The damage electromagnetic fields (EMFs) can inflict on the human body is very real, and health organizations are only slowly realizing the extent of the problem. After all, electromagnetic and radiofrequency fields are everywhere these days, including in the office, at home, in the car, and wherever we take our cell phones. As a doctor, it’s so important to be aware of the symptoms caused by electromagnetic sensitivity, and what action can be taken to counteract the disease.
An electromagnetic field comprises energy created from electrical and magnetic energy emitted by electronic devices. The electrical current running through a device creates the magnetic field, and the electrical field is generated by the difference in voltage.
The planets and the solar system all have electromagnetic fields, as does the human body. Electromagnetic fields are a fact of life. However, due to advances in technology over the past thirty years, we’re now exposed to man-made EMFs on a daily basis for long periods from multiple sources. This is something that only happened occasionally in the past.
These two maps show the increase in electromagnetic pollution from 2004 (above) until 2022 (below) with a corresponding increase in 5G cell antenna, satellites, cell phone antennas, smart meters, smart appliances, and wearable smart devices.
The human body generates its own electromagnetic fields in relation to the heart, brain, and nervous system, so it isn’t that far-fetched to imagine that man-made EMFs can disrupt the health of sensitive individuals.
As many modern electronic devices can emit different frequencies of EMFs simultaneously, as practitioners we must take combined exposures into consideration when treating our patients.
Is Electrosmog Harming Our Health?
Electromagnetic fields, sometimes known as electrosmog, can have a severe impact on human health. While there’s considerable skepticism about the types of health effects caused by EMFs, there’s evidence that long-term exposure can contribute to diseases such as some forms of cancer, multiple sclerosis, and Alzheimer’s.
Much of the focus in legislation and guidelines regarding EMF exposure relates to excessive thermal effects, meaning the increased temperatures caused by absorption of electromagnetic energy. However, a rise in temperature isn’t the only way electromagnetic fields can affect the human body. This is largely unreported by political organizations and in the press. EMF regulations remain largely unchanged to reflect EMF dangers, but the tide is turning.
Recent guidelines on EMF exposure across the world include:
- The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) recognized low-frequency magnetic fields as a possible cause of cancer in humans in 2002, making the same ruling on radio frequency radiation in 2011.
- The European Environment Agency has compared EMFs to other environmental carcinogens such as tobacco, benzene, and asbestos.
- The American Academy of Environmental Medicine (AAEN) drew attention to EMF exposure in 2012, urging doctors to reconsider electromagnetic exposure as an underlying cause of illness.
- In Belgium, the government banned the advertising of mobile phones to children under the age of seven in 2014. The specific absorption rate (SAR) of mobile phones also has to be published and all cell phone packaging must feature warnings that advise users to use a headset and minimize their exposure.
- In 2015, France decided to ban Wi-Fi in nurseries for children under the age of three. The government also mandated that at schools for children under the age of eleven, Wi-Fi should only be used when specifically needed for lessons.
- In September 2015, following the Paris Appeal Congress, the scientific committee published an international declaration, calling upon international and national organizations to recognize both electromagnetic hypersensitivity and multiple chemical sensitivity as diseases.
While government bodies and organizations are beginning to pay attention, we now need to be aware of the specific health risks related to electromagnetic fields.
Evidence of harm caused by EMFs
Electromagnetic fields can cause the following health conditions:
- EMFs have been known to cause breast cancer, along with brain tumors, and leukemia, particularly in young children. An existing condition of leukemia can actually be made worse by EMFs, while brain tumors are linked to cell phone use.
- EMFs can increase the prevalence of Alzheimer’s disease and other neurological defects, as well as worsen cognitive function. Radio frequency EMFs, such as those emitted by cell phones, can also affect the blood-brain barrier.
- The risks of infertility and stillbirthare increased for women living near a power line.
- Infertility in mencan be caused by proximity to a power line or by simply keeping a cell phone in a front pocket or attached to a belt.
- Increased blood pressure and cardiovascular strain.
- Damage to DNA and gene expression.
- In terms of depression, EMFs can alter a patient’s mood by activating his or her voltage-gated calcium channels, creating an imbalance of neurotransmitters and neuroendocrine hormones.
- EMFs can lead to the alteration of plasma membranes in cells. The activation of voltage-gated calcium channels also alters the structure of the membrane surrounding the cell, which may affect cell membrane permeability.
- The correlation between EMF exposure and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) suggests that a confused immune system response and increased glutamate levels caused by EMF exposure may instigate ALS in susceptible individuals.
- EMFs are linked to increased blood sugar levels in diabetics and pre-diabetics. Dirty electricity can impede diabetics’ progress in managing their disease, potentially leading to them needing to use more insulin.
