EMF: Home truths

Home appliances and gadgets sure make life easy but they also have an unhealthy downside

Medical scientists confirm that many people fall victims to electro-magnetic field [EMF] pollution that badly affects their health. EMFs are invisible lines of force that surround electrical equipment [including cell phones], power cords, and power lines. "Strong EMFs of about 50–60 cycles per second [hertz, or Hz] and the related electromagnetic radiation [EMR] are extremely harmful to human beings," affirms Bipin Walia, senior neurosurgeon and head of spine surgery, Max Healthcare, New Delhi. They can harm our brain, heart, lungs, eyes, thyroid glands and nervous system."EMR rays in general cause irritation,concentration lapses and in many cases even proliferation of cells cause cancer," says neurologist Rajeev Ranjan, Sir Ganga Ram Hospital, New Delhi.

In human beings, complications arising out of continuous radiation exposure are known as electro hypersensitivity [EHS]. Under this condition, the person becomes highly reactive to EMR. In extreme cases, he can have severe breathing problems, heart palpitations and loss of consciousness. Many can feel electricity going through their body and experience disabling symptoms such as convulsions, memory problems and depression. "Many health complications, which can't be diagnosed could be linked back to such invisible radiation attacks," adds Walia. These radiations can even interfere with the functioning of medical devices like pacemakers.

Based on various studies, here goes a short list of EMF pollutants at home:

  • Television, music system and all other electrical equipment even doorbells
  • Radio and television transmitters and remote controls
  • Computers, laptops
  • Mobile phones
  • Cordless phones
  • Microwave ovens
  • House wiring
  • Power lines
  • Cars, motor cycles.

The extent to which one can be harmed by these damaging radiations largely depends on the strength of the EMFs emitted by an appliance, one's proximity to thedevice and the time for which one is exposed. With proper knowledge and precautions the effect of these radiations can largely be reduced.

Over the years various studies done by different universities and scientists claim that the most commonly used home appliances have quite high EMFs, the reason often being incorrect wiring. Let us see how you can make your home safe from these harmful radiations:

Bedroom

The head of your bed should never be placed opposite an electrical panel, television, computer or an air conditioner.

If you have a bedside electric clock, you are probably sleeping with radiations equivalent to that of a high tension power line.

"Keep electrical devices such as telephones at least six feet from your bed. Beds with metal parts must be avoided. Sleeping in a bed with heating pad, electricblanket or waterbed heater plugged into a wall outlet can be dangerous," says Lucknow-based senior neuro-physician I.N. Bajpayee. Electric bedding devices create a magnetic field that penetrates about 6 –7 inches into the body leading to miscarriage, childhood leukaemia and breast cancer. An epidemiological study performed in 1979 by US-based epidemiologists Nancy Wertheimer and Ed Leeper have linked electric blankets with miscarriages and childhood leukaemia. In 1988, a study sponsored by the New York State Department of Health supported their hypothesis. Another study in African-American women found that use of electric bedding devices may increase breast cancer risk. Therefore, avoid buying these.

Children's room

Children are most susceptible to EMR; make sure that their rooms are safe enough.

Compact fluorescent [CFL] bulbs produce ultraviolet radiation. Children, and even adults, have suffered rashes on their body after going near the bulb."FLs produce radio frequencies from a tiny transformer that is used to excite the gas inside the tube to provide light. Opt for usual tube lights and bulbs instead," advises Bajpayee. Similarly, should a fluorescent light fixture be placed in the kids' room, the fixture must remain off while the kids are sleeping.

Like in your own bedroom, avoid all electronic appliances like music system, television, and especially computers [EMFs radiate from all sides of the computer] in your children's room as well.

Kitchen

Kitchen is yet another high EMF area of the house. Stand at least one metre away from an operating toaster, electric kettle, microwave oven, and electric stove in the kitchen when immediate attention is not required. Microwave ovens emit high amount of electromagnetic radiation whilst they are connected to the power grid. Unplug the oven immediately after use.

As much as possible, keep children out of kitchen.

