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Current EMF Standards: Are They Adequate for Public Protection?

Current EMF Standards: Are They Adequate for Public Protection?

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Technology has advanced so much in the last 20 years, and it’s clearly not going to stop advancing any time soon. We now have gadgets doing things that were thought to be impossible. We have high-speed internet, transferring several gigabits of data in a matter of minutes. And we’re on the verge of 5G being our new standard network. But with this rapid growth in technology, our EMF exposure has also increased severely. And even though we have government-set EMF standards, some experts say that they may not be adequate for public protection. A growing body of scientific literature says that long-term exposure to the level of EMF that’s in our environment– within current safety standards– can adversely affect our health and wellbeing.

So, is your protection being taken seriously? Do EMF standards need to change?

Current EMF Standards

ICNIRP, or International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection, sets the EMF standards for everyone. They’re also responsible for updating their guidelines as new research unfolds.

Here’s what our current guidelines for EMF exposure in the 100 kHz to 300 GHz range look like.

ParameterFrequency RangeΔTSpatial AveragingTemporal AveragingHealth Effect LevelReduction FactorWorkersReduction FactorGeneral Public
Core Temp100 kHz – 300 GHz1° CWBA*30 min4 W/kg100.4 W/kg500.08 W/kg
Local (Head & Torso)100 kHz – 6 GHz2° C10 g6 min20 W/kg210 W/kg102 W/kg
Local (Limbs)100 kHz – 6 GHz5° C10 g6 min40 W/kg220 W/kg104 W/kg
Local (Head & Torso, Limbs)>6-300 GHz 30-300 GHz5° C4 cm2
1 cm2
6 min
6 min
200 W/m2
400 W/m2
2100 W/m2
200 W/m2
1020 W/m2
40 W/m2
ICNIRP 2020 EMF Guidelines

The Problem with Current EMF Standards

The concern among the public about the massive 5G rollout is growing. And many groups around the world are advocating against this deployment until independent studies confirm that it’s safe for public health. But, as expected, authorities have ignored these concerns and allowed the installation of 5G on a huge scale, claiming that it’s perfectly safe.

One such incident comes to us from the Netherlands. In May 2020, A group named ‘Stop5GNL Foundation’ filed a lawsuit against the Dutch state to halt the 5G rollout immediately until further research. But the court ruled in the state’s favor, saying that 5G is completely under ICNIRP guidelines.

In fact, the court fully relied on ICNIRP’s exposure guidelines and didn’t take any of the research studies shown by the Stop5GNL Foundation into consideration.

5G is indeed well under ICNIRP-set standards. So why do EMF experts say that these guidelines are not in the public’s best interest?

Physicist Leendert Vriens, Ph.D., sums it up well in an extensive commentary titled “ICNIRP 2020 Guidelines Do Not Protect Against Harmful Health Effects.”

Here’s a summary of his comments:

ICNIRP-set EMF standards only refer to thermal effects caused by 6 minutes and 30 minutes of exposure to RF-EMF. Although this is a 2020 update, the exposure times are similar to the ones mentioned in the ICNIRP 1998 guidelines.

Both guidelines concern short-term exposure instead of taking into account how people use their devices in real life.

ICNIRP 2020 also virtually ignores thousands of peer-reviewed scientific studies demonstrating non-thermal biological long-term effects of EMF.

Some of these effects are known to occur at field strengths and radiation intensities far below the ICNIRP 2020 guidelines. This is why we can conclude that the ICNIRP guidelines, contrary to what they claim, do not protect against EMF’s harmful health effects.

He also added that the current guidelines on allowable limits are set way too high. And, if it hadn’t been done this way, it would have been impossible to launch a network as powerful as 5G.

It’s apparent that ICNIRP 2020 only takes the governments’ and telecom industry’s financial interests into consideration.

Science on Non-ionizing EMF’s Health Concerns

“Electronic gadgets and network sources don’t produce ionizing radiation. As such, they’re perfectly safe to use.” I’m sure you’ve heard this phrase or phrases similar to this at some point. The tech industry says this, and the network industry says this; even some scientists say this.

The first part of this statement is true. Electronic gadgets and network sources produce non-ionizing radiation, which is much weaker than the ionizing category of radiation. But, as a large and growing body of science has demonstrated over recent decades, long-term exposure to non-ionizing radiation is nowhere near safe.

If you’d like to learn more about the distinction between ionizing and non-ionizing radiation, I’ve written a separate post that covers this topic in-depth.

