Possibly the most important environmental health question - and problem - of the 21st century is, "How quickly can we adapt our biology to new exposures such as electromagnetic fields (EMF)?" The earth naturally produces an electromagnetic field, as do human bodies, both of which are considered natural EMFs and do not pose any health risks. But what about artificial EMFs? Do they really disturb the human body's natural energies and cause health problems? Controversy has surrounded this topic since Thomas Edison first harnessed electricity, and has grown significantly since WWII.
Modern science has shown that, in fact, EMFs come in a variety of frequencies with varied levels of potential danger, most commonly extremely low frequency waves (ELF) and radiofrequency radiation (RF). ELFs radiate from things like the 50-60 hertz power lines that feed household appliances. RFs are more dangerous and can come from common modern conveniences such as cell phones, cordless phones, WiFi, mobile antennas, broadcast towers and electrical security systems. The human body should run on about 8 hertz of power while Smart meters and WiFi systems typically run in a range of 900 hertz to 5.9 gigahertz. High-frequency voltage transients, also called "dirty electricity," are a relatively new possible carcinogen. Mostly by-products of modern energy-efficient electronics and appliances, they result from electric currents that have been manipulated in order to cut down on energy use. As a result of this manipulation, an electromagnetic field is created that is wildly fluctuating, potentially dangerous and able to travel along wiring all the way to the utility, infecting every energy customer in between.
The ever-growing overexposure to EMFs has spawned a recently identified condition called electrical hypersensitivity (EHS), which can carry symptoms including fatigue, dizziness, facial irritation and digestive issues after exposure to many modern electrical devices. EHS may significantly affect up to 3% of all people, and as many as one-third of the population to a lesser degree. Numerous studies suggest that exposure to artificial EMFs can upset the body's natural rhythms and processes, invading everything from sleep cycles and stress levels to immunities and even DNA. In 2012, the Bioinitiative Working Group, released a detailed report of the toxic effects of EMFs. The report shows a link between chronic exposure to even low-level radiation and a variety of cancers, impaired immunity, Alzheimer's disease and dementia, heart disease and many other ailments. Still, more research -- whether from disease clusters or from long-term, large-scale analyses -- is needed to know the full extent of the dangers of EMFs. If you are worried about the possible effects of EMF exposure, here are 7 strategies that may help limit unnecessary exposure. As with any potential health issue, you should discuss risks and preventative measures of EMF exposure with Dr. Bossio, who can then help you decide on the best course of action.
1. Determine your level of electric and magnetic field exposure. Some communities now require buildings to have shielded conduits, which help protect against electromagnetic fields related to internal wiring, but this is still relatively rare. To find out if your wiring is shielded or not, run a volt sensor (available at your local hardware store) up, down and across your walls to check for electric fields. Even if you're lucky enough to have shielded conduits in your home, in general, it is likely that you're still being exposed to electric fields from appliances and other modern technologies. On the other hand, magnetic fields in your home can be caused by nearby power lines, both overhead and underground, refrigerator motors, power meters and even some old types of metal plumbing. To test for magnetic fields, you'll need a gaussmeter. There are a number of them on the market, and while they are relatively inexpensive, you may want to consider purchasing this tool with others as a group, as each building needs to be measured only once.
2. Decrease EMF exposure while sleeping. If you're sleeping in a room with non-shielded wires in the walls - and most are - sleeping with your head near a wall will expose you to electrical fields. Sleep with your head away from the wall, facing the center of the room, to combat exposure while you sleep. Make sure all of the electronics around your bed are battery powered. Or better yet, turn off the circuit breaker for your bedroom at night, eliminating the voltage coming from the electrical outlets.
3. Embrace the natural look. Hair dryers can emit greater magnetic fields than even large appliances, such as refrigerators. Instead of submitting your body to unnecessary trauma, palm a natural cream or oil through your hair to tame flyaways and let it air-dry. As an added bonus, you'll avoid unnecessary heat damage, too.
4. Avoid direct contact with high-energy-source technologies, especially while they are charging. Laptops, cordless telephone bases, cell phones, iPads, Kindles and other wireless devices are high energy sources of both electric- and magnetic fields. Avoid putting a laptop directly on your lap. Instead, use a lap pad with a reflective material or metal added to it to protect against the device's electric field and thermal energy. Don't sleep with a cell phone under your pillow. Charging devices are ungrounded, so you may also want to avoid using such technologies while they are plugged into an outlet and charging. Studies have shown that these precautions may be even more important during pregnancy.
5. Go retro. Trade in the convenience of your cordless phone - or worse, your sole use of a cell phone - with a corded telephone. Numerous studies suggest that there is a greater risk of developing brain cancer among those who begin using cell phones as a teen, when compared to those who started as an adult. While more research is needed regarding the effects of cell phone EMFs on humans, animal research has shown that such EMFs can cause blood vessels to leak fluid into the brain and damage neurons.
6. Consider proximity to electromagnetic field producers when purchasing a new home. As the saying goes, it's all about location, location, location. In this case, power lines, cell phone and WiFi towers, which operate at higher levels of electromagnetic frequency emission, could pose more risk to the health of you and your family if you live in close proximity.
7. Beware of 'Smart Meters'. Smart meters are a new type of utility meter that wirelessly transmits data about your household energy usage to the utility company. While these new meters are being marketed as a way to save consumers money, they also bring a new route of EMF exposure. The human body averages an electrical charge of about 8 Hz. Smart meters and WiFi systems typically run in a range of 900 Hz to 5.9 GHz.To protect against this new danger, you can install a reflective barrier to keep radiation from your meter from coming into your home, but you'll also need to address your neighbors' meters the same way. If you live in a densely populated area or a multi-unit building, this may be impractical. Another option for limiting EMF exposure from smart meters is to request that the utility company set up your meter to transmit information only once a day, as opposed to once every minute. If going this route, it is a good idea to ask your neighbors to do the same. Check out this interview on ElectromagneticHealth.org for more information on this growing concern.
Photo Credit. FreeDititalPhotos.com.
EMF Exposure: Worse than Cigarettes? The Silent Enemy Harming Your Health Today. Mercola.com.
Radiation From Cell Phones and WiFi Are Making People Sick - Are We All at Risk? Alternet.org.
Is 'electrosmog' harming our health? NBC News.
Bioinitiative 2012: A Rationale for Biologically-based Exposure Standards for Low-Intensity Electromagnetic Radiation. Bioinitiative.org.
Smart Grid Sensibility? Audio Interview with B. Blake Levitt and Duncan Campbell, Esq. by ElectromagneticHealth.org Founder, Camilla Rees. ElectromagneticHealth.org.
Image Attribution: scottchan/freedigitalphotos.net