Introduction to Electromagnetic Frequency (EMF)
In 2002, the World Health Organization (WHO) through the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) suggested that electromagnetic fields were “possibly carcinogenic to humans,”. This was not the first-time electrical activity was linked to cancer. Back in the 1970s, studies showed that people living close to high-voltage lines were more prone to cancer. Such findings were dismissed as false information meant to discourage people from owning electrical gadgets. Fast forward to the new millennia – studies have provided compelling evidence to suggest that this is, in fact, the truth. The National Cancer Institute links the rise in cases of brain tumors and leukemia in children to living near power lines, early exposure to magnetic fields, and parents exposure to magnetic radiation at the workplace. But what exactly is electromagnetic radiation?
What Are Electromagnetic Fields?
The motion of electrically charged particles generates electromagnetic waves. They are known as electromagnetic fields (EMF) at low frequencies and electromagnetic radiation (EMR) at very high frequencies. These waves travel through air, vacuum, and other substances. Electric fields are different from magnetic fields – the former is created by changes in voltage while the latter is generated when electric current flows. Electric and magnetic fields are jointly known as electromagnetic fields (EMF).
Sources of Electromagnetic Fields and Radiation
Electromagnetic fields are naturally occurring but invisible to the human eye. They have existed as long as the earth. In the 20th century, exposure steadily increased due to man-made sources. The rise in demand for electricity, advanced wireless technology, and changes in social and workplace norms were blamed for the trend. Despite early warnings, the use of electronic gadgets skyrocketed from the 1970s into the new millennia. There are two types of human-made EMFs: extremely low frequency EMFs (ELF-EMFs) and radiofrequency radiation. Sources of extremely low frequency EMFs are power lines, electrical appliances such as televisions, shavers, hairdryers, and electrical wirings. Radiofrequency radiation is produced by equipment such as cell phones, tablets, laptops, smart meters, radio and television signals, (MRI) devices, satellite stations, microwave ovens, cordless telephones, and computer and television screens.
Wireless Devices and Mobile Phones
The effect of wireless devices and mobile phones on human health has been a subject of interest and study worldwide. Mobile devices emit radiation at a rage of 450–3800 MHz and 24–80 GHz in 5G. Studies show that wireless frequency, including those emitted by Wi-Fi causes oxidative stress, testicular/sperm damage, cellular DNA damage, apoptosis, endocrine changes, and neuropsychiatric effects. The existing 2G, 3G, and 4G networks emit low microwave bands of 600 MHz to 3.5 GHz, which is also the range of household wireless devices such as baby monitors and Wi-Fi networks. The intensity of radio waves decreases as you move further from the transmitting antenna – a user holding a mobile phone close to his face is more exposed than one using a handset device. 5G cellular network that began deploying in 2019 is at least 20 times faster than 4G. To achieve such immense speeds, it emits microwave bursts at between 24–80 GHz. Although the technology solves the issue of slow connectivity, it exposes us to extremely high levels of magnetic field radiation that may lead to health complications.
Interaction with Humans
Do EMFs Cause Cancer?
Whether electromagnetic fields are carcinogenic or not is a debate that is not likely to end soon. At the beginning of the millennia, the World Health Organization (WHO) stated that there could be a link between cancer and electrical activity, but the organization is adamant to provide a conclusive response. The National Cancer Institute, on its part, attributes the rise in cases of brain tumours and leukemia in children to early exposure to magnetic fields. Still, few people understand what electromagnetic fields are and how they work.
Despite years of research, thousands of publications, and the general perception of EMFs, the World Health Organization insists that there is no sufficient evidence to link electromagnetic fields to deteriorating human health. In 2002, the organization through the International Agency for Research on Cancer suggested that the waves could be carcinogenic. The National Cancer Institute links the rampant cases of leukemia and tumors in children to early exposure to sources of EMFs. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) acknowledges that people exposed to high magnetic fields have increased cancer rates but fails to declare EMFs carcinogenic.
Effects of EMF on Pregnancy
According to WHO, exposure to household sources of electromagnetic fields does not increase the risk of malformations, spontaneous abortions, congenital diseases, or low birth weight. The scientific community has dismissed the occasional reports linking prenatal complications to EMFs as non-conclusive.
Electromagnetic Frequency and Cataracts
Workers exposed to high levels of microwave radiation and other radiofrequency have reported experiencing eye irritation and cataracts. Animal research has, however, dismissed that exposure to levels not thermally hazardous can lead to these conditions.
Are EMF’s Responsible for Hypersensitivity and Depression?
Some people report hypersensitivity to magnetic or electrical fields prompting questions of whether EMFs can trigger headaches, lethargy, depression, epileptic seizures, and convulsions. This claim was dismissed by a recent study that documented varying responses from people exposed to controlled electromagnetic field. In addition, there is no biological mechanism to link EMFs to hypersensitivity.