EMF radiation is a source of concern. If we browse through the news headlines of the last few years, we will find innumerable instances of the accidents and health hazards following EMF exposure, making it a grave source of concern. These include power lines, microwave ovens, computer and TV screens, security devices, radars, cell phones, and disseminating towers. You may be asking yourself, is EMF truly harmful?
Let’s listen to what the experts have to say.
Electromagnetic radiation is exceptionally damaging. It works like negative energy in our bodies, and exposure to high levels of electromagnetic fields is a health concern. It can damage your cells and DNA and cause mental obstruction, fatigue, lethargy, and tiredness.
Since EMFs are everywhere around us, it is imperative to amass knowledge about them. Apoptosis of neuronal cells, alterations in the functionality of nerve myelin, and alterations in the performance of ion channels are all caused by RF-EMFs, which have also been discovered to operate as stress factors in living things.
Read on to know what the experts have to say about the adverse effects of EMF radiation on our health, both physical and mental.
What is meant by exposure to EMF?
Our earth has built-in radioactivity. Naturally occurring radioactive substances are present in rocks, sand, and soil. Cosmic radiation comes from outer space. Erosion of the earth’s soil releases radioactive substances into the air and water. The buildings we make with naturally occurring substances have these radioactive substances. Our bodies, too, have naturally occurring radioactive elements.
The concern is what we receive on top of these naturally occurring sources. They are all human-made and include fallout from nuclear testing, radioactive materials released from the nuclear power plants, X-rays, scans, and drugs.
Most of the electronic gadgets that we use give out radiation. There’s a saying, “Little drops of water make the mighty ocean.” When you add up all the minor contributions from EMF radiation, they can significantly impact your health.
What are the types of radiation?
There are many types of radiation; common ones are:
- Alpha radiation: Emitted by elements such as uranium and radium and can be stopped by intact skin. However, it can enter our bodies through the air, water, and food. They can damage body tissues.
- Beta radiation: More penetrating than alpha. And can be prevented by a few millimeters-thick sheets of aluminum.
- Gamma rays: These can be obstructed by thick walls of concrete or lead. They pass easily through our bodies.
- Neutrons: Produce radiation indirectly in contact with other unstable atoms.
What are the effects of radiation?
Sunlight is a source of EMFs, but its harmful radiation is mostly cut-off by the layer of ozone present around the earth. The EMF component that we ‘see’ is the visible light. The infra-red component of sunlight heats our bodies but does not ionize body tissues.
When it exceeds the permissible dose limit, ionizing radiation causes physical harm. Starting in the 20th century, exposure to artificial electromagnetic fields has been growing with increasing demands for electricity, fast-developing technologies, and changes in our attitude toward more and more gadgets.
According to the World Health Organization, we are all exposed to a composite mix of electric and magnetic fields from the electricity we use for home, work, household appliances, industrial equipment, and telecommunications, both at home and at work.
The main biological effect of EMF fields is heating. Low-frequency electric fields cause the current to flow through the body to the ground. Low-frequency magnetic fields induce circulating currents in our body, which, if significant, can affect nerves, muscles, and other biological processes.
Effects on general health
Symptoms like headaches, generalized aches and pains, anxiety, nervousness, depression, loss of libido, and even suicide have been attributed to EMF radiation.
Effects on pregnancy
Reports show an association between prematurity, low birth weight, and stillborn babies in communities exposed to the electronic industry.
Effects on eyes
General eye irritation and cataracts have been reported in workers exposed to high radiofrequency and microwave radiation.
EMFs and cancer
Many epidemiological studies suggest an increase in the incidence of leukemia with exposure to low-frequency EMFs in a home setting.
EMFs and depression
Some people are hypersensitive to EMF sources. It is not exactly known if there is a direct relation between EMFs and aches and pains, headaches, depression, lethargy, sleep disturbances, low mood, and seizures.
What is the research on effects of EMF?
Different types of studies are currently underway to find the link between EMF radiation and health hazards. Laboratory studies on cells to determine cellular and molecular damage, animal studies, and epidemiological studies are being conducted to gather evidence for or against the concern.
According to the National Cancer Institute, higher frequency EMFs like X-rays and gamma rays cause cancer. Low to mid-frequency EMFs that we get from electric power lines, appliances, radio waves, microwaves, and infrared rays or visible light are not known to damage cells or DNA directly.
Is EMF radiation carcinogenic?
The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) has classified non-ionizing EMFs in the radiofrequency range as Group2B, a possible human carcinogen. The sources include cell phones, smart devices, and tablets. The current IARC assessment in 2011 found a possible link between RF radiation and glioma, a malignant brain tumor.
Some researchers feel that there is enough evidence about the carcinogenic effects of long-term, low-level exposures to non-ionizing radiation. They believe the IARC should upgrade its position to Group 1, a known carcinogen.
The most extensive study on cancer risk in cell phone users demonstrated the comparison of cancer cases between cell phone users and non-users. The researchers followed up more than 5000 people in 13 countries and found a loose link between highest exposure and glioma, a malignant brain tumor. The glioma cases were found on the same side of the head that people used while talking on cell phones.
Another research review suggested that radiofrequency EMFs can contribute to cognitive and neurological disorders.
Are there any international safety protocols?
In 2020, the World Health Organization updated ICNIRP (International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection) guidelines, limiting 2mA m-2 for the general population who are sensitive and children.
People should not be exposed to more than 10mA m-2 in head, neck, or trunk areas at work. The value means ten milliamperes per meter squared. Levels above this have been shown to affect cognition and body tissues.
Safe and time-bound use of electronic gadgets, switching off lights in the daytime, reduced electricity use, and less reliance on devices seem to be the only out. Vulnerable groups like children and pregnant women must be shielded from household sources of low to mid-frequency EMFs.
There has been increased concern on what exposure to high levels of EMF radiation can do, including its impact on male fertility. It’s a potent topic that you can read in my blog post here.