Our use of electronics has increased steadily and with it our exposure to electromagnetic frequencies or EMFs. Now, EMFs have always been around, naturally coming from the earth and sun. Human-made EMFs came with the advent of electricity, light bulbs and radio. EMFs are created by an electric field and a magnetic field travelling perpendicular to each other in the form of a wave. These waves are all around us from our wi-fi electronics to microwaves to smart meters to far reaching cell phone networks. These electromagnetic frequencies are heavily debated but the research points to problems with their safety, especially for children. Let’s explore the research surrounding EMFs and what you can do to minimize their harmful effects.
What’s the Research Say About the Safety of EMFs?
In 2011 the International Agency for Research on Cancer, a team of 30 scientists from 14 countries, categorized low frequency EMF radiation a class 2B possible carcinogen. (1) In more recent years EMF research has found a striking increase in nervous system symptoms in those exposed to EMFs including headache, fatigue, dizziness, irritability, difficulty concentrating, sleep disturbances and anxiety/depression. (2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8) These studies looked at exposure to EMFs from cell station bases, excessive cell/mobile phone use and wireless smart meters and an increase in nervous system symptoms. Some of the studies also found a dysfunction in the salivary glands associated with EMF exposure causing less salivary flow which impacts digestion and gastrointestinal health. (2, 9)
Research has also shown that electromagnetic fields can have negative effects on sex hormones, gonadal function, pregnancy and fetal development. (10, 11) Repeated studies show that Wi-Fi and microwave EMFs can cause oxidative stress, sperm/testicular damage, neuropsychiatric effects including EEG changes, apoptosis, cellular DNA damage, endocrine changes, and calcium overload. It has been postulated that these effects are produced by EMF activation of voltage-gated calcium channel (VGCC) creating many biological changes. (8)
These deleterious effects from EMFs seem to be more pronounced in children. Researchers argue that children and fetuses absorb more microwave radiation because their bodies are relatively smaller, their skulls are thinner, and their brain tissue is more absorbent. (12)
How to Lessen the Effects of EMFs
It is impossible to eliminate all exposure to EMFs, but there are things you can do to limit your exposure to electromagnetic frequencies. These strategies are easy to implement in our everyday lives.
- Limit Your Exposure- Making sure you are conscious of your electromagnetic frequency exposure and how to limit it is the easiest way to avoid excess exposure to EMFs. Turn off your cell phone or put it on airplane mode when not using it and while sleeping. Sleep away from large appliances or circuit breakers. Turn off your Wi-Fi router when you are not using it or use hard wired ethernet cables instead. Use head phones when talking on a cell phone. Limit children’s use of Wi-Fi devices and toys, let them use them in airplane mode. Avoid electric blankets and other appliances near the bed. Do not use laptop computer on your lap and don’t charge it when you are using it. All of these tips can greatly decrease your exposure to EMFs.
- Get Outside- The earth has it own electromagnetic frequency. Grounding is the practice of exposing the body surface to the surface of the earth. Putting the body in direct contact with the earth allows it to contact the earth’s surface electrons and has shown multiple benefits. Decreased inflammation, improved sleep, decreased pain and improved wound healing have all been seen in association with grounding. (13, 14, 15) Whether it is a 30 minute reset or unplugging for the day, ditching the electronics and getting outside is an easy way to limit your exposure to EMFs.
- Antioxidants- EMFs have been found to deplete our body’s antioxidant levels. (16) Researchers have found that vitamin E, folate and omega 3 fatty acids all help mitigate the oxidative stress and damage from EMFs. (10, 17) A diet rich in nuts, green leafy vegetables, flax seeds, chia seeds and fish provide all three of the nutrients just mentioned.
- EMF shielding products- There are several EMF shielding or blocking products on the market. Shields you can use for your laptop or cell phone, there’s even one for your bed. Meters to test for EMFs and filters that can help filter out some of the EMFs are also available.
While complete avoidance of EMFs is not possible in today’s world, there are concrete steps we can take to limit our family’s exposure. What is your experience with EMFs? How do you navigate this with your family? Comment below, I’d love to hear from you!
-Dr. Catherine Clinton ND
(1) IARC. IARC monographs on the evaluation of carcinogenic risks to humans, vol 102. Non-ionizing radiation, part II: radiofrequency electromagnetic fields. Lyon: International Agency for Research on Cancer.
