet. \$\endgroup\$
    – Miss Mulan
    Jul 3, 2021 at 16:48
  • \$\begingroup\$ Yes radio waves will pass through the body. \$\endgroup\$
    – Gil
    Jul 3, 2021 at 18:37
  • \$\begingroup\$ xkcd.com/925 Enough said \$\endgroup\$
    – Voltage Spike
    Jul 4, 2021 at 0:40

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