Non-Ionizing Radiation Safety

UW Television transmitter

This page is designed to help all users of non-ionizing radiation in establishing and running an effective radiation safety program in their laboratory and/or facilities.

EMF, Magnetic Fields, and RFR

For questions about Electromagnetic Radiation (EMF), LASER Safety, and Radiofrequency Radiation (RFR) contact Radiation Safety at 206.543.0463 or e-mail:


Laser Safety at the University of Washington is a concern in many settings such as medical spaces, research labs, industrial setting. Lasers are found embedded in many devices and pose no concern unless the beam can be viewed. The UW Laser Safety Manual is a good source of information in setting up lasers so that they can be used and operated safely.

Laser Danger Sign

All class 3b and 4 Lasers should be registered with the Radiation Safety Office. The Laser Registration Form (pdf) should be printed out and filled in. Please submit all changes to your laser inventory to Radiation Safety. Laser Safety Training is required for class 3b and 4 Lasers with power greater than 5 milliwatts (mW) and can be requested from Radiation Safety. All Class 3b and 4 lasers, destined for Surplus Property, must be disabled and verified non-operational by the Radiation Safety Office. The verification form must be attached to the device prior to sending it to Surplus Property.

Non-Ionizing Radiation

Non-ionizing, electro-magnetic (EM) radiation is radiation without enough energy to remove tightly bound electrons from their orbits around an atoms nucleus. Examples are microwaves, radio waves (RF), infrared light (IR), visible light, extremely low frequency (ELF) fields and fields produced by video display terminals. Extremely Low Frequency field are produced by basics building electrical current.

These forms of EM energy are generally not dangerous, with some exceptions: high-energy radio waves microwaves and IR light can cause destructive heating of biological tissue; intense visible light can cause blindness; and intense UV can cause blindness and superficial skin burns in high doses over a short period of time. Skin cancer and cataracts of the eye at lower doses over long periods of time are also associated hazards. There is debate as to whether long-term exposure to moderate-to-intense radio-frequency (RF) fields and ELF fields is harmful to human beings.

The Radiation Safety Office can provide training on the various aspects of non-ionizing radiation and measure the exposure to employees of non-ionizing radiation produced by ELF and video display terminals. Contact Radiation Safety at 206.543.0463 or e-mail: for additional information.

Ultraviolet Light

Ultraviolet light from germicidal lamps in biosafety cabinets and transilluminators can cause serious skin and eye injuries. The Radiation Safety Office keeps an inventory of UV sources on campus. Contact Radiation Safety at 206.543.0463 or e-mail: if you would like to add your UV sources to the University of Washington inventory. More information on UV hazards can be found at Ultraviolet Radiation.