Modern technology has brought us all many opportunities and gifts. As an owner of an online business, technology has allowed me to pursue my passions, focus on work-life balance, travel with a flexible schedule, raise money for worthy causes, teach people around the world and greatly expand my community (my school, the Academy of Culinary Nutrition, has over 1,800 Culinary Nutrition Experts in nearly 60 countries). I am very grateful for the brilliant technologies that allow me to create meaningful work and connect with all of you, many of which didn't even exist when I started my business over a decade ago. Still, technology has its costs – and that's why I want to discuss the impending arrival of 5G, and more specifically EMFs (electromagnetic fields) and their impact on our health.
What are EMFs?
EMFs are electric and magnetic fields that travel in waves together. There are natural sources of EMFs from the sun, the earth, weather patterns (such as thunderstorms) and in our bodies, as well as man-made EMFs – these are the types of EMFs that are studied, and heavily debated.
There are two main groups of radiation from EMFs:
- Non-ionizing: these are sources that emit low to mid levels of radiation, including computers, cell phones, wifi, microwave ovens, power lines, Bluetooth devices, kitchen appliances, smart meters, televisions, electrical wiring, cell phone towers, routers and MRIs. Signals from cell phones, wifi and Bluetooth are also called radiofrequency radiation (RFs).
- Ionizing: these are sources that emit high levels of radiation that damage our cells and DNA, such as X-rays and ultraviolet (UV) rays from the sun.
Potential Health Effects of EMFs
This is a controversial area, as many government bodies and the World Health Organization have deemed EMFs safe. They claim that the amount of exposure we receive from EMFs is too low to negatively impact health, and point out that scientific studies haven't been able to make a concrete link between EMFs and specific health concerns like cancer.
There are a few challenges I see with determining the true impact of EMFs:
No Control Group
Typically, in scientific experiments, one group will receive the variable being tested and the other – the control group – will not. However, as this journal article points out, with EMFs, "there no longer remains an unexposed control group." It's hard to sort out which element is causing or affecting which result, particularly with radiofrequency radiation (RFs).
Studies began investigating EMFs a few decades ago, looking at certain sources like power lines, electrical wiring and household appliances. This was well before we all had the internet, cell phones and smartphones. In Canada, where I live, there were 100,000 cell phone users in 1987. Now there are nearly 30 million and about 13,000 towers so we can receive data whenever we need it. This is quite staggering considering our total population is about 37 million!
Worldwide, the number of mobile phone users is expected to reach nearly 5 billion by 2020. We don't know at this point how safe it is to be constantly exposed to wifi in the long-term. It may be safe, or it may not be: "Because this is the first generation to have cradle-to-grave lifespan exposure to this level of man-made radio frequencies, it will be years or decades before the true health consequences are known."
Accumulation of Toxic Exposures
Scientific research looks at variables in isolation. So, perhaps, low-levels of EMFs and RFs are safe if that was the only thing our bodies had to contend with right now. However, when we add in the burden of chemicals from cleaning products, beauty and personal care products, GMOs, herbicides and pesticides, environmental pollution, plastics, xenoestrogens, fragrances, air fresheners, water quality, additives and preservatives in our food, food dyes, natural and artificial flavours, sugar and artificial sweeteners... and well, you get the picture. We don't know what the pileup of these factors will produce.
We are perpetually exposed to an onslaught of compounds that place a burden on our bodies and have the potential to cause a variety of negative health consequences. When we account for all of these additional factors, EMFs may be the breaking point for some of us, or may have a different impact when it is combined with individual diet and other lifestyle factors.
There are reasons to be concerned about EMFs. The potential health risks of EMFs and wifi include:
- Oxidative stress: damage to our cells and our antioxidant defences
- Reproduction and infertility: hormonal changes and damage to sperm quality
- Brain/cognition: depression and depressive symptoms, fatigue, lack of focus and concentration, memory changes, anxiety, irritability, head tumors
- Insomnia and poor sleep quality
- Low birth weight and risk of spontaneous preterm birth
It's thought that children may be more susceptible to the effects of EMFs and RFs, while adolescent mobile phone use can lead to impaired memory. According to the authors of this article in the Electromagnetic Biology and Medicine Journal:
"While several years ago the potential hazard was connected with placement of mobile phones close to the human head, today smart phones represent small, but powerful computers continuously receiving audio and video data. The largest group of users is the children and teenagers who "need" to communicate nearly 24 hours a day. This is even more important because cell phones and tablets may be seen in the hands of children as little as two years in age. There is no way to assess and predict the potential damages of children brain, vision and hearing under exposure to RF radiation."
