I’ve written extensively on this blog about the health effects of EMF exposure on humans. Because there is a lot of science on that subject, and of course the health impact of electromagnetic radiation is naturally of great concern to all of us. But EMF effects all life, including animals and insects, as well as trees and plants. In this post, I will discuss some of what science has to tell us about the effects of EMF on nature.
Effects of EMF on Bees
Albert Einstein once famously said: “If the bees disappeared off the surface of the globe, then man would have only four years of life left. No more bees, no more pollination, no more plants, no more animals, no more man.“
Einstein made this statement based on the fact that humanity– and indeed, all of life– depends heavily on bees for our survival.
The pollination work that bees perform is critical to the production of vegetables and produce that we consume each and every day. And it’s not just the vegetables we eat, because the meat and dairy products that we eat come from animals that, in turn, feed on those same vegetables and grains for which bees are critical to produce.
Bees are critical to the reproduction of plants, and those plants are critical to the entire food chain on which we rely. Indeed, without the efforts of the bees, 85% of the more than 200,000 known species of earth’s vegetation are unable to reproduce.
The number of bees that we have is decreasing at an alarming rate. Beekeepers in the United States lost 40.7% of their honey bee colonies between 2018 to 2019.
Scientists have hypothesized the reason for this massive decline to be industrial agriculture, parasites, pathogens, and climate change.
However, in the past few years, one more reason has come to light that may be responsible for this collapse. The reason is human-made EMF– the radiation that is emitted by all of our wireless technology, the power grid, and all of our appliances on which we rely.
As technological gadgets have become an everyday necessity, the presence of EMF is everywhere, and it is hurting our wildlife, including bees.
How Does EMF Affect Bees?
Bees use magnetoreception to perform their daily tasks, like finding food sources, sensing the route to the food, and traveling back to the hive. Magnetoreception is the ability to use the earth’s magnetic field to perceive direction, altitude, or location.
In other words, just like we have senses like touch, taste and smell, bees have a sense that detects magnetism. And they have been honed, over eons of evolution, to rely on the earth’s magnetic field for their navigation.
Unsurprisingly, scientists have found that human-made EMF interferes with their ability to use magnetoreception. I say this is unsurprising because the human-made electromagnetic fields simply overpower and confuse the bees’ sense of the earth’s magnetic field, which has a tiny fraction of the power and energy of the human-made EMF.
The inability to use magnetoreception affects their homing ability and their waggle dance. This means that the group which flies away cannot sense the return route and gets lost.
A research study in the University of Southampton found that EMF exposure reduces their cognitive and motor abilities. Due to this, the worker bees fail to perform tasks like pollination.
With no pollination we will lose one-third of the crops production worldwide. If this happens, the human race will suffer on a vast scale.
EMF Causes Bee Colony Collapse
In normal times, beekeepers lose approximately 5-10% of their bee populations over the course of a winter; that can go up to 15-20% in a bad year. That’s the way it used to be, anyway.
Because in the time since 2005, beekeepers have reported a drastic reduction in the number of bees in all seasons– not only in winter. This phenomenon has been named Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD).
To give you some sense of the scope of CCD, according to a report prepared for the US Congress by the Congressional Research Service, the number of managed honey bee colonies dropped 31.8% in the winter of 2006/2007; an additional 35.8% the following year; 28.6% in the 2008/2009 winter; and 33.8% between 2009 and 2010.
So, as you can see, CCD has resulted in some massive and sudden drops in bee populations.
The reasons behind the drastic reduction of bees were unknown. In the intervening years, several possible causes have been identified, including pesticides and antibiotics in the environment, as well as genetically modified crops and climate change. And it is likely that CCD is the result of multiple separate causes.
Among the suspected causes is EMF radiation. And there is now a large body of science to support this.
A group of researchers in Germany performed a very simple experiment with a cordless phone and a bee hive. They turned on the cordless phone (again, that is a cordless phone which is not as powerful as a cell phone) near a hive and investigated whether there was a resulting change in the number of bees that returned to the hive, when compared to a hive without a nearby cordless emitting EMF radiation. They performed this test with 16 different hives; 8 irradiated and 8 control hives. 39.7% of the non-irradiated bees returned; only 7.3% of the irradiated bees came back to the hive.
These findings are similar to the findings published earlier by researchers in India; except in these experiments, none of the EMF exposed worker bees returned to the hives at all and the hive completely collapsed.
In other research out of India, scientists selected 4 colonies and planted functional GSM cell phones in two of them whereas the other two colonies were not exposed to EMF. The cell phones were on ‘call mode,’ and the colonies were exposed to EMF for 15 minutes twice a day for three months.
