Autism and EMF Radiation Exposure: Is There a Link?

Last Updated on July 3, 2024

Autism Spectrum Disorder, commonly referred to as Autism, is a complex neurobehavioral condition.

This disorder affects a person’s social interaction as well as their communication skills and may cause a person to have obsessive interests and repetitive behaviors.

Autism is a spectrum condition, meaning it affects each person differently and to varying degrees. Sometimes Autism is a mystery, stumping the medical community on how and why it affects certain people.

As more and more children are diagnosed every year, people are searching for answers. One of these answers could potentially be Electromagnetic Fields, or EMF radiation, which surrounds us every day.

Current Autism Statistics

Every two years, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention updates its statistics on the prevalence of Autism among the nation’s children.

According to the most recent report, which was released in April 2018 based on data from 2014, here are the new key findings:

  • Estimates show a 15% increase of Autism in children. Now, 1 in 59 children are diagnosed with this autism; two years prior, 1 in 68 children were diagnosed.
  • Boys are 4 times more likely to be diagnosed with Autism than girls.
  • White children are more likely to be diagnosed with Autism than minority children.
  • The average age for diagnosis is after the age of 4, which is a disappointing statistic because Autism can reliably be diagnosed as early as 2 years old.

Unfortunately, no one knows what exactly causes this disorder.

Autism Speaks, a national foundation that works to promote solutions for the needs of individuals with Autism and their families, shares what we do know about the causes of Autism:

  • Children born to older parents are at a higher risk of being diagnosed with Autism.
  • Parents who have one child with Autism have a 2% to 18% chance of having a second child with the disorder.
  • In the case of identical twins, if one has Autism, there is a 36% to 95% chance the other will also be diagnosed with the disorder. For fraternal twins, that percentage decreases to 31%.
  • Research during the past two decades has found that vaccinations are not scientifically proven as a cause of Autism.

Connection Between EMF Radiation and Autism

The mobile electronic devices we use daily, such as cell phones, tablets, and laptops emit a form of energy called Electromagnetic Fields, or EMF radiation.

Current research shows EMF radiation can cause a wide range of health issues. These include minimal concerns like headaches and skin rashes to bigger health concerns like DNA fragmentation, cell damage, and fertility problems.

EMF radiation can actually change and damage cells biologically, as well as affect DNA synthesis and replication. You can learn more about which areas of the body are most affected by EMF radiation in this blog article.

Now, emerging research is beginning to establish a more concrete link between EMF radiation exposure and Autism.

In 2011, a study was conducted by Stanford University on identical twins. It was previously thought that genetics accounted for 90% of Autism risk, but from this study, researchers concluded that genetics account for less than half of the risk with environmental factors accounting for the remaining portion. In an effort to pinpoint which environmental triggers might be causing the disorder, researchers have focused on EMF radiation emissions.

A study conducted by Richard Lathe at the University of Edinburgh hypothesized that neonatal exposure to microwaves and EMF radiation may cause a child to be predisposed to Autism. Lathe studied the timing of the first rise in Autism compared to the spread of domestic microwave devices. Autism diagnoses began to noticeably rise in the early 1980s, around the same time that microwaves were first introduced into households. By the mid-1980s, it was common for most households to have a microwave. While correlation does not equate to causation, Lathe initiated a theory that has opened the door to more research.

As a neurodevelopmental condition, Autism stems from differences in the way the brain was formed as compared to a normal brain.

In 2013, Dr. Marth Herbert and EMF expert Cindy Sage released a paper that showed symptoms of Autism matched symptoms of overexposure to EMFs. These symptoms include immune aberrations, low total and reduced glutathione levels, lower activity of the anti-oxidative stress system, and mitochondrial dysfunction. A common attribute among individuals with Autism is oxidative stress, which aligns with well-established research showing low-intensity EMF radiation exposure is associated with oxidative damage.

