By Stephen T. Sinatra, M.D., F.A.C.C., F.A.C.N., C.N.S., C.B.T.
The technological age we live in has brought us many amazing devices microwave ovens, cell phones, and wi-fi connections, just to name a few. However, I’m concerned about the serious health dangers that may be associated with these tools of convenience. Unfortunately, this issue doesn’t get a lot of attention. Yet, I have a persistent sense that something potentially disastrous is going on.
Many chronic illnesses have become more prevalent in recent years—including fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome, autism, multiple sclerosis, and other autoimmune disorders. These diseases were far less prevalent when I entered medicine more than three decades ago. Of even more concern is how the incidence of cancer is up, particularly among young people.
The standard reasons given for the staggering rise in these and other conditions certainly hold true: poor diet, lack of physical activity, stress, and environmental toxicity. These negative factors combine to weaken the human immune system and open the door for inflammation and infection. However, there’s another factor that has been largely overlooked, but which I think will attract more attention in coming years—the effect of electropollution on our bodies’ operating systems.
Electronic Toxins Permeate the Air
Electropollution is a collective term for the unseen, unfelt, and unnatural electromagnetic fields (EMFs) that we are increasingly exposed to. I’m convinced that they can wreak havoc with our health.
EMFs are generated by everything from high-tension electrical wires, wiring in the walls of homes and offices, cell phones, wireless networks, and even such accepted home appliances as radios, televisions, and microwave ovens. I’ve written in the past about the potential for EMFs to play a role in heart rhythm abnormalities and to interfere with sleep patterns.
I try to keep up to date by attending medical conferences that deal with electropollution because I want to be able to protect myself and my family, and because I believe this is an issue that you should know about as well. The truth is, there’s much that is still unknown about the effects of EMFs on the human body. What I think is clear, though, is that chaotic EMFs crisscrossing your community, flooding your household, and bathing your body cannot be good for you.
Electronic technology is everywhere these days, and you can be assured that it has to have some effect—either major or minor—on your body. After all, we are highly tuned and highly sensitive bioelectrical creatures. Every process in the body is regulated by dynamic electrical currents. The three most obvious, of course, are the pumping action of the heart, the neurotransmissions taking place within the nervous system, and the electrochemical activity of the 500 trillion synapses contained in the organic computer that runs it all—the brain.
Electropollution Struck Close to Home
I don’t really have to look very far to see the damage that electropollution can do. My oldest son, Step, worked as a Wall Street trader who was immersed daily in the EMF bedlam of cell phones, wi-fi computer connections, and electric monitors. His health slowly deteriorated for more than three years. At his worst, he had to be hospitalized. We even feared we might lose him.
Various doctors diagnosed him as having an autoimmune disorder, parasites, and even mercury toxicity. We have now come to strongly believe that electropollution set him up for internal dysfunction. After doing much research, Step and I are convinced that excessive exposure to electropollution negatively affected his body’s innate intelligence to heal itself. Step appears to be part of a small percentage of the population that is “electrical hypersensitive.” He’s doing much better now, but remains quite cautious about using anything electrical or wireless.
Researchers in Europe, who take this issue more seriously than we do in the US, suggest that three to six percent of the population is affected by EMFs in the way that Step is. However, the symptoms can be so general and subtle that they may never be associated with EMFs in the environment. I actually believe if more physicians knew how to indentify this problem, the true incidence of electrical hypersensitivity would be much higher than six percent. Right now, children, the elderly, and anyone with a lowered immune system appear to be most at risk.
Behavioral Problems and Brain Tumors
A team of researchers at UCLA studied the possible association between behavioral problems in young children and prenatal and postnatal exposure to cell phones. They reviewed questionnaires answered by the mothers of 13,159 Danish children once their children reached seven years of age. The researchers concluded that exposure to cell phones before birth—and, to a lesser degree, after birth—was associated with “emotional and hyperactivity problems around the age of school entry.” They went on to state that if cell phone use is the actual cause of the behavioral problems, it “would be of public health concern given the widespread use of this technology.”
