We live in the age of information, and every now and then we learn that there are things in our environment which are widely accepted, but harmful to the human body. One such recent discovery is EMF radiation.
EMF stands for Electro Magnetic Fields, which are defined as a combination of invisible electric and magnetic fields of force, that in turn generate radiation. EMFs are created naturally by the Earth’s magnetic field and also by human activities, like the use of electricity, mobile phones, power lines(1), and Wi-Fi, to state a few.
There are two types of Electro Magnetic Radiation that we can be exposed to –
- Ionizing or High Frequency EMFs – The energy from this type of radiation can remove electrons from atoms, including those comprising of water and living tissue. Sources of Ionizing EMFs are Gamma rays and X- rays. (2) High frequency EMFs are used to carry information (mobile phone or radio base station, TV antenna, etc.).
- Non-Ionizing or Low-to-Mid Frequency EMFs – These emit the type of radiation that cannot break chemical bonds, and is present in many natural as well as man-made forms. The radiation from Low-Frequency EMFs is relatively less harmful and can be found in radio frequency (emitted by mobile phones, cordless phones, radios), microwave radiation, computers, infrared and ultraviolet radiation. (2)
Ionizing EMFs can be particularly harmful as they are capable of breaking chemical bonds and altering the chemical and molecular structure of matter, including human tissue. In fact, the most influential process of EMF's impact on living organisms is its direct tissue penetration.
Harmful Effects of EMF Radiation
The immediate and short term side effects of overexposure to EMFs include burns, hair loss, skin damage, organ damage, tissue damage, damage to unborn babies and damage to the bone marrow. Some organs like the eyes and testes are more vulnerable to such damage because they receive low blood supply as compared to other organs which affects their capacity to regulate temperature.
The harmful effects of overexposure to EMFs is called Acute Radiation Syndrome (ARS) and its symptoms include vomiting, nausea, diarrhoea, and headache to name a few. (2) These are just a few of the commonly known and reported side effects. The list is expected to be subjected to expansion as more harmful effects come to light. These symptoms/side effects can even be treated if caught early. One should consult a doctor if they face such symptoms without any other possible explanation.
Continuous exposure to abnormal amounts of ionizing EMFs can lead to a variety of health problems, primarily cancer. The International Agency for Research on Cancer has classified radiofrequency radiation as a “possible human carcinogen”.(2) Rampant exposure to ionizing EMFs causes the radiation to attack cellular DNA, which further causes cancer and leads to mutational changes across generations.
Another serious side effect is known as Electromagnetic Hyper Sensitivity(EHS). This triggers acute and chronic inflammatory processes located mainly in the skin and nervous systems, as well as in the respiratory, cardiovascular and musculoskeletal systems. The number of people suffering from EHS in the world is growing and they describe themselves as severely dysfunctional. They exhibit multi-organ non-specific symptoms upon exposure to low doses of electromagnetic radiation, often associated with hypersensitivity to many chemical agents (Multiple Chemical Sensitivity-MCS) and/or other environmental intolerances (Sensitivity Related Illness-SRI). (3)
Harmful Effects of EMFs on Reproduction
The most common and unavoidable source of EMFs are laptops. Contrary to what their name suggests, laptops should never be kept directly on one’s lap. They should either be used on tables or there must be a layer of non-conductive material separating us from the device.
In a study, Dr. Conrado Avendano and his colleagues of Nascentis Medicina Reproductiva in Cordoba found that “the use of a laptop computer wirelessly connected to the Internet and positioned near the male reproductive organs may decrease human sperm quality.”
Their study found that 25 percent of the sperm sample subjected to four hours of exposure were no longer active compared to 14 percent of the sperm samples stored at the same temperature over the same time period and away from the computer. They also noted that 9 percent of the sperm showed DNA damage, three times the damage found in the comparison samples.
Similarly, the Archives of Environmental & Occupational Health reported laptop EMF emissions create health concerns, particularly for women and their foetuses. The study found that Swedish EMF standards were exceeded by 71 to 483 percent by the laptops used in the study which, by the standard’s definition, increases the risk for tumour development. (4)
Prolonged use of laptops without a separating layer can also cause “Toasted Skin Syndrome”, which leads to a slight burning and discolouration of the skin.
If you suspect that you are being subjected to abnormal amounts of EMF, you can also purchase an EMF meter online, from a reliable source, and check whether the level of EMFs surrounding you is within the permissible limit. Needless to say, in case of any health related effects, consult a trusted physician.
One should seek immediate medical help if they feel they have been exposed to undue amounts of radiation. This can happen due to extensive exposure to ultraviolet light, for example- an unusually long period in a tanning bed, extensive exposure to X-rays, an accident at or near a nuclear power plant, contact with radioactive waste, etc. People should also seek the help of a professional if they observe any symptoms of tissue damage or chronic radiation exposure, such as-
- Problems with fertility: See a doctor about multiple pregnancy losses or any difficulty conceiving.
- Unexplained pain: Consult a doctor about pain with no clear cause, especially if any internal organs seem to be involved.
- Symptoms of cancer: These include skin changes, a tumour, or changes in the way that the body functions. (2)
- Cognitive and Behavioural Change
- Fragmented DNA
- Concentration or memory loss.
- Immune disorders. (4)
Preventative and Protective Measures
A few measures that can be taken to minimise EMF damage include limiting the time spent on electronic devices like mobile phones, laptops, computers, and most importantly, Bluetooth headsets. We must also endeavour to keep a distance from EMF radiating gadgets like our Wi-Fi router. It is advised to keep a Wi-Fi router away from rooms we spend most of our time in, and also to completely switch off the Wi-fi when we go to sleep. The goal is to avoid EMF absorption at least while sleeping or being inactive.
A highly recommended practise is to keep our cell phones at least 4 feet away from us when we sleep, or even better, put them on flight mode. It is also strongly suggested to use wired devices in today’s world of wireless techs, like Bluetooth headphones, wireless chargers and keyboards, as wired devices limit our EMF exposure. As previously advised, we must not place laptops directly in contact with our bodies- there must always be a layer separating us from these devices.
Knowledge is power, and it equips us with the tools to make better decisions for ourselves, one day at a time. These small efforts, even though they may seem inconvenient in the short run, can save us a lifetime of trouble.