Security + Safety

What Is Electromagnetic Radiation (and should I be worried about it?)

04.19.17
electromagnetic radiation

Your Bluetooth speakers, your laptop, your smartphone, your smart lightbulbs… they’re all talking to each other through the same kind of radio frequency that a microwave emits. You know, the microwave your mother told you never to stand in front of because it might fry your brain.  Less power, to be sure, but the same part of the electromagnetic spectrum.

You’d have to be oblivious not to wonder whether all that radio wave exposure your devices are having with one another could be bad for your health. And honestly, I don’t have good answers for you. Research is early and inconclusive— and there are people on both sides that feel strongly about their positions. So I’ll break down what I’ve learned, and we’ll see if we can’t come up with a game plan.

What is Electromagnetic Radiation

An Electromagnetic Field (EMF), is a physical field produced by electrically charged objects, and it affects the behavior of the objects in the vicinity of that field. Without going into too much scientific theory (I resorted to browsings kid science sites to try and understand it all), it’s one of the four fundamental forces of nature. We’re in these fields all the time, when standing next to a TV or in a home with electrical lighting.

Electromagnetic radiation (EMR), are the packs of energy that carry information to and from those electrically charged objects. Your voice (miraculously!) traveling from one phone to another… your step count traveling from your fitness tracker to an app, the homepage of TMZ.com traveling from your router to your laptop… that kind of thing. As Zapped author Ann Louise Gittleman said to Goop, their frequencies, modulation patterns and other characteristics make them biologically disruptive.

Should You Be Concerned?

According to Gittleman’s research, our DNA is sensitive to even the most minute amount of EMF, affecting your biological functioning, breaking down your blood-brain barrier, affecting your circulation, and has been linked to cancer and lower fertility. The World Health Organization, however, still maintains that, “to date, no adverse health effects have been established as being caused by mobile phone use.” They also say, mind you, that “the electromagnetic fields produced by mobile phones are classified by the International Agency for Research on Cancer as possibly carcinogenic to humans.”

I’m confused already. That’s partially because many of the WHO’s reference studies started in the 1990s, which means they just haven’t had enough time to gauge the long-term effects of EMFs from today’s devices, which are more powerful and used more frequently than they were 20 years ago. (Read: Keep your eye out for some updated safety guidelines for usage from the WHO in the coming years.) They do acknowledge that “tissue heating”

Other countries aren’t interested in playing the waiting game with their people’s health. Germany, Finland, and France have all begun to put restrictions on WiFi availability in schools – a sign that yes, we should probably be concerned, especially for our children, whose developing brains are more susceptible to EMF damage. The Environmental Health Trust recently reported that current cell phone safety guidelines don’t actually take into account the proximity our phones usually are to our bodies (WHAT?!). According to an investigation conducted by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, when we do factor in those actual usage methods, EMF exposure exceeds healthy guidelines.

That last part kind of makes me want to tear my hair out. Remember the end of the movie Thank You For Smoking where the cigarette lobbyist makes cellphone his next conquest? Not even adorable Aaron Eckhart can stop my blood from boiling when I imagine special interest groups getting in the way of us coming to reasonable conclusions about the safety risks of cellphones and all these smart devices. But if cigarettes are any indication of how this might pan out, I think we can’t hold our breath until the World Health Organization steps up to guide us. Ultimately, how you protect your family is up to you.

What to Do Next

Unless you’re packing up your family and moving to a yurt in the woods, your exposure to Electromagnetic Radiation is here to stay. But that doesn’t mean you can’t take steps to protect yourself. The thing to remember is that the harder your phone has to work to get a signal, the stronger the radiation is, and the closer to your body, the worse it is. So there are some common sense things you can do to protect yourself:

Measure It

Gauge the EMR in your home by using a Gauss meter for low-frequency EMFs and a radio frequency (RF) meter to measure high-frequency EMFs. Better yet, have a professional EMR expert do an evaluation. He or she can tell you exactly how much exposure each room in your home is getting.

Get Protection

electromagnetic Radiation

It’s debatable whether radiation-protective cases for your laptops, cell phones, and devices, are actually effective. If a phone’s radiofreqency increases when it struggles to get a signal, I don’t know how a radiation-blocker will protect you and still let the phone or laptop do it’s job. The WHO says they aren’t effective… there are plenty of websites that both support and refute their efficacy. I honestly don’t know where I stand on this.

That said, I do like the idea of using a privacy pouch like this one from Arjuana AG when I don’t want ANY calls to get through, or if I do have to transport my phone in my pocket or near my body (and it’s pretty chic, no?)

I do like this idea: When your kids are playing video games (all controllers are wireless now, and usually in their laps for long periods of time), have them cover up in an anti-radiation blanket. And if you spend hours in bed on your laptop (guilty), you might want to cover up too.

Hands Off

Avoid putting your cell phone in your pocket and your laptop in your lap (especially if it’s connected to a power source). The WHO acknowledges that the radiofrequency exposure to a user falls off rapidly with increasing distance from the handset. So using your phone hands-free and not putting it up to your head or near your body helps a lot.

Sleep Routine

Power off your devices when you sleep and put them in a separate room so their EMFs don’t reach you while you’re sleeping.

Bathe it Away

pursoma digital detox bath: electromagnetic radiation

Detox your body by taking a bath like this one by Pursoma— it’s french clay and other ingredients assist in the release of heavy metals, radioactive materials, and daily stressors through the skin.

Get in the Grass

Earthing (also called “grounding”) – spending time barefoot outdoors, without your devices, so your body can rebalance the voltage it absorbs from electrical power sources. This one might be a little earthy-crunchy for most, but hey, putting your feet in the grass and getting outside couldn’t hurt?

I’ll be looking into this more, and I’ll share what I know as I know it. In the meantime, I think we all have to have a family meeting about habits.

Have you taken any precautions against EMF or electromagnetic radiation in your home? Tell us about them in the comments.

iRobot Giveaway

Author: Carley Knobloch

Carley Knobloch is a digital lifestyle expert and a regular contributor on the Today Show and CNN. She’s also a home automation expert and host for HGTV, where makes home technology easy, approachable and fun. Carley has been featured in Real Simple, Allure, and Bloomberg Businessweek. She resides in Los Angeles with her husband, two kids, springer spaniel, and myriad smartphones.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *