Electromagnetic Fields (EMFs)

Electromagnetic fields (EMFs) are invisible forces that arise naturally or from man-made sources. This document refers specifically to EMFs arising from electrical devices.  EMFs consist of both electric and magnetic waves with unique wavelengths and frequencies (number of wavelengths per second). Higher frequencies with their shorter wavelengths carry more energy and therefore, may have a greater impact on biological systems. This type of EMF radiation is named ionizing radiation. However, low frequency or even ultra-low frequency radiation, named non-ionizing radiation, also can negatively impact biological systems and human health. The impact of the EMF field is dependent on a number of factors, including distance from the emitting device, length of exposure and other synergistic or additive factors.    

 

EMF exposure includes sources of radiofrequency (radio waves and microwaves), magnetic fields, electric fields and devices that contribute to dirty electricity.  Most government agencies report that low level exposure to EMF is safe, but there are growing concerns about constant exposure to multiple sources, especially if long term.  Moreover, exposure to EMFs almost never occurs in isolation but also concurrently with exposure to other environmental toxicants, including air pollution, certain chemicals, plastics and heavy metals. Modern systems toxicology methods indicate that being exposed to multiple types of environmental toxicants over time multiplies the potential damaging influence on human health.

Where Do They Come From?

Man-made radiofrequency fields are created when a current flowing through a wire oscillates at a rapid rate.  Radiofrequency waves come from multiple sources including:

  • Wireless networks and wireless security systems

  • Cordless phones and baby monitors

  • Cellular phones and PDAs

  • Cell towers and microwave transmitters

  • Satellite TV

  • Gaming systems, eReaders and home automation systems

  • Smart meters for a home

  • Nearby neighbour’s activities

  • Radar and radio station transmitters

  • Radios, televisions and pagers

  • Microwaves

Man-made magnetic fields are created due to combination of moving electric current and the intrinsic magnetic property of elementary particles.  The impact depends on the amount of current (amps) drawn through a conductor.  Sources of potentially problematic magnetic fields include:

  • Power lines, especially high voltage power lines

  • Faulty electric wiring and grounding

  • High current appliances such as hair dryers, heaters, microwaves and ovens

  • CRT-style computer monitors and TVs

Man-made electrical fields are present around charged electrical wires and devices plugged into live electrical outlets.  The higher the voltage, the greater the electrical field exposure. Sources include:

 

  • Electrical wiring and power cords

  • Fluorescent/compact fluorescent

  • Poorly grounded electrical system

  • Bedside AC lamps, clocks and electrical cords

  • Waterbeds and electric blankets

  • Laptop computers

Dirty electricity (also named poor power quality) occurs due to rapid and transient microsurges of intermediate frequencies of electromagnetic energy along internal electrical wires. If this dirty electricity is not filtered out it contributes to poor power quality.  Dirty electricity is a growing concern due to increased use of energy efficient  bulbs, dimmer switches, modern low-voltage lighting, electronic devices and computers that produce high frequency electrical feedback. Sources of dirty electricity include:

  • Fluorescent/compact fluorescent / 12-volt halogen lighting

  • Dimmer switches

  • Computers / laptops

  • Television sets (especially plasma TVs)

  • Unfiltered cell phone and broadcast frequencies from nearby antennas

  • Microwave ovens

  • Most treadmills and furnaces that have variable speed monitors

  • Some UV filters and ionizers

  • Nearby neighbour’s activities can be a huge influence

How They Affect You

As soon as a device that emits EMF is plugged in it emits an electrical field, even when switched off.  The more you use it or are exposed to these devices and the closer you are to them, the greater your exposure and risk of harm.  The human body relies on complex communication pathways involving electrical, chemical and mechanical forces to maintain optimal health. EMFs could interfere with these communication pathways and therefore, adversely affect physiological and other vital living processes.  Every cell in the body contains positively and negatively charged elements that are kept in balance on the inside and outside of cell membranes walls. Anything that disrupts or interferes with these elements disrupts health.


