Non-Native Electromagnetic Frequencies
We are electromagnetic
All life is governed by electricity and electromagnetic frequencies—it’s how our cells communicate with each other, how our nerves and muscles work, how our brains communicate with the rest of our bodies. Electromagnetic radiation can be measured when a child is born, and remains present throughout our lives. And it’s not just what’s within us that’s important.
Ever laid on the grass in the sunlight and felt connected to the earth, like all was right in the world? That’s the good kind of electromagnetic conductivity. Radiation from sunlight helps our bodies function, and not getting enough can disrupt your sleep, your immune system, and even raise your risk for heart problems and some chronic diseases. There’s also increasing evidence that exposure to nature, particularly being barefoot in nature, lowers your cortisol, blood pressure, and heart rate, among other benefits.
But not all electromagnetic radiation is as good for you.
Non-native electromagnetic frequencies
Cities buzz with more than human activity. Unless you live out in the middle of nowhere, you’re constantly surrounded by non-native electromagnetic frequencies (nnEMFs), such as Wi-Fi, radar, and mobile networks.
You probably can barely imagine life without cell phones, computers, and the internet nowadays. If you’re like most people, you carry electromagnetic radiation around in your pocket, hold it in your hand multiple hours a day while you catch up on the news and social media, and maybe even sleep with it right by your head. But this is all a recent and quickly changing development in human history. Time spent on a mobile phone has increased 400% in UK adults just since 2011, children now get their first cell phones at an average age of 10, and most teenagers and young adults keep their phones with them most of the day and night (California Department of Public Health Guidelines).
While some people dismiss it as just scare-mongering by health nuts, research on non-native electromagnetic frequencies like cell phones and Wi-Fi is ongoing and concerning. Long-term, high use of cell phones may be linked to some cancers, and these frequencies have been labelled as potentially carcinogenic by the International Agency for Research on Cancer. This high use is also linked with problems with the eyes, headaches, and issues with memory and sleep (California Department of Public Health Guidelines). Blue light given off by mobiles and TVs has recently been in the news for its effects on the sleep cycle: it promotes alertness, but suppresses melatonin, which is why everyone seems to now agree that we’re not supposed to be on our phones while in bed. (https://dx.doi.org/10.1289%2Fehp.118-a22)
Many researchers are currently investigating the effects of nnEMFs in general and cell phone radiation in particular. It makes sense that since so much of our bodily functioning depends on electromagnetic frequencies, external, unnatural sources could have effects on us. But long-term studies are needed to really get answers, particularly for slowly developing problems like autoimmune diseases and cancers—and our exposure levels are growing rapidly and constantly. It wasn’t so long ago that hardly anyone had a mobile phone or full-home Wi-Fi coverage, and now today’s children have never experienced a world where they weren’t constantly surrounded by these frequencies. We’re basically experimenting on ourselves, and we’ll only find out the results of these experiments later.
The biggest problem with artificial electromagnetic radiation is that it’s everywhere, and it’s difficult to get away from it. You can reduce your exposure to things like lead, asbestos, and cigarette smoke, but nnEMFs are a different story. It seems that every coffee shop, train station, and other public place offers Wi-Fi access, and it’s now rare for most people to spend much time at all where they have no cell signal and no nearby Wi-Fi networks. Your mobile phone, computer, and other devices are probably central to your work and social life, and while you might go on a tech detox for a few hours or a few days, you’re unlikely to really get away from them long-term.
There are a few things you can do, however. Keep your phone and other devices like Wi-Fi routers away from your body as much as you can, especially while you’re asleep. Increase your time spent in nature, so that the effects of natural electromagnetic fields can counteract the damage of the unnatural ones. There are also some newly developed devices that can help protect against and neutralize artificial electromagnetic radiation, just by their passive presence in your home, or office, or pocket.
Even though we can’t see the electromagnetic fields and radiation that surround us, the natural type found in sunlight and the earth and the non-native type given off by cell towers and Wi-Fi can still have a significant impact on our health. We’ll only find out the full extent of this as long-term studies are done, but awareness can help protect your health now.