This is why we chose not to have a baby monitor, cameras, noise machines or other electronic devices in our son's nursery.
And with the upcoming rollout of the 5G network and 5G phones, designed to be faster and have a longer battery life, who knows what additional health complications may arise?
5G Is Coming. What Is IT And SHOULD WE BE CONCERNED?
Spoiler alert: Yes. We should be very concerned.
Remember 3G? That was basically the first version of the digital cellular network that coincided with the wide-reach of the smartphone. It was what allowed us to very, very slowly surf the web on our phones. And guess what? We thought it was amazing! Well, up next is 5G or fifth generation. It was first deployed in South Korea in April of 2019 and there are a few major US cities giving it a buzz (pun fully intended).
The 5G purported consumer benefits are that it is faster. Faster upload, faster download. It also requires a larger amount of radiation and more antennas – already we have our first country, Belgium, banning it altogether.
Ms. Fremault, the Minister of the Government in Belgium, has said that a 5G pilot project does not comply with the Belgian radiation safety standards. “I cannot welcome such technology if the radiation standards, which must protect the citizen, are not respected, 5G or not. The people of Brussels are not guinea pigs whose health I can sell at a profit. We cannot leave anything to doubt.” (Read more here.)
More than 180 doctors and scientists from across the EU are warning against the adoption of 5G
More than 180 doctors and scientists from across the EU are warning against the adoption of 5G with a written statement that says:
“We, the undersigned scientists, recommend a moratorium on the roll-out of the fifth generation, 5G, for telecommunication until potential hazards for human health and the environment have been fully investigated by scientists independent from industry. 5G will substantially increase exposure to radiofrequency electromagnetic fields (RF-EMF) on top of the 2G, 3G, 4G, WiFi etc. for telecommunications already in place. RF-EMF has been proven to be harmful for humans and the environment.... 5G leads to massive increase of mandatory exposure to wireless radiation 5G technology is effective only over a short distance. It is poorly transmitted through solid material. Many new antennas will be required and full-scale implementation will result in antennas every 10 to 12 houses in urban areas, thus massively increasing mandatory exposure."
There is absolutely no way that the radiation levels in our home and public spaces are inert. It has not met with the gold standard of testing. As outlined above, there are no long-term, placebo-controlled studies. There has never been a population that has had the radiation exposure that we are now receiving.
There's a reason why pregnant women aren't x-rayed, why giant protective blankets are thrown over you when you get an x-ray at the dentist, and why Apple has a warning right on their phones that the device should never be held up right beside your face.
There have been bans on the building of towers in Australia, for fears of spying by Chinese makers, and some other countries have held off on their decision also for political/security concerns. Some claim that 5G puts us under an unprecedented level of monitoring. I have basically accepted that anything said when my phone is turned on, is being heard somewhere by someone or something. What keeps me up at night, however, is not the spying. It's the potential that our nervous systems are slowly but surely being fried.
Though there aren't long-term studies of the safety of 5G, there are plenty of studies that show otherwise.
- Cancer epidemiology update, following the 2011 IARC evaluation of radiofrequency electromagnetic fields. The review shows that evidence is now conclusive that radiofrequency radiation is carcinogenic to humans (Miller 2018). (Previous studies that show the same “cause” for cancer include Hardell 2017, Atzman 2016 and Peleg 2018.)
- The US National Toxicology Program (NTP) Study on Cell Phone Radiation: Connected cancer, heart damage and DNA damage to EMF levels in a $30-million study.
- "Tumor promotion by exposure to radiofrequency electromagnetic fields below exposure limits for humans” showed that extremely low levels of radiation, below what is currently considered safe, increased incidence of tumors.
- 5G Wireless Expansion: Public Health and Environmental Implications is a 5G research review that collects and shares the range of reported effects of RF and millimetre waves including everything from increased rates of cancer, to DNA changes and damage. The study closed with “a moratorium on the deployment of 5G is warranted”.
