Infrared is a component of the electromagnetic spectrum. It is invisible to the naked eye and produces high heating effects. Infrared makes up around 40% to 45% of solar radiation that hits the Earth.
Infrared radiation can be harmful to health. Prolonged exposure to infrared radiation can cause various eye and skin diseases. What is even more dangerous is the heating effect that can have bigger repercussions on the biological makeup of an individual. Infrared damages cells and DNA, which can promote certain types of health problems.
To clear the mystery of infrared and find ways to protect yourself from its effects, keep reading!
Exposure to infrared radiation is inevitable. Each day, solar radiation which comprises infrared hits the surface of the Earth and affects us.
There are numerous health risks, especially to the eye, associated with infrared: The most common health risk is cataracts. A cataract is an eye disease characterized by the clouding of eye lenses. The opacity of the lens thus increases over time.
Prolonged exposure to infrared radiation induces this irreversible process. If left untreated, the result could be complete blindness.
Similarly, damage to the retina due to infrared light can cause scotoma according to Healthline. This degenerative eye condition gradually blurs the field of vision.
Scotomas in the central field of vision cannot be corrected or treated. The infrared radiation of smaller wavelengths, usually below 3000 nm, can penetrate the cornea.
This can cause more severe damage to the eye, notably to the optic nerve. Needless to say, damage to the optic nerve leads to permanent blindness.
Moreover, high-energy IR radiation, colloquially known as IR-A, has great penetration power. They pass through the skin into the dermis and induce chemical changes in the skin.
Most of the time, IR-A radiation inhibits the work of antioxidants. Consequently, this produces free radicals and causes premature aging of the skin.
According to the International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection (ICIRP), exposure to IR has biological effects on the body including thermal injury.
While the thermal injury does not cause pain, the effects are far more devastating. Skin conditions can manifest. The elevated temperatures of the infrared rays cause hyperpigmentation and scaling of the skin.
What’s more, the DNA repair efficiency reduces which promotes skin cancer. Radiation exposure can also cause an increase in skin thickness.
Infrared radiation has a range of wavelengths. The shorter the wavelength, the more energetic the IR radiation is. Infrared can thus penetrate the skin as far as the dermis and beyond.
The real effect occurs just below the surface of the skin. Infrared goes beyond the layers of the skin for at least 2 to 7 cm.
This means that a beam of infrared can even reach the bones. As the infrared enters the skin, it also affects the muscles and nerves in the body.
Damage to muscle fibers and nerve terminals thus occurs. The infrared light is then absorbed by photoreceptors in the cells.
Consequently, this process triggers changes in the cell structure and alters other natural processes and metabolic responses.
Since infrared radiation can change some processes that occur in the skin, there are concerns about its effects on collagen metabolism.
Collagen is a major component of healthy skin. Photoaging skin causes a disarrangement in collagen fibrils which results in wrinkled skin.
Moreover, the heat generated by infrared exposure causes an increase in angiogenesis. This is because heat directly affects biological processes.
The formation of new blood vessels near the skin surface leads to an increased risk of inflammation. Furthermore, the heat shock on DNA due to infrared radiation can cause the production of reactive oxygen species (ROS) in cutaneous tissue.
ROS affects the signal pathways thus preventing biological signals from being transferred from cell to cell.
Infrared radiation makes up 40% or more of solar radiation. The sun is the major source of infrared radiation.
However, there are various other sources that emit infrared radiation in the environment.
Domestic sources of infrared:
- Heating devices such as ovens and toasters
- Lamps including arc lamps and incandescent lamps
- Hot stoves
- Steam pipes
- Coal fires
Industrial sources of infrared:
- Steel and iron production
Other notable sources:
- Nernst glower
It can be inferred from the list that any heated body or object emits infrared radiation. Humans also emit infrared radiation of wavelength 9.3 ????m.
The application of human infrared radiation emission includes motion detectors, infrared cameras, and temperature measurement.
Radiation protection products you can order online.
Usually, exposure to infrared radiation cannot be treated with medication. The reason is that infrared exposure is not a medical condition in and of itself.
Medicines cannot protect us from infrared. By definition, medication includes substances that, when taken orally or otherwise, will do one or more of the following:
- Cure diseases or other medical conditions
- Treat a condition
- Relieve the symptoms of a medical condition
- Prevent diseases
Infrared does not fulfill the requirements to be considered a condition that can be prevented by medication.
Rather, medication can be used to treat the many medical conditions that result from prolonged exposure to infrared radiation.
To protect against infrared, other methods need to be employed.
The most effective and easy way to protect yourself from infrared radiation and its dangers are through shielding. Shielding from infrared radiation decreases its heating effect to a large extent.
Common shielding practices/ gears include:
- Graphene infrared radiation shielding materials in the home
- Use of cold shields with internal baffles in industries
- Use of DefenderShield IR blocker protective gears
While shielding protects us from direct exposure to infrared, other methods are necessary to protect us from the effects of the exposure.
What makes infrared radiation so nefarious to health is the heating effect it produces and the resulting consequences.
Hence, another smart choice is to use topical antioxidants along with sunscreen. This way, it will reverse the effects of the inhibition of antioxidants in the skin.