Do You Need to Protect Yourself against EMF Dangers? | Chris Kresser

Do You Need to Protect Yourself against EMF Dangers?


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Electromagnetic fields (EMFs) from cell phones, other electronic devices like laptops and smart meters, Wi-Fi, and high-voltage power lines generate non-ionizing radiation, which some experts have assured us is not harmful, but growing research indicates EMFs may impact human health in negative ways.

EMF dangers
Living near high-voltage power lines could expose you to EMF dangers.

Read on to learn what EMF radiation is, how it can disrupt human cells, five possible consequences of EMF exposure, and how to reduce your exposure.

Are you concerned about EMF radiation? Find out more about the potential health effects of EMFs and get tips on reducing your exposure. #healthylifestyle #chriskresser

What Is EMF Radiation?

Electromagnetic fields (EMFs) exist along a spectrum of frequencies. Higher-frequency EMFs have higher energy and shorter wavelengths. Lower-frequency EMFs have lower energy and longer wavelengths. The earth and sun produce natural EMFs, but the bulk of modern society’s EMF exposure is from manmade electronics. The list below shows common EMF sources, from lowest to highest frequency/energy:

  • AC power (50 to 60Hz)
  • TV and radio waves
  • Cell phone signals
  • Wi-Fi
  • Microwaves
  • Some cell phone networks and Wi-Fi
  • Infrared rays
  • Visible light
  • Ultraviolet (UV) light
  • X-rays
  • Gamma rays
  • Cosmic rays

At high frequencies, from UV light down through cosmic rays, EMF radiation is ionizing, meaning that the energy is strong enough to break molecular bonds and knock electrons from atoms. Ionizing radiation is a known carcinogen.

Non-ionizing radiation encompasses frequencies at visible light and below and includes all telecommunication and electronic devices.

What’s the Controversy Surrounding EMFs?

Are low-frequency EMFs harmful? Depending on who you ask, the answer varies quite a bit. Tech companies claim that Wi-Fi, cell phones, and the like are safe. The FDA and many other agencies don’t consider low-frequency EMFs harmful, stating that no evidence has established clear causative links between non-ionizing radiation and adverse health outcomes. (1) However, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (a part of the World Health Organization) classifies low-frequency EMFs as a “possible human carcinogen” based on human observational data and animal research that link EMF radiation to tumors. (2)

As our EMF exposure increases with 5G networks, ubiquitous Wi-Fi hot spots, and smartphones that never leave our sides, we need to critically evaluate our exposure. Emerging research suggests that we could sustain harmful effects of radiation at these frequencies, although the effects can take months or years to develop and depend on intensity, frequency, duration, and other variables. Let’s look closer at the mechanisms and possible consequences of low-frequency radiation.

EMFs Can Disrupt Cellular Activity

A growing body of research demonstrates that low-frequency radiation disrupts voltage-gated calcium channels (VGCCs), transmembrane proteins that are found in many of our body’s cells. (3, 4)

In response to a potential cell membrane change, VGCCs—which act like gatekeepers for a cell—allow an influx of calcium ions into the cell to carry out core biologic processes, including muscle contractions, the release of hormones and neurotransmitters, gene expression, enzyme activity, and more. (5)

The available evidence showing how EMF sources can disrupt VGCCs is compelling. More than 26 studies over the past 25 years have shown that non-ionizing radiation initiates a massive influx of calcium into cells and that this calcium influx can be blocked by calcium channel blockers, meaning that the mechanism is VGCC-dependent. (6, 7)

Excessive calcium influx into a cell can lead to the following, all of which can contribute to the development of disease and cancer:

  • Oxidative stress (8, 9, 10)
  • Cellular DNA damage (11, 12, 13)
  • Apoptosis, or cell death (14, 15)

Interestingly, EMF has been shown to stimulate bone growth through a VGCC-mediated mechanism—although we haven’t optimized that unintended effect yet. (16)

Five Potential Dangers of Continuous EMF Exposure

You might sleep with your smartphone next to your bed. Maybe your workplace is equipped with high-speed 5G Wi-Fi. Your house might have a smart meter instead of a standard analog electrical box. We’re exposed to significantly greater amounts of low- and extremely-low-frequency EMFs than we were even 20 years ago. Here’s a quick overview of some of the research showing associations between EMF exposure and adverse health outcomes.