- Neurodevelopmental and neurobehavioral changes such as memory loss, learning difficulties, and attention and behavioral problems have been reported in numerous studies and are manifested in autism and attention-deficit hyperactivity disorders, where both epigenetic and genetic (DNA) damage are likely contributors. [iii]
For patients with electromagnetic hypersensitivity and mast cell activation syndrome (MCAS), any exposure to EMFs causes a systematic change in their body, leading to long-term illness. Researchers first noted skin-specific reactions, including skin and mucosa signs of itching and redness, flushing, pain, papules, and pustules in patients who were exposed to electronic screens and mobile phones in studies conducted back in the 1980s. They also noted symptoms in the same patients that were triggered in the heart and central nervous system. Further research in the early 2000s regarding electrical hypersensitivity noted headaches in about 85 per cent of cell phone users, with a significant number of subjects also reporting fatigue, dizziness, nausea, itching, redness, burning, and cognitive symptoms.
EMFs activate mast cells and increase histamine release, increasing the intracellular uptake of calcium across cell membranes.
In Sweden, Olle Johannson is leading the way with research into the effects of EMFs on mast cell physiology. Johannson describes a phenomenon called electromagnetic-hypersensitivity (EHS), where certain patients experience reactions to the full-body penetration of electrical and magnetic fields in their environment. Specifically, patient labeling of ‘environmental illness’ or ‘multiple chemical sensitivity’ are the strongest predictors of electro-hypersensitivity to EMFs. Whenever a patient presents with symptoms suggestive of mast cell activation syndrome, I immediately enquire about their exposures to electrical fields, magnetic fields, radiofrequency fields, and dirty electricity then have them answer the EMF sensitivity questionnaire.
All of these diseases and changes in the body are serious, but let’s focus on electromagnetic hypersensitivity, as this is an extremely modern disease that can often be mistaken for other conditions.
What is electromagnetic sensitivity?
Electromagnetic sensitivity, also known as electromagnetic hypersensitivity (EHS), is a physical intolerance to electromagnetic fields generated by power lines and power stations, electronic radio signals, and/or Wi-Fi. One patient with electromagnetic sensitivity may be more sensitive than another. Electromagnetic hypersensitivity exists on a spectrum dependent on individual susceptibility and the strength and duration of the EMF exposure. Individuals with this condition may have symptoms occurring from exposure to EMF radiation even below recommended reference levels and, when completely isolated from these fields, have complete remission of their symptoms. Although there’s still skepticism regarding the diagnosis of electromagnetic sensitivity, there are plenty of studies indicating that the condition exists. In modern society, it’s harder than ever to avoid electromagnetic fields. In fact, the sheer density of overlapping electromagnetic fields and radiation fields means that doctors are likely to be seeing increasing numbers of patients exhibiting the same symptoms.
When patients experience symptoms suggestive of EHS, this cluster of chronic inflammatory disorders still lacks validated pathogenic mechanisms, diagnostic biomarkers, and management guidelines. Many individuals get marginalized by their traditionally trained healthcare providers as having a psychogenic or somatization disorder. However, the research is continuing to advance and has provided several plausible mechanisms that explain how EMFs cause electromagnetic sensitivity, including:
- The interaction between EMFs and voltage-gated calcium channels
- Creation of free radicals or oxidative and peroxynitrate stress
- Deterioration of cellular proteins through formation of peroxynitrate, a marker of the sum total of free radical activity
- Triggering of an inflammatory response due to neurotransmitter disturbance and cytokine induction
- Induction of the cell danger response (CDR), outlined in work by Robert Naviaux
- Induction of the mast cell activation syndrome (MCAS)
Of course, these issues are often interconnected. When a patient’s body is out of balance, many reactions can happen simultaneously.
EMF Exposure Symptoms
For a medical practitioner, one of the most fascinating aspects of the illness caused by electronic magnetic fields is that the symptoms seem so familiar. Our patients present with symptoms very similar to those found in patients with long-term chronic illness, particularly autoimmune disorders. In fact, many patients struggling with EMF exposure may have been misdiagnosed as suffering from chronic fatigue syndrome or multiple chemical sensitivity. Many patients have neurological symptoms such as numbness and tingling in various body parts suggestive of multiple sclerosis, but when an MRI is performed, the characteristic white matter lesions of multiple sclerosis are not evident
Electromagnetic hypersensitivity exposure symptoms are characterized by a broad range of nonspecific multiorgan symptoms suggestive of both acute and chronic inflammatory processes, involving skin, nervous system, respiratory, cardiovascular, musculoskeletal, and gastrointestinal systems. These symptoms may include:
- Headache or migraine
- Trouble sleeping or sleeping disorders
- Brain fog or trouble concentrating
- Memory problems
- Burning or tingling sensations
- Stress and/or anxiety
- Digestive issues
- Decreased libido
- Heart palpitations
- Aches and pains in joints and muscles
- Chronic skin issues, especially eczema/dermatitis
Not all symptoms are present at the same time. In addition, these symptoms can vary from one patient to another, as an individual’s genetics, state of health, and exposure to other environmental or immune stressors influence how EMF manifests in the body. In most cases, these symptoms are self-reported and there’s an absence of organ-specific pathological signs except skin manifestations, which are the most common.
