By Dr. Mercola
There are over 5 billion operating cell phones on the planet. These phones exchange signals with millions of cell phone towers. In your home, your favorite coffee shop, your local library and certainly in your office, you have WI-FI.
You probably also have a sprinkling of other wireless technologies, like a cordless phone, a wireless baby monitor or alarm system, or maybe even a USB-powered device that gives your cell phone Web access, which has been referred to as a "cell-phone tower for your pocket."
Even if you have opted out of such conveniences, there's a good chance your neighborhood has not. This means that, essentially, your environment is saturated with wireless technologies and the frequencies they emit – and you're being impacted whether you realize it or not.
What Happens When Humans are Exposed to Man-Made Electromagnetic Fields, 24/7?
The simple answer to this question is, no one knows. How could they? The technologies that have become so intertwined with what it means to live in the 21st century – cell phones, laptops, iPads, and so on – have never-before existed.
And as a species, we have embraced them fully, without understanding what types of risks they may ultimately present. As written in AlterNet:
"We now live in a wireless-saturated normality that has never existed in the history of the human race. It is unprecedented because of the complexity of the modulated frequencies that carry the increasingly complex information we transmit on our cell phones, smart phones and wi-fi systems.
These EMFs [electromagnetic fields] are largely untested in their effects on human beings. Swedish neuroscientist Olle Johansson, who teaches at the world-renowned Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, … [states] the mass saturation in electromagnetic fields raises terrible questions.
Humanity, he says, has embarked on the equivalent of "the largest full-scale experiment ever. What happens when, 24 hours around the clock, we allow ourselves and our children to be whole-body-irradiated by new, man-made electromagnetic fields for the entirety of our lives?"
There is reason for concern, not only because an outpouring of research is painting a very different picture about cell phone safety than the telecommunications industry would have you believe, but also because of a growing population of electrically sensitive individuals, the EMF canaries in the coal mine.
Do You Suffer from Unexplained Headaches, Fatigue, Insomnia or Muscle Aches?
It is estimated that 3-8 percent of populations in developed countries experience serious electrohypersensitivity symptoms, while 35 percent experience mild symptoms, according to Dr. Thomas Rau, medical director of the world-renowned Paracelsus Clinic in Switzerland. Dr. Rau also believes that 'electromagnetic loads' lead to cancer, concentration problems, ADD, tinnitus, migraines, insomnia, arrhythmia, Parkinson's and even back pain.
You can listen to an audio interview with Dr. Rau on www.electromagnetichealth.org. For people with Electromagnetic Hypersensitivity Syndrome (EHS), just walking into a coffee shop that is WI-FI equipped can be debilitating, triggering a wide array of symptoms including headache, fatigue, nausea, burning and itchy skin, and muscle aches. Some students have to drop out of school or are unable to continue on to graduate programs once they become electrically sensitive, irrespective of their intelligence and capabilities.
Even just briefly standing in line at the post office, or traveling on public transportation, can be a debilitating experience for some people, sometimes taking hours to restore balance. In this AlterNet article, you can read several examples from people who believe exposure to electromagnetic radio frequencies made them sick, including:
- The Rall family, whose farm animals became sick and developed tumors, and whose children suffered hyperactivity, skin rashes, and neurological problems, after a cell phone tower was put up 800 feet from their home.
- Michele Hertz, who experienced severe memory loss, inability to concentrate and other significant debilitating symptoms after a wireless "smart" meter was installed on her house.
The conventional medical establishment has yet to acknowledge electrohypersensitivity as a "real" health issue, but the number of people experiencing severe symptoms that clear up when exposure to EMFs is eliminated, makes it impossible to ignore.
Further, with the work of Magda Havas, PhD, of the Environmental & Resources Studies Department at Trent University, Canada and others, acceptance is slowly growing and the real health effects of EMF are becoming harder to deny.
For instance, research from Dr. Havas revealed that a cordless phone base station placed about two feet from your head and plugged in for three minutes at a time can significantly disrupt your heart rhythm, leading to increases in heart rate, arrhythmias and other disturbances in heart rate variability.
This is among the most solid proof that the effects of EMF radiation are real, as are the symptoms that some people readily experience when they're around such microwave-emitting devices. The biological effects on the heart in the Havas study were found at .3% of the FCC exposure limits.
Researchers have, in fact, found that there are a number of factors that influence the degree to which you may be affected by EMFs. For example, according to research by Dr. Dietrich Klinghardt, your physical body, such as your body weight, body-mass index, bone density, and water and electrolyte levels can alter the conductivity and biological reactivity to EMFs. Children are also particularly vulnerable.
