Cell Phones, Cell Antennas, Baby Monitors, Cordless Phones, Wi-Fi and Tablets
Manmade electromagnetic radiation (EMR) has become an ever-present invisible pollutant in our lives. Often referred to as “electro-pollution,” many of us are completely unaware of the sea of man-made electromagnetic radiation around us, day and night, generated by a host of wired and wireless devices indoors, and cell towers, base stations and antennas outdoors, which provide us with instant connectivity and a great deal of convenience. For health-minded, independent environmental scientists, researchers and technical EMR professionals are promoting a move toward better awareness about the possible adverse health effects of manmade EMR, including effects on the developing fetus.1
Even for those who don’t notice any reactions or symptoms, the data are compelling enough to support efforts toward reducing exposure, particularly for those who are trying to recover from illness of any kind, and those who are pregnant or have small children.
Unfortunately, a growing population is experiencing a range of subtle to serious symptoms, which they attribute to EMR, often termed “electrical sensitivity.” These reported symptoms include headaches, nausea, exhaustion, “burning” skin, dizziness, inability to concentrate, agitation, heart palpitations, anxiety, insomnia, tinnitus, chronic fatigue, joint pain, swelling of face and neck, eye problems, and rashes. In my work as a healthy building and interiors consultant, many of my clients are reporting just such symptoms.
While it may be difficult to pinpoint the exact cause of such symptoms, it’s important to take seriously the possible connection to EMR. Use of wireless technologies is increasing at warp speed with insufficient or no premarket assessment to determine the health risks. There have been too few independent large-scale, non- industry funded studies on people exposed to EMR. That is why professionals working on public policy change, such as Dr. Magda Havas2 and Elizabeth Kelley,3 are seeking a federally sponsored, sustained, and independent research program, with stakeholders to include concerned scientists and public advocates to oversee such a research program.
There is, however, a growing and substantial body of scientific evidence and research by independent, international scientists that associates EMR with serious health effects, much of which was compiled by the BioInitiative Report working group, in their “meta study” called Bioinitiative Report 2012.4 The research to date strongly supports the need for non-industry-funded, full-scale studies and resulting health standards for EMR from cell phones, cell antennas, Wi-Fi, and cordless phones.
In the meantime, a precautionary approach is highly recommended, using the strictest standards available as determined by the German field of Baubiologie. If you are EMR-sensitive, pregnant or have children, reducing exposure to you and your family is essential for short and long-term health.
There are no magic bullets for complete protection, despite all the marketing claims by manufacturers selling devices said to mitigate or block EMR. These marketing messages greatly mislead the public into believing they are 100 percent protected by a simple device, which couldn’t be further from the truth. The best policy is still simply “prudent avoidance,” particularly during sleeping hours, the body’s most sensitive regenerative time. If your bedroom is largely free of manmade EMR (as well as of mold and chemicals), your body will get a break at night, and will be better able to detox and regenerate. A healthy bedroom is essential, so that during the day when you may have less control over your environment, you are better able to deal with daytime exposures.
It’s important to remember that although you may not be able to control or protect yourself from all EMF radiation, there are, in fact, many simple steps you can take to limit your exposure.
CELL PHONES and SMART PHONES
Except for emergencies, children and pregnant women should avoid using cell phones. The same holds true for those who are electrically, chemically or mold sensitive, recovering or in remission from a serious illness such as cancer. Cell phone exposure is also like second hand smoke—everyone within a twenty-foot radius of your cell phone in talk/text mode, and a ten-to-fifteen foot radius5 in smart phone standby mode is exposed to very high levels of EMR (including babies and children). Ideally, everyone’s health would benefit from as little cell phone use as possible.
Here are some steps you can take to measurably reduce your exposure, your children’s and others around you:
• Use an old-fashioned cell phone, called a “basic phone”. Basic phones are often referred to as “flip phones.” A basic phone has a simple numerical keypad, and cannot accommodate any applications such as Facebook and Skype. Basic phones still have their dangers, but in standby mode they emit substantially less radio frequency (RF) EMR than smart phones. Remember that EMR levels are high when you are talking on a basic phone, but in standby mode the levels are very low, unlike smart phones, which remain at high levels all the time.
