Red light therapy and photobiomodulation typically rely on electronics such as LEDs, Lasers, or other light bulbs to generate the therapeutic frequencies for health and wellness. Apart from the beneficial light frequencies, it is commonly known that electronics can emit several frequencies of unnatural EMF as a by-product.
Like a supplement that might have undesired fillers, casings for capsules, or "inactive ingredients," we must be mindful of the exposure of EMF. GembaRed is one of the first and few companies that have our light therapy lamps measured for EMF and transparently display our results on our FAQ.
In the health community EMF becomes a hot topic as we know the invisible and constant exposure to WiFi, Cellular Communications, Dirty Electricity, and the coming 5G upgrades may pose health concerns.
In this article we will distinguish different types of EMF and how they relate to the topic of Red Light Therapy. Then we will offer our expert insight of what to look for when trying to understanding EMF exposure from devices.
What is an EMF?
EMF is the acronym for Electromagnetic Frequencies, which is energy emitted in a sinusoidal wave. We can describe EMF by its Frequency in Hz (cycles per second), which is the number of peaks it makes per second, and it also has a corresponding Wavelength usually in the order of length of meters (from nanometers, nm, to long waves in meters, m).
The Electromagnetic Spectrum is used to describe EMFs relative to their increasing or decreasing Frequency (Hz) and Wavelength (nm). Different sections of the Electromagnetic Spectrum are given names ranging from Radio Waves, Microwaves, Infrared Waves, Visible Light, Ultraviolet, X-Ray, and Gamma Ray.
Yes you read that chart correctly, we could even call the beneficial Red and Near-Infrared wavelengths an EMF, because they too live on the Electromagnetic Spectrum.
It is important to distinguish that there are natural EMFs such as the visible and invisible energy from the sun, ranging from UV to Far-Infrared. There are also natural frequencies and magnetism from the earth. Generally we want to optimize our exposure to natural frequencies as our bodies were uniquely evolved to use them. This is the reason why we do Red Light Therapy in the first place, because this is a natural EMF that our body and cells can use to our benefit.
So for discussions about the potentially negative EMFs, we should be more specific. We can refer to them as Non-Native EMFs, nnEMF, which we can group the "man-made" or "artificial" EMFs that our bodies are not accustomed to. Or we can refer to them by their specific grouping on the electromagnetic spectrum.
For the case of Red Light Therapy devices, we want to consider Radio Frequency (RF), as well as Extremely Low Frequency EMFs (ELF EMF). There are two types of ELF EMF, this is Magnetic Fields and Electric Fields.
Radio Frequency and Red Light Therapy?
Radio Frequency, RF EMF, covers the range of frequencies dedicated to wireless communications devices. This include WiFi, Celluar Service, BlueTooth, Radio, and most "wireless" connected data devices. So unless your Red Light Therapy device contains a bluetooth or IoT (internet of things) connectivity, which some do, then this is not much of a concern.
However! Our expert insight shows that it is possible that the power driver to convert AC to DC may emit unintentional RF noise. So we shouldn't rule them out completely. This was primary a problem with earlier LED lamps and devices many years ago, and nearly all approved drivers on the market are now compliant with low RF emissions.
You can read more about one interesting example of RF interference with LED lamps in this article.
Extremely Low Frequency EMF (ELF EMF)
With EL EMF, there are two types, Magnetic Fields and Electric Fields. In reality they are both interdependent on each other as the study of Electromagnetic Radiation (EMR). Both are low frequency and very different than RF, and very different than each other. So we will tackle them one at a time.
Magnetic Field EMF (MF EMF)
Per my basic Physics Class in college, I know that when electrons flow rapidly in a circuit, a corresponding Magnetic Field is produced. The more powerful the circuit, usually measured in Current or Amps, the larger the magnetic field. In fact, the reverse is also true, a magnetic field can also affect the current of electrons.
This is significant to our everyday lives because we can generate electricity by rotating a turbine which circulates magnets to force a current on nearby coiled wire. We can use wind, water, steam, or other means to turn turbines, creating the a dynamic magnetic field to create current for the power we use every day.
