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How to Reduce Your EMF and RF Exposure

The human body operates on electrical energy, or bio-electric energy, relying on the complex, yet carefully balanced, systems for all functions. There’s constant communication between our cells, tissues, organ systems, and of course, our minds. A key part of the conductive “superhighways” are electrolytes, which regulate our nerves, muscle function, our hydration status, blood pH, blood pressure, and the rebuilding of damaged tissues. It’s easy to see that our bodies must rely on strict control mechanisms to allow us to keep going each day. We’re intricately interconnected, with our internal environment ever so sensitive to our external world.

Did you know that not only your brain contains neurons, or “communication cells,” but so does your heart? Neurons are what allow you to form thoughts, and in the heart, they allow for intimate communication with the brain, as well as the rest of the body. Take for example how your heart rate can change based on what you see, think, smell, or even eat.

Though we don’t necessarily feel it or see it, in some ways we can sense the connectivity through physical and emotional changes. Humans have described the intricate connection between our physical bodies and the emotions we feel for centuries, using poetic language and phrases to make reference to what we feel in a certain area of the body, such as “I had a gut feeling,” or “it broke my heart.”

What are EMFs and RFs?

This interconnectivity is gaining traction in research as it’s fascinating and insightful to understanding how we’re interrelated beings, but another important focal point is the effect of environmental electromagnetic fields (EMFs) and radio frequency radiation (RF) on our bioelectric fields.

In the U.S today, nearly everyone is exposed to two main types of EMFs: extremely low frequency electromagnetic fields (ELF) from electronic appliances and power lines, and radio frequency radiation (RF) from wireless devices including cell phones, cordless phones, and cellular antennas or towers.

In a 2016 article, Jerry Phillips, Ph.D., a biochemist, and director of the Excel Science Center at the University of Colorado, explains how living cells react to RF radiation:

“The signal couples with … cells, although nobody really knows what the nature of that coupling is. Some effects of that reaction can be things like movement of calcium across membranes, the production of free radicals, or a change in the expression of genes in the cell. Suddenly important proteins are being expressed at times and places and in amounts that they shouldn’t be, and that has a dramatic effect on the function of the cells. And some of these changes are consistent with what’s seen when cells undergo conversion from normal to malignant.” [1]

It can be easy to take for granted how seamlessly our cells work together, shaping what we experience, yet we notice rather quickly when we aren’t feeling well or when something is “off” inside. It’s important to consider the continuous inputs our bodies receive each day and how we’re affected in the short term and long term. Ultimately, our bodies are working for us, adapting and processing stimuli with the sole purpose of keeping us going, a means of protection. When we provide our cells with what they need and remove the things they don’t (toxins, negative thoughts, etc.), it’s as if we’re coming into agreement and harmony with our own bodies, allowing greater opportunity for us to thrive.

The Effect of Prolonged Exposure to EMFs and RFs

Because the brain and the heart are intricately connected and function with the highest density of voltage-gated calcium channels (you can think of these as electrical control centers within cells) compared to the rest of the body, these organs are the most susceptible to the damaging effects of low-intensity EMFs. When the intracellular signaling becomes disrupted, biological functioning becomes disrupted, meaning our bodily functions and systems are disrupted, leading to hormonal changes, impaired fertility, oxidative stress, emotional dysregulation, DNA damage, disrupted melatonin, and the breakdown of the blood-brain-barrier, among others. Additionally, when these channels are activated in the brain, the release of neuroendocrine hormones and neurotransmitters are elevated in certain parts of the brain, and this has been shown to elicit significant neuropsychiatric effects [3].

In her book, “Disconnect: The Truth About Cell Phone Radiation,” Devra Davis, Ph.D., an epidemiologist, states that “children have never before been exposed to this level of pulsed radiation, and it’s still too early to determine the exact extent of the harm.” Today, children are exposed to electromagnetic fields and radiation even prior to birth, and research is continually identifying links between EMF exposure and increased risk for childhood illness[4, 5, 6].

Furthermore, humans aren’t the only ones affected by the increased EMF exposure. Bacteria, mold, and viruses can become increasingly active in the presence of Wifi as well. On the other hand, plant life and trees are adversely affected by EMFs. As for human health, certain types of mold produce mycotoxins, which are fungal, secondary metabolites of mold that can bioaccumulate in bodily fluid, tissues, and organs, eliciting toxic effects in the body [12]. It’s thought that mold mycotoxins, which can significantly suppress the immune system, can increase more than 600x in the presence of Wifi too [7]. While mold has always been a part of the natural environment, the introduction of EMFs and various building practices has increased the likelihood of toxic mold growth [13]. Paired with other environmental factors that can suppress our bodies’ ability to detoxify the mycotoxins, such as increased environmental toxins, nutrient deficiencies, and even stress, as they impair proper immune function, it’s not surprising that mycotoxins are becoming a greater concern in terms of illness.

Ongoing research is revealing just how damaging mycotoxins can be to the function of the nervous system as well [10]. Neuro-mycotoxic effects can involve abnormal changes in biochemical, behavioral, and physiological functions, with direct action on components of the nervous system itself [10]. These changes may result immediately or be delayed, either transient or persistent, and can affect people differently. In fact, it’s now understood that a prominent contributing factor to Alzheimer’s disease is Chronic Inflammatory Response Syndrome (CIRS), as a result of mold biotoxin illness [11].

5G – What you need to know

5G denotes “5th Generation” wireless technology, thought to provide faster speed and higher transmission capacity. 5G will significantly increase the microwaves and millimeter wave radiation in the environment. Unfortunately, these millimeter waves do not travel easily through buildings, which will necessitate the need for multiple advanced antennas, or phased arrays, to transmit the signals. This technology was originally designed for military purposes. These antennas will significantly increase radiation exposure as they will need to be placed closer together, nearly  every 10-12 houses in urban areas. With the expanse, EMF exposure is nearly unavoidable between work places, schools, businesses, and homes.