• During sleeping hours, and as often as possible during the day, put your smart phone in “airplane mode.” This will substantially reduce EMR almost completely. Your smart phone alarm will still work in airplane mode. The EMR from smart phones and tablets in airplane mode is very low and considered safe according to Baubiologie standards, but if possible, turning devices completely off, especially during sleep, is even better.
• For talking on all basic and smart cell phones, purchase an “air tube headset” (also called “blue tube headset”) and “ferrite bead.” Attach the ferrite bead to the cable just before it plugs into the phone. The air tube interrupts the frequency from continuing up to your head, but not the audio. The ferrite bead is a filter that reduces the radiation on the wire next to your body. While talking on the phone with the headset and ferrite filter, place the phone away from your hands or body. This combination of solutions reduces only the highest power intensity levels of EMR from basic and smart cell phones while talking. But they do not eliminate the approximate twenty-foot radius of remaining high EMR. So in other words, while you’re talking, you and others around you are still exposed to somewhat lower but nevertheless high, unhealthy levels of EMR.
• An alternative to the blue tube headset and ferrite filter solution is to talk on speaker mode, and keep the cell phone away from your hands and body.
• Limit conversations as much as possible, as there is no protection that is adequate enough.
• If you tend to text instead of talk, keep in mind that your hands and body are still exposed to highest levels of radiation closest to the phone, and EMR while texting is just as high as when talking.
• Limit cell phone use while driving, too. When you are driving, the phone goes to maximum power to connect with base stations and in order for the signals to pass through the car, especially if the signal must reach the antenna on your cell phone. If your car has a built-in antenna on the outside of the car and a hands-free option with speaker, however, the EMR inside the car will be lower while you’re talking, because the phone does not have to use as much power to keep a steady signal. If there is no built-in antenna on the outside of the car, EMR may be substantially higher inside the car, in both standby and talking mode, than when you’re talking outside of a car.
CELL TOWERS, CELLULAR ANTENNA BASE STATIONS AND OTHER WIRELESS FACILITIES
• If possible, and in general, choose to live at least a quarter mile from a cell tower or antenna. Depending on your sensitivity, you may need a distance of one mile or more. To locate the closest cell towers and antennas near you, go to antennasearch.com. Check this web site periodically for new towers being built. Putting enough distance between your home and a cell tower or antenna will be more difficult in a city, but do your best to put yourself at least a quarter mile away.
• If you are highly EMR-sensitive or have no option but to live very close to cell antennas, consult with a qualified EMR consultant on possible shielding. In some situations, covering your windows with special shielding fabric or films may be adequate, depending on your sensitivity level, as well as proximity and directionality of the cell antenna. (See LessEMF.com for shielding fabrics and window film options, but keep in mind, DYI solutions without professional pre- and post-testing may not result in enough measurable exposure reduction.) Unfortunately, in many cases, it is quite difficult to shield adequately or affordably.
CORDLESS PHONES AND LANDLINES
• Don’t get rid of your landline! The best protection from RF EMR from cell phones is to forward your cell phone to your landline, turn off your cell, and talk on corded phones while at home.
• Do not install or use cordless phones that are labeled as “DECT” or “Gigahertz.” Like smart phones, these put out a digital pulsed microwave frequency, and they emit and pollute your home continuously whether you’re talking or not. They should be completely removed from the home. The safest option is wired phones. If you must talk on a cordless phone, purchase a 900-megahertz model and limit your conversations.
• Eliminate baby monitors labeled DECT or Gigahertz. If you must use a wireless baby monitor, purchase a 900-megahertz model. But even older style 900-megahertz models emit some radio frequency EMR. The safest solution for your baby is to avoid all wireless monitors. Instead, find an old-fashioned wired type on Ebay or at a garage sale, or wire up a webcam to a computer that is on a wired, Ethernet (not wireless) connection. Before the invention of baby monitors, parents stayed within close hearing range of sleeping babies.
