EMF Radiation and Health: An Emerging Danger – Part 1
Living in this complex, modern world has advantages, like energy and time-saving tools, but it also has a myriad of disadvantages, including constant bombardment by the electromagnetic fields (EMFs) throughout our environment. Homes and offices are filled with wireless devices, from cell phones to computers, laptops, and printers. How much do we know about these modern conveniences affecting our bodies on a cellular level? What are these electromagnetic fields doing to our environment and therefore our bodies as well? EMF radiation and health is an important subject to explore.
Electric and magnetic fields, or EMFs, are invisible lines of force that are created by electric charges. In other words, wherever there is electricity, there are also electromagnetic fields.
EMF sources with high voltage produce strong electric fields from the strength of the charge, but they are easily shielded, weakened, and blocked by objects such as trees and buildings. On the other hand, EMF sources with strong currents produce magnetic fields, which result from the motion of the charge or the current, and they are not easily blocked. The strength of both electric and magnetic fields decrease as you move further away from the source.
It is clear that escaping electromagnetic fields is not possible unless you live in the remote regions of the world. Where escape is not possible, the next best solution is to learn as much as possible about electromagnetic fields to minimize the damage.
Primary Sources of Exposure to EMF
Electric and magnetic fields come from many sources. These include transmission lines, distribution lines, internal wiring in buildings, currents in ground paths, and electrical appliances such as refrigerators, laptops, hair dryers, electric blankets, etc.
It is important to understand that fields can also interact with one another to increase or decrease their total effect. This means that the EMF in one specific location, your bed for example, depends on the distance and location of the major EMF source, such as the distribution lines, as well as the distance and the location of nearby sources, such as the refrigerator or computer.
There are five major sources of EMF radiation exposure affecting your health that surround you on a daily basis. They are:
- Electric fields (emanating from anything containing electricity including lamps, wiring, computer monitor, outlets, electrical appliances).
- Magnetic fields (a major source is the main power meter for the house, also electric clock radios).
- Power lines (both above and underground).
- Metal plumbing (older metal plumbing carries a current).
- Wireless communications (including cell towers, cell phones, wireless routers, cordless phones).
There is not much that can be done about public structures, such as power lines and metal plumbing, but there are steps that can be taken to reduce EMFs on the level of the devices in your home and office.
It is also important to listen to your body and notice its signals. Where and when do you feel more fatigued than usual, a little more anxious, or perhaps dehydrated? Is it after working on the laptop for a period of time? Some of these signs could be an indication that your body is telling you that you are being exposed EMF radiation and health effects are slowly but surely wreaking havoc on your body.
Wireless communications are a major source of EMF exposure. For those of us who rely heavily on cell phones on a daily basis, this is a crucial concern. Most of these forms of technology expose us to EMF radiation, and health damage is possible.
Most people do not realize that a cordless phone base is a major source of electromagnetic field exposure in the home, and it should never be placed in the bedroom or on your desk where you can be continually exposed. Even when the phone is not in use, it is still transmitting constantly. It is a better idea for you to use a speakerphone or headset.
The other forms of EMFs from wireless communication can be decreased dramatically by any amount of distance or material between you and the source, as they emit linear types of radiation. Walls are a significant barrier, especially if they are reflective, that is, containing metal foil or metal paint.
Wireless Communication for Children
For children, the effects of EMF radiation and health are much more pronounced. When children eight-years-old and younger have their own cell phones, they are at much higher risk for health dangers later in life. All too often, these children are unsupervised in their use of cell phones. Many children and teenagers are allowed to have cell phones in their bedrooms and use them at all times of the day and night.
Research has indicated children who use cell phones before the age of twenty have a more than five-fold increased risk of developing malignant brain tumors. There are several probable reasons for this.
One is that the EMF radiation penetrates farther into the heads of children than it does adults. Some parts of children’s brains may absorb up to twice as much of this radiation.
Another reason for the increased risk of detrimental health effects in children is that their brains are still developing. The myelin sheaths on the neurons in children’s brains are still in the process of developing, so these cells are relatively unprotected. Also, their immune systems are not fully developed.
A third possible reason for this increased risk is the overall amount of time children will be exposed to EMF radiation over their lifetimes. Because this kind of radiation is cumulative, they will have a much greater level of exposure overall, increasing the risks.