1. Cancer

Let’s start with most controversial question: Do cell phones cause brain cancer? Because of the brain’s high metabolic rate, it is more prone to oxidative damage (which EMFs may cause) compared to other organs. (17) Several papers (published as part of the Hardell group of studies in Sweden) found an increased risk for brain cancer in people who used cell phones, particularly on the same side of the head that the phone was used on. (18192021) Another long-term epidemiological study also supported a connection between cell phones and brain cancer. (22) In contrast, the INTERPHONE study, which spanned 13 countries, found no association between cell phone use and brain cancer, except in the case of very high cell phone use. (2324)

The case isn’t closed, but based on these findings, it makes sense to limit the length of cell phone calls and avoid keeping your phone on your person (i.e., in a pocket or “wearing” it) when not in use.

2. Neuropsychiatric Effects

Neurons have the highest density of VGCCs of all human cell types, which means the brain may be extra susceptible to EMF effects. (25) In animal studies, EMF exposure induced damaged neurons, brain structure changes, cognitive impairment, and brain inflammation. (26, 27, 28)

Over two dozen epidemiological and observational studies have related neuropsychiatric effects—including headache, fatigue, insomnia, impaired sensation, irritability, lack of concentration, and depressive mood—to EMF exposure from things like living near a cell tower, high cell phone usage, having a smart meter, and occupational exposure. (29)

3. Thyroid Issues

An estimated 20 million Americans suffer from a thyroid disorder. (30) The release of non-steroid hormones, including thyroid hormones, depends on voltage-gated calcium channels, which can be disrupted by low-frequency EMFs. In rodents, both Wi-Fi and cell phone frequencies altered levels of TSH, T3, and T4 in exposed mice compared to control mice. (31, 32) A couple of observational studies have found that more time spent on mobile phones correlated with increased levels of TSH and lower levels of T3 and T4. (33, 34, 35) One interesting study compared computer workers to people whose occupations weren’t centered around computer usage. (36) The authors reported lower TSH, T3, and T4 in the computer workers and also reported that zinc supplementation addressed some of these changes. Zinc, along with selenium and iodine, supports thyroid function. (37)

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4. Fertility Problems

Almost one in eight couples will experience some degree of infertility in their lifetime. (38) Men are often told to keep laptops off their laps to prevent overheating and damaging a sensitive area, but it appears that EMFs may induce non-thermal, harmful effects on male fertility. After exposure to cell phone radiation, human semen had higher levels of oxidation, as well as decreased sperm motility and viability. (3940) Likewise, men who attended an infertility clinic and who reported frequent cell phone usage had lower sperm count, motility, and variability. (41) EMF exposure has also been correlated with sperm DNA damage, lower testosterone, erectile dysfunction, and abnormal sperm structure in rodents and humans. (42, 43, 44, 45)

5. Sleep Disruption

Several studies have indicated that cell phone, Wi-Fi, and other EMF exposure can lower melatonin levels in rats and humans, thereby disrupting circadian rhythm and sleep. (46, 47, 48, 49, 50, 51) However, other studies have shown EMFs to have no effect on melatonin, or even to increase it. (52, 53) Whether or not EMFs play a role, electronics are not conducive to healthy sleep because of the blue light they emit and because they are distractions. Turn them off—or better yet, don’t even bring them into the bedroom.

How to Reduce EMF Exposure

The evidence against EMFs isn’t overwhelming, but it shouldn’t be entirely ignored. While I don’t believe EMF exposure is a root cause of every modern disease, for some people it could be a contributing factor.

Here’s another way to look at it: EMFs from cell phones, high-voltage power lines, Wi-Fi, and other electronics could be considered another modern environmental toxin and therefore a contributor to oxidative stress. As I’ve said before, you should lower your risk where you can.