IPADS AND OTHER TABLETS
IPads and other tablets are like smart phones—they are always emitting EMR and the extensive radius of high levels of EMR exposes children and adults around you.
If you do use an iPad or other tablet device, here are steps you can take to reduce exposure:
• Turn off tablets during sleeping hours.
• Keep the tablet off or in airplane mode until you need to use it. Otherwise, like smart phones, all tablets in standby mode emit very high levels of EMR within a radius of ten to fifteen feet.
• Turn off your tablet while at home, and use your Ethernet wired computer instead. If you must use your tablet at home, limit use and turn it off when you’re not using it.
• When using a tablet while you’re away from home, purchase a monthly cell connection so you don’t need Wi-Fi to use it. This way, you can use a “basic phone” instead of a smart phone, which eliminates the high levels of smart phone EMR in standby mode while you’re waiting to receive calls. And you can still get Internet access, email and even text with your tablet. But remember, keep the tablet off or in airplane mode when you’re not using it. WI-FI
• For best protection, especially if you are EMR-sensitive, eliminate Wi-Fi completely, and instead, hardwire your computer connections with Ethernet cable. The types called Cat 5 and Cat 6 are best because they are shielded.
• Disconnect your wireless router during sleeping hours or put it on a timer.
• Unfortunately, unless you convert over to wired Ethernet connections in your home, you cannot avoid exposure to high levels of radio frequency EMFs from Wi-Fi, anywhere in the home you can connect to the Internet. However, in general, for the average person who is not electrically sensitive, if the signal on your computer is too weak to connect at all to the Internet then the Wi-Fi levels may be low enough to be safe, according to Baubiologie recommendations. However, for the electrically sensitive, even very low levels of Wi-Fi may cause electrical sensitivity symptoms.
• Make sure the router is placed as far from your body as possible in your home or office (at least six to ten feet), including your desk, or anywhere else in the home or office that you or your family spend time.
• If you use your laptop or desktop computer on Wi-Fi, not only is the router a radiating source but so is your computer. This is why it is essential that you turn off the router and your computer completely during sleep hours.
• For the highly EMR-sensitive, using a laptop on battery with Wi-Fi turned off may be better tolerated.
• If you are highly EMR-sensitive and/or you live in a condo, townhouse or apartment with connecting walls to other units, it is quite difficult to shield adequately and/or affordably. Our team has worked with clients on effective shielding, but if it’s feasible, it is generally expensive to implement successfully. Do-it-yourself shielding on walls, ceilings and floors should be done with great caution, because without expert remediation design guidance as well as pre- and post- testing by an EMR professional, it’s possible to create “reflection” inside a shielded room, and other unanticipated unsafe consequences.
CLEANING UP OTHER TYPES OF EMR
This article focuses primarily on wireless sources of radio frequency EMR. But there are several other types of EMR to reduce or eliminate, including dirty electricity from smart meters and fluorescent lighting, AC magnetic and AC electric fields from power lines, household wiring, appliances, and office equipment, and even DC magnetic fields from inner springs inside of mattresses. Not everyone is highly sensitive to these types of EMR, but if you are sensitive, or you simply want to reduce your own and your family’s exposure to safe levels, here are some general, simple steps to follow. (Note: If you own a gauss meter, remember that only some professional quality digital meters are designed to measure both AC magnetic and AC electric fields. Otherwise, a gauss meter can only be used to measure AC magnetic fields, and no other types of EMR including RF, no matter what the manufacturer claims. Becoming proficient and accurate at testing EMR of all types requires much training, experience and professional quality testing equipment.)
• Smart meters emit EMR and should be avoided if possible. If your home or building still has the old-style analog electrical, gas or water meter, take proactive steps to opt out of eventual smart meter installations by your local utility. In some locales, it may be possible to get the local utility to remove the smart meter and replace it with an analog meter. Go to http://stopsmartmeters.org and contact the smart meter activist group nearest to you for instructions and resources. Those who opt out for an analog meter will pay a monthly fee that is added to their electric, gas or water bill. But that is preferable to the potential for high exposure to EMR. Some people have found that when they switch back to an analog meter, their monthly bills decreased, which made up for the added monthly fee.
