Although Common, Electromagnetic Radiation May Not Be Safe

Cigarettes and Cellphone

Cigarettes and Cellphones

Cell phones, tablets, laptops and other electronics are everywhere. Even small children use phones as part of their family plan. As a society, we started to feel comfortable with electronics because they so common now and we see people use it daily seemingly without harm. But, we must take care to remember that we know very little about the long-term effects of non-ionizing Electromagnetic Radiation (EMR).

Just because it is commonplace doesn’t mean it is safe. Cigarettes were extremely popular until people studied it and found out they contain 69 carcinogens and over 4,000 chemicals. Fen-phen use to be a popular dietary supplement until findings showed it can cause fatal heart problems and it was pulled by the FDA. Thalidomide was a popular treatment for morning sickness until thousands of babies were born with horrific birth defects and it was banned for pregnant women after the fact.

Common use does not equate to safe, and we shouldn’t be lulled into a false sense of security. Research and time are the only things that can tell if something is truly safe or not, as with the case of electronic devices that emit non-ionizing Electromagnetic Radiation.

Sources of Electromagnetic Radiation
Figure 1. Graph of common sources of non-ionizing Electromagnetic Radiation.

Recent Research

Because of the obvious public health implications, scientists around the world have been hard at work studying the effects of Electromagnetic Radiation.Thus far, there has been a deluge of data, which has resulted in some progress but still many unanswered questions. Some reports show that Electromagnetic Radiation exposure is harmful and detrimental in specific scenarios. Others argue that certain effects could not necessarily be attributed to just Electromagnetic Radiation alone. Yet, all agreed more research is needed.

Cell Phone Brain Penetration
Figure 2. Radiation exposure has measurable effects.

Unfortunately, the evidence seems to be mounting that non-ionizing Electromagnetic Radiation is a potential area for serious concern. In June 2007, Electromagnetic Radiation was shown to change the morphology and inhibit the growth of human brain cells, indicating low power density might affect the signaling pathway involved in cell proliferation. In Oct 2009, effects of Radio Frequency electromagnetic waves from cellphones on human semen showed just one hour of exposure was enough to cause damage to sperm reproductive health. In July 2010, research was published reviewing previous work to-date, published from 1979 through 2008, regarding a potential correlation between exposure to electromagnetic fields and childhood leukemia. That article concluded that an urgent need exists to assess tolerable exposure limits. In Sep 2013, another review of published literature noted conflicting reports.

When used properly Electromagnetic Radiation could be used to treat disease (for example: through chemotherapy), however on the other hand environmental exposure to Electromagnetic Radiation could also cause serious adverse effects such as cancer or genetic mutation. Again, emphasis was placed on the need for more work to be done on studying Electromagnetic Radiation before any safety statements could be made.

Expert Opinions

“Cells in the body react to EMFs as potentially harmful, just like to other environmental toxins… The scientific evidence tells that our safety standards are inadequate.”

On the FDA website, one can find conflicting information. For instance: while the website states that cell phones are considered safe because the majority of evidence does not show an association between exposure to Radio Frequency from cell phones and adverse health outcomes, it also notes that there is a consensus that additional research is needed especially in the area of long-term exposure effects. Furthermore, the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer recently classified Radio Frequency fields as possibly carcinogenic to humans. Multiple long-term studies are presently on-going, including the COSMOS study (International Cohort Study on Mobile Phone Users).

Websites have cropped up encouraging citizens to inform themselves and petition congress to fund more research and enact more laws regarding Electromagnetic Radiation regulation. Medical experts, scientists, and health policy specialists have come together and issued official statements. To quote, Dr. Martin Blank PhD. from Columbia University: “Cells in the body react to EMFs as potentially harmful, just like to other environmental toxins… The scientific evidence tells that our safety standards are inadequate.”


While we wait for more information, we should take every precaution necessary to make sure we are protected today. It is better to practice caution than to look back years later with regret. Where possible, keep your mobile devices off and away from your body when charged. Maintain a safe distance from Electromagnetic Radiation or use some sort of Electromagnetic Radiation protection. Be wise about how you use and store your electronics. For instance, don’t put your laptops directly on your lap. Don’t keep your cell phones on in your pant pockets or bra. Stay up to date with current news and research. Be smart and play it safe.

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