Additional symptoms experienced by patients living near a cell phone tower include:
- Visual disruptions
- Hearing disruptions
- Loss of appetite
- Difficulty moving with loss of balance
- General discomfort
Some patients may react to an EMF source over time, whereas others are so frequently affected by acute exposure that the symptoms and cause are easy to miss. I can’t stress enough how crucial it is to ask the right questions as part of a routine doctor visit, ensuring that no stone is left unturned. It’s important to note that some patients only react to specific sources of EMFs, such as smart meters or cell phones.
It’s also advisable to keep EMFs in mind when examining patients who don’t exhibit classic electromagnetic hypersensitivity symptoms. The new man-made pollution of EMFs hasn’t been studied in detail in terms of its adverse effects on the human body. There’s certainly an argument to consider the effects EMFs could have on non-sensitive individuals, increasing their levels of biological stress at a cellular level. If you’re treating a patient who’s sensitive to heavy metals, chemicals, perfumes, fragrances, and other toxins, it’s worthwhile to educate him or her on how to reduce EMF exposure.In fact, we could all benefit from reducing our exposure to electromagnetic fields wherever possible. Even though not all of us are sensitive, EMFs do increase our chances of developing symptoms and diseases related to increasing levels of oxidative, free radical damage to vital cells of our body.
In addition, keep in mind that other medical conditions may be linked to electromagnetic sensitivity, often meaning that your patient is suffering from a total toxin overload or immune dysfunction, with electromagnetic exposure being the “straw that breaks the camel’s back”, so to speak.
These conditions include:
- Gastrointestinal problems
- Mast cell activation syndrome (MCAS)
- Neurodegenerative disease, including Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, Huntington’s, and ALS
- Liver disease
- Food allergies
- Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS)
- Autoimmune diseases, including lupus, Hashimoto’s, rheumatoid arthritis, and thyroid dysfunction
- Allergic skin reactions, such as eczema
- MTHFR genetic mutation
- Lyme disease
- Asthma, Diabetes, and Autism
You’ll have to connect the dots between your patient’s different ailments, because your patient often won’t be able to do so.
Sources of Electromagnetic exposure
Man-made electromagnetic fields can be loosely sorted into two types, namely power-based and wireless-based. Electricity EMFs are generated by any appliance or machine operating on alternating current (AC) power. Radiofrequency EMFs, also known as microwave frequency EMFs, are generated by communication devices and the cell tower network.
Sources of electrical electromagnetic fields (electricity)
Sources in the home are from such things as home appliances and lighting, including:
- Microwave ovens
- Washers and dryers
- Magnetic induction stove tops
- Video game consoles
- Energy efficient HVAC systems
- Air conditioning systems
- Portable heating systems
- Portable fans
- Air filtration systems
- CPAP machines
- Electric beds
- Portable air conditioning systems
- Grounding or earthing pads plugged into the third prong of an electrical outlet
- Compact fluorescent bulbs
- Other fluorescent lighting
- Bedside lamps
- Hot tub, pool, and pond pumps
Places where the electricity enters the home are also sources, such as:
- The electrical main panel
- The sub-panels in your home
- Photovoltaic (solar) panels
- Improperly wired electrical cables within the walls
Other sources include:
- Smart Home systems
- Hybrid cars, with some models having high EMF levels, making it important to check the technical specifications before buying
- Electric car chargers
- Neighbors with photovoltaic (solar) panels
Sources at school and work include fluorescent lighting, especially compact fluorescent bulbs, as well as proximity to a variety of devices, such as:
- Slide projectors
- Overhead projectors
- The main body of computers on the floor
- Any power chargers, power strips, or where a large number of wires are plugged in
- Computers, printers, or any appliances that plug into the electrical wall plugs
- Separate hard drives
- Copiers and fax machines
- Electrical main panels, sub-panels, or switchgear rooms
- Large electrical systems, such as electric motors, generators, and electric cables
- Power tools, drills, welding tools, and induction motors, including sewing machines
Public sources include proximity to:
- Power lines (above and underground)
- Transmission lines (above and underground)
- Pad-mounted ground transformers, such as the big green boxes labeled ‘high voltage’ that sit outside buildings
- Electrical substations
- Wind farms/solar power plants
Other public sources include:
- Electrical transportation systems, such as trains and light rail
- Electric and hybrid cars, with exposure varying widely
- Broadband over power lines (BPL)
BPL is a relatively new technology that uses the existing electrical power grid to transmit a radio frequency signal for internet access. BPL runs through all buildings with electrical wiring, exposing occupants to constant radio frequency, even if they aren’t signed up for the service.