• Although it is not yet possible to shield a home interior from smart meter emissions completely, special filters can be installed, but they are expensive, and not yet fully developed for complete protection. As of the writing of this article, there are no legal ways to shield emissions from smart meters completely, and do-it-yourself methods of shielding may create unexpected and unsafe consequences. It’s best to work with a qualified EMR professional who can test before and after for safest results.
• If a smart meter is on a bedroom wall, move to another room for sleeping.
• Many new appliances, such as dishwashers, central forced air heating and AC units, and washing machines are now made to communicate with smart meters via a chip installed in the appliance. Ask the retailer for non-smart appliances only, especially if you are EMR-sensitive.
• Eventually small appliances, such as lamps will also be “smart.” Keep your eye out for these changes and ask before purchasing.
ELIMINATE ALL TYPES OF BEDROOM EMR
When taking steps to reduce EMR exposure, clean up the bedroom first. In general, it is beneficial to unplug as much as possible in the bedroom, including all extension cords, and use a battery operated clock on your nightstand. If the main electrical panel or sub panel for your home is on a bedroom wall, sleep in another room, or at a minimum move the bed to another wall. Eliminate electric blankets and opt instead for certified organic wool comforters and toppers, which insulate the body.
It’s best to replace dimmer switches with regular on/off switches. But at a minimum, be sure to shut off dimmer switches completely during sleep hours using the switch, rather than just turning them down to black. Replace rheostat dimmers with the type that have an on/off switch as well as a slider.
If you can tolerate natural latex, replace your inner spring mattress and box spring with an organic mattress made with natural latex and certified organic wool batting, or a mattress filled with only certified organic wool batting or certified organic felted wool. Scientists have not yet conducted large-scale studies regarding health effects of metal in bedsprings and bedframes. However, preliminary research suggests there are at least three problems concerning metal in beds: 1) metal can concentrate and radiate a variety of EMR from other sources (the EMFs that have been studied extensively), 2) metal can become permanently magnetized, and 3) metal disrupts our orientation to magnetic north.
If you are EMR-sensitive, you might also experiment with turning off the breakers in your electrical service panel during sleeping hours (except for the breaker that provides electricity to your refrigerator). Try this for a week or two, to see if it makes a difference in your sleep and health.
IMPORTANT NOTE ON SAFETY:
When you open the cover to the electrical service panel, if you see any exposed wires, do not touch anything inside the panel, close the cover immediately, and immediately hire a licensed electrician to make your service panel safe. If there are no exposed wires inside the service panel, don’t stand in front of the panel when turning breakers off and on.
REDUCE OTHER DAYTIME EMR
For daytime EMR reduction, eliminate compact and fluorescent bulbs from the home. Replace fluorescent bulbs with good quality LED bulbs. Many LED bulbs, like CFLs, emit dirty electricity EMR, but you can reduce that likelihood by looking at the detailed specifications on line for specific LED bulbs, and find the bulbs with these specifications: Lowest THD (total harmonic distortion) as close as possible to three percent, which is hospital grade, with a power factor as close to one as possible. These specifications are often not listed on the package.
Keep office ceiling fluorescent lighting turned off during work hours if possible, and use plug-in lamps instead.
Locate all power-strips, plugs with attached transformers, and low voltage lamps at least three feet from your body, including your legs and feet. Move wires and cables away from the body and feet. Use a wired external keyboard for your computer so your hands are not over the hard drive on your laptop, and sit an arm’s length from your computer screen.
If possible, replace dimmer switches with regular light switches to reduce dirty electricity sources of EMR from dimmer switches and compact fluorescent light bulbs.
HIRE AN EMF PROFESSIONAL
Hire an experienced certified Baubiologist, Building Biologist or other EMF specialized, trained inspector nearest you for a thorough EMR investigation of your house. You will want someone with at least several years of experience and professional quality digital meters, and who has connections to electricians who can troubleshoot wiring errors and code violations, the source of most AC magnetic fields.
