In the most basic sense, electric and magnetic fields come from the charged particles of matter, protons and electrons. These fields occur naturally within our own bodies as well as within the earth. In our bodies, the activity of our muscles and nerves cause a general electric field that cannot necessarily be felt, but is evident in the fact that these internal systems keep operating.
The earth itself has a naturally occurring EMF through the interaction of the natural ores and elements in its outer core. These naturally occurring EMFs are harmless and in fact are necessary to life. However, electromagnetic fields can also be caused artificially through use of electricity. An electric field is caused by the presence of voltage, a magnetic field is caused by the flow of electricity. These artificial EMFs are what need to be examined more carefully to determine what, if any, harm they may cause.
Low Frequency EMFs
Low frequency EMFs, or ELF EMFs, have also been observed in a natural setting, such as during a lightning storm. However, ELF EMFs are also created artificially by anything that uses electricity. This means appliances, computers, cell phones and almost anything else used in our modern lives. The EMFs produced by these every day items vary depending on the size of the machine and the amount of electricity it uses. The power distribution lines outside of the home also create EMFs, however, direct exposure to this source is often limited in most people’s cases. These every day sources individually produce frequencies low enough that most people will not notice any direct or specific adverse health consequences. However, it is noteworthy that these ELF producing sources can have a compound effect. For instance, if a person were in the presence of several lower frequency producing items at one time, the EMFs being produced would compound each other, making the overall exposure higher than being in the presence of only one item. This does not mean that the exposure is necessarily at a dangerous level, but it is more concentrated than individual sources produce alone.
Radio Frequency-High Frequency EMFs
Radio frequency, or RF, is an electromagnetic wave frequency that is used primarily in communications, such as cell phones or radio communications, but is also used in applications such as microwave ovens and various medical treatments. Under normal circumstances, the RF EMFs that we encounter on a daily basis are not going to cause immediate adverse health consequences. While there are numerous sources that utilize high frequency EMFs, the exposure to these sources is usually for a specific purpose, and over a limited amount of time.
What Are the Biological Effects of EMFs?
It is not disputed that EMFs have a biological effect on our bodies. ELF fields cause circulating currents within the human body and RF fields can cause a heating sensation if a person is exposed to a high enough frequency or to a lower RF for a long period of time. However, biological effects are not necessarily harmful. There are many activities we all engage in every day that have biological effects, such as listening to music or eating a piece of fruit. These produce a change in our biology as well, however, that change is not expected to cause an irreversible difference in our health. For the most part, our bodies are able to adjust to the different circumstances we may face in our environment. Biological effects are a concern only when they may irreversibly change our overall health in a negative way.
Are EMFs Harmful?
To strictly say that all EMFs are harmful would not be correct. As already discussed, there are naturally occurring EMFs that are necessary to life. In the case of low frequency EMFs, most research indicates that adverse health effects are low. While there are some areas of research that show there may be a connection between ELF and certain health problems, such as migraines, anxiety and fatigue, that research has not conclusively proven this to be true. In the case of growing cancer rates and a connection to EMFs, the same conclusion had been drawn. While some studies do suggest a small increase in risk for childhood leukemia, no study has yet to show a direct cause and effect connection. However, in all areas of any correlation between low frequency EMF exposure and disease, much research is still being done. In the case of radio frequency EMFs, the average person’s exposure will be limited to every day devices such as cell phones and radio devices. This kind of exposure has not been shown to have any long term negative effects on human biology. There may be certain applications of radio frequency that could lead to physical burns, but these applications are not usually found in every day life. The connection of long term exposure to RF and cancer, while not conclusive, is also an area that is still being rigorously researched.
When we consider how we live in a modern world, we see that electromagnetic fields are, for the most part, inextricably linked to our daily lives. In that sense, they certainly do have a significant impact on us and our society. In the realm of health and wellness, while there may not be any conclusive evidence of adverse health effects, a person does no harm to themselves by keeping up to date on the most recent findings and by considering how that information impacts their own individual concerns as well as the concerns of their families. Ultimately, it is up to the individual to decide when the risks involved are no longer worth the benefit.