It’s almost impossible to get away from wi-fi, and the EMF radiation and health effects are real problems. So many of us have cell phones, and there’s a demand for wi-fi connections wherever we go. Unfortunately, this continual exposure to the EMF radiation from wi-fi connections can lead to changes in the brain. Some research has suggested this radiation can create holes in the blood-brain barrier that protects the brain, leading to an increased level of toxins reaching the brain.
The increasing use of computers in schools has led to increased exposure to wi-fi EMF radiation for students. Symptoms such as dizziness, weakness, fatigue, anxiety, and concentration difficulties are increasing, and this could be due to schools that have wi-fi.
Power Lines, EMF radiation and health
In general, the farther you live from power lines, the fewer EMF radiation effects on your health. Living close to power lines, in contrast, increases the negative effects on your health. The World Health Organization lists these possible symptoms of EMF radiation from power lines:
- Muscle pain
More significant health conditions can result if you live very close to power lines.
With the increasing use of cell phones, there are more and more cell towers to transmit the communications from these phones. In areas with lots of hills, the EMF radiation from these towers might travel two miles. But in areas with fewer obstructions, they may travel up to 45 miles. These EMFs are strong enough to penetrate brick and metal buildings.
Shielding Magnetic Fields vs. Electrical Fields
Magnetic fields are generated from many sources including nearby power lines, power meters, motors in the refrigerator, cordless telephone bases, and laptops. Hair dryers even emit a greater magnetic field than the refrigerator. The only way to know with certainty whether the magnetic field in your home is of a high level is to test for it with a Gauss meter. Unlike electric fields which can be shielded, magnetic fields can pass through metal, even lead. The main, rather impractical solution, is to encase the source completely and ground it.
You can shield against the electric field of laptops and other computer charging devices by using reflective material or metal. However, bear in mind that the magnetic field cannot be totally blocked. You still have to avoid using the device in close proximity to your body, on your lap for example to avoid EMF radiation and health effects. Also, because the charging devices are ungrounded, only use them when they are running on battery and not plugged in and charging.
Although it may seem impractical only to use the laptop when it is not being charged, once you begin to understand the effects EMF radiation has on your health, you will appreciate that it is a small inconvenience. It will become second nature within a very short period of time. However, as always, just focus on making gradual and small changes so that they do not overwhelm you.
EMF Radiation and Health
There has been debate as to whether electromagnetic fields can actually harm the body. The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) has classified electromagnetic fields in Group 2B of possible carcinogens. Although research has not yet been conclusive, there are several possible connections between EMF radiation and health.
EMF radiation exposure can impact health on many levels including the nervous system, the endocrine system, genes, the immune system, and the brainwaves. They can affect inter-cell communication within the body, resulting in a dysregulation of cellular structure associated with many neurological and behavioral changes, cardiac arrhythmias including atrial fibrillation, altered cell growth, fibromyalgia, and adrenal fatigue.
In general, your body isn’t designed to deal effectively with EMF radiation and health effects. EMF radiation can literally open up cells, allowing toxins to enter. This includes toxins found in plastics, pesticides, sunscreens, and fragrances.
Many research studies have shown a connection between EMF radiation and health conditions such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s Disease, and Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS). Other health conditions such as diabetes and high blood pressure may also be associated with sources of EMF radiation.
EMF Radiation and Cancer
There are possible associations between cell phone use and the development of cancers. One very small study found aggressive breast cancers to develop in the exact spot where women carried cell phones in their bras. While the sample size of this study was small, it points out the need for more research in this area.
Another, larger, government sponsored study in 2016 showed the risk of malignant gliomas and a much more rare form of cancer, schwannomas, of the ear to be greater due to cell phone use. The study found a dose-response effect where the higher the dose, the greater the risk, confirming earlier studies that found the same effect.
EMF Radiation and Neurodegenerative Conditions
Recent studies have shown a connection between EMF radiation and some neurodegenerative conditions. This research is similar to the World Health Organization’s findings in 2001 that led to the declaration of magnetic fields as possibly carcinogenic. This research into the health effects of EMF radiation was conducted in several countries. The findings suggest exposure to EMF generated by electricity to cause a 43% increased risk of developing ALS and a 58% increased risk of developing Alzheimer’s.
Other studies looking at Alzheimer’s and ALS have shown conflicting results. One study found that professionals exposed to EMF radiation at work showed increased risk of developing these conditions. However, there wasn’t a significant difference in another study. The need for further research is clear.