Cell Phones Now Labeled a "Possible Carcinogen"
While some of the health effects of the wireless revolution are immediately apparent to sensitive populations, most people seemingly feel fine when using the technology. However, this should not be taken as guarantee of safety, as some health conditions take years, or even decades, of exposure to develop.
The perfect example? Cancer.
On May 21, 2011, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), a committee of 27 scientists from 14 different countries working on behalf of the World Health Organization (WHO), also concluded that exposure to cell phone radiation is a "possible carcinogen" and classified it into the 2B category. This is the same category as the pesticide DDT, lead, gasoline engine exhaust, burning coal and dry cleaning chemicals, just to name a few.
The group did not perform any new research; rather the decision is based on a review of the previously published evidence, including the Interphone study results published so far (about 50% have still not been released). This is the same evidence that the National Cancer Institute (NCI) and the American Cancer Society (ACS), among others, have previously waved aside, calling it "reassuring," and claiming it showed "no evidence" of harm. The IARC decision came only days after the Council of Europe, elders from 47 European countries, called for a dramatic reduction in EMF exposure to humans from call phones and wireless technologies.
Some nations have already adopted the precautionary principle, and have previously issued precautionary advice to mobile phone users. Now that cell phone radiation has been classified as a "possible carcinogen," these messages can be strengthened in a meaningful way to reach more people, across the world.
EMFs May Damage Your DNA
Dr. Martin Blank, PhD, of Columbia University and one of the most experienced researchers of the cellular and molecular effects of electromagnetic fields in the U.S., gave an informative speech at the November 18, 2010 Commonwealth Club of California program, "The Health Effects of Electromagnetic Fields," co-sponsored by ElectromagneticHealth.org.
Dr. Blank spoke with deep experience and commanding authority on the impact of electromagnetic fields on cells and DNA, and explained why your DNA, with its 'coil of coils' structure, is especially vulnerable to electromagnetic fields of all kinds. As described in the International Journal of Radiation Biology, April 2011, DNA possesses the two structural characteristics of fractal antennas, electronic conduction and self-symmetry.
These properties contribute to greater reactivity of DNA to electromagnetic fields than other tissues, making the long-term consequences of repeated microwave exposures to our genetic material of great concern.
Dr. Blank is adamant when he says that there IS evidence of harm, and that the harm can be significant. He also points out that the science showing harmful effects has been peer-reviewed, published, and that the results have been replicated, evaluated and "judged by scientists capable of judging it."
Even barring all the scientific evidence, it simply makes sense that cell phones and wireless technology can impact the human body once you understand that your body is bioelectric. Your body contains electrons which keep an electrical current flowing, and inside every cell are mitochondria, the 'power plants' of the cell that respond to the body's natural electromagnetic fields.
As Dr. Maret explains in his interview with ElectromagneticHealth.org, your body is a complex communication system where cells, tissues, organs, and organisms "talk" -- it's a veritable "electronic symphony in your body." This communication includes finely tuned bio-electrical transmitters and receivers, which are tuned like tuning into a radio station.
And when you expose a radio antenna to a significant amount of external noise, you get static, and that is what is happening to your body in today's EMF-saturated environment.
Steps for Protecting Yourself from EMF
We're still in the infancy of EMF science as it relates to understanding the mechanism of the human health effects, but there is enough solid evidence to show that there are very real risks apparent. It is time to exercise the precautionary principle, but keep in mind that completely eliminating exposure is close to impossible. Even if you don't use a cell phone and your home is wireless-free, you can be exposed to microwave radiation from your neighbor's wireless devices or while visiting "hot spots" or traveling near cell phone towers. That said, there's still plenty you can do to minimize your exposure and help safeguard your children's health:
- Children Should Never Use Cell Phones: Barring a life-threatening emergency, children should not use a cell phone, or a wireless device of any type. Children are far more vulnerable to cell phone radiation than adults, because of their thinner skull bones, and still developing immune and neurological systems.
- Reduce Your Cell Phone Use: Turn your cell phone off more often. Reserve it for emergencies or important matters. As long as your cell phone is on, it emits radiation intermittently, even when you are not actually making a call.
Leave an outgoing message on your phone stating your cell phone policy so others know not to call you on it except in emergencies.
- Use a Land Line at Home and at Work: Although more and more people are switching to using cell phones as their exclusive phone contact, it is a dangerous trend and you can choose to opt out of the madness.
- Reduce or Eliminate Your Use of Other Wireless Devices: You would be wise to cut down your use of these devices. Just as with cell phones, it is important to ask yourself whether or not you really need to use them every single time.
