With today’s technology comes enormous power at our fingertips. We can call a friend living on the other side of the world from anywhere, at any time. From our laps, we can see who is in our house from 1,000 miles away. All of these incredible communications capabilities use devices that are zero distance to our bodies, which some argue may have an unseen downside.
Fortunately, a few simple lifestyle adjustments can reduce these risks.
What’s the Problem?
Today’s technology emits electromagnetic radiation, or EMR, that we are beginning to understand may create health risks. Technology is advancing at an accelerated pace, bringing great and enriching benefits to our lives. We have witnessed electronic devices that once filled large rooms shrink to fit into the palm of our hands, allowing us unprecedented reach into our world. Devices like cellphones, laptops, and tablets now rest zero distance to our ears and lap, emitting energy forces into our bodies. These forces are in the form of EMR and heat radiation. EMR can be isolated into spectrum segments: extremely low frequency (ELF) and radio frequency (RF). ELF emissions are generated by fans, microprocessors, and other computer parts. RF emissions are from transmitters and receivers that connect to cell towers or Wi-Fi. You cannot see, touch, or smell EMR, but it exists.
Some experts say that it takes 20 or more years before we fully understand the impact of a technology, and EMR at zero distance to the body is no exception. Only in recent times have we begun to understand that long-term exposure to this radiation can cause long-term health problems. And for our young children, the exposure can be lifelong. According to Devra Davis, MPH, PhD, today’s scientific evidence “supports a classification of cell phone and other wireless technology as a ‘probable human carcinogen.'” She thinks EMR is as bad as diesel exhaust, petroleum refining, and a number of pesticides.
Risks of EMR Exposure
The American Academy of Environmental Medicine (AAEM) believes we need to do a better job at understanding the negative health effects from EMR exposure. They have documented significant harmful effects occur from nonthermal RF exposure, such as genetic damage, reproductive defects, cancer, neurological degeneration and nervous system dysfunction, immune system dysfunction, and many others. In their view, EMR studies repeatedly have shown gene mutations and DNA fragmentation, which can cause cell mutation and cancer.
Children are particularly at risk from EMR exposure because a child’s body absorbs more EMR than an adult’s, according to The Stewart Report. In fact, in reviewing these reports, we find that children absorb up to 60 percent more energy per pound of body weight than adults do. The effects of these exposures can be cumulative and will span the children’s life-times at rates never seen by today’s adults or by previous generations. These reports note that a child can experience fertility issues, DNA damage, electromagnetic hypersensitivity, darkening of the skin, and many other health concerns. To place this risk in context, today’s standard for the maximum signal strength of cell phones is known to penetrate an adult head up to one inch. But a cell phone signal can pass completely through a child’s head.
Male and female reproductive systems are at risk from EMR exposure. In one study, Dr. Conrado Avendano and his colleagues of Nascentis Medicina Reproductiva in Cordoba found that “the use of a laptop computer wirelessly connected to the Internet and positioned near the male reproductive organs may decrease human sperm quality.” Their study found that after a four-hour exposure, 25 percent of the sperm were no longer active compared to 14 percent from sperm samples stored at the same temperature over the same time period and away from the computer. They also noted that 9 percent of the sperm showed DNA damage, three times the damage found in the comparison samples.
Similarly, in early 2012, the Archives of Environmental & Occupational Health reported that laptops generate EMRs, which create health concerns particularly for women and their fetuses. The study concluded that Swedish EMR standards were exceeded by 71 to 483 percent by the laptops used in the study which, by the standard’s definition, increases risk for tumor development. They also said that laptops are contacting the body in a very delicate area close to skin, bones, blood, genitals, and in pregnant women, the fetus. These laptops have circuits and power supplies that produce EMR causing detectable impairment in the health of exposed individuals or their off spring.
Today’s technologies also produce heat. Studies have shown that prolonged heat radiating from the hard drives, processors, batteries, and other internal electronic mechanisms can damage the skin. Th is exposure heats the
upper legs and can cause “Toasted Skin Syndrome,” a brownish discoloration of the skin. In some cases, this skin darkening can become permanent, and in rare cases, the damage may lead to skin cancer.
Actions to Consider
- Use shielded CAT-5 wiring in your home.
- Use a cable to connect to the Internet. Turn off the Wi-Fi on your computer.
- If you must use Wi-Fi, when fi nished, turn it off on your router and computer.
- Avoid close proximity to RF emitters such as Wi-Fi routers and cell towers. The farther you are from an EMR source, the safer you are. According to the EPA, just four feet can be enough to reduce ELF transmission by 99 percent.
- Use cell phones only briefl y to minimize exposure times.
- Place your cell phone away from your ear and use the speakerphone feature or a wired headset.
- Limit use of laptop computers and tablets on the lap. Short durations are not dangerous.
- For longer use, use a lap shield. Make sure the shield you choose has both ELF and RF EMR shielding protection. Look for manufacturer-independent lab testing that confirms performance claims.
There is growing evidence that ELF and RF EMR, depending on intensity and duration, can have negative health impacts, particularly when at zero distance to the body. There can be DNA and chromosome damage, cells can be transformed, and your immune system can be compromised. With the large body of scientific evidence that demonstrates the health dangers of radiation exposure, the importance of guarding yourself from EMR is paramount, and avoidance is encouraged. With a little planning and some care, and even shielding protection, we can reduce EMR emissions that otherwise may be harmful to our health.
This article was written for, and appears in the Common Ground magazine April 2013 “Green Issue”