They noted many effects in the EMF exposed hive, including reduced flight activity, reduced ability to return to the hive, and a reduced number of worker bees returning to the hive with pollen. The exposed queen laid less than half the eggs of the control queen, the control hive had stored eight times as much honey as the exposed hive, and the population of the exposed hive was reduced by over 70%.
These researchers concluded that EMF is the primary source of CCD, explaining:
“Electromagnetic frequency emitted by cell phones reduces bees’ colony size and the number of eggs laid by the queen bee and changes their behavior.”
Effects of EMF on Birds
Bees are not the only forms of life that rely on magnetoreception. Another is birds.
Birds play a crucial role in the functioning of our ecosystem. Like bees, they pollinate plants. In addition, they control pests, as well as distribute and plant seeds. Their presence makes life on earth possible.
Why are Birds Important?
Birds help farmers by removing harmful insects like caterpillars, weevils, cutworms, beetles, and flies from the fields. The crops grow healthy because of this and in this way, birds contribute to feeding millions of people worldwide.
Not only do they remove insects, but they also help grow new plants in the ecosystem through dispersing seeds and pollinating flowers and plants.
Birds like vultures controls the spread of deadly pathogen by consuming the dead flesh of the animals in the wild.
Certain species of birds produce one of nature’s best fertilizers called guano, which enriches the soil and promotes the massive production of food.
The contribution of birds in the ecosystem is endless. Our food supply relies on their existence and work.
How Does EMF Affect Birds?
The report explains that he captured European Robins and placed them inside a cage in a windowless room. He observed that the birds would try to flee in the same direction every time. This is because these birds sensed the earth’s magnetic field using their internal compass (their sense of magnetoreception), which allows them to find the right direction even if they cannot see the sun.
Dr. Mouritsen later moved to the University of Oldenburg, and his research took a surprising turn when he observed that the birds could no longer sense direction. He tried changing several variables: the light intensity, the size and shape of the funnels, the birds’ food. However, the results remained the same.
In 2006, he along with his postdoctoral researcher Nils-Lasse Schneider speculated that placing the birds inside a Faraday cage (a device that blocks EMF) might show different results. And they were right.
When the researchers placed the birds inside the Faraday cage, their sense of detecting the earth’s magnetic field seemed to return. And when the researchers removed the birds from the special EMF-shielding cage, they once again flew in random directions.
This study demonstrates that the effects of EMF in birds are severe, as EMF exposure can result in the mass extinction of mainly migratory birds.
In another study, biologist Alphonso Balmori concludes that “microwave and radiofrequency pollution is the main cause of decline in birds.”
In this study, he observed birds like white stork, sparrows, and other species at a community park. His goal was to identify the adverse effects of electromagnetic pollution on birds. He divided the research into three parts.
- In his study with the white storks, he observed several nests located within 200 meters and 300 meters from the cell phone base stations.
At the end of this study, he found that 12 nests located within 200 meters from the cell phone stations never had any chicks. This demonstrated that EMF affects birds’ ability to reproduce.
- In his study with the house sparrows, he observed 150-point locations within six areas in the breeding season. He saw that there were fewer sparrows in the highly EMF polluted regions, even in the breeding season.
- In another study, he observed birds at urban parks. This study revealed that the population of birds were fewer in the places where the electromagnetic pollution was high.
He concluded the study by saying: Currently, we have enough evidence to know that technology has severe effects on wildlife. There should be precautionary measures and assessments before installing a network tower. If it is a protected natural area where endangered species are present, there should be a ban on network towers installation.
Effects of EMF on Plants and Trees
The best free source of breathable air in our environment comes from plants and trees. Humans and animals breathe oxygen and produce carbon dioxide. In contrast, plants “breathe” carbon dioxide and produce oxygen.
If plants were not to provide any oxygen, human life would not be possible.
And, of course, plant life forms a huge portion of our diets– and the diets of the animals we consume as meat. In this way, plants form the majority of our food system. In addition, plants also improve our lives by trapping dust, absorbing pollutants, and reducing noise pollution.
As a growing body of science demonstrates, EMF is slowly harming and killing plants and trees, with the potential to dramatically upend life on earth.
Effects of EMF on Trees
In 2015, researchers in Germany conducted a study to understand the effects of EMF on trees near cell phone towers.
They selected a total of 120 trees for this study. Out of these 120 trees, there were 60 damaged trees, 30 were in low radiation areas, and they randomly chose the remaining 30.
