We are inundated by wireless radiation in the modern world. While all of our gadgets and devices have improved quality of life in some ways, they have hidden dangers as well. At high enough exposures, some people report feeling a mysterious illness – scientists call it electromagnetic sensitivity, or EMF sickness.
Some people who live close to cell phone towers, for instance, report feeling strange symptoms and even higher instances of cancer. However, studies have largely been inconclusive about whether non-ionizing radiation, the type emitted from cell phone towers and appliances, can cause illness in humans.
Still, some experts express their concerns about our increasing dependence on technology and the long-term health risks associated with exposure. While the sun gives off the highest radiation of all, repeated exposure to cell phone towers and other non-ionizing radiation can cause mental and physical issues in some people.
Types of EMF exposure
When talking about EMF’s, we can categorize them by different frequencies. Low-level radiation, or non-ionizing radiation, comes from appliances like microwaves, cellphones, Wi-Fi routers, power lines, and MRIs. Many scientists believe that this type of radiation does not cause harm to humans.
High-level radiation, called ionizing radiation, stems from UV rays from the sun and X-rays from medical imaging machines.
EMF exposure decreases as you put more distance between yourself and the object giving off the frequencies. Here are some common sources of EMF’s in both categories:
- microwave ovens
- smart meters which record energy consumption
- wireless (Wi-Fi) routers
- Bluetooth devices
- power lines
- ultraviolet light
Here’s what science says about the dangers of EMF’s
Some scientists debunk EMF sickness, believing that people simply feel bad around electronic devices because they have convinced themselves of the dangers. In other words, they believe people experience psychosomatic symptoms due to their beliefs about technology and human health. However, other studies have found that EMF’s could cause harm to humans in the long-term.
However, the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) found that EMF’s are “possibly carcinogenic to humans.”
In the largest study ever done about cancer rates in cellphone users compared to nonusers in 2000, researchers found a connection between cell phone use and certain types of cancer. Cellphones have become prevalent in society, and many people use them for necessary daily activities such as work, banking, and email. However, such heavy use of this technology may prove detrimental to health.
The researchers followed more than 5,000 people in 13 countries, taking note of their cancer rates and cell phone activity. They found a loose connection between heavy cell phone use and glioma, a type of cancer in the brain and spinal cord. Interestingly, cancer occurred more often on the same side of the head that people used to talk on the phone. However, the researchers couldn’t determine for sure if the phones caused cancer.
Study finds a link between EMF and leukemia.
In a smaller but more recent study, researchers found that adults exposed to high levels of EMF for prolonged periods had an increased risk of developing certain types of leukemia.
European scientists also found that Wi-Fi radiation could cause EMF sickness and leukemia in children. Furthermore, a review of more than two dozen studies on low-frequency EMFs suggests that people may suffer from psychological and neurological illnesses due to wireless radiation. For instance, this study found a link between EMF exposure and changes in the nervous system, which impacted mood and sleep in the participants.
However, scientists must continue to monitor the long-term effects of radiation on humans, as results from current studies have been largely inconclusive.
EMF Danger levels
An organization called the International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection (ICNIRP) creates guidelines for EMF exposure. They have taken decades of scientific research to determine safe exposure levels to radiation. Scientists measure EMFs by a unit called volts per meter (V/m). So, the higher the voltage, the stronger the frequency. Most companies test their products to make sure EMF’s fall within safe parameters for human exposure. Public utility companies and governments manage EMF’s in power lines, cellphone towers, and sources of EMF’s affecting a large population.
Here’s what the ICNIRP considers safe guidelines for EMF exposure:
- natural electromagnetic fields (like those created by the sun): 200 V/m
- power mains (not close to power lines): 100 V/m
- power mains (close to power lines): 10,000 V/m
- electric trains and trams: 300 V/m
- TV and computer screens: 10 V/m
- TV and radio transmitters: 6 V/m
- mobile phone base stations: 6 V/m
- radars: 9 V/m
- microwave ovens: 14 V/m
If you’d like, you can monitor EMF levels in your home using an EMF reader. If you believe someone in your home may have EMF sickness, the reader can pick up on radiation levels so you can take proper precautions. You can find them on various sites, including amazon.com. Alternatively, you can call your local power company to measure radiation levels in your home.
According to the ICNIRP, most people have low maximum exposure to EMF in their lifetime and don’t show signs of EMF sickness.
The scientists of WHO believe that EMF’s can damage the body’s cells, affect oxygen levels, and cause the nervous system to overreact to stimuli. Cancer may occur with high levels of EMF exposure. Other symptoms may include:
- sleep problems, including insomnia
- depression and depressive symptoms
- fatigue and lethargy
- dysesthesia (a painful, often itchy sensation)
- concentration problems
- memory recall issues
- loss of appetite and weight loss
- restlessness and anxiety
- skin burning and tingling
- nose bleeds, in rare instances
- heart palpitations
Of course, many of these symptoms mimic other common issues in modern life, including anxiety and depression. However, if you believe you might have EMF sickness, you can take certain measures to lower your exposure to these frequencies. Some people report feeling more sensitive to EMFs than others, and luckily, many protective devices can help mitigate the effects of these frequencies.
According to most research, EMF’s won’t cause harm to most people. Even when you use your cellphone, computer, or microwave for extended periods, you still get exposed to a very low level of EMF’s. If you live near a cell phone tower or power lines, you also shouldn’t worry, as the radiation emitted still falls within the guidelines. However, you should only get Xray’s when necessary, as these emit ionizing radiation, which can cause cancer and other health problems with high exposure.
Limit your time in the sun as well, and don’t put your phone right up to your ear when talking on it. Use earphones or put it on the speaker instead. Charge your phone in a different room when you sleep, and try to only turn it on when you need it. At night, turn off the Wi-Fi in your home to limit your exposure while you sleep. Consider using a laptop pad when you work on the computer to put space between your body and the device.
If you’d like to take an extra step, you can also purchase EMF shields for your devices, and even the smart meter outside your home. This can help to lower the frequencies in and around your house, which may help your mental and physical health.
Here are three ways to take a break from technology
- Spend more time outdoors. Mother Nature offers so many healing benefits to the human body.
- Play board games, color, or any other relaxing activity.
- Take up a hobby such as cooking, playing an instrument, or anything else that gets you off your phone or computer for a while.
EMFs occur from the sun and Xray machines, as well as from all the technology we use in modern society. Scientists have found that low-level frequencies may cause health risks such as cancer in some people, although more research needs to be done to confirm this. However, high-level EMF exposure can cause mental and physical harm, but most people don’t have this type of contact with EMF’s in their lifetime.
In general, you just want to use discretion with devices that emit radiation. Don’t use them unless you need to and turn off devices in your home when not in use. If you live close to cell phone towers, you might want to buy some EMF blocking devices to lower your exposure, although power lines and cell towers still emit very low frequencies. Some signs of EMF sickness include depression, fatigue, skin burning or itching, and heart palpitations, although these symptoms can mimic other disorders.
If the amount of technology and the radiation emitted by devices concerns you, just know that most research doesn’t prove that EMF’s cause harm in humans. Scientists believe that people may simply feel symptoms if they believe that radiation can cause ill health, but psychosomatic symptoms don’t equate to a real health problem.