If you must use a portable home phone, use the older kind that operates at 900 MHz. They are no safer during calls, but at least some of them do not broadcast constantly even when no call is being made. Note the only way to truly be sure if there is an exposure from your cordless phone is to measure with an electrosmog meter, and it must be one that goes up to the frequency of your portable phone (so old meters won't help much). As many portable phones are 5.8 Gigahertz, we recommend you look for RF meters that go up to 8 Gigahertz, the highest range now available in a meter suitable for consumers.
Alternatively you can be very careful with the base station placement as that causes the bulk of the problem since it transmits signals 24/7, even when you aren't talking. So if you can keep the base station at least three rooms away from where you spend most of your time, and especially your bedroom, it may not be as damaging to your health.
Ideally it would be helpful to turn off or disconnect your base station every night before you go to bed. Levels of microwave radiation from portable phones can be extraordinarily high.
You can find RF meters at www.emfsafetystore.com. But you can pretty much be sure your portable phone is a problem if the technology is labeled DECT, or digitally enhanced cordless technology.
- Limit Your Cell Phone Use to Where Reception is Good: The weaker the reception, the more power your phone must use to transmit, and the more power it uses, the more radiation it emits, and the deeper the dangerous radio waves penetrate into your body. Ideally, you should only use your phone with full bars and good reception.
Also seek to avoid carrying your phone on your body as that merely maximizes any potential exposure. Ideally put it in your purse or carrying bag. Placing a cell phone in a shirt pocket over the heart is asking for trouble, as is placing it in a man's pocket if he seeks to preserve his fertility.
- Don't Assume One Cell Phone is Safer than Another. There's no such thing as a "safe" cell phone, and do not rely on the SAR value to evaluate the safety of your phone. Always seek CDMA carriers over GSM as they have far lower radiation in their signaling technology. And remember, eliminating cell phone use, or greatly lowering cell phone use from phones of all kinds, is where true prevention begins.
- Keep Your Cell Phone Away From Your Body When it is On: The most dangerous place to be, in terms of radiation exposure, is within about six inches of the emitting antenna. You do not want any part of your body within that area.
- Respect Others Who are More Sensitive: Some people who have become sensitive can feel the effects of others' cell phones in the same room, even when it is on but not being used. If you are in a meeting, on public transportation, in a courtroom or other public places, such as a doctor's office, keep your cell phone turned off out of consideration for the 'second hand radiation' effects. Children are also more vulnerable, so please avoid using your cell phone near children.
- Use Safer Headset Technology: Wired headsets will certainly allow you to keep the cell phone farther away from your body. However, if a wired headset is not well-shielded the wire itself acts as an antenna attracting ambient information carrying radio waves and transmitting radiation directly to your brain. Make sure that the wire used to transmit the signal to your ear is shielded.
The best kind of headset to use is a combination shielded wire and air-tube headset. These operate like a stethoscope, transmitting the information to your head as an actual sound wave; although there are wires that still must be shielded, there is no wire that goes all the way up to your head.
Are You Electrically Sensitive?
To further avoid EMF exposure, or for those who are especially sensitive, it's especially to stay protected during the night when your body is trying to repair and rebuild:
- Turn off all the fuses at night that supply your bedroom. You can install a 'demand switch' at your bedside to make this very convenient.
- Shield your bed with a special metalized fabric canopy to protect yourself from harmful frequencies that can disrupt cellular communication.
- If you are constructing a new home or renovating one and the walls are being rebuilt you can install radiant barrier, which is a tough type of aluminum foil that will also very effectively screen out the EMF. This is what I did for my own bedroom.
- At minimum, move your bed so that your head is at least 3-6 feet from all electrical outlets. If you are constructing the walls you can put the wires inside pipes, which will virtually eliminate the fields that are generated in the room when the current runs through the wire.
- Turn off and unplug everything electrical in your sleeping area, including your computer, WI-FI, cell and portable phones.
- Sleep on a non-metal bed and mattress.
- Be aware that cell phones and WI-FI are not the only EMF sources you need to be cautious of. Essentially, most all electronics will generate EMFs, including the wiring in your home, electric alarm clocks, electric blankets, computers and lamps, just to mention a few.
- For best results, avoid using electric blankets and electric heating pads, and unplug all electrical appliances when not in use. Even better, at night, turn off the fuses directly.
- Protect yourself from cordless phones. If you want to avoid the radiation you should switch back to a wired landline and ditch your cordless phone entirely.
- If you must use a conventional cordless phone, be sure to keep the base station at least three rooms away from where everyone sleeps and where you spend the most time during the day. Or simply keep it off except in the limited circumstances when you feel you need to use it.
- The base station of a DECT phone always transmits at full power, so this is not a device you want sitting on your nightstand next to your bed, on your kitchen counter or even on at all if it is not necessary.