An electromagnetic field (EMF) is an area of moving electrical charges. Some EMFs, especially those involving ionizing radiation, can be harmful.
What are they?
EMFs, or electromagnetic fields, are invisible fields of energy radiated through space or materials at differing frequencies. There are two types of EMF. One has the capacity to break chemical bonds and the other does not.
High frequency, ‘ionizing’ EMFs include ultraviolet light, gamma rays and X-rays, which scientists have known to be extremely harmful for decades can remove electrons from atoms, including those comprising water and living tissue which break chemical bond.
‘Non-ionizing’ have a longer wavelength at a lower frequency and they can't break chemical bonds. Microwave ovens, cell towers, mobile phones, Wi-Fi routers, tablets, laptops, cordless home phones, smart meters, cordless baby monitors, games consoles, smart watches; anything which transfers data or sends sounds or images wirelessly, all emit the same, lower frequency, type of EMF radiation - also referred to as wireless radiation, microwave radiation, radio-frequency or RF radiation, infrared radiation.
Why should I be aware of EMFs in my daily life?
We can’t see, touch or hear EMFs, and yet our homes, schools, workplaces, transport networks, public spaces and, perhaps most significantly, our bodies, are constantly blanketed in them. And with the exponential proliferation of wireless technologies and our use of them, the sea of EMF radiation that surrounds us is continually rising. In fact, the levels of manmade radio-frequency radiation that exist today have reportedly reached some quintillion times higher than natural background levels. Yes, that’s right – quintillion (1018). We now wear Wi-Fi-enabled devices in our pockets, sleep beside them every night, hold them next to our heads for hours on end and give them to children to play with.
How do EMFs impact on health?
Electromagnetic radiation - whether from a mobile phone held to our ear or a wireless router kept on our desk - can penetrate deep into our bodies. Whilst research into the long-term effects of EMF exposure is often divided in opinion and still relatively limited (in part because many wireless technologies simply didn’t exist 10 years ago, meaning data on the long-term genetic impact is just not available yet), there is a growing body of evidence to suggest that prolonged exposure to electromagnetic radiation has detrimental biological effects.
Dozens of appeals, petitions, bans and scientific papers warning against the adverse effects of wireless technology on our health have been instigated, backed and signed by international doctors, scientists, organisations and government departments.
In 2011, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) classified EMFs as a ‘possible human carcinogen’. Four years later, 215 scientists from 41 countries stressed their ‘serious concerns’ to the United Nations (UN) and World Health Organisation (WHO) that ‘the ubiquitous and increasing exposure to EMF generated by electric and wireless devices […] affects living organisms at levels well below most international and national guidelines’, going on to say that ‘effects include increased cancer risk, cellular stress, increase in harmful free radicals, genetic damages, structural and functional changes of the reproductive system, learning and memory deficits, neurological disorders, and negative impacts on general well-being in humans. Damage goes well beyond the human race, as there is growing evidence of harmful effects to both plant and animal life.’
Mobile phone radiation in particular has been repeatedly associated with cancer; most notably brain tumours. This knowledge is not a secret, either. Mobile phone manufacturers are well aware of the potential risks of EMF radiation. Given that the wording is buried deep within its ‘settings’, you’d be forgiven for not knowing it, but your smart phone comes with an explicit warning that it should never be worn or carried within 5mm of the body, due to the threat posed by RF radiation.
Similarly, fertility issues in relation to EMF radiation exposure have cropped up repeatedly in the media spotlight. Studies have shown that sustained exposure – from keeping a mobile phone in a front pocket, for example - can cause a significant reduction in sperm motility and sperm count as well as increased sperm DNA damage. Embryo growth in the early stages of pregnancy is also thought by some to be affected by RF radiation, with studies advising against prolonged periods spent using wireless devices for pregnant women.
Children are considered to be especially vulnerable to the effects of RF radiation, given that they are still developing, their skulls are much thinner and their brains contain more fluid than an adult’s – meaning they will naturally absorb more radiation.