Last Updated on April 14, 2021
I was in eleventh grade chemistry when I heard for the first time about EMF radiation exposure due to technology.
I remember realizing that there was no real way to know the true long-term effects of EMF radiation on the body—because my generation will be the first to truly experience them—and being frightened by that reality.
I got my first cell phone, a red flip phone, at age ten. I upgraded to a smart phone with a QWERTY keyboard a year or so later, and then the era of rectangle touch screen phones was ushered in.
I wondered if my phone was really safe. I thought, “Should I be making a better effort to separate myself from my phone at night?” I slept with it under my pillow all throughout middle school—would this cause adverse health effects later in life? I was completely oblivious to the fact that direct symptoms of EMF radiation could have already been affecting me.
Suffering from Symptoms of EMF Exposure
I have suffered from chronic headaches since middle school. I’ve been diagnosed with tension headaches, migraines, and ice pick headaches by a neurologist, but they are not well-managed. After reading about EMF radiation exposure, I wonder if these symptoms could be related to that in some way.
A quick search on Healthline.com will tell you, “EMFs [may] affect your body’s nervous system function and cause damage to cells”.
I also experience sleep disturbances and bouts of insomnia, which also started in high school. I cannot remember the last time I slept all the way through the night because it is so rare for me. I wake up frequently, and I don’t feel well-rested in the morning. I have also been to a physician about these issues, but came back with no conclusive answers. I know many of my peers feel very fatigued and tired, and struggle with mood disorders, yet our elders do not seem to believe us and/or take these symptoms seriously. Speaking from personal experience, both my parents and mentors expressed disbelief when I explained to them the chronic health issues I face on a daily basis, but that seem normal to me because most of my peers experience them as well.
Obviously, there are likely many factors at play with this issue, but technological influence is often left out of the conversation; maybe because people consider it to be such a normal part of life now.
A Digital World
After all, cell phones are estimated to be used by ninety-five percent of American adults. In just the past five years, it has become more and more normal for elementary school-aged children and younger to have their own smartphones. My younger family members even grew up using iPads and other tablets as a form of entertainment when they were younger than seven. A survey by Common Sense Media reported that over half of children in the United States own a smartphone by age eleven. Teenagers own cell phones at nearly the same rate as adults, at 84%.
Perhaps, we, as humans, are doing ourselves a disservice by not reminding ourselves how new these technological innovations are on the larger timeline of human existence.
Studies state that because technology is such a new introduction to human life, there is often no way to make definitive statements about its effects on human health, and because the symptoms are vague, diagnosis is unlikely. But these symptoms, though vague and perhaps not life threatening in the short-term, can be devastating to overall health and happiness.
Could these symptoms I have been experiencing since adolescence be due to technology? I will likely never know, which also means I will be limited in what I can do to alleviate them. Further, because the boom in technological advances happened while I was entering adolescence, it is more difficult to draw a correlation to technology and my symptoms, as early adolescence is a time in which many chronic problems tend to manifest.
EMF and ELF radiation was not a subject that was introduced to me in science class until I was sixteen years old. Even then, it was not an actual topic of study so much as a brief tangent the teacher went off on that the class engaged in. I would not even say that it is something I fully understand now, as the sciences were not a primary avenue of study for me post-high school.
Spreading Awareness About EMF Radiation and Protection
One of the first steps in helping people to be more aware of these effects may be to introduce the topic of study in school science or health classes. Curriculum must change and evolve as science evolves. Further, more coverage of these issues and of advancements in research on the issue should be featured on mainstream media outlets. The younger generations who grew up with this technology tend to have a better grasp of it than older generations who did not, which makes sense. Nevertheless, they are widely used by older adults, and those people must be educated just the same.
Additionally, there are products already in existence that help to protect people from EMF radiation, such as cell phone cases and laptop shields, but they are not widely known about. These products are something that I only learned the existence of within the last month. They are not something I own, nor do I know anyone else in my family who owns them. If more people are educated on the subject, they will begin to see said products as more of a necessity, thus driving up the need/popularity of the products. Then, as they become more popular, more people will see said product, become aware of EMF radiation, see a need for the product, and the cycle becomes self-perpetuating.
It is doubtful that our world and American society will ever revert back to pre-electronic technology days, and I wouldn’t wish it to.
The advancements made in the last twenty years are incredible and in many ways will make for a better world and enhance the lives of countless people. However, we mustn’t forget the side effects of living in that world. We must continue to educate ourselves on the health implications of a hyper-connected lifestyle.
If EMF radiation can’t be avoided, how can we manage or lessen the side effects? This is a subject that researchers and technological innovators will be tasked with tackling in the coming years. Products and devices that protect humans from EMF radiation will become more commonplace and popular within households. We must be willing to open our minds and adapt our legislation, our business practices, and our health and safety practices to our rapidly evolving world. As technology evolves, society must evolve alongside it.
Author Bio: My name is Samantha Schmeer and I am a graduate student at the University at Buffalo studying dance. I hope to work in higher education or arts advocacy and administration upon graduation. I graduated cum laude from SUNY Geneseo in 2019 and am about to begin the first year of a three-year program and will graduate in May of 2023.