Electromagnetic Fields & Our Health
Updated: Jan 30
Electromagnetic fields (EMFs) are an essential part of the physical world; Earth has a natural magnetic field, and EMFs occur naturally within our bodies, from nerve and muscle activity, and within the atmosphere. There is a key difference however between natural and man-made EMFs, and that’s due to polarisation. Unlike natural EMFs, all types of man-made EMFs are polarized, and as a result have significantly increased biological activity and health effects. Natural EMF has always existed, so it makes sense that the increasing prevalence of biological and health effects being experienced is due to the rise in levels of man-made EMFs over recent years.
The effects of harmful man-made electrical fields depend on their strength, distance from the source and duration of exposure. Man-made EMFs are produced by several modern devices including mobile phones, laptops, computers, TV, Wi-Fi, household appliances, smart meters and other electronic devices. Increasingly more studies are emerging that demonstrate the numerous adverse biological effects that are triggered by exposure to man-made EMFs, particularly from radio frequency (RF)/microwaves and extremely low frequency (ELF) magnetic fields. These biological effects include altered synthesis and concentrations of important molecules within our bodies such as the loss of calcium ions, DNA damage and cell death, leading to adverse health effects including neurological damage, reproductive dysfunction and cancers.
Numerous studies have demonstrated possible links between our exposure to EMFs, particularly from mobile phone use, and increased risks of several health conditions including:
· Brain tumours
· Breast cancer
· Digestive disorders
· Disrupted sleep
· Heart arrhythmia
· Hyperactivity in children
· Impaired learning & memory in children
· Infertility & low sperm counts
· Mood swings
· Mouth cancer
· Neurological disorders
· Premature aging
· Salivary gland tumours
EMFs significantly reduce the quality of our sleep (when our bodies should be undergoing cellular repair, detoxification and fighting off illness) by impeding the body’s production of melatonin, a hormone that regulates sleep and wakefulness, by the pineal gland, which senses EMFs as light. Continuous exposure to EMFs can significantly impair detoxification pathways, particularly in the brain and reproductive organs, and reduce mitochondrial energy production. Prolonged exposure has been shown to cause impaired insulin metabolism, DNA damage and oxidative stress, thereby increasing our risk of chronic diseases.
Everyone’s Favourite Toy!
Mobile phones have become such an integral part of our modern lives, with many users connected to their devices 24-7, however it is important to remember that they come with a health warning. Mobile phones are essentially two-way microwave radios and function by continuously sending and receiving signals to maintain a connection with the nearest cell tower. Similarly, a wireless-enabled laptop or other device is constantly “checking in” with the nearby router or a network base. This erratic radiation is the major concern as these “check- ins” are intense bursts of radiation, emitted several times per second, and occur regardless of whether a connection is established.
In 2011, the World Health Organization/International Agency for research on Cancer classified man-made EMFs, and specifically mobile phones, as Class B carcinogens i.e. possibly carcinogenic to humans. With more substantial evidence emerging in recent years however, WHO experts along with groups of scientists and medical doctors from across the globe, are calling for this categorisation to be increased from “possibly carcinogenic” to “carcinogenic”.
The levels of radiation worsen whenever we are moving, such as in cars and trains, as phones need to operate at full power to maintain connection with the passing telecommunications towers, leading to continuous and maximum microwave radiation. In addition to this, there are constant radiation plumes generated by Wi-Fi and Bluetooth transmissions, phone notifications and app updates.
Every wireless device has fine print instructions buried in its user manual that specify a maximum safe distance that the user should maintain between themselves and the device. For example, most mobile phones should be held at least 15mm from the body and used with only non-metal cases, while cordless home phones, wireless laptops and printers should be at least 20cm away from the body to prevent radiation limits from being exceeded.
Children & EMF
The bone marrow of a child’s head absorbs 10 times more radiation than adults’, so children face the most serious health risks from EMF exposure. Multiple research studies have shown that mobile phone radiation penetrates more deeply into children’s brains because of their more absorbent brain tissues, thinner skulls and relatively smaller size, with foetuses particularly vulnerable. This radiation has been shown to degenerate the protective sheath surrounding brain neurons, leading to cognitive decline and neurological disorders.
No medical organization has determined a safe level of long-term radiation exposure to children, and due to the long latency time between radiation exposure and tumour diagnosis (often decades), the full effects of our excessive exposure won’t be known for several years. Large medical organisations including the American Academy of Paediatrics (the largest group of children’s doctors in the US) and both the Athens and Vienna Medical Associations, are calling for mobile phone radiation exposure to children to be significantly reduced. Recommendations include limiting use by children, using wired headsets, hands-free kits and texting, and ensuring mobile phones are kept away from their bodies, especially their heads.
