Imagine life without cell phones or WiFi. There’d be no text messages, no checking Facebook on your daily commute, no selfies, no GPS. For the residents of Green Bank, West Virginia, that is reality. Welcome to the world of EMF free zones – communities where you can detox from the harmful negative health effects of exposure to electromagnetic radiation.
What is an EMF Free Zone
All modern electronic and wireless devices emit a form of radiation called electromagnetic radiation (or EMF).
An EMF Free Zone is a designated area where such emissions are strongly restricted, or completely impermissible.
So, for example, in an EMF Free Zone you will likely have no cell service and no WiFi. In many, even microwave ovens are banned. And in some, there will be little to no power grid infrastructure (so there will be no power lines, which are a significant source of EMF radiation).
Why Live in an EMF Free Zone?
Electromagnetic Hypersensitivity (or EHS) is a condition where sufferers have adverse negative health reactions to exposure to EMF radiation due to the impairment of the normal function of their immune system. As the World Health Organization (WHO) noted in 2004, “EHS is a real and sometimes a disabling problem for the affected persons.”
The symptoms can include “headache, fatigue, stress, sleep disturbances, skin prickling, burning sensations and rashes, pain and ache in muscles and many other health problems.”
In more extreme cases, the effects of EHS can be debilitating, preventing the sufferer from living a normal life, working, or even going outside.
Driving past a mobile phone tower might set someone off; others might be in constant agony from the abundance of WiFi signals bouncing around in the air. There’s no standard cause and no standard symptoms, which makes diagnosis difficult.
In the vast majority of the world, EHS is not a formally recognized condition. Austria stands alone as the only country with written guidelines for the diagnosis and treatment of EHS. In Sweden, while no such guidelines exist, EHS is “an officially fully recognized functional impairment.”
But this situation is changing.
For example, the Women’s College in Toronto now offers an electrohypersensitivity diagnosis to patients, as well as a clinic dedicated to addressing it. And in 2015, a French court granted disability coverage to a woman who suffers from EHS. And in Sweden, some municipalities grant disability insurance to patients with EHS.
Because much of the world does not formally recognize EHS, statistics on its prevalence can be difficult to come by. But, as some gauge of how widespread this issue is, one 2015 study found that the incidence of EHS varies widely around the world, from “1.5% in Sweden to 13.3% in Taiwan.”
Other Health Effects
That humans might develop a sensitivity to electromagnetic fields isn’t all that far-fetched. After all, there is a mounting body of evidence that cell phone exposure can lead to various negative health effects — ranging from sleep disruption all the way up to brain tumors.
While the exact risks of cell phone use can’t yet be accurately known, studies have suggested that cell phone radiation can significantly increase the risk of malignant brain tumors and potentially affect male fertility, among other diseases and negative health conditions.
The more science investigates, and the more wireless technology surrounds us, the more negative health effects will be linked with wireless technology like cell phones.
Shielding & Healthy Living Can Be Effective, But Only Up to a Point
In the face of such dramatically increasing exposures to EMF radiation, what can one do?
Here at SYB, we provide many tips on how to reduce your exposure to EMF radiation. While the sources of EMF, and our exposures to this harmful radiation, continue to expand – seemingly out of our control – it’s what you do with the devices you keep closest to your body that will make the most difference. For instance, to make a huge reduction in your exposure to EMF radiation, you can:
- Turn off your wifi router at night.
- Stop carrying your cell phone in your pocket.
- Stop sleeping with your phone.
The fact that tips like these are so effective at reducing your exposure to EMF radiation is exactly why we always say the best EMF protection is free.
As well, we make some of the best EMF protection products in the world, like our SYB Phone Pouch and SYB 5G Phone Shield, which make it safer to carry your phone, or our SYB Laptop Pad, which makes it safer to use your laptop.
And, for most people, reducing your exposure to EMF with these practices and products is sufficient to make a huge reduction in your exposure, and significantly reduce your risks of developing negative health effects.
