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What Are EMFs? Are they Safe?

April 24, 2021 9 min read

What Are EMFs?  Are they Safe?

What Are EMFs? Are they Safe?

In this article, we introduce the broad categories of EMFs, what constitutes electrosmog, and what the latest research reveals with respect to its impact on our health and wellbeing.

Broad Categories of EMFs

Sources of Electric and Magnetic Field (EMF) energies broadly fall into 3 categories1:

  • Geofields – These are natural, non-living sources.  Examples are the sun, solar flares from the cosmos, from the Northern Lights, lightning, geopathic zones from the earth’s geo- magnetic field, air ionization and Schumann Resonance, commonly known as the heartbeat of the earth.


    Geofield example: Northern Lights
  • Biofields – Humans and all living organisms are beings of light and have electromagnetic energy flowing through their bodies.   Our heartbeat is electromagnetic.  Brainwave activity is electromagnetic at extremely low frequencies.   

    German biophysics researcher Dr. Fritz Popp’s work shows that DNA in living cells store and release photos creating “biophotonic emissions”.  These biophotons - particles of light, with no mass – transmit information within and between cells.

    Every cell has an electrical potential difference across the cell membrane.  Once the cell’s electrical potential gradient begins to approach zero that cell will die.  Similarly, it is possible to charge up a cell to make it healthier. 

  • Technofields – This category refers to Electric and Magnetic fields artificially generated by technology.  Figure 1 shows the spectrum of man-made EMFs. 


    Figure 1: Electromagnetic Spectrum – Ionizing vs Non-Ionizing Radiation

    Electromagnetic Spectrum – Ionizing vs Non-Ionizing Radiation

Man-made EMFs

The Electromagnetic Spectrum is arranged by frequency and wavelength with higher frequencies and shorter wavelengths to the right of the image.  The spectrum is split into ionizing radiation and non-ionizing radiation based on the energy of the photon.

Ionizing Radiation

Ionizing means that that particular EMF has enough energy to disrupt the structure of an atom by knocking off electrons, transforming that neutral atom into an ion with a positive charge.  Ions are a problem because they can produce free radicals.  The negative impact of excessive free radicals in our bodies is explored inthis article.

The major types of ionizing radiation are neutrons from radioactive elements like X-rays and gamma rays. It is an undisputed fact that ionizing radiation causes DNA and cellular damage.

Non-ionizing Radiation and Electrosmog

Non-ionizing radiation does not have enough energy to create ions and has generally been regarded as “safe and biologically harmless” for decades.  As we share later in this article, latest research is now showing that this is flawed.  

Within this category, we call out the different types of man-made radiation that everyone living in the modern world are currently exposed to from our surroundings.  These all contribute to air pollution -electrosmog.

  • ELFs or Extremely Low Frequency EMFs
    • Generated by our use of electricity.  
    • Caused by building wiring being energized. These electric fields induce voltage on the body.
    • Power Lines, electrical wiring, electric blankets, all electrical appliances
    • Flows along wires and produces a field immediately around those wires in the air.


      Extremely Low Frequency (ELF) EMFs: Power Lines

  • Magnetic Fields
    • An electric current naturally generates a magnetic field around it.  If you’ve ever played with two magnets, you’ve already experienced the fact that a magnetic field quickly gets weaker with distance.  
    • Caused by net current flowing and current flowing in places it shouldn't be.
    • Common indoor sources of magnetic fields include: faulty wiring, pipes and cable lines,  circuit breaker boxes, electric stoves, refrigerator motors, hair dryers and point sources such as AC to DC transformers and motors.
  • RFRs or Radiofrequency Radiation
    • Microwave Radiation – microwave ovens, cordless phones, cellphones, WiFi
    • Millimeter Wave Radiation – 5G small cells, antennas and satellites
    • Both travel through air via antennas that act as transmitters and receivers.
    • Mobile and Smartphones today contain as many as 4-6 antennas each (wifi, cellular, GPS, Bluetooth, etc) for this purpose.


      RFR Radiofrequency EMF Radiation from Cellphones
  • Dirty Electricity
    • Also known as high-frequency voltage transients, electromagnetic interference, microsurge electrical pollution
    • Generated by electronic equipment, by shorts and electrical wiring, and by turning appliances on and off
    • A higher frequency transients and harmonics found on building wiring.
    • Power supplies that convert electricity from alternating current (AC) to direct current (DC) typically create dirty electricity.
    • Sources include: compact fluorescent bulbs (CFLs), LED lights, fans with multiple speeds, dimmer switches, hair dryers, cell phone chargers, any electronic appliance with a transformer box at the end of the power cord.
    • Flows along wires and radiates from those wires into the air.


      Compact Fluorescent Bulbs Emit Dirty Electricity
  • Electrical Ground Current
    • Comes through our use of electricity - clean electricity and dirty electricity
    • Ground current occurs when electricity is not flowing through wires but along the earth’s surface and along metal objects used for grounding the units.
    • In farms, animals can feel these electric shocks as they travel along the ground.

