If you watch TV or use a cell phone, you're getting radiation. If you smoke cigarettes, you're definitely getting it too.
While not all types and sources of radiation are the same, scientists agree their net effect is to increase your risk of cancer and other health problems. In some cases, the evidence is clear: ionizing radiation, the type that comes from X-rays and nuclear reactions, has been shown to cause cancer and birth defects. But the health data on other kinds of energy, such as the radiofrequency waves from cell phones, Wi-Fi and microwave ovens — called non-ionizing radiation — has been conflicted.
"We do know that X-rays knock electrons from ions, and that creates mutations in human cells," says Dr. Olga Naidenko, a senior scientist at the Environmental Working Group (EWG) and a lead author on the group's cell phone safety research. "For radiofrequency radiation, there is not a single mechanism, so we don't know how it creates the mutations."
According to the U.S. Department of Energy, the average American receives 370 millirem (mrem) per year. But that figure varies greatly depending on where you live, what you do for a living and some of your personal habits.
It would take a more than a 1,000,000-mrem burst of radiation to kill you (a highly unlikely scenario, since nuclear reactor meltdowns average less per person), but a single exposure to 10,000 mrem (from some medical imaging procedures) can increase your risk of cancer by almost 1%, according to a radiological lab at the University of California, Davis.
Click here for 6 common sources of radiation