(2) J Int Soc Prev Community Dent. 2016 Jan-Feb;6(1):54-9. Effect of electromagnetic radiations from mobile phone base stations on general health and salivary function. Singh K, Nagaraj A, Yousuf A, Ganta S, Pareek S, Vishnani P.
(3) Journal of Chemical Neuroanatomy. Volume 75, Part B, September 2016, Pages 43-51 Microwave frequency electromagnetic fields (EMFs) produce widespread neuropsychiatric effects including depression. Martin L.Pall
(4) Przegl Lek. 2015;72(11):636-41. Electromagnetic field induced biological effects in humans. Kaszuba-Zwoińska J, Gremba J, Gałdzińska-Calik B, Wójcik-Piotrowicz K, Thor PJ.
(5) Mohammadianinejad SE, Babaei M, Nazari P. The Effects of Exposure to Low Frequency Electromagnetic Fields in the Treatment of Migraine Headache: A Cohort Study. Electronic Physician. 2016;8(12):3445-3449. doi:10.19082/3445.
(6) Durusoy R, Hassoy H, Özkurt A, Karababa AO. Mobile phone use, school electromagnetic field levels and related symptoms: a cross-sectional survey among 2150 high school students in Izmir. Environmental Health. 2017;16:51. doi:10.1186/s12940-017-0257-x.
(7) Rev Environ Health. 2015;30(2):99-116. doi: 10.1515/reveh-2015-0001. Scientific evidence contradicts findings and assumptions of Canadian Safety Panel 6: microwaves act through voltage-gated calcium channel activation to induce biological impacts at non-thermal levels, supporting a paradigm shift for microwave/lower frequency electromagnetic field action. Pall ML.
(8) Environ Res. 2018 Jul;164:405-416. doi: 10.1016/j.envres.2018.01.035. Epub 2018 Mar 21. Wi-Fi is an important threat to human health. Pall ML.
(9) Mishra SK, Chowdhary R, Kumari S, Rao SB. Effect of Cell Phone Radiations on Orofacial Structures: A Systematic Review. Journal of Clinical and Diagnostic Research : JCDR. 2017;11(5):ZE01-ZE05. doi:10.7860/JCDR/2017/26547.9883.
(10) Asghari A, Khaki AA, Rajabzadeh A, Khaki A. A review on Electromagnetic fields (EMFs) and the reproductive system. Electronic Physician. 2016;8(7):2655-2662. doi:10.19082/2655. Fennel n vit e
(11) Liu, K. , Li, Y. , Zhang, G. , Liu, J. , Cao, J. , Ao, L. and Zhang, S. (2014), Association between mobile phone use and semen quality: a systemic review and meta‐analysis. Andrology, 2: 491-501.
(12) L. Lloyd, Kesarib Santosh, Davisa Devra Lee. Why children absorb more microwave radiation than adults: The consequences. Journal of Microscopy and Ultrastructure. Volume 2, Issue 4, December 2014, Pages 197-204
(13) Oschman JL, Chevalier G, Brown R. The effects of grounding (earthing) on inflammation, the immune response, wound healing, and prevention and treatment of chronic inflammatory and autoimmune diseases. Journal of Inflammation Research. 2015;8:83-96. doi:10.2147/JIR.S69656.
(14) Altern Ther Health Med. 2017 Sep;23(5):8-16. Electric Nutrition: The Surprising Health and Healing Benefits of Biological Grounding (Earthing). Sinatra ST, Oschman JL, Chevalier G, Sinatra D.
(15) Chevalier G, Sinatra ST, Oschman JL, Sokal K, Sokal P. Earthing: Health Implications of Reconnecting the Human Body to the Earth’s Surface Electrons. Journal of Environmental and Public Health. 2012;2012:291541. doi:10.1155/2012/291541.
(16) Kıvrak EG, Yurt KK, Kaplan AA, Alkan I, Altun G. Effects of electromagnetic fields exposure on the antioxidant defense system. Journal of Microscopy and Ultrastructure. 2017;5(4):167-176. doi:10.1016/j.jmau.2017.07.003.
(17) Altuna Gamze, Kaplana Suleyman, Deniza Omur Gulsum. Protective effects of melatonin and omega-3 on the hippocampus and the cerebellum of adult Wistar albino rats exposed to electromagnetic fields. Journal of Microscopy and Ultrastructure. Volume 5, Issue 4, December 2017, Pages 230-241