The opposite of a turbine, is a Fan or Motor! These need to create a strong current to convert electric energy to mechanical energy via a magnetic field.
The GIF above shows how magnets and electrical current are used to create a fast and powerful rotating magnetic field, commonly used to run fans, motors, and pumps.
Why are we talking about turbines and motors? Because many high-powered LED panels for light therapy utilize fans to manage the heat generated by the light. These fans, as explained above, are the primary culprit for causing a magnetic field on the unit.
So, if we are shopping for the lowest possible magnetic field device, then we would shop for devices that do not utilize fans for cooling.
The good news is that Magnetic Fields drop off dramatically with distance from the unit. We generally see that past 6 inches for most devices with fans, the Magnetic Field is a non-issue.
Magnetic Fields can interact with human biology because we are essentially large beings filled with electron interactions with our own magnetic fields. An artificial external magnetic field may interfere with optimal cellular function. Of course, targeted Magnetic Fields are utilized in PEMF technology for healing, so not all Magnetic Field exposure is bad.
Electric Field EMF
Electric fields or E-field surround an electric charge, and can exert a "force" on charged objects. They can attract or repel charged objects based on the polarity (positive or negative). This is the basis for everything from basic atomic attraction to modern electronics.
Real world examples of large electric fields interacting with potential are lighting, static electric shock, and anywhere there is voltage differences causing flow such as from opposite ends of a battery.
Once again with the real world examples, we see how this can affect our Light Therapy Devices. Objects with large electric potential and electric fields are seeking to find equilibrium with its environment. With lightning, the large negative electric potential in the sky is literally seeking the "Ground" to reduce its electrons.
With Red Light Therapy, we can mitigate the electric fields produced by making sure the device is grounded. Most panels with metal enclosures the enclosure itself is grounded as standard practice. This means the electric field is expected to be low for most metal enclosure panels.
For panels like our GembaRed panels with lightweight plastic enclosure, we added grounding and shielding inside the panel itself.
The positive electric field in the photo above is attracted to the negative ground. This method of grounding is commonly used in electronics.
So, the top offenders in this electrical field are the screw-in light bulbs and 2-prong ungrounded panels. Both of these types do not have any method of grounding, which may see a higher electric field produced.
Other methods of potentially reducing E-fields would be to have the AC/DC conversion external to the panel itself, or use shielded power cords. In our experience this is not as significant overall as proper grounding.
Since humans are a charged object with many electrochemical interactions happening all of the time. It makes sense that exposure to strong external electric fields may interfere with our natural processes.
Measuring ELF in Red Light Therapy
There are a wide range of devices that measure for EMF. They also range in the types of EMF they can detect, the accuracy, and the reference measurements. Some common multipurpose devices such as Cornet and TriField meters can give some of these measurements.
The typical units for Magnetic Field is in milliGauss or sometimes microTesla. For Electric Fields the units are usually in Volts per Meter (V/m).
Ideally if you want to measure Magnetic Fields and Electric Fields, you may want specific devices that are designed to measure these individual fields accurately. Our professional uses the Gigahertz ME3951A for Electric Fields and AlphaLab Inc. AC Milligauss Meter Model UHS2.
Natural EMF are important and we can take advantage of the health benefits from the sun, UV, red, and infrared radiation. However we must be mindful of man-made EMFs from electronics, such as RF, Magnetic, and Electric fields.
We find that high-powered LED devices with cooling fans may have higher magnetic fields than those without fans. To mitigate electric fields, we want to make sure the device is properly grounded to carry away that positive electric force. With GembaRed Light Panels, you get the best of both practices, no fans causing magnetic fields, and internally grounded to reduce the electric field. See our measurements over on the FAQ.
Red light therapy is a hot trend that is not going away anytime soon. We expect nearly every household will have some sort of red light device for general use. It will be important for customers and manufacturers to mitigate the unintentional nnEMF generated by their devices and use them appropriately.
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