I also recently read the results of two long-term Swedish studies that concluded the use of cell phones could substantially increase the risk of developing either a malignant brain tumor or a non-malignant auditory tumor that could lead to ringing in the ears, loss of hearing, and problems with dizziness and loss of balance. The researchers found that long-term, heavy use indicates a 20 percent increased risk of developing one of the two types of tumors—particularly on the same side of your head that you usually use to talk on your cell phone.
What You Can Do Now
With all my traveling, I’ve been a major league cell phone user over the years. However, I can assure you that I have cut back on that habit.
For most of the calls I need to make or receive, I’m content to wait for a safe landline. When I do use a cell, I use the speakerphone feature to better protect my ears and brain. However, not all landlines are safe either. Cordless phones, which have become the norm in most households, generate alarmingly large amounts of EMF radiation compared to the old-fashioned phones with cords that we grew up with.
In order to protect your brain, I encourage you to use the speakerphone feature on your cell phone. If you must place your cell phone next to your ear, make the conversation as brief as possible and don’t always hold it on the same side of your head when you do use a cell phone next to your ear.
Be mindful of the exposure that kids in your family may be getting. So many youngsters chat idly for hours on cells and cordless home phones. This is a special concern because younger users may face a higher risk of developing tumors. The EMF radiation is thought to have a stronger effect on kids because their nervous systems are not fully developed and their skulls are not as thick as those of adults.
When purchasing a cell phone, you need to learn the specific absorption rate (SAR) for the models you’re considering. SAR is a way of measuring the quantity of radio frequency energy that is absorbed by the body. The lower the SAR of a cell phone, the better it is. I wouldn’t consider any cell phone model with a SAR level of more than 0.5. There are at least 10 models currently on the market that have levels below 0.5—the majority of them made by Samsung. However, don’t assume that any Samsung model is safe. Check its SAR rating first.
You might also consider buying an electropollution detector. I purchased one made by a company in Great Britain. Unfortunately, the model I have is difficult to find for sale in the US at this time.
Electropollution detectors can tell you how strong these potentially upsetting EMF waves are—and how far they extend beyond their source. You will be surprised, as I have been, at their intensity and range. For instance, I checked the levels coming from a wireless video baby monitor (not the walkie-talkie type of years past), and I discovered that it was emitting really high levels of EMF radiation. It made me wonder whether these monitors might affect sleeping infants and toddlers. It also made me think again of the study of Danish children who may have behavioral problems due to cell phone exposure.
I’m doing my diligence on this front for you, and I’ll report back in a future issue. I’ll tell you about which elecropollution detector is the best for your personal use. I’m checking out several products that are available in the United States, and I’ll let you know what I find.
Before I close, I want to make clear that I’m not a Luddite who shuns all technology. I enjoy many of the modern conveniences and gizmos as much as anyone. I’m impressed with how much easier it is to keep in touch and stay informed thanks to things like cell phones and laptop computers with wi-fi connections. However, when it comes to health, I’ve decided to err on the side of caution by monitoring my exposure and trying to reduce it.
- Hardell L, et al. Pooled analysis of two case-control studies on use of cellular and cordless telephones and the risk for malignant brain tumours diagnosed in 1997–2003. Int Arch Occup Environ Health. 2006;79(8):630–639.
- Mild KH, et al. Pooled analysis of two Swedish case-control studies on the use of mobile and cordless telephones and the risk of brain tumours diagnosed during 1997–2003. Int J Occup Saf Ergon. 2007;13(1):63–71.
- Divan HA, et al. Prenatal and postnatal exposure to cell phone use and behavioral problems in children. Epidemiology. 2008;19(4):523–529.
This article originally appeared in the December 2008 issue of Dr. Sinatra’s monthly written newsletter, Heart, Health & Nutrition. HMDI has reprinted this article with permission from Healthy Directions, LLC (© 2008 Healthy Directions, LLC).