Consider the following tips:

Realize that Children May Be Extra Susceptible to EMFs

Babies, small children, and young people have thinner skin and bones and higher water content in their tissues, which might concentrate the effects of EMFs in their bodies compared to fully grown adults. (5455) A few studies have found disturbing connections between childhood cancer and close proximity to radio stations, high-voltage power lines, and high-EMF environments. (56, 57, 58, 59)

Increase the Distance between Your Phone and Body

Due to the nature of the fields, EMF exposure rapidly decreases as distance from a cell phone increases. Keep it in another room and limit your usage. Don’t tuck it in your pocket—especially not in your front pants pocket if you’re male. For long calls, use speakerphone, earbuds, or even a Bluetooth headset or earpiece (but don’t wear it all day). At night, keep the phone off the night table, or, better yet, shut it down and put it in another room.

Don’t Use Your Phone When the Signal Is Weak

When only a bar or two shows on the screen, the phone is emitting higher levels of radio frequencies to compensate. Wait to make your call until the signal improves. Likewise, don’t make calls in a moving car, bus, or train.

Shut Down Your Wi-Fi Router at Night

This is easily achieved using a 24-hour mechanical timer.

Avoid High-Voltage Power Lines

Don’t buy a house or rent an apartment right next to 10,000-volt power lines, especially if you have or plan to have kids.

Rethink Your “Smart” Home

The more devices that are connected to your Wi-Fi or cellular network, the more EMF exposure your family is going to have. Ditch the “smart home” devices that can lock the door or start the oven. Decline having a smart meter installed by the electric company.

Be Skeptical of Radiation Shields

These products might interfere with phone signals, making the phone work harder and actually emit more radiofrequency energy. The only exception here might be putting a shield between your laptop and body if you’re literally setting it in your lap.

  1. I’m a 66-yr-old female living in Berkeley, CA. There’s a power pole outside my 2nd story bedroom window, and my cooperative apartment building has wi-fi and Smart meters in the basement.

    I’ve lived here since 1988, returning to California from a Florida living situation on a semi-rural property with free-roaming chickens.

    Maybe I was calmer in those days, but my health was definitely worse. It took me until recent years here in busy, cantankerous Berkeley to discover by trial and error that my diet, and supplements, play a major role in my symptoms, ranging from inflammation and a sensitive, itchy abdomen; easily ruptured veins in my hands and feet so that exercise or even walking around results in harm; to heart palpitations and brain fog. Calcium as a supplement is a disaster for me, and yet I love sharp cheese. Fruit and greens bring on symptoms. Vitamins D3 and B12 have helped me a lot. Butter turned out to make a huge difference. My family switched to margarine in the 1960s, and I avoided fats for decades. Evidently my guts needed animal fats.

    Despite my sensitivity to calcium as a supplement, a daily helping of pasture-raised Jersey cow full-fat yogurt goes over well. Cheese on bread with avocado and lettuce seems to work for me. got over my sensitivity to wheat or gluten or whatever after butter created a layer inside for better assimilation.

    Sometimes I get headaches, a symptom that is entirely new, but they don’t last. I do a lot of computer work late into the night. Orange glasses have solved my insomnia problem, and my suddenly deteriorating night vision a few years ago improved after I took out the eye-level LED lights around my bathroom mirror — thank God for online articles about the dangers of LEDs!

    I didn’t get involved in a recent controversy about the multi-story condo next door. They were planning to lease their roof to a company for erection of big-time Wi-Fi antennas, and some of my neighbors got excited about that, not in a good way. I’m not convinced the installation would have been a disaster. Probably my busy neighborhood is already inundated with signals. Probably what’s happening on our planet will wipe us all out anyway.

    Attitude can be a huge source of stress. People fearful of Wi-Fi are already hurting themselves.

    That’s my two cents. –Jean in Berkeley

  2. I haven’t been to Todos Santos in about 30 years. What’s it like these days?
    I live in a cob house I built with a minimalist 12 volt DC solar power system (much lower emf levels than typical AC). I live in a fairly remote rural area with few concerns about secondary emf’s. My biggest source of emf’s was my wifi set-up, which I eliminated several years ago by running an ethernet cable directly into my low voltage lap top computer. Life in the US does not mean having to deal with EMF’s.

