- What Are EMFs?
- Where are EMFs Found?
- Studies and Potential Health Impacts From EMFs
- Principles for Mitigating EMF Exposure
- Practical Solutions to Minimize Daily EMF Exposure
Our modern world comes with a unique set of challenges, especially if you’re someone who wants to live a healthy life.
One of these challenges is exposure to EMFs from everyday electronic devices.
If you’re familiar with our message at Heart & Soil, you know we tend to focus heavily on diet and lifestyle factors (like sleep, exercise, and stress management) as crucial aspects of achieving radical health. But there is more to the picture, especially when it comes to EMFs and the negative health impacts they can have on us. Let’s dive in.
What are EMFs?
EMFs stand for electromagnetic fields, which are created by electrically charged objects. Most of us carry around some combination of cell phones, laptops, headphones, and other devices that expose us to a variety of these fields on a daily basis. Exposure to EMFs are nearly inescapable for the average person, but there are things we can do to mitigate them.
The good news is… not all EMFs are created equal. In fact, both the human body & even the earth itself can produce EMFs, and every cell in the human body has antennas that can sense the electromagnetic environment around us. The nervous system even relies on electricity which enables us to think, feel, and move (1).
Electromagnetic fields aren’t new to us, but the level at which we’re exposed to them has changed dramatically over the past few centuries, and exponentially in the last few decades.
Where Are EMFs Found?
EMFs are easy to overlook for a few reasons. They’re invisible, odorless, and generally undetectable without special equipment. However, constant exposure to EMFs has become a reality in our current environment as we now have powerful 5G networks, billions of phones and computers, smart devices of all kinds, and millions of miles of power lines scattered around the globe.
Some sources of EMF exposure are less obvious, though.
Here’s a breakdown of the electromagnetic fields that we’re regularly exposed to, along with some of the common sources of exposure:
For a visual explanation, here’s a map of downtown Austin, Texas (courtesy of Antenna Search). Within a three-mile radius, there are 215 towers and over 1100 antennas.
This doesn’t even account for the thousands of cell phones, laptops, smart TVs, routers, and other devices in this area.
Some areas may not have the exposure level of a “smart city” like Austin, but we are constantly around these electromagnetic fields whether we realize it or not.
So, are EMFs dangerous? It’s not entirely clear yet. In spite of the sudden exponential increases in EMF exposure in recent decades, there is still not a lot of clarity regarding the long-term effects of EMFs due to a lack of long-term studies and efforts to understand the potential impacts. However, there are a few key findings that we think you should consider. Let’s take a look!
Studies and Potential Health Impacts of EMFs
More insight is needed surrounding the potential health impacts of EMFs. Yet, it’s becoming clear that this is another aspect of maintaining a healthy lifestyle that should garner closer attention:
- A study focusing on radiation from laptops, cell phones, microwaves, and Wifi found that RF frequencies from these items may damage sperm count, motility, and morphology. (2)
- A review concluded that EMF exposure could contribute to oxidative stress in bodily tissue. (3)
- Numerous Wifi studies have shown that exposure can cause sperm/testicular damage, apoptosis, endocrine changes, cellular DNA damage, and calcium overload. (4)
- A systematic review and meta-analysis from 2014 found that cell phone usage alongside other environmental factors may negatively impact sperm quality. (5)
- A study on immature and mature rats noted that radio-frequency electromagnetic fields (RF-EMF) led to damaged genetic material. (6)
- EMFs may contribute to an increased risk of acoustic neuroma and glioma, may be a risk factor for breast cancer in women, and can change gene expression in specific cell types. (7)
- A group of 60 individuals was studied in Germany before and after installing a cell phone base station. This study showed that activation of the transmitter may have decreased dopamine levels. Sensitive populations also saw significant increases in adrenaline and noradrenaline levels. (8)
Most of these studies emphasize that longer-term studies on humans are needed. However, it’s becoming better understood that EMFs can have negative health impacts.
Principles for Mitigating EMF Exposure
To help you mitigate the potential harmful effects of EMF exposure, we have a list of the three most important steps you can take.
#1 – Remove the source (if possible): Radio frequencies, in particular, can increase exponentially as we move closer to devices. Create space between your and your devices whenever possible.
Ironically, Apple includes a similar statement in their phone settings.
If you’re an iPhone user, go to Settings → General → Legal & Regulatory → RF Exposure
You’ll find the following statement: “to reduce exposure to RF energy, use a hands-free option, such as the built-in speakerphone, headphones, or other similar accessories. Cases with metal parts may change the RF performance of the device, including its compliance with RF exposure guidelines, in a manner that has not been tested or certified.”
The Environmental Working Group even analyzed data and concluded that certain phone cases could intensify radiation to the head or other body parts (some led to a 20-70% increase)(9).
#2 – If you can’t remove the source, then limit the amount of time spent next to devices. EMFs are classified based on their wavelength and frequency. On one side of the frequency spectrum, you can find things like power lines that have longer wavelengths with a shorter frequency.
On the opposite end of this spectrum, you’ll find things like X-rays which have shorter wavelengths, but at a higher frequency. This end of the spectrum can be incredibly damaging to the body (hence the heavy vest while doing X-rays at the dentist).