But for those with EHS, this is not a sufficient solution.
Are EHS sufferers exposed to an extreme amount of EMF radiation, compared to the rest of us? No, quite the opposite — as the WHO noted, “their EMF exposure is generally several orders of magnitude under the limits of internationally accepted standards.”
So people with EHS are extremely sensitive to exposure to even very low levels of EMF radiation. And even if you stop carrying your phone in your pocket – or stop using a cell phone altogether – that is not going to be enough for a sufferer of EHS. Because there is so much electrosmog (or EMF pollution) in the environment.
This means that, to address these symptoms, they must escape exposure to the modern technology that is the source of such increasing amounts of EMF radiation. This has given rise to a new term: EMF refugee. People who are so sensitive to EMF radiation, that they must escape it, or suffer debilitating, life-altering symptoms.
This condition is increasingly common. For example, the former CTO of Nokia, the cell phone manufacturer, has explained how his health was wrecked by cell phone radiation. A TV producer in the UK had to abandon her career when she realized she suffered with EHS. Or this former engineer from Ericcson who had to move to the middle of the woods.
There are an increasing number of such stories in the news. So, in a world with such vastly increasing amounts of EMF radiation, what is an EMF refugee to do?
Enter: EMF Free Zones, which offers an escape from the bombardment of EMF radiation we’re all exposed to every hour of every day in modern society.
What are the Types of EMF Free Zones?
Broadly speaking, there are two types of EMF Free Zones.
Radio Quiet Zones
All wireless devices use EMF radiation to communicate. These devices send and receive signals in what is known as the radio frequency (or RF) range of the EMF spectrum.
A radio quiet zone is an area where such radio frequency transmissions are forbidden (or severely restricted) by law. So wireless technology is effectively forbidden.
Why would the law prohibit radio signals? Well, in the case of the United States Radio Quiet Zone, it was created in 1958 to protect the ability of an incredibly sensitive telescope to function.
This telescope is in the Green Bank Observatory in Green Bank, West Virginia. It is the largest fully steerable radio telescope in the world – it’s two acres large and as tall as the Washington Monument. And it’s incredibly sensitive; this is a device can detect a radio signal from 13 billion light years away.
In order to function, this telescope can not have interference from modern technology like cell phones, wifi routers or even microwave ovens. This is why Green Bank heavily restricts wireless technology. Switching on a cell phone or a wifi network anywhere nearby is equivalent to screaming in its ear.
Other Radio Quiet Zones Around the World
Green Bank, WV, may be the most widely known Radio Quiet Zone – especially in the United States – but there are other extremely sensitive telescopes around the world that are protected by Radio Quiet Zones, including:
- The Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico
- The Square Kilometer Array in South Africa
- The Atacama Large Millimeter Array in Chile
- The Australian Radio Quiet Zone WA in Australia
- The Dominion Radio Astrophysical Observatory in Canada
- The Five hundred meter Aperture Spherical Telescope in China
- The Institute for Radio Astronomy in the Millimeter Range in Spain
- The Itapetinga Radio Observatory in Brazil
- The Large Millimeter Telescope in Mexico
- The Pushchino Radio Astronomy Observatory, Russia
White Zones, or Quiet Zones
So a radio quiet zone is a type of EMF free zone that has been established by law. But there are other EMF free zones as well. These are called white zones (or sometimes just ‘quiet zones’).
White zones are areas without cell service, and they get their name from the color used on maps published by cell phone providers to designate areas without service.
And because these white zones have no cell service, they have orders of magnitude less EMF in the environment. So in white zones, EMF emissions are not regulated by law, but instead by the market.
The Top 5 EMF Free Zones – Updated 2020
1) United States National Radio Quiet Zone – Green Bank, West Virginia
As mentioned above, the United States designated this area as a radio quiet zone in 1958 to protect the very sensitive telescope housed in the observatory here. It is large – 13,000 square miles – and technically spans three states, West Virginia, Virginia and Maryland.
