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EMF’s Effect on Plants: Why Do Trees Facing Cell Towers Suffer Physical Damage?

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The ever-growing EMF pollution in our environment is slowly killing plants and trees, say research studies.

Plants and trees are among the most essential forms of life on earth. They produce the air we breathe, form a considerable portion of our diets – and the diets of the animals we consume as meat. And besides that, they also play a significant role in freshening up the water we drink.

If that wasn’t enough, here’s more.

Plants and trees also make our lives more convenient by trapping dust in the environment, absorbing pollutants, and blocking noise pollution.

With that many contributions to our lives, we really can’t afford to cause them any harm. But sadly, that’s what we’ve been doing all these years. We cut trees down, kill plants to make space for our buildings, and essentially suffocate our flora with the many kinds of pollution we generate every day.

And that’s just one part of how our actions are harming them. There’s more.

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Research studies have found that the EMF generated by our devices, appliances, and network sources also causes irreversible damage to trees and plants. Let’s have a deeper look.

How Does EMF Affect Trees?

Look at this image of a maple tree in Norway. Notice anything unusual?

EMF plants maple tree damage
Badly damaged tree crown on the side facing an RF transmitter

This image was posted online in 2018 by Environmental Health Trust (EHT), a non-profit organization that educates individuals, health professionals, and communities about controllable environmental health risks.

If you look at the image carefully, you can see that the tree seems damaged or underdeveloped on its right side. So, what could have caused this?

To answer that, you’d have to look at what’s in the background of this image. There’s an RF transmitter in the line of sight behind the building.

Given the current state of research on the effects of EMF on plants and trees, EHT hypothesizes that damage might have been caused by constant exposure of the tree to EMF emissions from that transmitter.   

Now, I understand that, even though the image says a lot, we can’t count it as evidence, as there are a lot of things that can lead to this condition of the tree. But EMF’s ill effects on trees is not just a suspicion. There are numerous high-quality studies showing this to be true. Have a look.

Impact of EMF on Tree Growth

A 2010 study published in the International Journal of Forestry Research found that RF radiation has “strong adverse effects” on the growth of aspen trees.

These researchers constructed Faraday cages (a device 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.

As well as having their growth stunted, trees located near high-power EMF sources like cell towers and transmitters have been found to suffer severe damages.

Trees Suffer Physical Damage

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 those,

  • 60 were heavily damaged
  • 30 were chosen from low radiation areas
  • And the remaining 30 were from random locations.

They found that all damaged trees were in the vicinity of a cellphone tower. And much more interesting was the fact that those trees had suffered more damage on the side facing the towers and less damage on the other side.

This study could also explain why the maple tree in EHT’s article (pictured above) suffered damage on the side facing the RF transmitter only.

Also, the trees in the low radiation areas suffered little or no damages. 

The researchers concluded their study by saying, “Statistical analysis demonstrated that electromagnetic radiation from mobile phone masts is harmful to trees. These results are consistent with the fact that damage afflicted on trees by mobile phone towers usually start on one side, extending to the whole tree over time.”

Trees Aren’t the Only Victims

Trees are just one form of plant life, which is why it shouldn’t be surprising to find that EMF affects other types of plants as well.

Research studies show that, just like trees, smaller plants and crops that are exposed to EMF in our environment suffer several problems. 

Decrease in Chlorophyll Production

If you remember your biology lessons in school, you know that plants make their own food through photosynthesis.

Photosynthesis is a process in which plants access a green molecule called chlorophyll that enables them to absorb the energy from the sun, which in turn helps them build tissues. 


Producing enough chlorophyll is essential for plants to survive and grow to their full potential. But a 2003 study conducted in Romania shows that exposure to a mere 400 MHz electromagnetic radiation decreases plants’ ability to produce chlorophyll.

This study included the seedlings of Robinia pseudoacacia, also known as the black locust plant. After gathering the seedlings, the researchers exposed them to EMF operating at the frequency of 400 MHz.

For the first two hours, the seedlings showed a significant increase in chlorophyll production. But after that, the production slowed down and continued that way for a long time after the exposure ended.

Alteration in Plant Enzymes

Enzymes are specialized proteins that break nutrients down into small molecules so that plants can absorb them through their cell walls.

It’s crucial for plant enzymes to have no interference while the plant is in its growth phase. Any alteration can result in problems like enzyme denaturation, changes in inner temperature, and unbalanced pH (power of hydrogen).

A 2014 study found that prolonged EMF exposure interferes with plant enzymes, causing the plant not to receive enough nutrition and face premature death.

For this study, they used Plectranthus, a plant from the mint family found in South African forests. They exposed the plants to EMF operating on a frequency of 902, which is similar to the 2G network we used.

They kept the plants at 20 centimeters (7.87 inches) distance from an EMF source, and the exposure limit was one hour.