Sources of radio frequency electromagnetic fields (wireless)
Sources in the home include:
- Cell phones
- Cordless phones
- Phone base stations
- Microwave ovens
- Nextel phones
- IDEN phones, which constantly emit a strong radio frequency signal
- Smart thermostats, smoke detectors, TVs, fridges, microwaves, stoves, washer/dryers, lighting/automation systems
- Smart watches, fitness trackers
- Wireless air purifiers/fans
- Smart TVs
Wireless sources include:
- Virtual assistant hubs
- Smart speakers
- Wireless baby monitors
- Any other wireless device
- Smart energy meters
- CPAP machines
Sources at school and work include wireless networks, phones, computers, and cell towers or antennae such as:
- Cell phones
- Cordless phones
- Phone base stations
- Synchronized clocks
- Alarm/security systems and school lockdown systems
- Wireless microphones
- Bluetooth peripherals, such as mice, keyboards, and printers
- Cell towers or antennae that are on-site or adjacent to the site
- Antennae on buildings next door or on the building above, which can radiate in the direction of a nearby building with glass windows, since the glass reflects the radio frequency toward the building.
Public sources include:
- Cell towers and cellular antennae
- Wireless networks from local businesses and retail spaces
- Wi-Fi hotspots and municipal systems
- Broadcast towers (AM/FM/ digital TV)
- Radar from a nearby airports or military bases
- Electronic article surveillance systems (EAS) in the security gates that resemble flat white panels near store entrances
- Radio frequency identification and metal detector systems found in airports, stores, libraries, and hospitals
Faced with a list like the one above, many of your patients may feel that avoiding EMFs is impossible. However, there are ways to minimize exposure if your patient is struggling with electromagnetic sensitivity.
Diagnosing electromagnetic sensitivity
When diagnosing electromagnetic sensitivity, it’s crucial to rule out other illnesses, understanding that this illness can make other environmental and immune conditions worse. However, if your patient believes that they’re struggling with EMF exposure, it’s likely to be true. There are a number of ways to diagnose electromagnetic sensitivity.
The first way is to complete a questionnaire and have it reviewed by a healthcare professional well-versed in the diagnosis of EHS. Please be forewarned that there won’t be many healthcare practitioners who will be vaguely interested, never mind well informed on this issue. However, it’s relevant to note that the International Classification of Diseases ICD-10 includes codes for RFR and other forms of non-ionizing radiation.
Take a full history of health problems and EMF exposure, using a functional medicine timeline:
- Ask the usual questions regarding past illnesses and exposure to environmental issues. Assess the time and place regarding the appearance of symptoms, but also ask about chemical trauma, such as exposure to heavy metals, chlorinated hydrocarbons, and DDT pesticides.
- In addition, ask about electrical trauma, such as electrocution, being struck by lightning, or multiple shocks.
- Investigate any biotrauma in the form of parasites, fungal infections, or viral infections.
- Consider any past physical trauma to the central nervous system, such as spinal problems, accidents, or whiplash.
- Make sure that your questions also cover any autoimmune disorders.
- Examining your patient from a systemic perspective is key.
Ensure that you ask the patient the following questions:
- Do you own a cell phone?
- Do you use your cell phone for talking, keeping it next to your ear or using speakerphone, or for texting?
- Do you switch it off at night?
- If you own a cell phone, for how many hours do you use it in an average day?
- Where is your Wi-Fi router located and how close do you sit/sleep next to it?
- How many Wi-Fi networks does your device detect in your home?
- Are you in a condominium where you can detect all of your neighbor’s router Wi-Fi signals?
- Have you had a smart meter installed in your home recently?
- Do you have cordless phones and a cordless base station close to you, particularly at night when you sleep?
- Do you own an electric or hybrid car?
- Have you had a solar panel installed in your home recently?
- Has a new cell tower been installed near your home lately?
Look for the health issues listed above, but also watch for blood pressure problems, increased risk of infections, lack of coordination, urinary urgency, tinnitus, and a sensation of pressure in the head and ears.
The severity of electromagnetic sensitivity depends on the person and the type of exposure. Full body EMF exposure may create flu-like symptoms, whereas cell phone use may cause a slight headache.
