What are the potential health effects of electromagnetic fields outlined in scientific research?
Man-made electromagnetic fields are proliferating our daily life. So, it should come as no surprise that the impact of increased exposure to this ubiquitous phenomena is escalating in society. The sheer number of sources, the increasing duration of exposure, and the range of frequencies that humans are now exposed to are a serious cause for concern. These include:
● Radio frequencies (RF) (3 MHz to 300 GHz) coming from radios and TV antennas, overlapping sources of Wi-Fi in the community, Wi-Fi routers, and a plethora of communication devices like smartphones, tablets, cordless phones, and Bluetooth devices.
● Extremely low-frequency electric fields (ELF EF) and their associated magnetic fields (ELF MF) (3 Hz to 3 kHz) from electrical wiring and related appliances.
● Very low-frequency electric fields (VLF EF) and their associated magnetic fields (VLF MF) (3 kHz to 3 MHz) due to harmonic voltage and current fluctuations including ‘dirty electricity’ carried on electrical wiring and the appliances they serve.
According to Belyaev et al (2016), there is strong evidence that long-term exposure to EMFs is a risk factor for diseases like cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, and male infertility.
Electromagnetic fields may impact the body at the cellular level by:
➊ Affecting voltage-gated calcium channels, which result in the influx of calcium ions into the cell, resulting in the production of free radicals (nitric oxide and peroxynitrite), which can lead to oxidative stress and inflammation (Pall, 2013).
➋ Reducing melatonin, a hormone secreted by the pineal gland, which protects DNA from oxidative damage, chronic disease and cancer (Aynali et al, 2013). Blue light from electronic devices like laptops and mobile phones and exposure to magnetic fields deceive the body into thinking it is daytime when melatonin production is usually switched off.
➌ Increasing the permeability of the blood-brain barrier via nitrotyrosine (Belpomme, Campagnac & Irigaray, 2015). The blood-brain barrier prevents toxicants from entering the brain.
➍ Damaging DNA, which, in turn, can lead to cancer (Friedman et al, 2007).
➎ Degranulating mast cells releasing histamines (Johansson et al, 2001). Mast cells play an important protective role in wound healing, defence against pathogens, and the blood-brain barrier function.
What does this mean for our body?
● Headaches and migraines
● Memory problems including word-finding issues (anomia) and dyslexia
● Learning, concentration and behavioural problems
● Flu-like symptoms
● Dizziness (problems with balance) and nausea
● Sleep problems like insomnia
● Eye issues: dry and gritty eyes, eyelid tics, irritation and pressure behind the eyes
● Anxiety and depression
● Muscle and joint pain, numbness, weakness, restless legs, spasms, tremors, pain in the jaw and teeth
● Skin: rashes, tingling, irritation, dry skin, lumps, pigmentation like brown ‘sunspots’, sensations similar to electric shocks, flushing and the skin feeling like its sunburnt
● Sensitivity to chemicals, light, noise or smells
● Tinnitus and hearing loss
● Cardiopulmonary: heart palpitations, high blood pressure, arrhythmias and shortness of breath
● An increased risk of brain tumours (gliomas and acoustic neuromas)
The World Health Organisation classified radiofrequency radiation as a Group 2B carcinogen ‘possibly carcinogenic to humans’ (IARC, 2011) as long ago as 2011.
Aynali G, Naziroglu M, Celik O, et al. Modulation of wireless (2.45 GHz)-induced oxidative toxicity in laryngotracheal mucosa of rat by melatonin. Eur Arch Otorhinolaryngol. 2013;270(5):1695–700. [PubMed] [Google Scholar]
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Belyaev I., Dean A., Eger H., et al. EUROPAEM EMF Guideline 2016 for the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of EMF-related health problems and illnesses. Reviews on Environmental Health. 2016;31(3):363–397. doi: 10.1515/reveh-2016-0011. [PubMed] [Google Scholar]
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Johansson O, Gangi S, Liang Y, Yoshimura K, Jing C, et al. Cutaneous mast cells are altered in normal healthy volunteers sitting in front of ordinary TVs/PCs – results from open-field provocation experiments. J Cutan Pathol 2001;28(10):513–9. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11737520
Pall M. L. (2013). Electromagnetic fields act via activation of voltage-gated calcium channels to produce beneficial or adverse effects. Journal of cellular and molecular medicine, 17(8), 958–965. doi:10.1111/jcmm.1208 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3780531/8