Very intensive low-frequency radiation can trigger nerve impulses and involuntary muscle contractions, while intensive high-frequency radiation can cause tissue warming.  Both the thermal and non-thermal effects have the potential to disrupt health.


It is estimated that 35% of individuals experience mild symptoms when exposed to high levels of electromagnetic radiation (EMR).  3 to 8% of people can experience more serious symptoms.  Since 2011, the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) classified radiofrequency EMFs as a group 2B carcinogen. The main symptoms associated with EMR can include:

  • Neurological: Mild symptoms such as headaches, migraines, dizziness, nausea, irritability, anxiety, fatigue and an increased risk for multiple sclerosis (MS) and Parkinson’s Disease.

  • Cardiovascular: pain or pressure in the chest, low or high blood pressure, arrhythmia 

  • Respiratory / Immune: sinus infections, bronchitis, pneumonia, asthma and increased risk of allergies and weakened immune system

  • Metabolic: digestive problems, thyroid issues, adrenal fatigue, problems regulating blood sugar

  • Reproductive: decreased sperm count, decreased sexual function and/or infertility, and/or genetic damage and risk of birth defects

  • Cognitive: difficulty concentrating, problems with short-term and long-term memory, impaired learning, attention deficit disorder (ADD) or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)

  • Other symptoms: insomnia and disturbed sleep, skin rashes, burning in the eyes, blurred vision, deteriorating vision, nosebleeds, ringing in the ears, increase in pain intensity, numbness, dehydration, electrolyte imbalances, bulging veins in the hands

  • Other conditions: multiple chemical sensitivity, increased risk of cancer (especially lymphoma, leukemia, head and brain tumors and breast cancer) and/or autoimmune disease, rapid aging syndrome.

How To Protect Yourself

The symptoms that people experience varies greatly in both type and intensity.  Some people report no symptoms at all while for others EMF can be quite debilitating.   It may be helpful to assess your overall exposure by looking at the number of wireless devices you use and that are around you, the time that you spend on devices that emit EMF and your home and work environments.


The following guidelines follow a precautionary approach.  For specific recommendations, talk to your naturopath/naturopathic doctor or other medically trained health professional.

Pregnant and breastfeeding mothers: Developing and immature cells can be more sensitive to EMF exposure.  There is a growing concern that EMF may contribute to infertility and may increase the risk of miscarriage and birth defects, especially early on in pregnancy.  

 

We recommend:

 

  • Avoid placing any wireless device on your abdomen.

  • Limit your use of cellphones to only emergency situations.

  • Limit your exposure and close contact to wireless devices and to appliances with relatively high EMR (i.e., heating pads, microwaves).

  • No wireless devices in the bedroom

  • Avoid baby monitors.

Children and Adolescents: EMR is believed to have a greater impact on children and adolescents especially if they have direct or constant exposure.

 

We recommend:

 

  • Young children are best not to use cellphones or wireless devices.

  • If a child is using a wireless device, like an iPad, keep the device in airplane mode or use an ethernet connection.

  • If your child appears to be sensitive, consider choosing a school that does not use wireless technology.

  • If your child has any of the following symptoms it may indicate that they are sensitive to EMF:  disruption in memory, decline in attention, diminished learning, increased risk of ADD and ADHD, disruptions in sleep, irritability and other behavioural problems.  In severe cases, EMR is associated with epileptic seizures and increased risk of cancer.

Where you sleep: Decreasing your exposure to wireless and wired devices in the bedroom is very important.

 

We recommend:

 

  • Ideally remove all wireless devices and electrical devices from the bedroom.

  • Place all clocks, cell phones, cordless phones and other electrical devices at least 6 feet from where you sleep. 

  • If you are using your cell phone as an alarm clock, ensuring that it is set to “airplane” or “flight” mode when you sleep will decrease your EMF exposure.