The researchers were surprised to find that the trees suffered more damage on the side of the trees that faced the cell phone towers; and, conversely, the damage was lower on the other side, facing away from the towers.
The researchers were also surprised to find that trees in the low radiation areas suffered little or no damages.
EMF effects trees on a slow and unnoticeable scale, therefore it would be hard to notice if there are any ill effects without investing the time on a dedicated study. The population of trees in urban areas is decreasing day by day. Due to this, cities are suffering massive carbon emission rendering the cities slowly uninhabitable.
As further evidence of the impact of EMF on trees, a 2010 study published in the International Journal of Forestry Research found “strong adverse effects” on the growth of aspen trees. These researchers constructed Faraday cages (that can block EMF radiation) around some (but not all) of the trees. The trees in these cages were shielded from human-made EMF, whereas the unshielded trees remained exposed to regular ambient levels of EMF in the environment, such as from cell towers and TV antennas. The aspens shielded from EMF radiation displayed significantly increased shoot growth (74% more growth in shoots than the exposed trees) and 60% more leaf area than the exposed trees.
Effects of EMF on Plants
Trees are a form of plant life. So if we see that EMF affects trees, it should not be surprising to find that EMF affects other types of plants, as well.
For instance, a study conducted in Romania on the black locust plant demonstrated that exposure to 400 MHz EM radiation (for durations between one and eight hours a day, for a span of three weeks), led to a decrease in the production of chlorophylls. Chlorophylls are the green pigment that enables plants to absorb energy from light, which is critical to their survival.
In a separate study, a team at the Department of Environmental Research in Austria investigated the effect of EMF exposure from high-voltage power lines on the output from wheat fields over a five year period. The wheat closest to the tower had EMF radiation strength approximately 11 times greater than the wheat that was furthest away, and they found that the grain harvest from the least exposed group was 7% higher than from the wheat closest to the transmission tower.
In 2013, a group of schoolgirls from Denmark had a viral hit when they performed a simple experiment in their school with watercress seeds and a wifi router. They had two sets of watercress seeds: six trays were placed in a room with no wifi, and six trays were in a room with wifi always on. Over a 12-day period, most of the seeds in the room with wifi browned and died, whereas the seeds in the room with no wifi germinated as expected.
Now, while this study got a lot of attention, it was criticized for lacking scientific rigor (really? C’mon people! These were schoolgirls doing an experiment for class. Grade A, if you ask me.) And so, a few years later, two scientists – Dr. Marie-Claire Cammaerts from Belgium and Dr. Olle Johansson from Sweden – decided to recreate the experiment. Instead of wifi, they used GSM cell towers. And they were able to reproduce the findings in a published study.
These are just a handful of many studies with concerning findings on this subject. Indeed, in 2017, a group of researchers published their findings from reviewing 45 separate studies, spanning the years 1996 through 2016, on the impact of radio frequency EMF on plants, and found these studies demonstrated a “significant trend of radiofrequency radiation influence on plants.”
Effects of EMF on Animals
So far, we’ve discussed bees, birds and plant life. But as I’ve explained, EMF affects all living things. So what does science have to say about the impact of electromagnetic radiation on animals, other than humans?
Effects of EMF on Cattle
In 1998, a farmer in Germany reached out to the veterinary faculty of Hanover with a major problem which he was facing with his herd of cows. He said that his cows were behaving abnormally since the installation of several network towers close to his farm.
He, along with his family, was also experiencing several health issues since the installation of those towers. They went to several hospitals for tests, but doctors weren’t able to identify the core of these issues.
The veterinary department of Hanover then conducted a study. The goal was to observe the effects of EMF in that herd of cows.
Here is a summary of what the researchers saw during the study:
- They found that most of the cows had a heavy flood of tears (continuously wet cheeks) displaying conjunctivitis and itching. Some of them rubbed their eye areas continuously against the items in the stable within reach.
- Many cows were pushing their heads against the chest area of other cows. They were also turning their heads in the direction which was away from the transmitting area.
- One cow in the herd showed a surprising behavior by shuffling backward and forwards, moving her head continuously.
- Mother cows showed signs of weakness as they fell regularly on the stable floor and couldn’t stand up.
- When the researchers took the cows to eat grass at an open area, the cows hid behind an outbuilding away from the transmitting tower.
After these observations, the researchers then conducted a more complex study. They began with fodder analysis and feeding calculation and performed an autopsy of a deceased cow.
Then, they examined the excreted materials for a pathogen. They also switched their stables to see if the results would change. Finally, they measured the level of EMF in the area.
