Humans are exposed to low-level electromagnetic fields (EMFs) every day. From the power lines over our heads to the microwave ovens in our kitchens, our computer screens, our televisions, and even our mobile phones, we are constantly being subjected to low levels.
Data has shown that exposure to high electromagnetic fields can have adverse effects such as cancer, so it’s natural to be concerned about the effect of long term exposure to low-frequency electromagnetic fields. What can be done if exposure results in biological damage?
How to Reverse EMF Damage According to Science
- Those who have had long term exposure to EMFs may find beneficial effects from resveratrol supplements
- Discontinuing or limiting the use of devices producing electromagnetic fields can reverse short term damage
Since it is difficult to reverse EMF damage and many studies are inconclusive, most experts advise reducing exposure in order to decrease the risk of future adverse effects and possibly revert some early damage. Ways to limit exposure includes the following advice:
- Limit exposure by setting cell phones to airplane mode when not in use, using only when necessary, and increasing distance from the phone through the utilization of speakerphone
- Unplug electronic devices when not in use
- Only receive X-rays and MRIs when medically necessary
- Reduce exposure to UV light
A 2017 study by Zhang, et al, showed that workers who were exposed to low-frequency electromagnetic fields over long periods due to their occupations had notable biological variances compared to control populations. These biological changes were indicative of oxidative stress on the body and inflammation.
By administering 500 mg of resveratrol twice daily, these adverse biological findings were significantly reduced and returned to near-normal levels.
A large amount of research has been conducted in order to try to better understand the effects of electromagnetic fields on humans, but the results are still inconclusive.
In order to understand the full influence of electromagnetic fields on humans, it is important to understand what they are and what are some common sources. Read on to learn more about electromagnetic fields and what can be done to limit exposure, as well as what current scientific research concludes in regards to the effects of exposure.
What Are Electromagnetic Fields (EMFs)?
According to the World Health Organization, an electric field is created by differences in voltage. The greater the disparity between the two voltages, the stronger the electric field.
A magnetic field is created by a flowing electric current. Stronger electric currents make stronger magnetic fields. Thus, an electromagnetic field will be produced wherever there is a flow of electricity.
Electromagnetic fields are the combination of these invisible electric and magnetic force fields. Radio frequencies, such as those used in mobile phones, tend to be higher frequency, while those emitted from power lines tend to be much lower frequencies.
Static fields are those that do not vary and thus are neither high or low frequency. Static fields are found in medical imaging equipment such as MRIs and any appliance with a direct current.
There has been mounting concern over the past years about the potentially adverse health effects caused by the repeated, long term exposure of humans to electromagnetic fields every day. As such, there have been extensive amounts of research conducted to explore the effect of electromagnetic fields upon the human body.
How Do Electromagnetic Fields Affect the Human Body?
The human body is capable of withstanding many environmental influences without adverse health effects. Since most humans don’t live in a vacuum, there is inevitably a range of environmental stimuli a human encounters every day.
The human body is therefore prepared to adjust to and process the numerous influences it is subjected to every day. However, the body can only withstand so much, and it is not prepared for all biological effects encountered.
If the body undergoes a change in response to a stimulus and that change is irreversible, resulting in systemic stress, then this can be considered a health hazard.
The individual displays a detectable adverse health effect, which can affect the individual’s quality of life or his or her offspring. The question is whether the influence of electromagnetic fields is great enough to qualify as a health hazard.
It has been shown that electromagnetic fields do incite biological responses in the body, as long as the electromagnetic fields are above a particular strength threshold. However, it has not been shown that these biological responses are irreversible or harmful.
Current restrictions limit electromagnetic fields from being at higher, possibly more detrimental levels. As such, there can be steps taken to prevent damage or reverse abnormal biological responses before damage occurs.
Currently, there is debate as to whether long term exposure to low-level electromagnetic fields may have negative effects on humans in the long run. The International Agency for Research on Cancer has expressed concern about the possible carcinogenic hazards from repeated daily exposure.
Most research has been unable to confirm a large effect from electromagnetic field exposure, but the studies have also been unable to rule out the possibility of smaller risks. These smaller risks are harder to identify and more difficult to directly attribute to the electromagnetic fields, so much more intense research is required in these areas.