Cell phone use:  Keep in mind, distance is your friend.  

 

  • Limit your duration of exposure and the proximity of the device to the body.

  • Keep the cell phone off the body.  For women, do not hold your cell phone in your bra.  For men, avoid placing your cell phone on your lap or in your front pocket.

  • Avoid cell phone use when the signal is weak.

  • When talking on the phone, use speakerphone or wired air tube headset to reduce exposure to the head.

  • Avoid Bluetooth and other wireless headsets.

  • Avoid cell phone use when in a metal device or vehicle such as a car, bus, train, airplane or when in an elevator, as the EMF exposure is much higher while the phone attempts to connect to different network antennas and the metal intensifies the effect.

  • Texting is better, but remember to hold the phone away from the body when pressing ‘send’.

Home exposure: Limit your exposure in your home to all wireless and electrical appliances.  New appliances generally are safer and emit less EMF radiation.  Some general recommendations include:

 

  • Choose wired phones versus hands-free phones as much as possible.

  • Limit your exposure to EMF-emitting devices.

  • Use your computer in airplane mode or use an ethernet connection.

  • Avoid smart meters and Bluetooth devices.

Work with a naturopathic doctor / naturopath to help you assess for environmental pollutants and to understand how they may be affecting your health. The information on this website is a guide for ways to protect you and your family from environmental pollutants.  It is not meant to replace advice from a healthcare professional.

3 Essentials

  1. Decrease your exposure

  2. Distance is your friend

  3. Protect children and pregnant mothers

Additional Key Recommendations

  1. Keep all wireless devices off the body

  2. Avoid wireless in the bedroom

  3. Place all clocks, cell phones, cordless phones and other electrical devices at least 6 feet from where you sleep

  4. Limit the exposure of infants and children to wireless devices

  5. Avoid using wireless devices when pregnant or breastfeeding

  6. Placing devices on airplane mode decreases EMF exposure

  7. Limit your exposure while at home to wireless and electrical appliances

  8. Avoid using your cell phone when the signal is weak

  9. Newer appliances generally are safer and emit less EMF radiation

  10. Minimize exposure when sick or recovering from illness

References

  1. EMF Solutions Canada 

  2. Canadians For Safe Technology 

  3. Environmental Health Trust

  4. Electromagnetic Pollution Illnesses Canada Foundation 

  5. The International EMF Scientist Appeal 

  6. Physicians for Safe Technology

  7. The BioInitiative Report and Updates 

  8. Iarc Classifies Radiofrequency Electromagnetic Fields As Possibly Carcinogenic To Humans 

  9. Reported Biological Effects from Radiofrequency Radiation at Low-Intensity Exposure

  10. Gandhi OP, Morgan LL, de Salles AA, Han Y-Y, Herberman RB, Davis DL. Exposure limits: The underestimation of absorbed cell phone radiation, especially in children. Electromagn Biol Med. 2012;31:34–51. doi: 10.3109/15368378.2011.622827.

  11. Electrosmog: In brief

  12. Hardell, Lennart. World Health Organization, radiofrequency radiation and health - a hard nut to crack (Review). International Journal of Oncology

  13. Clegg, Frank et al.  Building Science and radiofrequency Radiation: What makes smart and healthy buildings. Science Direct

  14. Han J, Cao Z, Liu X, Zhang W, Zhang S. Effect of early pregnancy electromagnetic field exposure on embryo growth ceasing. Wei Sheng Yan Jiu. 2010 May;39(3):349-52

  15. Abd Masoumeh, Malekafzali Hossein, Merghati Khoei Effat. Association between electromagnetic field exposure and abortion in pregnant women living in Tehran. International Journal of Reproductive BioMedicine

  16. Health risks linked to electromagnetic field exposure

  17. A study of real-world exposure to non-ionizing radiation from magnetic fields in pregnant women found a significantly higher rate of miscarriage, providing new evidence regarding their potential health risks.