As a result, as EHS has become more widespread, Green Bank has become a sanctuary for those who suffer from electromagnetic sensitivity. There are currently about 150 full time residents, many of whom live there because of the lack of EMF.
One resident, Diane Schou, moved to Green Bank in 2007 because of her constant headaches. She explains to Slate that “Life isn’t perfect here. There’s no grocery store, no restaurants, no hospital nearby… But here, at least, I’m healthy. I can do things. I’m not in bed with a headache all the time.”
To learn more about Green Bank, you can watch this video created by National Geographic:
By the way, you don’t have to move to Green Bank to enjoy its EMF-free benefits. You can also rent a tiny home in Green Bank to see what life is like there, and whether it improves your health.
2) Snowflake EHS/MCS Community – Snowflake, Arizona
The Snowflake Community in Arizona was founded in 1988 and is one of the oldest refuges available for those who suffer from EHS.
Snowflake wasn’t designed just for those with EHS. They describe themselves as a community for those who suffer from environmental illnesses (or EI), which includes EHS, but also other conditions such as multiple chemical sensitivity (or MCS).
Snowflake features a variety of different residents. Single and married. Young and old. Some who are well off, and some who just get by. And some of the homes are fancy, while others are basic. Some of the homes are shielded against EMF radiation, and others are not.
Snowflake is in a white zone. There are two cell towers in that town, both with very weak signals.
You can visit EI Wellspring for more information on Snowflake and other EI communities in Arizona.
3) EHS Refuge Zone – Drôme, France
The Drôme refuge zone is an independently run operation created by the French environmental organization Next-Up. Nestled in a mountainous forest, EMF emitting devices are completely banned here. The nearest neighbor is almost a mile away, and the nearest cell tower is six miles away. The camp features high-speed internet access over broadband fiber – so you can stay here and still be connected.
Accommodations are available for short and long-term stays.
4) Zurich House, Swiss Healthy Living Foundation – Zurich, Switzerland
Christian Schifferle suffered from multiple environmental sensitivities, which led him to live in a primitive steel hut in the mountains outside of Zurich for twenty years.
In 2008, he co-founded the organization Swiss Healthy Life, and the city of Zurich donated a parking lot. Once he raised sufficient funding, Zurich House was created – designed from the ground-up as a safe space for those with environmental sensitivities (including EHS) to live.
This building is custom-made for those who are hypersensitive to several different environmental pollutants, including perfumes and smoke, as well as microwave radiation. Among other considerations, the building is constructed with radiation-shielded insulation – in effect, the entire building is a Faraday cage.
No smoking, no perfume, no mobile phone use — the list of rules at a newly opened apartment building on the outskirts of Zurich is long.
It’s for a reason: the structure has been purpose-built for people who say exposure to everyday products like perfume, hand lotion or wireless devices make them so sick they cannot function.
Many occupants suffer from electromagnetic hypersensitivity as well as other environmental sensitivities. “It makes me weak, anxious, I can’t breathe, my lungs hurt, and I get dizzy,” says Schifferle, who suffers from both conditions.
While living in the building will not cure Schifferle or others, it aims to make daily lives more comfortable for people whose conditions have often left them isolated and unable to hold jobs.
5) Australian Radio Quiet Zone Western Australia – Murchison, Australia
The Australian Radio Quiet Zone Western Australia is similar to the radio quiet zone in Green Bank. This one, however, is the largest radio quiet zone on earth, with an outer zone reaching 93 miles (150 km) away from the observatory!
The Top 5 EMF Detox Retreats – Updated 2020
Moving to an EMF free zone may be an option to consider for those suffering from EHS. However, there are other options available. Maybe you just want to test out whether living in an EMF free zone improves your health before committing to moving to one. Or maybe you just want to detox from EMF at a retreat or spa for a nice vacation.