What Are the Different Types of EMF Exposure?
It is understood that there are two types of exposure resulting from electromagnetic fields. The majority of electromagnetic fields that humans are exposed to daily, such as from microwave ovens, cell phones, and power lines, are classified as non-ionizing radiation. This is also called low-level radiation.
The other category of exposure is classified as ionizing radiation, also called high-level radiation. It is found in ultraviolet rays and X-rays. Most people are not exposed to ionizing radiation on a frequent basis.
To read more in-depth about non-ionizing and ionizing radiation, check out this informative article.
How Do I Protect Myself From Electromagnetic Field Exposure?
Due to the increased demand for better, more extensive technology and rising dependence upon devices such as cellular phones and computers, we are inevitably being exposed to low-frequency electromagnetic fields every day.
Luckily, most of the latest research concludes that the levels of low-frequency electromagnetic fields we are exposed to every day are unlikely to have any adverse health effects, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try to limit our exposure due to potential adverse long term effects that have not yet been identified by research.
The first step to protecting yourself against electromagnetic field exposure is simply acknowledging their existence and recognizing the numerous sources we encounter throughout the day.
Try to limit your proximity to sources, such as by using headphones and the speaker function on cell phones to keep a further distance from the device.
Only use phones and computers when necessary, and walk away from them when not using them. When sleeping, place your cell phone somewhere that isn’t near your bed. If possible, don’t carry your cell phone in a pocket or on your body.
Unplug any electronic devices in your home when they are not in use in order to limit cumulative field exposure levels. Exposure to higher electromagnetic field levels can be limited by making choices to only receive X-rays when medically necessary and to limit UV exposure.
What Is Resveratrol and How Does It Relate to Electromagnetic Field Exposure?
Resveratrol is a naturally occurring phytoalexin, which is a component produced by some plants as a response to injury and stress. If these plants are attacked, bruised, or become sick, resveratrol may be released within the plant to combat the offense.
Naturally, resveratrol levels can be found in food at varying levels. The most common sources include berries, grapes, and peanuts.
Due to resveratrol being present in grapes, this means that some wines actually include the beneficial compound, as well, in varying amounts depending on the varietal of wine and the production process.
Red wines have higher levels due to resveratrol being present in higher concentrations in the skin of grapes, and red wine is fermented with the grape skin still present.
More recently, supplements have been developed containing resveratrol. Many studies have been conducted on the potentially beneficial effect of this supplement in a wide variety of conditions and situations, including a study by Zhang et al demonstrating the reversal of damage caused by electromagnetic field exposure in a population taking resveratrol supplements.
What Are Sources of Electromagnetic Fields?
There are a number of natural sources of electromagnetic fields. For example, thunderstorms create a build-up in electric charge in the atmosphere. The earth also has a natural magnetic field, which is why a compass will always point North.
The growing concern of the effect of electromagnetic fields is mostly due to the increase in man-made sources of electromagnetic fields. Medical equipment such as X-ray machines or MRIs produce electromagnetic fields, while television or computer screens at home produce low levels, as well.
Cell phones, a device that has been skyrocketing in use and popularity over the past decade, are also a source of low frequency electromagnetic fields. As such, most humans today are constantly being exposed to low frequency electromagnetic fields every day.
Any wire that has a charge will emit an electric field. As such, any electronic device in the home or office will have a corresponding field associated with it.
Every power socket also constantly emits a low frequency electromagnetic field. Electromagnetic fields are strongest closest to the source, and the strength of the field rapidly weakens as the distance from the source increases.
Objects and materials within an electric field can also weaken its influence. For example, the roof on a house will shield the occupant from the full influence of the electric fields created by the power lines overhead outside the home. Magnetic fields, however, are not blocked by objects such as walls or roofs.
What Happens When You Are Exposed to Electromagnetic Fields?
Concern about exposure to electromagnetic fields has been increasing in recent decades due to the steady rise of man-made electromagnetic fields.
More and more artificial sources of electromagnetic fields are being created every day in order to keep up with demands for advancing technologies and shifts in social behaviors requiring more electronics.