Order tests and examine the patient
Begin with basic tests, including blood pressure and resting heart rate tests with an electronic device in the morning, while still in bed. Omron devices are quite adequate for this purpose. These levels may need to be monitored by the patient, possibly several times a day in different locations. Encourage patients to keep a journal of their symptoms and how they feel over the course of the week.
Have them do the ten-minute blood pressure and pulse test. Advise them to lie down for five minutes then take their blood pressure and pulse. They should then stand up and at one minute, three minutes, five minutes, and ten minutes they need to repeat the blood pressure and pulse readings without moving or talking. They need to note the difference between their highest and lowest pulse rates, as well as the difference between the highest and lowest systolic and diastolic blood pressures. Advise them that they should be concerned if their pulse rate changes more than thirty beats over this ten-minute time period and their systolic blood pressure falls more than twenty points.
Blood work may include:
- ACTH and am cortisol
- Bilirubin and liver enzymes
- Blood count and differential blood count
- High-sensitivity c-reactive protein (hs-CRP)
- Fasting blood glucose
- Glutathione peroxidase (GPX)
- Reduced glutathione (GSHL)
- Glutathione S-transferase (GST)
- Cholesterol (LDL, HDL, triglycerides)
- 8-hydroxydeoxyguanosine- for DNA oxidation (rusting or degradation/inflammation)
- Lipid peroxidase – for lipid peroxidation ( “rusting or degradation/inflammation”)
- Malondialdehyde (MDA)
- Nitrotyrosine and peroxynitrate
- Selenium, whole blood
- Zinc, whole blood
- Coenzyme Q10
- Magnesium, whole blood
- Vitamin D3
- Vitamin E
- Immune cytokine factors: Interferon-gamma, interleukin-10, interleukin-17, interleukin-6, interleukin-8, Nuclear factor kappa b
- Folate profile using FIGLU or the folate panel with Health Diagnostics laboratory
- Methyl malonic acid – intracellular B 12
- TSH, Free T3 and free T4 and thyroid antibodies
- Tumor necrosis factor (Alpha, TNF-alpha)
- Histamine and diamine oxidase (DAO)
- MCAS markers – see my article on MCAS and blood work
- Intracellular ATP
- Intracellular glutathione, glutathione transferase, glutathione peroxidase, superoxide dismutase, n-acetyl cysteine, Vitamin E, Coenzyme Q10, Vitamin D, measurements of antioxidant activity
- Vitamin B6
- Folate profile using FIGLU or the folate panel with Health Diagnostics laboratory
- Homocysteine – an indirect measure of adequate methylation, required for histamine degradation
Second-morning urine test to assess urinary catecholamines
- Noradrenaline/adrenaline ratio
24-hour urine test
- Melatonin sulfate
- Urinary cortisol, cortione, DHEA
- Saliva test for 4-point cortisol
- Test at 8 am, 12 noon, 6 pm, and 10 pm
Also consider the following:
- 24-hour blood pressure monitor
- 24-hour ECG heart rhythm diagnosis
- 24-hour heart rate variability (HRV), ruling out autonomous nervous system diagnosis
- Sleep EEG at home to indicate if sleep is disturbed
- Provocation Heavy Metal test, depending on patient’s history, focusing in particular on mercury, lead, arsenic, aluminum, and cadmium
When treating a family, it’s worth checking out individual susceptibility to electromagnetic sensitivity.
Most of the studies to date on EHS have been animal-based, but a human case-controlled study, published in 2014, Metabolic and Genetic Screening of Electromagnetic Hypersensitive Subjects as a Feasible Tool for Diagnostics and Intervention[i] demonstrated that sensitive individuals may have shared organic determinants of impaired detoxification of common physic-chemical stressors, altered cell membrane integrity, pro-inflammatory cytokine markers, and depleted antioxidant defenses.
The following drug metabolizing enzyme-gene polymorphisms and cell markers were studied and were shown to have altered functions in sensitive individuals:
- glutathione peroxidase,
- superoxide dismutase
- Coenzyme Q10 oxidation increased rates
- Vitamin E
- Depletion of polyunsaturated fatty acids
- CYP 2C19 variants
- GSTT variants. Glutathione S-transferase (GST) is a family of important drug-metabolizing enzymes, conjugating endogenous and exogenous compounds. Genetic polymorphisms result in the inter-individual variability of GST activity in humans. In particular, human GSTT1 and GSTT2 null alleles are associated with toxicity and various cancers derived from chemicals. [ii]
Measure EMF exposure
It’s best to liaise with a building biologist who can visit the patient’s home or workplace and carry out the necessary checks for the different types of EMF exposures that are derived from electrical and wireless sources. Crucially, a building biologist can assess your patient’s current sleeping arrangements in relation to electronics located close to the head and trunk of the body. A professional building biologist can provide suggestions regarding how to reduce the EMF exposure as part of the measurement report.
