What are EMFs and why should we be concerned about them?
What are EMFs? Electromagnetic fields or frequencies (EMFs) are electrically generated energies that extend beyond the source of generation, including cables and electrical equipment. EMF levels are measured and compared to precautionary values using electronic meters.
There are three principle types of EMF:
1. A/C Electrical fields.
2. A/C Magnetic fields.
3. Radio frequency radiation
The current standards for safe levels of exposure to EMFs were devised at a time when exposure to EMFs was nowhere near the level it is today in modern life. They were also built on the assumption that any negative health impacts would be caused by thermal effects on the body. However, there is a growing body of evidence of non-thermal biological effects from EMFs that are injurious to human health.
A/C Electrical fields
A/C Electrical fields extend from electrical wiring cables, cords & power lines either buried or overhead. The size and electrical potential of the fields is dependent on the voltage and the current amperage and type of sheathing or conduit surrounding the conductor. A/C alternating current is at @50 hz (switching from positive to negative 50 times a second)
Depending on the kinds of equipment or lamps connected to a circuit, there is a probability that high frequency transient voltages create what has been called ‘dirty electricity’ in a circuit. Dirty electricity is when the electromagnetic energy flowing along a conductor deviates from a pure 50/60 Hz sine wave. You would not be aware of this under normal circumstances without testing. In a ‘Building Biology’ approach we measure in volts per meter in free air. And a direct body voltage measurement in Millivolts per meter with a ground reference point for more accurate results.
A/C Magnetic fields
A/C Magnetic fields form arc-shaped 360 degree fields which extend to a lesser extent than electrical fields, but with greater intensity which makes them more biologically active. The primary consideration from the testing point of view is to determine whether wiring errors exist within a building that could lead to highly elevated fields extending many meters into a room . We also look for currents on metal pipes and poor grounding/earth rod connections which create the same effect building-wide. By raising awareness of any sources or appliances with readings above 20 Nano tesla, the building biology precautionary level ensures long-term high exposure is avoided. People tend to develop reactions to specific kinds of EMF dependent upon proximity.
RF Radio frequency radiation
Radio frequency radiation or two way wireless communication devices or systems. In simple terms this is a generated carrier wave which has modulated pulsed signals (pockets of information) attached to it in order to carry the information packets further afield. The 4G LTE network, to give one example, may travel 100km which, by design, penetrates building structures effectively to provide cell reception indoors. Unless shielding measures are in place we are subject to exposure even during sleeping hours which could inhibit cellular regeneration. Since the last official review of safety standards in 1996, the spectrum and increasing bandwidth of transmission have risen exponentially. It has been claimed that the standards (themselves only focused on thermal heating effects rather than other biological effects) are out of date.
What is the evidence for the need to take a precautionary approach to EMFs?
It has been claimed that these elements in our living environment are impacting on our biological function and therefore we should apply precautionary exposure limits in our daily lives. Due to their prevalence in modern environments that we don’t have control over, I focus on those that we do have control over – those in our homes, particularly sleeping areas.
The ‘Building Biology’ approach recommends a precautionary approach and has defined a set of standards to be applied to the risks in living and working environments – SBM 2015 testing standards and these are the standards that I work to. You can find further information using the links below, so you can make up your own mind about whether a precautionary approach could be beneficial to your health and wellbeing.
Evidence for carcinogenic effects of EMFs
In 2011 IARC (the leading cancer research institute in the world based in France) in association with The WHO (World Health Organisation) classified RF radiation a class 2b Possible Human Carcinogen based upon evidence of the rise of cancers and brain tumors in cell phone users. This is a lower level classification than Probable Human Carcinogen but nonetheless provides a step forward in the development of a proper programme of research into the biological effects of radio frequency electromagnetic fields.
In 2018 the US Federal funded National Toxicology program released its findings on its research into the effects of radiofrequency radiation in rats following a Freedom of Information request. This showed evidence of DNA Damage and increased levels of cancers in male rats from prolonged exposure to radiofrequency radiation. The research study shows that there are non-thermal biological effects in rats at high levels of exposure and under certain conditions. It helps build the case that further research is needed into effects on humans.
The Italian Ramazzini Institute released similar findings but with lower powered cell tower emissions, as opposed to cellular telephone usage which are considerably elevated and subject to higher fluctuation based on signal strength and close proximity to the head.
Electromagnetic Hypersensitivity & EMFs
A recent academic research paper, published in the National Library of Medicine supports the existence of Electromagnetic hypersensitivity syndrome (EHS) and outlines the wide range of symptons experienced by EHS sufferers from exposure to EMFs .