As a result, we are all exposed to a number of electric and magnetic fields every day. These fields vary in intensity and sources can be found both at home and at work.
Currently, there is no evidence-based research that confirms any adverse effect on humans from long-term exposure to radio frequency fields, but this area is still actively being researched.
The human body has a normal amount of tiny electrical currents running through it due to normal chemical reactions that occur to keep the body alive.
Nerves use electric impulses to communicate through the body, controlling everything from the process of digestion to our ability to see. Even the heart is stimulated to beat via natural electrical impulses, which is why a doctor can study heartbeats using an electrocardiogram.
Low-frequency electric fields will cause current to be conducted through a body (or any other conducting material) to the ground.
Low-frequency magnetic fields will incite currents within the body, the strength of which will vary based on the magnetic field influence. If the intensity is great enough, a magnetic field can disrupt normal biological processes.
The main biological effect of electromagnetic fields created by radio frequency is simply the production of heat. This is actually capitalized upon in microwave ovens, which use this side effect of the fields to heat food.
EMFs have also been shown to increase the occurrence of reactive oxygen species, which can be toxic and cause cell damage if elevated.
The International EMF Project
In 1996, the World Health Organization initiated a large scale international research program called the International EMF Project. It was launched in order to address growing public concern about the potential ill health effects of long term exposure to low-level electromagnetic fields.
Due to this initiative, the effect of electromagnetic fields has been the subject of thousands of research projects and heavily studied by the scientific community.
After consulting the conclusions of all this research, the World Health Organization determined that it could not be confirmed with certainty that exposure to low-level electromagnetic fields resulted in any adverse health effects.
Despite the extensive amounts of research, many believe there are still areas that could be studied further. Most notably lacking is an in-depth analysis of smaller, more difficult to identify and quantify effects of prolonged exposure to low-level electromagnetic fields.
What Sort of Symptoms Does One Experience With Long Term Electromagnetic Field Exposure?
According to some sources, those who have experienced long term exposure to electromagnetic fields in their home have reported symptoms such as headaches, insomnia, anxiety, suicide, depression, nausea, fatigue, tingling or burning, and memory issues, but no research has been able to definitively attribute these symptoms of electromagnetic fields yet.
There has been extensive research investigating whether the daily exposure to electromagnetic fields from sources such as computer screens, radars, electric blankets, and cell phones at normal environmental levels has any adverse effect on pregnancy. To date, most evidence shows that typical environmental levels of electromagnetic fields do not increase pregnancy risks.
A few reports have been made upon the increased frequency of low birth weights and premature births among workers that are exposed to higher electromagnetic field frequencies, but this data doesn’t generally apply to the normal levels most humans encounter every day.
If fields are strong enough, it can lead directly to heating body tissues, resulting in damage to tissues and organs. Hold a cell phone to your ear for long enough and you will feel the heat.
Some workers who have been exposed to higher electromagnetic frequencies have complained of ocular damage such as cataract and eye irritation, but these levels of electromagnetic fields are not usually encountered by the general public.
Do Electromagnetic Fields Cause Cancer?
Numerous studies have been conducted to specifically study the correlation between electromagnetic field exposure and the development of cancer. Even with the expansive amount of study, the conclusions are still controversial. The studies tend to be inconsistent and occasionally contradictory.
The World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) classifies electromagnetic fields as “possibly carcinogenic to humans.” This indicates the IARC finds some studies show a possibility of a correlation between electromagnetic field exposure and cancer development, but it cannot definitely confirm the correlation.
A handful of epidemiological studies have drawn inferences between increased risk of childhood leukemia and exposure to low-frequency magnetic fields, but the conclusions of these studies have not been reproduced in smaller clinical lab studies. As such, a portion of the scientific community does not accept these studies as evidence of electromagnetic fields causing cancer.
Other studies with the IARC have investigated whether cell phones are specifically responsible for the development of gliomas and acoustic neuromas, both forms of cancer in the brain, but so far research findings have only made loose connections and have been inadequate to make definite conclusions.
The studies upon whether long term exposure to electromagnetic fields cause cancer are still being actively studied. Hopefully, these large-scale, international research efforts will eventually be able to resolve the controversy surrounding this subject.
What Influences the Number of Electromagnetic Fields in My Home?