Latest Research – How “Safe” Is Non-ionizing EMF Radiation?

Highlights of Latest Research


In May, 2011, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), a division of the World Health Organization (WHO) classified radiofrequency RFR EMFs as possibly carcinogenic to humans (Group 2B), based on an increased risk for glioma,a malignant type of brain cancer, associated with wireless phone use.  This is the same category as the pesticide DDT, lead and gasoline exhaust.

Fast forward to 2018, this research reports that: “When considered with recent animal experimental evidence, the recent epidemiological studies strengthen and support the conclusion that RFR should be categorized as carcinogenic to humans (IARC Group 1).”3 This is the same category as all types of ionizing radiation such as x-rays and gamma rays.

The 10-year, $30 million National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences National Toxicology Program’s (NTP) Studies of Cell Phone Radiation found that chronic exposure to RFR was associated with “clear evidence” of cancer in RFR-exposed male rats. In addition, exposed animals had significantly more DNA damage, heart damage and low birth weight.4

Every study that’s ever looked at people who’ve used a cell phone heavily (defined as 30 minutes a day) for ten years or more finds a doubled risk of brain tumors.
Dr. Devra Davis, Epidemiologist
Founder and President of Environmental Health Trust

Reproduction Risk: Miscarriages, Infertility and Sperm Damage

Amongst many published studies determining RFR harm to reproduction risks in both males and females, we call out a few representative ones:

Pregnant Women Exposed to Higher EMFs 3x more likely to Miscarry

- 2017 Kaiser Permanente study followed 913 pregnant women. Those who were exposed to higher levels of EMFs had a nearly 3x higher risk of miscarrying than those with lower exposures.6

Exposure to EMFs from laptop and cell phone damages sperm

- 2018 study, Radiations and Male Fertility concluded that cell phones, laptops, Wi-Fi and microwave ovens, the most common sources of non-ionizing radiations, have deleterious effects on sperm parameters (like sperm count, morphology, motility).7

Sperm exposed to cell phone radiation will die 4x faster and
will develop biological signs of damage…
Studies have found that men who use their phone for four hours a day
have half the sperm count of others.
Dr. Devra Davis, Epidemiologist
Founder and President of Environmental Health Trust

Other Diseases

Research has established that EMFs contribute to many, many more diseases than we can cover in this article.   

In 2012, the BioInitiative Working Group, a collective of 29 authors from 10 countries including 10 M.D.s, 21 Ph.D.s, and an M.Sc., M.A., and M.P.H. released a massive 650-page report that presents compelling scientific evidence - urging government and policy makers to adopt more protective exposure guidelines to replace now obsolete safety standards that were based on research from the 1980’s.  In 2020, the site has been updated to include over 1800 studies.  Most of these studies report biological effects of low-intensity exposures to both RFR and ELF EMFs. 

Radiofrequency Radiation

(RFR) Research

% Reported Effects

(# studies)

% Reported No Effects

(# studies)

Genetic Effects

65% (224)

35% (122)

Free Radical Changes

92% (240)

8% (21)

Neurological Effects

73% (244)

27% (92)

Figure 2. Dr. Henry Lai, “Summary Report on RFR Research that Reported Effects vs No Effects”, Aug 13, 2020, BioInitiative.Org

Extremely Low Frequencies

(ELF) EMF Research

% Reported Effects

(# studies)

% Reported No Effects

(# studies)

Genetic Effects

77% (160)

23% (43)

Free Radical Changes

89% (235)

11% (28)

Neurological Effects

91% (216)

9% (22)

Figure 3. Dr. Henry Lai, “Summary Report on Static/ELF-EMF Research that Reported Effects vs No Effects”, Aug 13, 2020, BioInitiative.Org

The most serious health endpoints that have been reported to be associated with extremely low frequency (ELF) and/or radiofrequency radiation (RFR) include:

  • childhood and adult leukemia 
  • childhood and adult brain tumors 
  • increased risk of the neurodegenerative diseases, Alzheimer’s and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS)
  • increased risk of breast cancer in both men and women
  • genotoxic effects (DNA damage, chromatin condensation, micronucleation, impaired repair of DNA damage in human stem cells)
  • pathological leakage of the blood–brain barrier
  • altered immune function including increased allergic and inflammatory responses
  • miscarriage 
  • cardiovascular effects
  • insomnia (sleep disruption)

  • Short-term effects on cognition, memory and learning, behavior, reaction time, attention and concentration, and altered brainwave activity (altered EEG) are also reported in the scientific literature.9

    Vulnerable populations

    Young Children’s Exposure to EMFs via Smartphones

    As dangerous as EMFs are to adults, they pose a significantly higher health risk for
    children, youth as well as unborn fetuses.

    We cover their special circumstances and need for protection here.

    Oxidative Stress / Free Radical Damage – The Underlying Mechanism of EMF Toxicity10

    Oxidative stress and free radical damage are important mechanisms involved in almost all chronic diseases. They are direct causes of cellular DNA damage.

    This is where the damage starts.

    No evidence of Increased Health Risk – Really?