For a building biologist in Calgary, contact Mitch Marchand of EMF Aware at 1-403-264-2970
For a building biologist in your area, contact the Building Biology
Limit EMF exposure and provide a diagnosis
Advice on how to limit EMF exposure is included in the section below. Diagnosis of your individual patient depends upon careful monitoring of the times, places, and circumstances of possible EMF exposure, as well as the changing or intensity of symptoms over time. The report from the building biologist can help you determine whether EMF exposure is likely to be the culprit. However, other potential causes need to be excluded before you reach a diagnosis of electromagnetic hypersensitivity or EMF-related health problems.
Although the main focus should be on minimizing EMF exposure, it’s also beneficial for your patient if you work together to strengthen their immune systems, improve antioxidant defenses, reduce their total body burden of associated toxins, improve diet with macro and micronutrient adjustments, help them to sleep and reduce stress. After all, everything’s connected.
Focus on things such as:
- Counteracting any other environmental pollutants in the body, which may bring about illness due to mold, allergies, food allergies, or an immune system reaction to toxins
- Instigating a detox program to neutralize any heavy metals found as a result of the patient’s blood test
- Reducing oxidative or peroxynitrate stress through diet, healthy sleep, and exercise
- Easing any forms of gastrointestinal upset, such as food intolerance or leaky gut
- Treating inflammation and poor mitochondrial function through diet and vitamin supplements
- Encouraging patients to drink more water
A lifestyle or health coach may be able to help with these aspects of the patient’s recovery.
How to Combat Health Effects of EMFs and Limit EMF Exposure
Many of your patients may feel frustrated with the diagnosis of electromagnetic sensitivity because of the nature of modern life and the reality of working all day in an office or with other industrial machinery. Yet it’s important to stress to them that it’s possible to counteract their symptoms with careful behaviors.
The most important piece of advice you can give to any patient suffering from electromagnetic sensitivity is to move if they live near a power line and transformer, since these are such a powerful source of EMFs.
Close proximity to the following places can also be problematic for patients with electromagnetic sensitivity:
- Radio or digital TV broadcast stations
- Cell phone towers
- Police stations
- Fire stations
- Military bases
- Solar parks
- Wind turbines
- Electrical substations
Cell phone towers emit microwave radiation and can have a directional beam, but some emit in all directions. A broadcast station is problematic when it’s closer than 1.24 miles (2 km) and a direct line of sight usually leads to greater exposures. Proximity to emergency service facilities is a risk because the personnel use terrestrial trunked radio (TETRA) to communicate. Airports and military bases use radar and shortwave radio communications, in addition to other harmful technologies.
Ideally, your patient should consult a building biologist to learn more about the specific EMFs that may be radiating from inside their home, but may also be occuring externally.
Here are some general guidelines for your patients to follow after their diagnosis.
In the home
- Use a landline phone with a cord for your regular telephone, particularly for lengthy calls
- Avoid wearing a cell phone or PDA while the device is on, as the battery-switching EMF emissions are excessively high, along with the RF emissions
- Avoid using a cordless or cell phone while pregnant or while carrying an infant or toddler
- Avoid DECT or IDEN cordless phones, since the base is always on and transmitting and these phones emit a large, continuous source of RF compared to other cordless phones
- Stop using smartwatches (Apple) or fitness trackers such as Fitbit
- Keep printers turned off and unplugged from the wall socket, unless needed
- Reduce use of video game consoles or remove them entirely when not in use, disconnecting them from the wall
- Be aware that digital media players emit EMFs unless unplugged from the wall
- Smart TVs need to be unplugged as they constantly emit RF, although older models may have the option to turn off Wi-Fi or Bluetooth. For an excellent guide on different types of TVs and their emissions, visit https://emfacademy.com/do-tvs-emit-radiation-complete-guide/
- Avoid using wireless virtual assistants such as Amazon Echo and Alexa, Google Home, or any wireless Bluetooth sound system
- Energy efficient HVAC systems or other air conditioning systems may emit dirty electricity, so have this measured by the building biologist
- Remember that home alarm systems can emit microwave radiation and many alarm systems have a wireless capability
- Avoid using wireless baby monitors, or at least place them more than ten feet from a crib or bed
- Use a battery-powered clock by the bed and sleep with your head at least six feet from electrical sources
- In the bedroom, your body needs to be at least three feet from electrical sources
- Remove any metal slats and frames in beds and cribs and remove mattresses containing bedsprings, replacing them with a memory foam mattress
- Don’t use electric blankets
- At night, the bedroom needs to be electronic-free, so remove all computers, laptops, cell phones, or cordless phones and don’t charge devices in the bedroom
- Exposure to EMF before bedtime can interfere with melatonin production and the sleep cycle
- Don’t install a smart meter or any smart appliances in the home
- Wear turquoise or blue-blocker glasses for two hours before bed, as these induce melatonin production and reset the suprachiasmic nucleus, which is the master controller of your circadian clock.