In either case, there are plenty of options for EMF detoxing and testing out an EMF free lifestyle. Here are some of the top EMF detox options.
1) The Quiet Dome – Grass Valley, California
The Quiet Dome is a rental home located on 11 acres inside a white zone in the Sierra Nevada mountains. Miles away from the nearest WiFi and cell service, the Quiet Dome is a peaceful retreat, surrounded by nature. And it’s available for short-term rentals.
2) Parc de Carnè – Brisighella, Ravenna, Italy
A second EMF refuge has already been established by Next-Up, the same organization that established the EMF free zone in Drôme.
This one is in Italy, inside the Vena del Gesso Regional Park. It’s the first EMF free zone in Italy and includes a bed and breakfast which is built with EMF shielding materials. You can learn more about how to arrange your stay here.
3) Harbin Hot Springs, California
The Harbin Hot Springs, outside of San Francisco, California, offers guests a spiritual retreat on 1700 acres of meadows, hills, canyons, and creeks. There are hot, warm and cool pools, a fantastic natural foods menu, and of course, no WiFi or cell phones allowed.
4) Rose Hill Off-Grid Farm in Horsefly, BC
The Rose Hill Off-Grid Farm sits on 162 acres in the Cariboo Region of British Columbia in Canada. And it is truly off-grid: there’s no cell service or WiFi, and the water comes from a well powered by solar electricity.
5) Beacon Bank Farm in Staffordshire, England
Beacon Bank Farm is a meditation and martial arts retreat in Staffordshire, England. There is no WiFi, and guests are requested to keep their cell phones off during their stay.
Living in an EMF Free Zone: CNN Deep Dive Into Greenbank, West Virginia
Now, after all that explanation of EMF free zones, you might be wondering what it’s actually like to live in one. Fortunately, Dr. Sanjay Gupta on CNN explored that very topic in a three-part series exploring the research behind electromagnetic sensitivity, the dangers of EMF exposure, and more.
If you get your news reports from CNN, you might be familiar with Dr. Sanjay Gupta. The US-born neurosurgeon and medical correspondent has already won multiple Emmy Awards for his work. His CNN segment “Vital Signs” explores health stories from all around the world. One issue that Dr. Gupta reports for CNN is the health dangers of wireless EMF radiation.
Here are the three parts to his CNN report.
Part One: Welcome to the National Quiet Zone
Part One of CNN’s series takes us inside the radio quiet zone of Green Bank, West Virginia. As we explained above, Green Bank is home to a large, highly sensitive telescope. To prevent interference with the telescope, all types of wireless technology and radio signals are banned by law within the zone.
The quite zone is also home to a small community of people who suffer from electromagnetic hypersensitivity (EHS). Dr. Gupta interviews one Green Bank resident who began suffering from headaches, fatigue and skin rashes after a cell phone tower was erected near her Iowa home. When she relocated to Green Bank, her symptoms disappeared.
The symptoms of EHS vary from person to person, and are difficult to confirm or diagnose. That’s why some people still question its existence.
Dr. Gupta seeks out an expert opinion, and interviews David Carpenter, Director of the Institute for Health and the Environment at the University of Albany.
At the start of his career, Carpenter “did not believe that EHS was a real medical condition.” His work over the years, says CNN, has changed his mind.
Carpenter refers to studies exploring the link between childhood leukaemia and EMF radiation from household wiring. “I thought that was just ludicrous and nonsense,” he says. “And then we supported studies that confirmed those observations.”
While Carpenter agrees that it’s necessary to be skeptical, it’s also important to “look at the evidence and take the evidence seriously.” Of electromagnetic hypersensitivity he says: “While the evidence is still building, I’m convinced it’s a real disease.”
Part Two: Reducing Wireless Exposure
“As the world becomes more connected,” asks CNN, “how can you reduce your exposure to electromagnetic fields?”