Even though some EMF sources aren’t as powerful, consistent low-grade exposure may be problematic to our health, as seen in the studies above.
So, be sure to take time away from devices when possible. Take a long phoneless stroll along the beach or a local hiking trail, or embark on a weekend camping trip with family or friends. It can even be as simple as turning off your devices and reading a book to wind down at the end of the day.
#3 – At the very least, exercise caution with devices around sensitive populations: It’s generally suggested that children and pregnant women should be cautious around electronics and that the exposure limits should be lowered for these groups (10,11).
Children tend to have thinner skulls, less developed immune systems, and their brains can be more absorbent due to higher water content relative to overall body mass.
Numerous countries worldwide, such as France, India, and Russia, suggest that citizens in these groups either limit their usage of cell phones or, in some cases, avoid them entirely until age eighteen (12).
Newborns can even be susceptible to EMFs as wireless baby monitors can emit radiation signatures similar to those put out by cell phones. This article outlines some potential alternatives.
Practical Tips to Minimize Daily EMF Exposure
Let’s dive deeper and talk about more steps we can take to minimize EMFs from handheld devices (without the need for fancy gadgets that may or may not work):
#4 – Airplane mode isn’t just for plane rides: utilize airplane mode on your devices and turn off the wifi/Bluetooth components when the device is not being used. This strategy stops radio frequency transmissions.
#5 – Use wired headphones: Bluetooth devices can emit radio frequencies as they constantly send out a signal when in use. Many of these devices also tend to make direct contact with the body.
#6 – Limit phone usage when the signal is weak: phones can dramatically increase their power when searching for a signal. If you can, try to use these when the signal is strong.
#7 – Use speakerphone or wired headphones when talking on the phone: phones can emit less radiation during texting, but using speakerphone or wired headphones can help reduce exposure if you need to make a call. The head appears to be one of the body’s most vulnerable parts regarding EMFs.
#8 – Use safe storage: avoid storing your device in pockets, bras, or other areas that have close contact with the body. If you need to transport devices in these areas, use airplane mode and turn off the Wifi and Bluetooth functions. Faraday bags can also be used as another layer of protection.
#9 – Travel safely: using devices when in a car or other method of transportation can cause devices to work harder for a signal and reflect off of metal, leading to increased levels of exposure. If you can, download your favorite podcast or music beforehand and listen in airplane mode. Opt for an aux cord instead of the Bluetooth connection.
EMF Protection Against Computers
Many of these same principles can also apply to computers:
#10 – Choose wired options for a mouse, keyboard, printer, and other devices: it may seem counterintuitive to add in more devices, but each of these can create distance between you and your computer.
#11 – Avoid using laptops directly on your lap: this should be self-explanatory based on some of the studies above!
#12 – Use hard-wired ethernet cables along with an ethernet grounding kit: this may take some back and forth between you and your internet provider, but it’s a cost-effective method for reducing EMFs in the home.
#13 – Use grounded charging cables: 2 pronged chargers can be a significant source of electric fields. However, three-pronged chargers are grounded and cut down on these levels. This idea can also be applied to plug-ins for lamps and other household items.
One of the most important areas to focus on when it comes to EMF reduction is the bedroom, since we spend about ⅓ of our lives in bed.
EMF Protection in the Bedroom
Here are a few helpful habits to consider as you prepare for a good night’s rest:
#14 – Unplug wifi at night or use a wifi timer: this is one of the most straightforward steps we can take, especially if you regularly sleep close to the router.
#15 – Unplug other unused electronic devices at night: pull the plug on unused electronics such as lamps, microwaves, phone chargers, and other items. Devices can put out electric fields when plugged into an outlet. If you need to charge a device, do so away from your sleeping area while also having it on airplane mode.
#16 – Use a battery-powered alarm clock: opting for a battery-powered alarm clock instead of your phone is a simple way to keep electronics out of your room and cut down on phone usage before bed or after rising.
#17 – Turn off the electricity in your room at night if you can: this is a quick (and free) method for reducing electric fields in the bedroom that may be emanating from the walls.
#18 – Minimize clutter in your room: items with metal should be limited as much as possible. Many bed frames and mattresses contain metal which can potentially attract additional EMFs.
#19 – Avoid CFL and fluorescent light bulbs: both are common sources of dirty electricity and can contain toxic mercury. Opt for incandescent bulbs instead or use candles at nighttime.
#20 – Connect with a “building biologist” – if you’ve mastered steps 1-19 and want to crush EMFs as much as possible, connect with a “building biologist” to protect your home or office.
While more research is needed on the potential health impacts of EMFs, we hope this blog has convinced you that it’s worth taking some simple steps to reduce your exposure. It’s best to assume that computers, phones, and the countless other devices we use daily won’t disappear anytime soon. Your best bet is to take proactive steps to reduce your exposure.
We still believe that dietary choices, sunlight, and movement remain the most powerful levers we have at our disposal to improve our health! To a degree, these common sense health and lifestyle tips can generally act as a counterbalance to the harmful effects of EMFs that surround us everywhere we go.
Rest assured that if you pair a healthy body with the 19 steps above, you will be far ahead of most people when it comes to minimizing the harmful effects of EMFs.
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