Electromagnetic Fields (EMFs): Is Your Health at Risk?

Electromagnetic fields (EMFs) are all around us because electricity is all around us. Some of it is natural―think of the Earth’s magnetic poles or even those warm rays from the sun. Our bodies generate their own EMFs too: our nervous systems are electrical (synapses allow neurons to pass electrical signals to each other), as are our hearts. Defibrillators and pacemakers both help regulate electrical signals to the heart. So, EMFs are good, right?

What are EMFs?

Not exactly. Each electromagnetic field has a frequency, and everyone agrees that high-frequency ionizing rays are harmful, including things like prolonged UV sun exposure (wear your sunscreen!) and x-rays. Low-frequency EMFs are more controversial. While there haven’t been conclusive studies proving a direct correlation between low-frequency EMFs and adverse health outcomes, there is a growing body of evidence that suggests the correlation exists.

And guess where low-frequency EMFs are found? In your house. At your office. And most definitely in your back pocket.

Too Close for Comfort

One of the biggest concerns with EMFs is not just that they are near us, but that they are very near us. Laptops, tablets and e-readers are some of the biggest sources of EMFs. Laptops are either only inches away from our bodies, or worse, on our laps. And because many of us are addicted to our tablets, we often cozy up with them in bed, holding them inches from our faces.

Cell phones? Those are on our person 24/7. In our hands, in our pockets, pressed up against our ears. We take them to the bathroom and even sleep with them under our pillows. Studies show that holding a phone against your ear allows between 10-80 percent of the radiation to penetrate two inches into an adult brain. It’s much worse for children, who have softer skulls and whose brains are still developing.

The WiFi Connection

If you’re a typical American, you’re probably getting continual EMF exposure from a variety of personal electronic devices, but their close proximity likely means you’re also getting EMFs from another source: WiFi. Wireless routers operate in the 2-5 gigahertz (GHz) range–the same range as microwaves and cordless phones (another major source of EMFs, although not as common as they once were). Yes, you’ve probably heard how terrible microwaves are for the human body, but have you heard how terrible WiFi is? And it’s all around you all the time: at home, at work, at the coffee shop, at the airport…

Other sources of manmade EMFs include basically anything that plugs into the wall: major appliances like washing machines; personal care items like hair dryers, and nearby power lines and cell towers. Smart meters? Yup, those emit EMFs. And those super-convenient wireless baby monitors? Those too.

Health Outcomes Associated with EMF Exposure

Why does it matter? What are some of the health issues associated with EMF exposure? They range from minor to major and cover everything in between.

  • Sleep cycle disruption. This may be especially true if you keep your cell phone by your bed, as studies show it can interfere with REM sleep. Multiple studies have also shown that EMFs can suppress melatonin production, which helps regulates sleep.
  • Headache, vision problems, and brain fog.
  • Developmental issues in children. Because of this, the French, German and Spanish governments have issued recommendations to ban WiFi from schools.
  • Immune disruption.
  • Mood disorders, including anxiety and depression.
  • Cardiovascular stress and interference with pacemakers.
  • Memory loss.
  • Hormonal imbalance and reproductive issues. A study in Argentina showed a link between WiFi use and low sperm motility―even after only a few hours of exposure.
  • Cancer, including brain tumors. In fact, the International Agency for Research on Cancer has declared EMFs produced by cell phones as possibly carcinogenic to humans. And some studies have linked living near power lines to childhood leukemia.
  • DNA damage. The National Institute for Health states that some studies show impairment of DNA integrity when exposed to EMFs.

If this list sounds serious, that’s because it is. But don’t worry, help is on the way. Check out our next blog post for tips on how to minimize your EMF exposure―without throwing your cell phone in the trash.