The second video by Dr. Sanjay Gupta doesn’t ask if we should try and minimize EMF exposure — that’s already a given. Instead, it jumps into why and how.
The video opens with research into cell phone use and health. In 2011, it notes, the World Health Organization classified radio frequency electromagnetic fields as “possibly carcinogenic to humans” based on the increased risk of brain cancer from wireless phone use.
“Reduce your exposures wherever possible,” says Joel Moskowitz, Director of the Center for Family and Community Health at UC Berkeley. He singles out measures like using wired internet connections, landline phones, and headsets. “Around one in 250 people will get brain cancer over their lifetime. What we’re finding with 10 years of cell phone use is a doubling of risk.”
Dr. Gupta heads back to Green Bank, where EHS sufferers have gathered to reduce their own wireless exposure. The experiences of sufferers like Dafna Tachover, a telecommunications officer in the Israeli army, and Melissa Chalmers, a commercial airline pilot, are similar despite their different backgrounds. All experienced debilitating symptoms in daily life that subsided or disappeared after moving to Green Bank.
Researchers have yet to find a definitive link between EMFs and electromagnetic hypersensitivity symptoms. But, the program notes, establishing such cause-and-effect relationships takes decades, and technology moves faster than research can keep up with.
Part Three: Living in the National Quiet Zone
Leo Halepli has been living in Green Bank on and off for three years. Originally from Turkey, he’s a management consultant by trade and self-confessed tech geek.
Despite his love of computers, Halepli developed EHS symptoms like muscle tenseness, gastrointestinal issues, and fatigue. After years of visiting doctors and psychologists to no avail, Halepli, willing to try just about anything, moved to the EMF-free zone of Green Bank.
“When I was driving into the zone, I felt a sense of relief,” he says. His symptoms quickly subsided. Halepli, like others, has also found that the more time he spends in Green Bank, the better he is able to cope with electromagnetic radiation when he is exposed. “The longer he spends here,” explains Dr. Gupta, “the more time he can spend away—in small doses.”
Halepli’s story is yet another that suggests, at least anecdotally, that the health effects of electromagnetic fields have not yet been fully realized or documented.
“While the scientific research regarding EHS continues,” concludes Dr. Gupta, “one thing is for sure: disconnecting with our devices, and reconnecting to each other, can’t hurt.”
Limitations of EMF Free Zones
EMF free zones are a fantastic option for many – and a life saver for those with EHS. They exist because there are still places on earth that remain largely untouched by EMF emissions.
While the number of EMF detox options will almost certainly increase in the coming years, alongside EMF awareness and the exponential growth in EMF-emitting technology, there is another trend that puts this at risk.
Companies like SpaceX, Google and Facebook are surrounding the planet with low-orbit communications satellites to bring wireless internet to every inch of the planet.
SpaceX’s satellite internet project is called StarLink. The first test satellites were launched in 2018. Then 120 more were launched in 2019. And StarLink plans to launch 12,000 low-earth orbit satellites in the coming years. By way of comparison, there are only 2,000 such satellites today, and only 9,000 ever launched across human history.
Once all of these companies get their satellites up in orbit, there will be about 50,000 of these low-earth orbiters, emitting enough EMF to provide broadband internet to every inch of the planet.
Already, with just 120 satellites in orbit, astronomers around the world are complaining that these new satellites are interfering with their work.
It is as yet unknown how much EMF exposure will result on the ground from these new satellites from StarLink and many other providers. But if these companies promise high-speed internet coverage for every inch of the planet, then EMF levels will obviously increase, jeopardizing the ability for EMF free zones to serve as a safe haven for the electrohypersensitive, and those who just want a real detox from electrosmog.
In the meantime, the EMF free zones detailed above will continue to be a haven for EMF refugees. And beyond those, you can still take measures to protect yourself from EMF radiation – wherever you are and in all aspects of your daily life – by following some simple healthy living tips and guidelines.