- “Exposure of Insects to Radio-Frequency Electromagnetic Fields from 2 to 120 GHz” published in Scientific Reports shows the effects the potential 5G rollout will have on the honeybee population, which as we know is vital to our food supply and the human population.
Again, this is a very short list. A longer list of studies and summaries can be found here.
What You Can Do About EMFs and Wifi Exposure
Unless we completely live off the grid, we will be exposed to EMFs and RFs. However, there are many ways we can reduce and mitigate our exposure and its effects!
Turn Off Devices at Night or When You're Not Using Them
In our home, we like to turn off our router overnight. You don't need to be connected 24/7, so this is an easy place to start. You can also turn off wifi on your phone when you are at home, don't leave your computer or laptop on all day, unplug devices and appliances when not in use, and power down your phone at night. We also have a rule of no technology of any kind in the bedroom.
Use Airplane Mode
When your phone or other devices are in airplane mode, they cannot send or receive any signals. Unless you are expecting an important phone call, leaving your phone in airplane mode for periods throughout the day not only reduces exposure to EMFs and RFs, but also minimizes distractions!
Use Old School Cables
If you don't want wifi in your home at all, you can still use ethernet cables and plug them into the wall for your internet. Then, you can turn off all of the wifi settings on your computer.
Buy an EMF Protector
There are many EMF shields you can buy for your body, your cell phone, your laptop and other electronic devices that will block radiation. I wore one while I was pregnant and nursing, since I would often multitask during feedings.
Don't Use Devices Close to Your Body
Distance is your friend with EMFs – the frequencies weaken the further away from the source. Obviously, you can't use your laptop from six feet away but you can put some distance between you by not resting it on your lap. Instead of holding the phone to your ear, try headphones. Also, don't keep your phone in your pocket – store it away in your backpack, bag or purse. You can read more about habits for healthier cell phone use here.
Protect Yourself In The Workplace
If you work in an office, you're exposed to many different sources of EMFs. Here are some solutions to protect yourself against workplace EMFs.
Protect yourself from the oxidative damage caused by EMFs by eating antioxidant-rich foods, including dark leafy greens, berries, dark chocolate, green tea, root veggies and fish. An anti-inflammatory diet is also helpful.
Leave your devices at home and spend some time in nature, which can help boost the immune system, lift your mood, reduce pain and stress, and support the nervous system.
EMF Protective Paint
This is a costly endeavour (I looked into it!). The paint is expensive but it is effective. If you or someone in your home has severe sensitivity to EMFs, this is a solution worth looking into. The protective paint blocks RF electromagnetic fields and low-frequency electrical fields. This can be helpful if you live in dense cities where even if you turn off your own router at night, you still receive signals from other homes. The downside to this paint is that while it blocks EMFs from external sources, it traps them from anything emitting inside the home, too. You would have to eliminate all devices inside, otherwise all the radiation will be trapped. So this would be best for those who get very sick from any EMFs. If you go this route, I would recommend it for the bedroom as a starting place. Here is one example of the product.
EMF Protective Sleep Canopy
Think of a mosquito net. That's what the EMF protective sheeting is like. You would hang it from your ceiling and tuck it under your mattress. It makes your sleeping space a protective zone. These claim to greatly reduce microwave exposure and again, like with the paint, is a great solution where you receive more than your own WIFI signal. Like the protective paint above, the canopy will also trap any indoor EMF sources - ensure you don't have any devices near or in the bed. This site offers a review of the top five EMF bed canopies.
Protest (In Your Own Way)
It will be the population of our cities that will have to do the heavy lifting to keep this from coming. Create and circulate a petition in your community. Organize a march. Share this post. Make some noise. Get educated and educate others. This matters.
Practice the Joy of Missing Out (JOMO)
We are addicted to technology because we fear we will miss something awesome and we view it as a vital mode of connection. Instead of constantly checking your phone, try to practice the Joy of Missing Out, where we deliberately eschew technology in favour of spending time alone, with friends or family, or being in the present moment. More JOMO tips here!
Since we can't truly see EMFs or always feel their immediate effects, it can be easy to pretend they aren't there or put EMF protection low on the list of things to do. We don't need to live in fear of technology, but we can put some simple things in place to reduce our EMF exposure. Once you get in the habit, it will become second nature!
I used to joke about buying an island and moving far, far away. It's scary how real and essential this plan is starting to feel.
Image: iStock: FactoryTh