- Avoid using a laptop on your lap, as the wireless card gives out a strong emission similar to a cell phone and it’s better to have the laptop on a table
- Replace Wi-Fi-enabled devices such as thermostats, fire alarms, doorbells, and cameras
- An electric vehicle charging station should be assessed by a building biologist
- Remove the microwave oven from the home
- Portable heating systems, fans, CPAP machines, and portable AC systems all need to be kept at arm’s length or further.
It’ is advisable that everyone limit their cell phone and cordless calls by frequency and duration. Children should never use cordless phones or cell phones at all, as the level of radiation penetration into the brain far exceeds that experienced by adults.[iv]
If there’s a need to use a cordless phone or cell phone, use a wired headset. These types of headsets are best, but any type of cord that creates distance between a person’s head and the phone is helpful. Alternatively, use the speakerphone. Avoid using Bluetooth headsets at all costs, as these generate RFs. While it’s harder than ever for patients to avoid using wireless laptops and wireless routers these days, if possible, your patient should use a computer that’s plugged into a cable modem via LAN (Ethernet cable). Stress the importance of having a non-wireless router, as unfortunately most routers default to wireless even when the Wi-Fi isn’t being used. It’s also impossible to determine if the router is transmitting wirelessly.
In addition to the recommendations above regarding bedrooms, hire a building biologist to determine which circuits to turn off at night. An electrician can then install a cut-off switch so that when you turn off your lights at night in the bedroom, this also turns off all the electrical supply to the room. If a cut-off switch isn’t installed, all electrical devices in the bedroom must be unplugged from the wall socket every night.
A Christmas light timer can be employed to turn off all Wi-Fi access at night, although using wired internet through ethernet at home is the best option. If your use of Wi-Fi is unavoidable, only plug the router in when the Wi-Fi is in use and unplug the router during sleeping hours. Beacon signal, power output, and number of radios enabled can be configured to reduce the amount of exposure from wireless access points. Install the wireless access points as far as possible from occupied space, such as your desk, and never have the wireless access points located in a child’s bedroom. You must also always work at least ten feet away from where the Wi-Fi signal is generated.
Compact fluorescent bulbs may be better for the environment, but they can emit dirty power. To protect your health, switch to LED or incandescent light bulbs and remove any dimmer switches from the home. However, keep in mind that LED light bulbs can still be a concern, as they’re known to disturb melatonin production and affect sleep patterns.
Although also recommended as being good for the environment, solar panels can emit dirty electricity if they use a particular type of inverter to convert the electricity that’s generated. If a neighbor uses a solar panel, EMF can permeate the neighborhood. You should also ask your immediate neighbors to turn off their Wi-Fi routers at night and when not in use. When you see several different wireless networks available on your device, it’s important to remember that each individual signal is a RF stressor and can potentially interfere with your health.
All personal wireless devices, such as cell phones, tablets, or laptops, need to be kept one foot away from a person’s body. Keep your laptop on the table, use speakerphone or wired headphones when talking on the phone, and use airplane mode when carrying a cell phone in your pocket. In addition, ensure that you’re ten feet away from these devices when they’re charging. Bluetooth should also be turned off unless it’s in use.
As EMS increases sensitivity to other environmental toxins, it’s also important to ensure that the home is free of pollutants such as mold, toxins, and common household chemicals. Get a quality air purifier with a HEPA filter and keep it at least a foot away from you. Doctors, please note that you should follow protocol to ensure that your patient isn’t dealing with a secondary sensitivity.
While driving and out in public
- Don’t use a cell phone inside the car, on staircases, or in elevators, as the cell phone increases its EMF emissions up to 10,000-fold, even when locked away or on standby
- If it’s necessary to make phone calls inside the car while driving, get a built-in, hands-free car phone jack and have the antenna hook up outside the car
- Hybrid electric cars can increase sensitivity for some individuals
- Modern cars often include Bluetooth systems and Wi-Fi hotspots, which need to be turned off
- Avoid staying in hotels that have Wi-Fi hotspots or at airports, if you want to sleep well
- Avoid cafes and restaurants that have wireless hotspots, particularly if children are with you
- Avoid making multiple trips through the security gates in stores, and don’t let children play between their panels or linger near them
- Avoid non-crucial medical procedures during pregnancy, such as MRIs and extra ultrasounds, to avoid unnecessarily exposing your baby to strong electromagnetic fields
Don’t use cell phones in the car as it can be immediately dangerous, but also ramp up exposure to EMFs. In particular, avoid using cell phones when children are present, as RF levels can be incredibly high in the back seat while a phone is used in the front of the car. Turn off cell phones in the car and avoid returning or taking calls while driving, retrieving messages when you arrive at a safe spot. In addition, don’t use Bluetooth for hands-free, as this is also a source of EMFs. Try to select a cell phone with a low specific absorption rate or SAR value. Choose the lowest where possible, which you can learn more about with this handy guide.