  3. The way EMFs trigger increased biotoxin production in various microorganisms like bacteria, mold, etc. is an interest of mine. I wish more studies could be done on this but so far the anecdotal literature seems very compelling. I’m very sensitive to certain molds and their mycotoxins. My favorite hoodie got contaminated and I would react more to it everywhere except for when I would visit this less dense area with lower EMF. Same hoodie, but different affect. I might set up a double blind randomized “study” if I can get enough people together for it.

  4. I have a catalogue from the Less EMF Safety Super Store and they have products for industry, home and office that will lessen the EMFs. I have about 10 Stetzer filters in my home. I had purchased their “Stetzerizer” Dirty Electricity meter and it was interesting going around and plugging it into the different outlets and measuring the amount of high frequency noise which may exist in my wiring. My home is 20 years old. Since
    I did this and bought the additional filters, I feel better, not weird. Also keep my iPad and IPhone in protective coverings at
    night. Wonder if EMFs could be a factor in the mental state of all these shooters we are plagued with? Just a thought.

  5. I’m also curious if shungite works? If nothing else the placebo effect might benefit me.

  6. Since DWP refuses to change out my smart meter after trying several times, I found a company online that sells filters made out of stainless steel and heavy mesh. I put my wi-fi and router inside an enclosed large steel mesh box and enclosed the outside smart meter In The same material. I have noticed I sleep deeper since then. I still need to do the other suggestions in this article like installing strips for all electronics, etc.

  7. Very sceptical on emf effects. Blind studies have shown that people cannot detect emf and the effects they say they it has on them. TV has now been around for over 60 years and electricity for longer and even though WHO has classified it as a ‘possible’ carcinogene, like coffee, the weight of the studies seem to show no effects. However, given your position it was a well balanced article.

  8. It is always a good idea to be open to research and investigation. I appreciate your information, and will be much more mindful of this in my choices. Thank you!

  9. One way to study if EMF’s really have a negative effect on humans(and birds, bees, trees, all living things etc.) would be to blanket all of the northern hemisphere with 5g millimeter microwave machines. Lets(for science sake) put up 5g microwave blasters on every light pole, outside all of our bedroom windows, and inside of our homes(so that we don’t have to use cable companies anymore, (yay!) and just see what happens. Will we all get sick? Will there be anymore bees left? Will trees lose their leaves? Tune in tomorrow folks to see what happens in this reality show. Maybe Lionel Richie will use his one save card, to save us all!!???

  10. I so appreciate this as well. I have been aware of the effects on my body for over 20 years. Thank you so much!

  11. Which shielding products are you suggesting do not help? I use Safe Sleeve for my phone and tablet. I also sleep on an earthing sheet which is supposed to protect from emf factors. Additionally, I use blue light blocking glasses when using my devices. A pro active support i also use daily is a homeopathic gel that signals HGH, adrenal, and thyroid activity. This has helped me significantly with vastly improved sleep, stamina, and mental clarity.

  12. What is considered “right next” to a powerline? My home is 1500 feet away. Is that considered too close?

  13. I’m curious what anyone thinks of shungite products for neutralizing the effects of EMFs. Recently I got a shungite bracelet that I wear at night and I do sleep better with it on no doubt. We turn our WiFi off, but I’m sure none of the neighbors do and our houses are close together. Our home already had a smart meter and it was going to cost me hundreds to have the old fashioned kind installed so I got a filter that fits around the meter that supposedly neutralizes the EMF’s…small things that may or may not help us. Can’t do anything about all our neighbors smart meters though. So the shungite seemed the next best option.

  14. I grew up near high power lines both my parents died of cancer that ended up becoming bone cancer.

  15. I have 3new cell phone towers that have been newly erected now I have thyroid problems , ringing ears ,headaches feeling dizzy sometimes never had these problems sick of this

  16. I was wondering what emf products you suggest for a cellphone to help reduce emf exposure????

  17. This is nonsense. 25 studies may have found something, but hundteds and hundreds have not. Biomed research has a significant false positive rate, and that’s what we’re seeing.

    The voltage gated calcium channel stuff is physiologically impossible.