The Harmful Effects of Infrared Exposure

Heat lamps are one source of infrared radiation.
Heat lamps are one source of infrared radiation. (Image: Jupiterimages/ Images)

Infrared radiation is a type of nonionizing radiation. Ultraviolet and microwave rays fall into the same category of radiation. Infrared radiation is made up of energy that travels as fast as the speed of light. This type of radiation is necessary for certain occupations and for some everyday household items. Occasional exposure is not enough to cause any health concerns. Frequent exposure, on the other hand, can lead to long-term health risks. There still isn’t enough evidence to link infrared exposure with tumors and certain cancers.


Infrared radiation is a common source of energy in workplaces and in some homes. According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), this type of nonionizing energy is found in lasers, furnaces and heat lamps. The rays emit from the devices upon use.


Infrequent exposure to equipment with infrared rays is unlikely to cause any symptoms. OSHA explains that the body absorbs energy emitted from infrared radiation devices as heat. Overexposure to infrared rays is likely to cause a warming sensation in your eyes and skin. This feeling may be similar to being exposed to sunlight for a length of time. Extreme infrared radiation exposure is painful, and can feel like a sunburn.

Long-Term Concerns

The American Cancer Society says that as of 2011, infrared exposure isn’t directly linked to cancer. Infrared rays aren’t powerful enough to damage a person’s DNA. However, nonionizing radiation can disrupt, alter or destroy body cells. High levels of infrared radiation exposure may be enough to disrupt cells, which could potentially lead to health concerns in the long term. Still, it may be difficult to detect whether a certain medical condition is attributed to infrared rays or another type of radiation. Ionizing radiation is more likely linked to cancer.


The severity of risks associated with infrared exposure depends on the frequency. OSHA points out that you are most vulnerable if you are exposed to infrared radiation on a regular basis. For instance, if you work with heat sources generated by infrared energy, then you are likely exposed to the radiation on a continuous basis. The most viable solution is to avoid frequent exposure. If you are exposed to infrared radiation on a regular basis, discuss your concerns with your employer. Companies have an obligation under federal law to protect the safety of their employees by controlling radiation levels.

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