    With all the latest research and mounting evidence of biological harm, it is at best confusing if not outright mind boggling to see such statements below from Health agencies.  

    The World Health Organization (WHO) website states: 

    In the area of biological effects and medical applications of non-ionizing radiation, approximately 25,000 articles have been published over the past 30 years.  Scientific knowledge in this area is now more extensive than for most chemicals. Based on a recent in-depth review of the scientific literature, the WHO concluded that current evidence does not confirm the existence of any health consequences from exposure to low level electromagnetic fields.11

    Health Canada today states:

    There is no established scientific evidence that those who use cell phones are at increased risk of experiencing adverse health effects with the Canadian limits in place. This includes children and teenagers.12

    EMFs – the tobacco and asbestos of our time

    Similar to cigarettes, asbestos, DDT and other environmental toxins, the science for EMF radiation  precedes policy by 30-50 years.  The industry that has the most to gain invests significantly to promote the messages it wants the public to consume.

    When industry-funded research is excluded, larger proportions of studies
    show that low-intensity RFR can cause harm.

    A bioengineering professor emeritus at the University of Washington, Dr Henry Lai’s investigations discovered that industry-funded studies were 30 percent likely to find an effect, as opposed to 70 percent of the independent studies.13 A 2007 Analysis in Environmental Health Perspectives replicated Lai’s findings.14

    In the meantime, the public believes that all is well, exposure goes unchecked, harm and suffering is inflicted, and lives are lost. We have seen this story play out.  

    Knowledge is power.  You can choose to bury your head in the sand or take appropriate action to protect yourself and your loved ones.

    Awareness is the first step

    EMFs is a complex topic – physicists, engineers, biologists, epidemiologists, doctors – all view this from a slightly different “expert” perspective.  We have tried to distill and summarize what is essential.

    Bottom line: We hope this article has heightened your awareness of the health risks associated with EMFs.  We do not propose that you give up wireless technology and the connectivity and convenience it offers.  But we do advocate safer use of this technology.

    There are some very simple things that you can do right now to mitigate and reduce your exposure.  We invite you to start here.


    1 Havas, Magda, PhD, EMF Conference 2021, Pre-Conference Lecture #1 The Big Picture.

    2 International Agency for Research on Cancer, “IARC Classifies Radiofrequency Electromagnetic Fields as Possibly Carcionogenic to Humans”, Press Release, May 31, 2011, https://www.iarc.who.int/wp-content/uploads/2018/07/pr208_E.pdf.

    3 Anthony B. Miller et al, “Cancer epidemiology update, following the 2011 IARC evaluation of radiofrequency electromagnetic fields (Monograph 102)”, Environ Res,2018 Nov;167:673-683. doi: 10.1016/j.envres.2018.06.043, https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30196934/.

    4 National Toxicology Program, “Cell Phone Radio Frequency Radiation”, https://ntp.niehs.nih.gov/go/cellphone.

    5 Green America Interviews Dr. Devra Davis, Do Cell Phones Cause Cancer?, https://www.greenamerica.org/do-cell-phones-cause-cancer/our-interview-dr-devra-davis-0.

    6 De-Kun Li et al, “Exposure to Magnetic Field Non-Ionizing Radiation and the Risk of Miscarriage: A Prospective Cohort Study”, Sci Rep 7, 17541 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-017-16623-8.

    7 K.K. Kesari et al, “Radiations and Male Fertility”, Reprod Biol Endocrinol. 2018 Dec 9;16(1):118. doi: 10.1186/s12958-018-0431-1. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30445985/.

    8 Green America Interviews Dr. Devra Davis, Do Cell Phones Cause Cancer?, https://www.greenamerica.org/do-cell-phones-cause-cancer/our-interview-dr-devra-davis-0.

    9 BioInitiative Working Group, “There is More Evidence Than We Need”, https://bioinitiative.org/participants/do-we-know-enough-to-take-action/

    10 Igor Yakymenko et al, “Oxidative Mechanisms of Biological Activity of Low-Intensity Radiofrequency Radiation”, Electromagn Biol Med, Early Online: 1–16  2015 Informa Healthcare USA, Inc. DOI: 10.3109/15368378.2015.1043557, https://ecfsapi.fcc.gov/file/60001122232.pdf.

    11 WHO website, “Radiation: Electromagnetic Fields”, 4 Aug 2016 Q&A, https://www.who.int/news-room/q-a-detail/radiation-electromagnetic-fields.

    12 Government of Canada, “5G technology, cell phones, cell phone towers and antennas”, https://www.canada.ca/en/health-canada/services/health-risks-safety/radiation/everyday-things-emit-radiation/cell-phones-towers.html.

    13 https://www.seattlemag.com/article/uw-scientist-henry-lai-makes-waves-cell-phone-industry

    14 Anke Huss et al, “Source of Funding and Results of Studies of Health Effects of Mobile Phone Use: Systematic Review of Experimental Studies”, Environ Health Perspect. 2007 Jan; 115(1): 1–4. Published online 2006 Sep 15. doi: 10.1289/ehp.9149, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1797826/


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