Due to the increased demands of modern technology and convenience in the home, many humans are exposed to several different sources of electromagnetic fields every day. Certain homes may have more sources and stronger fields than others.
The proximity to power lines has a direct influence on the strength of electromagnetic fields, and homes that are much closer to high voltage power lines will have stronger electromagnetic fields. However, walls and roofs tend to at least partially dampen the electric component of these fields.
The greatest source of electromagnetic fields in the modern home is electric appliances. While lightbulbs produce a relatively weak electromagnetic field, appliances such as stereo receivers and refrigerators create a much stronger field.
To see the measured electric field strength of many common household items, read more here. While most sources in the home are quite low, these influences can be cumulative.
Contrary to some thoughts, the strength of the electromagnetic field does not directly correlate to the size, power, complexity, or even the noise level of the device.
The field strength can vary between different models of the same product, as well. The fields are strongest when very close to the source, so luckily most household items are not used in close range and humans are not exposed to concerning levels from a single source.
Microwave ovens operate at high power levels and thus produce a strong electromagnetic field, but current manufacturing regulations require microwaves to implement shielding mechanisms to prevent the electromagnetic fields from leaking out at dangerous levels.
Therefore, modern microwave ovens are safe for consumers because the user is shielded from dangerous frequencies of electromagnetic fields.
What Are Sources of Electromagnetic Fields in the Environment?
One of the most common sources of electromagnetic fields in the environment is radar. Radar is used for many functions, including weather forecasting and navigation. Radars emit pulses of microwave signals, and each pulse can actually be quite powerful.
To reduce the overall risk to the public near the radar source, most radars vary their direction and rotate so as to discharge the pulses in varying directions.
Security systems and anti-theft systems are another source of electromagnetic fields outside of the home. Any consumer who has been shopping in a clothing store lately has probably noticed the security tags on garments that will trigger the alarm if one tries to exit the store with the tag. Once the garment is purchased, the tag is either deactivated or removed.
Metal detectors and airport security systems, in contrast, operate at levels that produce very strong electromagnetic fields. However, exposure to these devices is usually limited to very short periods of time.
Mobile Phones and Electromagnetic Fields
Mobile phones have received a lot of attention in concern to electromagnetic fields, as society has become more and more dependent upon these low-power radio wave devices.
The base station towers for mobile phones emit radiofrequency waves of varying levels, dependent upon the number of calls and the distance of callers from stations. Most towers are high enough that by the time the electromagnetic fields reach the ground level, they are of very weak levels.
Using a mobile phone, however, results in direct exposure to a much stronger field. Phones are held very close to the head, meaning the head absorbs the majority of the wave. This can be felt like a thermal effect, explaining how phones can cause the side of the face it is being used on to feel hot.
There is some concern that this direct absorption may have subtle effects on biological processes and potentially cause cancer, especially certain forms of brain cancer, and more research is necessary to determine whether mobile phone usage may have a long term negative health effect.
How Much Electromagnetic Radiation Am I Exposed to every day?
For most humans, it is difficult to identify the exact location of sources of electromagnetic radiation, such as radio or cell phone transmission towers, and the numerous sources present in urban environments may result in difficulty quantifying field levels. As such, studies have been implemented in order to determine what constitutes an average exposure level.
In a study by the National Institute for Public Health and the Environment, the exposure of the public was dependent upon where people were and what they did.
As such, individual exposure levels can fluctuate drastically among populations. The highest exposure levels were shown by those who were nearest overhead power lines or near equipment such as laptops or mobile phones.
In this study, mobile phones were shown to be the largest source of exposure, either by direct use or by being in proximity to another user. As such, areas that are more populated, such as shopping malls or public transport, resulted in overall higher exposure levels.
As these studies indicated, it is difficult to determine exactly how much electromagnetic radiation an individual is exposed to every day, but factors such as increased proximity to power lines and more frequent usage of cellular phones increases the overall exposure level.
If you are concerned about the level of electromagnetic fields you are experiencing every day, your exposure levels can be checked by using an EMF meter. These are handheld devices that can measure the low-frequency exposures to which the user is subjected to throughout the day. These meters are easily available online from a number of retailers.