At the end of this study ended, researchers had concrete evidence to conclude that the abnormal behavior in cows was the result of constant and heavy EMF exposure from the towers.
They concluded the paper by saying:
“the health disorders and behavioral abnormalities described in this paper as well as the results of the conducted examination point to the electromagnetic tension as the cause of the occurrences in the effected herd of dairy cows.“
Ground Currents and Animals
That study investigated the impact of radio frequency electromagnetic fields. But there is another source of EMF, the impact of which on animal life has been studied. And that is ground currents.
The earth itself can conduct electromagnetic fields. When EMF is introduced into the earth (through the grounding of electricity), it is conducted through the soil. These are called ground currents. This is also sometimes referred to as stray voltage. And in some areas ground currents are more prevalent and powerful than in others.
One area where ill-effects of ground currents have been seen is with dairy cows. In one study out of Canada, investigating a population of dairy cows across 140 farms, researchers found that increased levels of ground currents corresponded to increased rates of nervous behavior and spontaneous defecation, as well as reduced consumption of food and water. These primary effects then led to secondary effects including a reduction in milk production, increased time required to milk, and a degradation in the quality of milk.
EMF Health Effects on Pets
Unfortunately, there has not been an extensive amount of research of the effects of EMF on domestic animals, such as cats and dogs. But another study of ground currents did find an impact on these (very lovable) animals.
The 1995 study involved a kennel in Allegan County, MI. This kennel had a population of Shetland Sheepdogs, Persian cats, German Shepherds and Golden Retrievers. And, while they had a 12 year history of producing successful litters, suddenly this population began demonstrating significant reproductive problems.
“Female dogs ceased cycling or had abnormal “unbreedable” seasons. Sperm checks revealed a lack of sperm in four males. Concurrently, neither the Persian nor mongrel female cats in the kennel showed signs of cycling.”
After multiple investigations, it remained unclear what the cause was of these issues. Then investigators contacted two local dairy farms, where cows were experiencing similar problems. It was determined the cause was stray voltage in the ground currents.
This then led the investigators to realize that this stray voltage was introduced into the kennel population, as well, due to the installation of a well.
In other words, the same type of stray voltage that has been demonstrated to yield significant negative effects in dairy cows was shown to harm the reproductive ability of multiple common species of cats and dogs.
Another study from 1995 found that an increase in the levels of magnetic fields in a household increased the risk of development of canine lymphoma, which is a type of blood cancer found in dogs.
Effects of EMF on Marine Life
We’ve already discussed magnetoreception earlier this post. Many species of birds and bees rely on magnetoreception to navigate.
It turns out there are many species of marine life that have an “electric sense” as well, using EMF to navigate and to locate prey. This includes sharks, rays, sea turtles, cod, sturgeons, whales, dolphins and many more.
Certain of these electro-sensitive species are known to have magnetosensitivity– that is, a sensitivity specifically to magnetic fields.
There is a large and growing number of undersea cables that provide power and data connectivity around the world. These cables conduct EMF, and thus are a source of magnetic fields in the world’s oceans. And the magnetosensitive marine life is either unable to differentiate from natural and human-made magnetic fields, or the human-made fields confuse them.
And, per an extensive study commissioned by the United States Department of the Interior, these cables are interfering with the ability of multiple species to navigate, and to identify prey, which in turn harms their nutrition, which reduces life expectancy and reproduction. According to that same publication, these artificial can also interfere with migratory patterns, further disrupting the health and reproductive ability of multiple marine species. As finding food and migration are essential to reproduction, these effects can lead to the possible extinction of multiple species.
A separate study, commissioned by the Oregon Wave Energy Trust (a nonprofit public-private partnership in Oregon devoted to the responsible development of energy production) had similar conclusions, identifying negative health effects in navigation, consumption and reproduction in multiple species of marine life, as well as changed to embryonic development and cellular function.
EMF Affects all Living Things
In this post, I’ve examined and linked to only a few of the extensive publications on the health effects of EMF exposure on nature. For a more comprehensive list of studies on this subject, this index of over 100 publications is a good place to start.
As you can see, there is a massive body of science demonstrating that EMF affects DNA, leading to strand breaks and triggering the stress response. All living things have DNA in their cells, and all biological systems depends on DNA.
So it is not surprising that science demonstrates that we find numerous negative health effects from EMF exposure throughout nature: in plants, trees, insects, birds, animals and other wildlife.
And the more EMF in our environment, the more of these impacts we will see.
Because, exposure to human-made EMF affects all living things.