EMFs are increasingly being recognised as a form of environmental pollution, which is likely to be almost impossible to resolve epidemiologically due to the lack of an unexposed control group, and synergies with other toxic exposures and other health risk behaviours. Some individuals have become extremely sensitive to EMFs, experiencing a wide-range of adverse symptoms including dermatological symptoms (e.g. redness, tingling and burning sensations), fatigue, poor concentration, dizziness, nausea, heart palpitations and digestive disturbances. This “Electromagnetic hypersensitivity” is more prevalent in individuals with a high toxic load of chemicals and/or heavy metals and has been shown to correlate with excessive or prolonged exposure to EMFs.
Furthermore, extensive evidence has demonstrated the harmful environmental effects of man-made EMFs to plants and wildlife from insects and bees to birds, mammals and trees. Despite man-made EMFs being linked to collapsing insect populations, increased bacterial resistance and widespread damage to plants and trees, no action has been taken.
Current EMF limits and guidelines are based on research from the 1980s, so they have remained unchanged for decades and do not incorporate any of the recent evidence. Considerable new peer-reviewed research, including more than 500 studies, demonstrate the harmful biological and health effects of exposure to EMF, and several scientists and major medical organisations have written about the inadequacy of the current guidelines. For example, research has shown that wireless devices were not adequately tested before being made available for use, and accumulating evidence shows that extensive health effects occur at levels far below current regulation limits. Existing guidelines are also only applicable to full-grown, healthy men since there was no consideration for the effects of long-term exposure on the most vulnerable groups such as children, pregnant women and individuals with existing medical conditions.
The way we use these devices has also changed significantly over the past couple of decades, with Wi-Fi often permanently switched on and our mobile phones attached to us. Existing regulations do not account for people carrying their phones in pockets and bras, or children placing laptops on their laps at school. They also only consider the effects of one radiating device at a time rather than the multiple devices that we are surrounded by now. When you consider our current radiation exposure from within our homes, workplace, classroom, healthcare, recreational and retail settings etc., it really does all add up to worryingly high amounts.
Increasingly more countries, including France, Belgium, Spain, Italy, India, Finland and Australia, are beginning to take action by enacting laws and other protective measures to reduce public radiation exposure, and reducing existing radiation limits based on more current research. Measures include banning Wi-Fi in classrooms and mobile phones made for young children, as well as lowering telecommunications tower limits.
This next generation of mobile and wireless communication will provide faster speeds (up to 100 times) and higher capacity transmissions. As we move towards a world of driver-less cars, drones, and smart cities and towns, plans to provide 5G from space mean, rather worryingly, that every square inch of our planet will be covered with wireless radiation. The widespread introduction of 5G will therefore substantially increase our exposure to EMF (adding to the already present 2G, 3G, 4G and Wi-Fi!) to cause serious, irreversible damage to humans and ecosystems.
Healthy EMF Habits
Attempting to eliminate our radiation exposure altogether isn’t necessary for most and would be near impossible to achieve, however there are some simple steps you can take to reduce your exposure and associated health risks. This list is quite extensive so just do what you can!
Avoid carrying against the body, such as in pockets or bras
Text rather than talk where possible
Make only short, essential calls on your mobile phone
Use a hands-free kit or speaker mode (with the phone at least 15mm from your head)
Avoid use when the signal is weak (as radiation levels are higher)
Avoid use whilst travelling/moving, and especially when inside metal-encased spaces such as cars, lifts, buses, trains and planes as radiation levels increase
Use aeroplane mode as much as possible when not actively using it during the day
Maximise non-phone time; read a book, go for a walk, and perhaps try a digital detox!
Use the Night Shift functionality in the evening (usually found in Settings > Display & Brightness) to reduce late-night blue light exposure, or download an app with the same function e.g. F.lux
Switch your phone off or onto aeroplane mode half an hour before bed-time
Use aeroplane mode for overnight or ban phones from your bedroom
Don’t have your phone near you if it’s on charge (even if switched off/on aeroplane mode)
Avoid streaming content; download the movie/clip first and switch to aeroplane mode to watch
Avoid using mobile phone cases (that are not radiation-protective), particularly metal cases, as they weaken signals and increase radiation levels
Avoid placing laptops on laps, especially for children, if pregnant or wanting to conceive
Avoid using Bluetooth headsets (they emit incredibly high levels of radiation, by your head!)
Avoid using wireless phones, keyboards, printers, baby monitors + home entertainment systems
Use ethernet cables rather than Wi-Fi wherever possible
Unplug the Wi-Fi router overnight
Avoid all microwave use, stove tops are far better for slowly heating food
Remove smart meters (as they emit continuous erratic and high intensity pulses)
Use simple incandescent light bulbs rather than health-damaging LED and fluorescent lighting
Consider supplementing high-quality antioxidants such as vitamin E, melatonin and folate to help prevent potential adverse health effects of EMF exposure
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