Could something as pervasive and as invisible as electromagnetic fields (EMF)s really cause harm? All electrical appliances that plug-in emit this radiation: mobile and cordless phones, WiFi, microwaves, televisions, computers, and even baby monitors. The WHO says that radio-frequency EMFs, such as from cellphones, are “possibly carcinogenic to humans.” Many countries in the EU have issued warnings about the effects of EMFs on children, newborn babies, and pregnant women and a number of EU countries have called for or instituted bans to protect children from wifi and cellphone exposure.
Yet, this is one of those fields where numerous industries and governments are quick to say: “It’s not proven!” There are few things that could be harder to adequately research. What we need is a study that looks at two groups of kids over a long period: one gets loads of EMF exposure and the other doesn’t, but everything else about them from the food they eat to the amount of TV they watch would need to be the same. Then we would see if the kids who got lots of EMF radiation had lower sperms counts or higher incidents of leukaemia, brain tumours, and other health problems. Obviously, this study will never be done. Who would want their kid exposed at high levels to something that is thought to be cancer-causing? So, we are left to wait and see as our children (and ourselves) continue to be exposed. Yet, the research is pouring in and it is quite clear that cellphone users are more likely to develop brain tumors and that children are most profoundly vulnerable. Cancer is the top disease killer of North American children, with brain tumors near the top of that list.
There are practical ways to reduce your child’s EMF exposure. With most EMF radiation the closer you are to the polluting appliance, the greater the impact. The measurement I keep in my head is that for most sources, the effect is minimal after a three or four feet distance. That mean’s you can stop stressing so much over your exposure from the neighbours wireless and stress more about your baby monitor or cordless phones.
How to minimize your child’s exposure to EMFs
1. Keep your kids as far away as possible from cordless phones, mobile phones, wifi, baby monitors, breaker boxes, and electric outlets.
These are all fairly strong sources of EMFs. Remember, keep your child three to four feet away from the source. If you only have a mobile telephone and you want your child to use it for short periods then use a headset or turn on the speaker function. Similarly, if you must have a baby monitor then put it across the room from their bed, don’t hang it right above them like I did.) A few other interesting facts are that cellphones that are roaming or struggling to pick up a signal or being driven in a car while talking or attempting to connect (i.e. ringing) let off more radiation than when they have a good, strong, steady signal.
2. Choose wired internet when possible
3. Turn off computers and routers and wifi at night
4. Put your child’s bedroom as far as possible from wifi, routers, electric lines, and breaker boxes
Indeed, after researching this topic for the Green Mama book, I moved my kids bedroom to another location in the house further away from the breaker box, which has been in the kitchen directly below their heads.
5. Don’t let children talk on cellphones or cordless phones and don’t store your cellphone in the pocket of your baby carrier
(or in your own pocket, in your bra, or next to you or your child’s body. Similarly, blue tooth headset devices are way too close to your brain and should be avoided.)
6. Make your baby’s room EMF-free, at least at night.
One doctor I spoke with suggested that a child is most vulnerable to the negative effects of EMFs while sleeping. There is research linking EMF exposure to reduced melatonin production (effects quality of sleep) as well. One way is to “trip” the breaker for your child’s room, thereby turning off everything in that space. And put your child’s bed as far as possible away from the outlets within the bedroom.
7. Even older children are very vulnerable.
Young children are more vulnerable to EMF radiation s for many of the same reasons they are more vulnerable to any toxin: their heads are softer, their brains are developing at a rapid rate, and small influences can have major effects, etc., older children are still vulnerable and their exposure is often far more significant. Some of the worst offenders for EMF exposure in older children include iPads (because they are constantly transmitting wireless signals and are meant to be used close-up), cellphones, wifi at home or in classrooms, laptops (turning off wifi helps), and computers.
There are some things you can do to reduce exposure: wire your home or at least turn off wifi at night, don’t allow children to use iPads or if they do use them ensure its on airplane mode and as far from their body as possible, don’t let your child have a cellphone and when they need to use it make sure to follow the safer practices tips above and never carry it on their bodies, don’t let your child park his laptop on his lap (and if he does it anyway, get him a pillow to rest it on and make sure at least the wifi is turned off on the computer). There are other great tips about reducing exposure of your children (and what to do if your kid’s classroom goes wireless) at this website here.
Health Effects Associated with EMF Radiation
Show me the Research
- The Enviornmental Working Group, mentioned above, has done extensive research on this issue, especially as related to cellphone use. http://www.ewg.org/research/cellphoneradiation/fullreport
- When I was researching my book, I found this study to be particularly interesting because it was done locally and by no back-water organization. BC Centre for Disease Control, National Collaborating Centre for Environmental Health. “Radiofrequency Toolkit for Environmental Health Practitioners.” 2013.
- The electricsense.com website listed above does a good job of tracking more main-stream studies that come out to evaluate the risks of EMF and children. Check that out. Here’s a quote “Studies show the developing organs of a child, lower bone density of the skull, lower body weight and less effective blood brain barrier make children particularly vulnerable to the effects of cell phone radiation” (de Salles 2006; Gandhi 1996; Kang 2002; Wang 2003; Wiart 2008).
Learn more about how to keep your family safe and healthy in the Green Mama book or by Asking the Green Mama a question. And, of course, don’t forget to sign up for our truly awesome newsletter for regular doses of good advice (or just a little inspiration).