At work and at school
- Try to restrict your child’s exposure to Wi-Fi in school by encouraging staff to change school policy. See Techsafeschools.org for more information.
- Work at least ten feet from the Wi-Fi source, but ideally use an ethernet cable at work
- Watch out for extension cords or power bars underneath desks and close to feet
Most of the precautions recommended for the home can also be used at work or school, although there may be some resistance from bosses, coworkers, teachers, and the school district authorities. However, there’s no reason to use Wi-Fi in the classroom if it’s not pertinent to the lesson.
Although it may be tempting to provide all these guidelines at once, many patients may feel overwhelmed by all the things they’re advised to remember. Introduce the guidelines gradually where possible, perhaps focusing on those related to the bedroom and the home to begin with, alongside those regarding personal and portable electronic devices. Remind your patients that this is a process, and that it takes time to improve electrosmog symptoms.
EMF Protection in the Home
There are several forms of EMF protection your patient can employ to minimize their exposure to electromagnetic fields. These include:
- Installing a cut-off switch in the bedroom, which minimizes your patient’s EMF exposure at night and improves sleep significantly
- Installing GS filters, which filter out the most dangerous levels of dirty electricity in the home. Only do this after having a building biologist check your home for wiring errors and current over your water lines.
- Painting inside or outside the house using RF-screening paint. which blocks most cell phone Wi-Fi and TETRA signals
- Lining windows with RF-reducing window film
- Using a RF-shielding canopy, which resemble mosquito nets and are easy to install, over the bed at night. These are very effective for those living in apartments and condos.
- Investing in meters that check magnetic field levels and RF levels
- Hardwire computer workspace where computers, laptops, and tablets are located
- Unplug WIFI printers, smart TVs, streaming media devices, such as Apple TV, Roku, or Chrome Cast, when not in use
As healthcare professionals, we need to be aware of man-made pollutants, particularly those that have been introduced without any consideration of the health risks. Cell phones, Wi-Fi hotspots, and electrical devices seem to be everywhere these days, and the number of patients with electromagnetic sensitivity is bound to increase over time. You’re uniquely qualified to advise patients on how to minimize their vulnerability to EMFs. Ultimately, EMF exposure is avoidable but with your help, your patients can see a real improvement in their health.
This is a summary of 4425 peer review EMF studies showing biological effects downloaded from the ORSAA database. Oceania Radiofrequency Scientific Advisory Association (ORSAA) is a not-for-profit organization composed of scientists and professionals from various academic disciplines who are investigating the scientific research that relates to the effects of artificial electromagnetic radiation (EMR) on humans, animals, and the environment. As the name indicates, ORSAA has a special focus on radiofrequency electromagnetic radiation (RF-EMR) that includes high frequency microwaves widely used for wireless communication and surveillance technologies. However, ORSAA’s interest in biological effects research extends to extremely low frequency (ELF) fields such as those utilized for domestic electrification or power frequencies.
[i] Sage C., Burgio E., Electromagnetic Fields, Pulsed Radiofrequency Radiation, and Epigenetics: How Wireless Technologies May Affect Childhood Development. Child Development, XXX 2017, Vol 00, No 0, pages 1-8
[ii] Mchiara De Luca et al., Metabolic and Genetic Screening of Electromagnetic Hypersensitive Subjects as a Feasible Tool for Diagnostics and Intervention Mediators of Inflammation Vol 201 Article ID 924184
Dr. Bruce Hoffman, MSc, MBChB, FAARM, IFMCP is a Calgary-based Integrative and Functional medicine practitioner. He is the medical director at the Hoffman Centre for Integrative Medicine and The Brain Centre of Alberta specializing in complex medical conditions. He was born in South Africa and obtained his medical degree from the University of Cape Town. He is a certified Functional Medicine Practitioner (IFM), is board certified with a fellowship in anti-aging (hormones) and regenerative medicine (A4M), a certified Shoemaker Mold Treatment Protocol Practitioner (CIRS) and ILADS trained in the treatment of Lyme disease and co-infections. He is the co-author of a recent paper published by Dr. Afrin’s group: Diagnosis of mast cell activation syndrome: a global “consensus-2”. Read more about Dr. Bruce Hoffman.