Previously, it was believed that extremely low levels of microwave frequency only caused thermal effects, meaning EMF radiation would damage cells through heating them up. Because these levels of frequency were so low, it wasn’t thought to be strong enough to have biological effects. However, more and more research has proven this is not the case. EMFs can cause a range of non-thermal effects.

Dr. Martin L. Pall, Professor Emeritus of Biochemistry and Basic Medical Sciences at Washington St. University, has extensively studied the non-thermal effects of EMFs. He has found that voltage-gated calcium channels (VGCCs) are impacted by EMF radiation.

One of his articles discusses the downstream effects of the VGCC activation. In a presentation given at the AutismOne conference, he focused on the connection between VGCCs and Autism. EMFs activate VGCCs, increasing the amount of intercellular calcium. Excess intercellular calcium is connected to Autism.

For all of us who don’t have a PhD in biochemistry and genetics like Dr. Pall, what this means is that each cell has an opening that allows calcium to enter the cell. EMFs cause these channels to open more frequently, thus increasing the amount of calcium within the cell.

When there is too much calcium within a cell, it disrupts the formation of synapses. Synapses connect neurons in the brain, which allow the brain to perform all of its functions. With too much intercellular calcium, the development of brain functioning is impaired due to the lack of proper synaptic connections. VGCCs can be activated even by very low levels of EMF radiation.

These levels of EMF radiation are common (and legal!) environment levels that everyone—including the most vulnerable members of the population such as pregnant women, babies and growing children—are exposed to on a daily basis.

Ways to Minimize EMF Radiation Exposure for Your Child In and Out of the Womb

Though the research connecting EMF radiation exposure and Autism is still developing, there is clear evidence that EMF radiation exposure can be harmful, especially to developing babies and children.

EMF radiation exposure reduction while pregnant is just as—if not more—important to keeping your developing child safe from electronic device emissions and their associated health effects.

Children are the most vulnerable to the harmful effects of EMF radiation because their bodies and tissues are still developing. Their brains are especially susceptible to the adverse effects of EMF radiation because their skulls are thinner than those of adults.

Parents can take preventative steps to reduce exposure and increase the overall health of themselves and their children, before and after they are born. Luckily, many of the steps to reduce EMF radiation exposure are easy to do!

  • Limit screen time for both you and your children, and keep electronic devices like cell phones, tablets, and laptops away from your bodies, especially when you’re not using them (keep devices at least 4 feet away while sleeping).
  • When you are using your phone or other device, do not place it on your belly, in your bra, or in your pocket.
  • When WiFi or a Cellular signal is not needed, enable Airplane Mode on your device. This action eliminates the wireless emissions from the device, significantly decreasing total EMF radiation exposure.
  • If you need your mobile devices on hand (or lap!) with WiFi and Cellular signals, make sure to use an EMF radiation protection shield for your cell phone, tablet, or laptop, which blocks up to 100% of EMF radiation in the direction of the shield. An EMF radiation shielding blanket can also help protect your body and unborn child from wireless signals in the environment.
  • If possible, connect to the Internet via an Ethernet cable instead of using WiFi. If you do need WiFi, place your WiFi router away from areas of the house you spend a lot of time in (bedroom, family room, etc.). At night—or even during the day—when you are not using the wireless connection, make sure to turn it off. Even when no one is home, WiFi signals can travel to residences within a couple hundred feet. A timer plug-in (like you would use for Christmas lights) can make this a no-brainer!
  • Toril Jelter and Cindy Sage created a protocol to limit the amount of exposure to children. This includes turning off baby monitors, cordless phone base stations, and WiFi routers at night during sleep hours. They found that 80% of Autistic children they studied on this protocol had a noticeable improvement as little as two weeks.

It is clear that we still have much to learn about the causes of Autism Spectrum Disorder. If there is a possibility that EMF radiation exposure to unborn babies, newborns, and children could be linked to the disorder, then precautions should be taken to reduce this risk.

Luckily, there are simple things a current mother or future mother-to-be can do to limit EMF radiation exposure.

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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.