In general, avoid installing a mobile tower next to your home. A in-depth study by Sainudeen Pattazhy, President of Kerala Environment Research Association [KERA] found that electromagnetic radiation they emit is harmful to life.

Computers

Avoid using wireless connections for computers. Although there is no conclusive evidence that bluetooth devices and WiFi routers emit huge amount of radiations and are harmful for the brain, it is better to be cautious.

In 2006, Lakehead University president Fred Gilbert was worried about the health impact of radio waves emitted by WiFi networks. That year, parents in 14 schools of Canada claimed that their kids have symptoms including memory loss, trouble concentrating, skin rashes, hyperactivity, night sweats and insomnia.

They further said that these symptoms disappeared during weekends, when the children were at home, away from WiFi connections.

WiFi technology alters our fundamental physiological functioning and can cause neurological and cardiac symptoms. The router antennas for a wireless network cause health disorders for EMF-sensitive people.

If you have a router with an adjustable antenna, position the antenna to point in a horizontal position or less than 45°C upwards. That is the next best to replacing it with a wired connection [although the broadband cable also brings along radiations and must be kept away from the bedroom].

Upgrade your computer monitor to a flat screen LCD model that produces low electromagnetic radiations.

Never use a laptop on your lap while it is connected to the charger and using AC power.

Cordless Phones

Having a cordless phone instrument at home is as detrimental to your health as installing a mobile phone tower in your drawing room, say scientists Lennart Hardell, Michael Carlbery and Kjell Hansson Mild. This view is backed by various medical experts. Having a cordless phone is like having a mobile mast in your house. "I'd rather recommend anyone who has a cordless to switch to a plug-in phone," affirms Harley Street practitioner David Dowson.

Mobile Phones

Do not use cell phones for long conversations or keep others talking on their cell phone for more time than is necessary. Even a two-minute call has been found to alter the natural electrical activity of the brain for up to an hour afterwards, claims a Swedish report. In 2007, Dr Lennart Hardell, from University in Sweden, found that cell phone users had an increased risk of malignant tumours that starts in the brain or spine.

For those whose job requires them to talk on the phone for long, it's advisable to take specific nutritional supplements [under the guidance of a health expert]. Call centres ought to use scientifically validated EMF protection devices to ensure employee health."Advanced technologies are available nowadays that strengthen your bio energy field and immune system against the effects of EMF," says Dr Bajpayee.

Although the World Health Organization [WHO] is yet to confirm that electromagnetic radiations have an ill-effect on health, it could mean that the effect is simply undetectable with our method of measurement. Therefore, negative results are generally less convincing than strong positive ones.

Though those studies are required to further corroborate the physical hazards of radiation, nevertheless, some timely conscientious steps can help you protect your dear ones from these waves hovering inside your home.

10 things you can do

  1. Do not use water pipes for electricity grounding [earthing].
  2. Have the home surveyed for dangerous levels of electromagnetic radiation due to wiring faults, ground errors, electrical panel faults, dirty electricity and ground current.
  3. Prefer wired telephone extension instruments for each room to a cordless phone.
  4. Avoid charging your mobile phone or laptop in the bedroom.
  5. Remove all electrical wires from under beds, tables and chairs.
  6. Do not use an electric hair dryer on a child.
  7. Sit at a distance of at least six metres from your television.
  8. Switch off immediately any device that doesn't need to remain turned on for long [mobile charger, printer].
  9. Substitute electrically operated devices with manual devices as much as possible, like in the case of pencil sharpener, tooth brush and can opener.
  10. Choose eyeglass frames made from plastic with no wires in them;the wires serve as an antenna attracting radio and cellular phone waves to your body.

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Shilpi Shukla is a writer, spinning features for publications in the US, UK, Hong Kong, Australia, Singapore and India. Based in New Delhi, her eight year stint as a journalist has had her work with major publications. Shilpi loves to pen articles on her frequent travels, celebrity interviews, health, fashion, films, real estate and any other topic that catches her interest.

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