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Sources of EMF and Their Health Dangers

Last Updated on October 4, 2023

Electromagnetic Field (EMF) health dangers.

Electromagnetic Fields (EMFs), also referred to as Electromagnetic Radiation (EMR), are all around us. An Electromagnetic Field (EMF) can come from power lines, household wiring, and electronic devices such as laptop computers and cell phones. 

There are two types of EMFs: Extremely Low Frequency (ELF) radiation which comes from anything with a plug or a battery, and Radio Frequency (RF) radiation which comes from a wireless transmitter placed in the device. This wireless transmission can be for cellular connectivity, WiFi, or Bluetooth operations.

Many health concerns have been identified as a result of exposure to Electromagnetic Radiation, particularly when the radiation is very close to the body for long periods of time. Electromagnetic Radiation has been linked to adverse health effects that include infertility, heart conditions, leukemia, miscarriage, nausea, muscle pain, skin burns, and cell damage and DNA fragmentation, that has been linked to many other neurological and nervous system disorders. 

While many sources of EMFs are very plain and easy to spot, like cell towers and microwaves, other sources are hidden in our everyday lifestyles. Figuring out all the different sources of EMF in your home and being mindful of them is the first step in reducing your exposure.

Sources of the Electromagnetic Fields (EMFs)

  • Computers generate Electromagnetic Radiation that can significantly exceed recommended standards and saturate the body.
  • Wireless Phones, especially mobile phones, can emit surprisingly strong EMFs. Depending on the type of phone and distance, there may be no measurable EMFs  or very powerful EMFs that can travel several inches into the brain.
  • WiFi Routers generate a wireless transmission that can travel hundreds of feet. Its signal is a higher frequency than a typical cellular connection, so it is more powerful but cannot travel as far.
  • Smart Meters emit radio frequency signals to digitally track the power and utilities being used in your place of residence. They can emit a lot of EMF, and are always on, so make sure they are not located in your bedroom or living room. You can request to have them replaced with a traditional meter.
  • Wireless Bluetooth Accessories emit radio frequency signals to connect a phone to other devices, such as speakers, headphones, cars, and now even luggage and keychain trackers! While it is a low power level, and can only travel 30 feet, it is still something to be worried about if you are constantly using a Bluetooth-enabled device.
  • Power Lines radiate Electromagnetic Fields. Highly elevated power lines carry very high voltages, yet can be relativity safe because typically the human body is a safe distance from the source.
  • Household Wiring running in the walls and ceilings emit low frequency EMFs and should be considered a potential health concern to electrically sensitive people.
  • Electric Blankets can create an Electromagnetic Field (EMF) that penetrates about 6-7 inches into the body and has been linked to miscarriages and childhood leukemia by experts such as Dr. Nancy Wertheimer and Ed Leeper.
  • Microwave Ovens emit high frequency microwave radiation. They emit high frequency emissions measured in milliwatts per centimeter squared (mW/cm2). The U.S. safety limits on microwave emission exposure is 1 mW/cm2. Thus limits are are often are exceeded when the body is close to older or faulty microwave ovens.
  • Electric Clocks produce very high Electromagnetic Fields (EMFs) as much as 5 to 10 mG up to three feet. Studies have linked exposure at this distance over large periods of time to brain tumors.
  • Electric Razors and Hair Dryers can emit high levels of EMFs. Because their use is intermittent, exposure tends to be less dangerous than that over constant long periods of time. Some EMF experts suggest that children should not use hair dryers because of the vulnerable development stage of their brains and nervous systems.
  • Baby Monitors emit radio frequency signals in addition to ELF. These are concerning because they are usually in a room right next to a baby or infant, who are much more vulnerable to the harmful effects of EMF radiation. Many are kept on all night, at a time where a child’s tissues and cells are growing and developing the fastest.

Studies on Electromagnetic Fields (EMFs)

In 1990, after reviewing extensive group of studies, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released a controversial report that initially characterized Electromagnetic Fields (EMFs) as a probable human carcinogen, but later modified this view in their final report by removing the cancer reference. Ironically, they wrote, “In conclusion, several studies showing leukemia, lymphoma and cancer of the nervous system in children exposed to supported by similar findings in adults in several/ occupational studies also involving electrical power frequency exposures, show a consistent pattern of response that suggest a causal link.” Martin Halper, the EPA’s Director of Analysis and Support says “I have never seen a set of epidemiological studies that remotely approached the weight of evidence that we’re seeing with EMFs. Clearly there is something here.”

In 1989, the Department of Energy (EPA) reported “It has now become generally accepted that there are, indeed, biological effects due to field (Electromagnetic Field) exposure.”

Throughout the 1990s, alarming reports were documented by the Wall Street Journal and several popular computer publications. Back then, even ABC’s Ted Koppel and CBS’s Dan Rather aired special segments on EMFs. 

However, as digital technology became a necessity for businesses and people alike, the push back died down.

In recent years, as technology has become omnipresent everywhere in the world, the EMF issue has returned to the spotlight. New published studies have linked EMF to everything from ADHD, Obesity, and Autism, to infertility, heart problems, miscarriage, chronic illnesses, and neurological problems caused by damage to the cells and cell processes.

For example, concluding in 2016, a major in-depth peer-reviewed study was conducted by the US National Toxicology Program (NTP). More than 2,500 rats were exposed to varying levels of RF radiation – one type of radiation emitted by cell phones.

Radiation exposure exhibited a directed dose-response relationship, as in the more radiation rats received the higher amount of rare brain and heart cancer they developed.

Tumors were not found in rats not exposed to the radio frequencies.

In the report released alongside the study, researchers noted “Given the widespread global usage of mobile communications among users of all ages, even a very small increase in the incidence of disease resulting from exposure to [wireless radiation] could have broad implications for public health.”

What EMF Levels are Safe?

Although still controversial, there is a growing consensus on the acceptable levels of Electromagnetic Field exposure.

Expert documentation and government agencies suggest that the air around us contains an ambient level of a 60 Hz Electromagnetic Radiation of 0.5 mG (milligauss).

That means Electromagnetic Field exposure over this level is introduced by electronic devices within the area. To assure health safety in Sweden, electronic devices should not exceed 1 mG. In the US, several sources suggest 2.5 mG as the cutoff point.

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Daniel T. DeBaun

Daniel T. DeBaun is an internationally recognized and influential expert in Electromagnetic Radiation (EMF) and shielding electronic emissions, with a particular focus on the effect of exposure from mobile devices such as laptops, tablets and cell phones. Daniel’s concern regarding the health impact of electronic radiation emissions grew from over 30 years of engineering experience in the telecommunications industry, where he held a variety of leadership and executive positions at Bell Labs, AT&T, SAIC and Telcordia. Daniel is co-author of recent bestseller, Radiation Nation: The Fallout of Modern Technology, a complete guide to EMF radiation safety and protection. Daniel is also a highly regarded industry consultant, speaker as well as frequent guest national radio and television programs discussing EMF health issues.