So what does this mean practically?

The National Toxicology Program (NTP) study on cell phone radiation showed significant increases in the incidence of brain and heart cancer in animals exposed to EMF even below the International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation (ICNIRP) guidelines [13]. Furthermore, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) and the World Health Organization (WHO) concluded that EMF frequencies of 30 KHz-300 GHz are possibly carcinogenic to humans, which is the frequency emitted by cordless and wireless phones [14,15].

Another study published by the Department of Electrical Engineering, Georgia Southern University (2017) concluded:
“Results show that 5G downlink RF fields generate significantly higher power density (PD) and specific absorption rate (SAR) than a current cellular system.”…Thus, when a larger phased antenna is used or when a user moves closer to the AP, the PD value becomes a major health concern which inevitably requires more research about health effects of 5G before it is deployed successfully by strictly following the RF emission standards” [16].

Guidelines for Reducing EMF and RF Exposure

“Although the science is still evolving, there are concerns among some public health professionals and members of the public regarding long-term high use exposure to the energy emitted by cell-phones,” -Karen Smith, California Department of Public Health (CDPH) director and State Public Health Officer.

Though we may not be able to see or feel the effects of EMFs and RFs, it’s important to recognize how sensitive our bodies truly are to these invisible forces. Similar to how we may not be able to feel exactly what happens in the body when we eat, it’s still important to consume nutrient-dense food with the intention that it will produce positive outcomes, just as we should be cognizant of our environmental or external inputs with the same intention.

Recently, California health officials have released a set of guidelines to reduce exposure, and “People are being injured and harmed by the delay in having this information accessible to them,”Dr. Joel Moskowitz from UC Berkeley, who played a key role in the development of these recommendations, stated.

The new guidelines provide several recommendations to reduce exposure including “increasing the distance between you and your phone by using a headset, the speakerphone function and text messaging.” Health officials also recommend not sleeping near your phone and not to carry it in your pocket or directly on your body, unless it is off.

The fact sheet also states that “EMFs can pass deeper into a child’s brain than an adult’s” so it suggests parents limit their child’s cell phone use to texting except for important calls and emergencies.” [8,9]

Furthermore, the EUROPA EM-EMF Guideline 2016 states that ”there is strong evidence that long-term exposure to certain EMFs is a risk factor for diseases such as certain cancers, Alzheimer’s disease, and male infertility. Common EHS (electromagnetic hypersensitivity) symptoms include headaches, concentration difficulties, sleep problems, depression, lack of energy, fatigue, and flu-like symptoms.” [15].

Additional suggestions from these guidelines include:

  1. When you talk on your cell phone, avoid holding it to your head—use the speakerphone or a headset instead. Wireless (Bluetooth) and wired headsets emit much less RF energy than cell phones.
  2. Send text messages instead of talking on the phone.
  3. If you are streaming, or if you are downloading or sending large files, try to keep the phone away from your head and body.
  4. Carry your cell phone in a backpack, briefcase, or purse; NOT in a pocket, bra or belt holster. Since your phone’s antenna tries to stay connected with a cell tower whenever it’s on, it emits some RF energy even when you are not using it. It does not emit RF energy when it’s in airplane mode. (Airplane mode turns off cellular, Wi-Fi, and Bluetooth.)
  1. While in the car or train, your phone will put out higher RF energy to prevent dropped calls or maintain connection while changing signals to different cell-phone towers, so it’s recommended to avoid using your cell phone while in transit. This is also true if your signal is less than two bars, in which case, your cell phone also puts out more RF to connect to the nearest tower.
  2. When streaming or downloading large files, it’s recommended to download them first while you’re away from your phone and then switch your phone to airplane mode while you watch or listen [6].

While there are several benefits to having mobile phones and internet access, we should be mindful of the frequency and duration of our use, in addition to implementing precaution to limit EMF and RF exposure.

Resources:

  1. How Might Cell Phone Signals Cause Cancer?
  2. Report of Partial Findings from the National Toxicology Program Carcinogenesis Studies of Cell Phone Radiofrequency Radiation in Hsd: Sprague Dawley® SD rats (Whole Body Exposures)
  3. Microwave frequency electromagnetic fields (EMFs) produce widespread neuropsychiatric effects including depression
  4. Early pregnancy loss and exposure to 50-Hz magnetic fields
  5. A case‐control study of childhood leukemia in Southern Ontario, Canada, and exposure to magnetic fields in residences
  6. The Sensitivity of Children to Electromagnetic Fields
  7. EMFs and Mold: A Deadly Combination
  8. Cellphone Radiation Exposure Fact Sheet Draft Released By California Health Officials
  9. How to Reduce Exposure to Radiofrequency Energy from Cell Phones
  10. Application, effectiveness, and limitations of the electrophysiological diagnosis of neurotoxic effects of chronic environmental mycotoxins in humans.
  11. Inhalational Alzheimer’s disease: an unrecognized—and treatable—epidemic
  12. Studies on the Presence of Mycotoxins in Biological Samples: An Overview
  13. Cell Phone Radio Frequency Radiation
  14. Evaluation of Mobile Phone and Cordless Phone Use and Glioma Risk Using the Bradford Hill Viewpoints from 1965 on Association or Causation
  15. EUROPAEM EMF Guideline 2016 for the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of EMF-related health problems and illnesses
  16. Human Exposure to RF Fields in 5G Downlink