After the experiment, the researchers said that “exposure of Plectranthus plants to 900 MHz for 1 hour EMF leads to decrease of MDH activity immediately after the end of treatment, as well as 2 hours later.”

MDH or malate dehydrogenase is an enzyme that acts as a critical protein in the central oxidative pathway of living organisms.

Problems in Seed Germination

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.

EMF & Plants experiment
Photos of the watercress seeds from the Danish schoolgirls’ experiment; unexposed to wifi (left) and exposed to wifi (right)

Now, while this study got a lot of attention, many criticized it 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 concerning this subject. Indeed, in 2017, a group of researchers published their findings from reviewing 45 separate studies published from 1996 through 2016 on the impact of radiofrequency EMF on plants.

Their systematic review found that the majority of those studies had demonstrated a “significant trend of radiofrequency radiation influence on plants.”

Inadequate Growth

Despite the influence of surrounding EMF on seeds, some plants manage to grow. But the threat isn’t over.

Plants grow in six steps. They begin with a sprout, which contains vital nutrients to germinate the plant. The sprout then turns into a seedling, and then it goes into a vegetative stage where it focuses its energy on growing stalks and foliage.

After some time, the plant moves toward the budding phase, where it transitions from growing leaves to forming buds. Then the flowering stage immediately follows, which is soon replaced by its final form, ripening the fruits.

In any of these stages, a healthy environment is highly crucial. If the surrounding is not perfect, the plant won’t be able to grow properly.

Research studies say that the presence of EMF in the environment suppresses plants’ performance when they’re going through these six stages, resulting in them suffering from problems like inadequate growth.

Reduced Crop Yield

40% of the world’s agriculture consists of crops, which are vital for humankind. But experts say that EMF radiation from high voltage power lines and network transmission towers heavily affects crop yield.

To confirm this, 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 five years.

The data they collected from their study showed the field closest to a tower had a 7% lower wheat yield than a field far away from any EMF source.

There are many studies like this showing the effects of EMF on agricultural crops. But, the direct effects of EMF are just one part of the problem. Besides causing crops to produce fewer grains, EMF is also known to cause problems in the crops’ soil.

EMF’s Effects on Soil

A 2019 research study by Dr. Sharma and team from India found that constant EMF exposure increases antibiotic resistance in soil’s microbiota.

For this study, the researchers took a total of eight soil samples from lands located within 50 meters of a cell tower and lands where a cell tower was more than 300 meters away.

Upon examining, they found that the soil from lands with cell towers in 50 meters had greater antibiotic resistance than other samples.

This can cause the microbial population to thrive even if farmers use antibiotic solutions. As a result, the crops could get infected before they’re able to move to the sixth stage of plant growth, i.e., ripening of the fruits.

Final Thoughts

The effects of electromagnetic fields on the natural world are vast. And the way we’re moving forward, we’ll soon reach a stage where the damage caused by our actions will be irreversible. This is why right now is a good time for us to take stock of what we’re doing and slow ourselves down.

So, how can you contribute to saving plants and trees from EMF’s ill effects?

Well, you can begin by educating yourself on the subject. Because, without proper knowledge, you won’t be able to convince anyone about the gravity of this problem. And mitigating EMF pollution from our environment is only possible if it’s a team effort.

Since 2012, we have posted a ton of scientific research-based content on the subject of EMF, its effects, and what you can do about it. You can access all of it, for free, on my website recommend beginning your journey from my “EMF Healthy Living Tips” page.

Where do you carry your phone?

Want to Slash Your EMF Health Risks?

Good! Learn the one small change you should make right now.

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About the Author

R Blank is the CEO of Shield Your Body, which he founded in 2012. With hundreds of thousands of customers in over 30 countries, and having been interviewed on platforms including Dr. Phil, ABC news television and ElectricSense, R is an internationally followed expert on issues of EMF, health and safety. He also hosts “The Healthier Tech Podcast”, available Apple, Spotify and all major podcasting platforms. In the past, he served on the faculty at the University of Southern California Viterbi School of Engineering as well as the University of California, Santa Cruz. Previously, R ran a software engineering firm in Los Angeles, producing enterprise-level solutions for blue chip clients including Medtronic, Apple, NBC, Toyota, Disney, Microsoft, the NFL, Ford, IKEA and Mattel. He has spoken at conferences around the world, including in the US, Canada, New Zealand and the Netherlands, and he is the co-author, along with his father Dr. Martin Blank, of ‘Overpowered‘ from Seven Stories Press about the science of health effects of EMF radiation. He has an MBA from the UCLA Anderson School of Management and received his bachelor’s degree, with honors, from Columbia University. He has also studied at Cambridge University in the UK; the University of Salamanca in Spain; and the Institute of Foreign Languages in Nizhny Novgorod, Russia. Read more about R and SYB or connect with R on LinkedIn.

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R Blank

R Blank