Other research into the effects of EMF radiation and health showed significant damage to occur after only two hours of exposure to cell phone radiation. In this research, the EMF radiation appeared to damage the blood-brain barrier, allowing toxins to invade the brain. Centers in the brain connected to memory and learning capability were most affected. These are the same centers affected by dementia.
EMF Radiation and Blood Abnormalities
EMF radiation also affects the blood. Continued exposure to the EMF radiation from cell phones was shown to increase the body’s immune response, as measured by increased white cells and lymphocytes in the blood. A decline in red blood cells, hematocrit and hemoglobin, was also seen. Cellular damage was noted in red blood cells, making them less able to carry oxygen to the body.
Other studies have indicated that just carrying cell phones in a backpack in receptive mode was enough to cause blood abnormalities. Cellular damage to red blood cells was also noted in this study, suggesting a lowered ability to perform. Blood flow and viscosity were both hampered, leading to a possible increased risk of heart attacks or stroke. Even though this was a small study, the results were impressive. Added to the results was the amount of time subjects were exposed to EMF. After only two 45-minute exposures, these results were found. This amount of exposure is significantly less than typical usage of cell phones.
EMF Radiation and The Reproductive System
A number of studies have been carried out to determine the health effects of EMF radiation on the reproductive systems of both males and females. The studies did generally find EMF caused some issues for the reproductive tract of men and women.
Findings have included increased male germ cell death, negative changes in the female menstrual cycle, hormone changes in both males and females, and decreased ability for sperm to move through the female reproductive tract. In addition, free radicals increased, possibly leading to a decrease in cell growth, misfolding of proteins, and damage to DNA. Frequency, wave strength, and length of exposure all had an effect on these results.
Another study showed low-frequency EMF radiation led to significantly lowered levels of testosterone. This study measured exposure to radiation from mobile phones for thirty minutes every day, five days a week for four weeks. The length of exposure is greatly below what is considered typical for mobile phone usage for the average person.
Yet another study in rats revealed microwave EMF radiation had a significant negative effect on the male reproductive system. Prolonged exposure to EMF radiation led to major changes in the activity of key enzymes in the animals’ sperm, and it also caused decreases in cell division in certain stages of the cell cycle. Researchers concluded this could be a cause of infertility.
Some studies have suggested EMF radiation could possibly have a detrimental effect on female reproductive systems in rats. These studies have measured the radiation from wireless units, Wi-fi, Bluetooth, and even baby monitors as sources.
EMF Radiation and ATP Levels
Adenosine triphosphate (ATP) is the main energy source for cells at the molecular level. Exposure to EMF radiation has proven to be detrimental to ATP production and utilization. In one study, after only half an hour of exposure to EMF radiation, the amount of ATP in the cells decreased by 27%. This decreases the signaling function of ATP, potentially leading to increased oxidative stress.
Another health effect of EMF radiation is a significant decrease in the production of ATP. This appears to come from interference with mitochondria’s ATP synthase.
DNA, EMF radiation and Health
DNA, the building block of our bodies, appears to be vulnerable to the health effects of EMF radiation. It appears breaks in DNA result from exposure to EMF radiation. One result of these breaks is an increase in the development of cancer. Breaks in DNA may also account for the dramatic increase in neurodegenerative conditions.
One theory regarding how EMF radiation could cause DNA breaks has to do with what is called fractal antenna. The frequency range of EMF radiation acts on fractal antenna. DNA has two of the characteristics of fractal antennas: electronic conduction and self-symmetry. This can lead to rapid vibration of DNA, leading ultimately to breaks.
One German study showed breaks in DNA following exposure to cell phone frequencies. The breaks were not always repairable. The possibility exists for these DNA breaks to be passed on to following cells, making them predisposed to becoming cancerous.
A study conducted by the Bioelectromagnetics Research Laboratory at the University of Washington revealed both DNA breaks and cell death to result from exposure to weak magnetic fields. This resulted from an accumulation of oxidative free radicals that led to damage to the DNA and cell death.
Both single and double strand breaks in DNA have occurred due to EMF radiation exposure from sources as common as cell phones and computers. In addition, these breaks appear to accumulate over time.
© Copyright 2018 Michael Lam, M.D. All Rights Reserved.
Dr. Lam’s Key Question
What is the connection between EMF radiation and health?
Research has shown EMF radiation to be linked closely to serious, life-long illnesses like Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s disease, and dementia. Some of this radiation has been shown to come from common household appliances.