Before a danger is recognized in the public sphere, regardless of what science has to say, most will continue to argue in defense of the poisons they consume most often. Before the age of science, the best known example is probably the use of lead by the Romans, but even back then the well informed knew. Oftentimes, regulators hold back for as long as possible, lagging far behind scientific research. In recent history we need only think of cigarettes and plastics, and if we look back a little bit farther we find companies telling their workers to lick brushes they were using to apply glow in the dark paint containing radium. Could EMF from our cellphones, power lines, and WiFi fall into the same, or a similar, category?

Unfortunately, there appear to be many parallels between these now well-known dangers and non-ionising electromagnetic frequencies (referred to simply as EMF in this text, encompassing ELF as well). These frequencies include everything from radio waves to WiFi, and even include your cell phone. Despite the beliefs of many, EMF presents a greater risk factor than vaccines for the development of our children (although both affect your immune system). And despite the WHO claiming that the impact on public health is “limited and uncertain,” I will present evidence showing that the negative impacts are not limited or particularly uncertain.

Before presenting the statistically significant evidence, I want to mention that because of the ubiquitous nature of EMF in the civilized world, there are no real “control groups”: we are forced to compare “high dose” individuals with “lower dose” individuals, but we are unable to find out its actual effects due to a lack of “no dose” or “no exposure” controls. This generates a “bias towards the null,” meaning the results tend to fall towards the middle and makes findings seem more insignificant or random. This means that finding a significant correlation becomes ever harder, and when found, more dramatic.

Multiple studies have found a 100% or greater increase in your chance of developing Alzheimer’s when using a cell phone for ten or more years (not in one sitting!) while holding it only on one side of your head (ipsilateral use). Cell phone use (non-ipsilateral)  was correlated with a 4x increase in eye cancer (Stang, 2001): so your safety is in no way guaranteed even when you switch ears while talking.  though This data was statistically significant and replicated in several studies including Qio et al, 2004; Hardell et al, 2007; and Harkansson et al, 2003.  A list of all the conditions with which various frequencies (from below “normal” city exposure onwards) are associated (taken from the Bioinitiative 2012 Meta-Analysis).

When looking at exposure to EMF in conjunction with environmental toxins, a meta-analysis of 65 studies (Juutilainen et al, 2006) found significantly worse physiological results with EMF than with toxins alone: in 91% of in vivo studies and 68% of in vitro studies. The results were also consistently worse when EMF exposure preceded the exposure to toxins, which should worry any new parents. That is, if their sperm is still able to swim, which might not be the case if the father is using WiFi on a regular basis (Avendano, 2012)

Despite this data being replicated and significant, and even when looking at conditions as rare as male breast cancer, there are many who will try to either tell you EMF is harmless or will certainly give you cancer. It definitely has an effect on DNA: EMF is definitely not harmless, and its positive correlation with multiple diseases from cancer to Alzheimer’s should make us start to evaluate how ubiquitous we want these fields to be, or how early we want to give a child their own cell phone or WiFi connection. At the same time, it doesn’t mean you are definitely going to get cancer or Alzheimer’s from it , or that seeds cannot germinate (sprout) within a WiFi field.

Much like with plastics, we should work to limit exposure to EMF, or at the very least have viable control group to determine how big of a problem it really is . Unfortunately, as with plastics and endocrine disruptors, we have no idea how many individuals are actually affected: delayed responses, variable reactions, and its presence in just about every household and community means we cannot really contrast data properly. Despite this “bias towards the null” science still shows us that “safe” is a risky word to be using in regard to EMF or plastics (which, unlike EMF, we cannot “turn off”.)