• Baubiologie Inspectors in Europe and other countries: http://www.baubiologie.de/international/institute/
• Building Biology Inspectors in the U.S. and Canada: http://hbelc.org/
• The Building Biology Survey according to the STANDARD OF BUILDING BIOLOGY TESTING METHODS SBM-
• Supplement to the Standard of Building Biology Testing Methods SBM-2008. BUILDING BIOLOGY EVALUATION GUIDELINES FOR SLEEPING AREAS. http://www.baubiologie.de/downloads/building-biology-guidelines-english.pdf
• CloutNow: Coalition for Local Oversight of Utility Technologies: http://cloutnow.org/. CLOUTNOW is a grass-roots coalition of individuals and organizations committed to restoring local governmental control over telecommunications towers and related wireless facilities in the United States.
• The Collaborative for Health and Environment: http://www.healthandenvironment.org/ The Collaborative on
Health and the Environment’s (CHE’s) primary mission is to strengthen the science dialogue on environmental
factors affecting human health and to facilitate collaborative, multifactorial, prevention-oriented efforts to address environmental health concerns.
• The EMF Safety Network: http://emfsafetynetwork.org The EMF Safety Network is dedicated to helping people reduce electrical pollution to improve their health and vitality, and to inspire action to protect children, communities and nature. EMF Safety Network provides quality resources about the risks of electromagnetic fields (EMFs) and radio frequency radiation (RF), emitted by everyday devices in our homes and communities, and resources for those who suffer from electrical sensitivity.
• Stop Smart Meters! http://stopsmartmeters.org Growing out of the grassroots group Scotts Valley Neighbors Against Smart Meters, which was started in June 2010, Stop Smart Meters! has now evolved into an advocacy, media outreach, and direct action network providing activism consultation and advice to dozens of local groups sprouting up who are fighting the wireless “smart” meter assault. Stop Smart Meters! provides the facts on smart meters and shielding. http://stopsmartmeters.org/frequently-asked-questions/faq-shielding-and-measurement-issues/
• EM Radiation Research Trust: http://www.radiationresearch.org. Based in the U.K, the EM Radiation Research
Trust is an advocacy group that provides the facts about EMFs to the public and the media.
• Elizabeth Kelley, director, Electromagnetic Safety Alliance, Inc. http://vimeo.com/17251471. How to Protect Yourself from EMFs (Electromagnetic Frequencies) : Renegade Health Interviews Mary Cordaro on Radio Show, Part I: http://marycordaro.com/blog/?p=228. Do EMF Protection Devices Really Work? Renegade Health Interviews Mary Cordaro on Radio Show, Part 2: http://marycordaro.com/blog/?p=232.
• Katie Singer, An Electric Silent Spring: Facing the Dangers and Creating Safe Limits (MA, Porter Books, An Imprint of SteinerBooks, Anthroposophic Press).
1. Fetal Radiofrequency Radiation Exposure From 800-1900 Mhz-Rated Cellular Telephones Affects Neurodevelopment and Behavior in Mice Scientific Reports 2 : 312 | DOI: 10.1038/srep0031 . Fetal and Neonatal Effects of EMF: Dr. Iole Pinto, PhD Director, Physical Agents Laboratory Tuscany Health and Safety Service, Siena, Italy
2. Magda Havas, Phd, Associate Professor of Environmental & Resource Studies at Trent University: http://www.magdahavas.com/
3. Elizabeth Kelley, MA DirectorElectromagnetic Safety Alliance, Inc.
4. Bioinitiative 2012 http://www.bioinitiative.org/
5. Cell Phones – Smart Phones – iPhones and RF Exposure during Stand- By Mode: Dietrich Moldan and Dietrich Ruoff 7th EMF conference VDB, 12. – 13. April 2013, Munich, Germany presented by Dr. Thomas Haumann.
© Mary Cordaro 2015
This article appeared in Wise Traditions in Food, Farming and the Healing Arts, the quarterly journal of the Weston A. Price Foundation, Winter 2014