Cell phones computers tablets plasma televisions Bluetooth audio systems and headsets hands-free vehicle technology routers and modems cable networks and now smart watches. We have a strange attraction to watch reality television shows that depict individuals living “off the grid” but have you ever stopped to consider what “grid” we are actually living in? The surge in technology growth over the last two decades has streamed by us much like the old Looney Tunes character the Road Runner. As the vast majority of us still stand bedazzled by the endless technological possibilities a growing segment wonders whether we are turning a blind eye to the potential dangers of this technological era. Apprehension is mounting as we consider the children of today who are immersed in a technological blanket like no other generation before them. Most of us are fairly quick to defend the unquestionable opportunities technology has afforded to us and in all fairness we have reached a point at which the necessity for technology is unavoidable. However it still important to keep in mind that not all that glitters is gold.
Electromagnetic fields (EMF) are energy or electrical fields that span our entire environment and interact with biological and physical energy fields. Increasing in wavelength or frequency EMFs consist of radio waves microwaves infrared visible light ultraviolet x-rays and gamma rays.
Various health concerns have risen in connection to extremely low frequency EMFs (ELF-EMF) and radiofrequency EMFs (RF-EMFs) which possess frequencies slightly higher than ELF-EMFs. Power lines electrical networks and various household electric appliances such as ranges microwave ovens vacuum cleaners and hair dryers generate ELF-EMFs. The International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection has set occupational and public limits for ELF-EMF exposure to protect both the central nervous system and the peripheral nervous system. RF-EMFs are used in communication systems and therefore produced by mobile phones cordless phones utility “smart” meters remotes and wireless networks. Exposure guidelines are allegedly maintained by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and National Council on Radiation Protection and Measurements (NCRP).
Parents practitioners and general consumers have been increasingly concerned about the possibility of long term health effects due to EMF exposure. Unfortunately we live in a world that deems most of these concerns illegitimate until absolutely proven otherwise. Additionally with only fifteen strong technological years behind us long term studies are nonexistent creating more friction among technological devotees and skeptics. The WHO issued a statement that the “IARC has classified radiofrequency electromagnetic fields as possibly carcinogenic to humans (Group 2B) a category used when a causal association is considered credible;” however the studies used in this conclusion had various shortcomings making the final proposition more lenient than reality may present. Despite the ambiguous language set forth by the WHO the International Journal of Oncology recently published a case-control study that confirmed “an association between mobile and cordless phone use and malignant brain tumors” and supported “the hypothesis that RF-EMFs play a role both in the initiation and promotion stages of carcinogenesis.”
Exposure to RF-EMFs and ELF-EMFs during pregnancy infancy and childhood is particularly concerning as the high rates of cellular differentiation and organ development may be more sensitive to these fields and yield greater health effects. Only a few months ago the Pediatric Endocrinology Reviews argued “there are unignorable amounts of studies indicating the increased risk of cancer hematologic effects and cognitive impairment” from EMF exposure. Additionally a “growing number of studies reveal the impacts on metabolism and endocrine function…reproductive system and growth…thyroid functions adrenal hormones glucose homeostasis and melatonin levels.” Research continues to progress in assessing the statistical significance of the known association between childhood leukemia and ELF-EMF exposure.
The negative health outcomes of EMF exposure span beyond the scope of cancer in both children and adults. Numerous research publications summarized in the most recent update of the BioInitiative Report also draws attention to EMF-induced changes in neuronal activity function and toxicity leading to neuropsychiatric and cognitive problems disturbances in neurotransmitters increased oxidative stress reduced cytotoxic activity and immune dysfunction and much more.
When viewed in totality the possible health consequences of EMF exposure are much greater than many may have anticipated. Only time will draw a clearer picture of the part toxic EMF exposure may play in a diagnostic workup and the functional medicine paradigm but it is clear at present that taking precautions and minimizing lengthy exposure would be prudent especially among pregnant women and children.