The Environmental Health Clinic of a Canadian hospital recently hosted a day of interactive lectures attended by doctors, experts and patients, to ‘share and discuss’ issues surrounding Electromagnetic Sensitivity (EMS). The Clinic wants to raise awareness, educate health-care practitioners and further help the growing number of EMS sufferers seeking help. In the meantime Health Canada, along with most other government authorities, is playing down any health risks associated with electromagnetic radiation (EMR) and dismisses any association between EMS and EMR exposure. This approach all seems very lax for a country that's developed a pre-market authorisation that risks banning one third of natural health products currently on the market without significant evidence of harm. Such draconian measures are fuelled the precautionary principle which requires that in the event of uncertainty, every effort should be made to protect public health. So it's somewhat ironic that this same government should allow children and others to be exposed to EMR form multiple sources where there is such a growing body of evidence regarding the risks, especially from combined exposures.  

With the burgeoning growth of cell/mobile phone use, cell phone masts, wireless (WiFi) internet routers, WLAN/PC networks, cordless phones, Smart meters, radio/TV and other transmitters and receiving devices, there has been a marked increase in symptoms suggesting sensitivity, or hypersensitivity, to this technology. Evidence for the association of EMS with EMR, and for risks of serious health effects is mounting. While we have evolved being exposed to natural levels of EMR in our environment, it is the recently elevated exposure to frequencies of radio- and micro-wave radiation emitted by so many modern technologies that is the main concern in both urban and developed areas.  

Male fertility at risk?

Meanwhile, a review has just been published in the print version of the Journal of Andrology entitled: Effects of the Exposure to Mobile Phones on Male Reproduction.

It concludes that the structure and motility of sperm are affected by cell phone use in animals and humans. Although the radiation exposure in the studies was not necessarily of uniform radio frequency wavelength, depth of penetration or length, there was evidence that cell phone radiation increased oxidative stress and damaged sperm membrane and DNA. And what's more, the damage was in direct relation to the duration of cell phone use. This follows news earlier this year about possible effects on unborn babies, as a result of studies conducted in the US and China.

Reducing exposure for children

Concerns about the vulnerability of children to EMR exposure from cell phone use and WiFi has long been a particular concern. Last year, the Council of Europe passed a resolution recommending various measures to protect people, and children in particular, from excessive EMF exposure, including wired internet connections in schools, and the creation of radiation-free zones. Last week in the US, it was reported that pediatricians are calling for a long overdue review of cell phone radiation standards.

UK review contradicts World Health Organization report

A 2012 comprehensive review by the UK’s Health Protection Agency (HPA) on mobile phone technologies found ‘no solid evidence of health effects’. We notice that this review excluded a significant 2011 study by Chinese researchers. The HPA review even flies in the face of the May 2011 World Health Organization International Agency for Research on Cancer press release, which declared that EMR is possibly carcinogenic to humans. Flying in the face of evidence that raises such concern, begs the question – why are these communication devices  still being touted as safe? Are we once again being sacrificed at the altar of corporate profits? Truth be told, most of us are completely wedded to the portability of our hand held devices, but we need to face the ultimate price that we may pay for this and employ counter technology to help ameliorate the effects.   

What can you do to reduce EMR exposure?

  • Turn off mobile phone devices when not in use, and switch off Wi-Fi connectivity (for both open networks and your provider network if you can independently control them) and Bluetooth when not in use  
  • Turn off wireless connectivity to your personal computers, laptops, tablets, media players, when not using the Internet. Use hardwired Internet connections where possible. If you use a wireless Internet router, then speak to your service provider about how best to turn it off when not in use, since simply switching it off can sometimes reduce the efficiency of your Broadband connection. Be aware of other closed and open networks in the vicinity, and give yourself time away from these where possible 
  • Avoid using mobile phone devices when signal is poor, when travelling at high speed, or when surrounded by metal, such as in aircraft, lifts, trains and other vehicles  
  • Avoid holding the phone to your ear when the phone is ringing. Use the display instead 
  • Avoid carrying your mobile phone in your pocket, on your belt or close to your body. Be aware of where phones are, particularly amongst crowds for significant periods of time  
  • Use a land line where possible, and avoid talking for longer than absolutely necessary. Use speaker phone or text if possible
  • Avoid using a mobile phone and minimise Wi-Fi exposure if you are planning for a baby, or if pregnant 
  • Avoid using wired headsets, which act as antennas. Use an airtube headset, with or without ferrite beads, which may offer additional protection
  • Avoid use of cordless phones and Smart meters, where possible
  • When buying a mobile phone, first check the Specific Absorption Rate (SAR). The lower this is, the better
  • Be especially aware of and reduce children’s exposure. Discourage use of mobile phones and wireless technology as much as possible, particularly whilst they are very young. Use hardwired networks where possible. Campaign with other parents to use hardwired networks in schools that are still using wireless Internet routers. Help educate children to use the technology safely, and to be EMR savvy, in the same way as you would teach them to cross the road safely  
  • If you suspect you have EMS symptoms, then keep a diary of your EMR exposure and when your symptoms appear, to check for correlation. Show and discuss this with your doctor or healthcare provider
  • Express any concerns you have about EMR and EMS to your elected representatives, and ask them what is being done to make the technology safer
  • For further information and suggestions, please visit our Electro-Magnetic Radiation campaign page