So far, thousands of research studies have been carried out to understand the effect of non-ionizing EMF exposure on humans. And most of those studies found significant health effects.

In 2020, the BioInitiative Group also did a systematic review of 1,488 research papers and found that an average of 80% of those papers had found the possibility of adverse health effects from EMF exposure.

Here’s a chart from their report.

Focus of the StudyResearch Papers ReviewedPapers Showing EffectIn %Papers Showing No EffectIn %
ELF-EMF/Static Field Free Radical (Oxidative Damage)26323589%2811%
RFR Free Radical (Oxidative Damage)26124091%219%
ELF-EMF/Static Field Comet Assay Studies634673%1727%
RF Comet Assay1257865%4735%
ELF-EMF/Static Field Genetic Effects20316077%4323%
RFR Neurological Studies33524473%9227%
ELF-EMF/Static Field Neurological Studies23821691%229%
Report from the Bio Initiative Group

EMF-Induced Health Problems

It’s super complicated to prove EMF-induced health problems through experiments. This is because of factors like ethics. Even if an experiment can be conducted ethically on humans, it’s almost impossible to find a control group that has never been exposed to EMF in this modern world.

So naturally, scientists lean towards animal studies and survey-based epidemiological style research. We’ll talk more about this in the later sections of this post.

But these kinds of studies also give us enough data to understand the possible health effects we, as humans, may be facing from heavy EMF exposure.

Let’s look at some of the health problems that science says are probable from our densely EMF-polluted environment.

Oxidative Stress

When you go through your day-to-day tasks, you burn energy that comes from the combustion of carbohydrates, amino acids, and fats in your body. This combustion process is fuelled by oxygen that you inhale, and this whole process is known as aerobic metabolism.

Aerobic metabolism creates something known as the ROS (reactive oxygen species) in your body, which is important for cell signaling and homeostasis.

However, if present in an excessive amount, the same ROS causes oxidative stress and damages your tissues.

Research studies suggest that long-term EMF exposure massively increases ROS production, which can cause chronic inflammation (resulting in diabetes, heart disease, and arthritis) and neurodegenerative diseases (resulting in Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease.)

Besides that, oxidative stress has also been known to promote chronic fatigue, asthma, and male infertility.

Diabetes can be caused by chronic inflammation from EMF exposure
Chronic inflammation from EMF exposure can lead to diseases like diabetes, heart disease, and arthritis.

Neurological Effects

A Swedish research group found that EMF exposure loosens the blood-brain barrier, which is supposed to keep unnecessary fluids away from your brain.

When this happens, fluids such as albumin can reach your brain, creating health problems like epilepsy and multiple sclerosis.

The same group also found that prolonged EMF exposure causes neuronal damage in the brain’s cortex, hippocampus, and basal ganglia.

I’ve written a separate post that explains EMF’s effects on the brain in-depth. It also has actionable solutions to help you protect your brain from EMF-induced health problems.

Changes in Immunological Functions

Your immune system plays a crucial role in keeping you healthy. It patrols your body for foreign microbes and acts aggressively when one is found.

Experts say that prolonged EMF exposure causes your immune system to respond abnormally. This results in health problems like autoimmune diseases, immunosuppression, allergies, and electrohypersensitivity.

I have already written a comprehensive post on this subject, which also includes published laboratory science on EMF and its effects on the immune system.

Electro Hypersensitivity

Imagine being allergic to cell phones and laptops. You can’t use them, carry them, you can’t even be near them.

It may sound like fiction to some, but this is a reality for a huge number of people that suffer from electro hypersensitivity.

Electrohypersensitivity (EHS), also known as electromagnetic Illness (EMI) or ‘WiFi allergy,’ is a condition in which the patient experiences headaches, fatigue, stress, sleep disturbances, skin prickling, burning sensations and rashes, muscle aches, or other symptoms when they’re exposed to EMF sources.

Finding help is extremely hard for these patients because there has been no development on a structured medical treatment for this condition. But many doctors have been taking EHS seriously and coming up with a number of methods to treat their patients. Check out “EMF Medical Conference 2021” for more details.

If you want to learn more about EHS and how to deal with it, do visit my post “What is Electromagnetic Hypersensitivity?“.

EHS symptoms
EHS sufferers experience symptoms like headaches, fatigue, and stress when exposed to EMF from devices.

Other Problems

EMF’s ill effects aren’t limited to the ones mentioned above. Other health problems like infertility, sleep disorders, tumors, and cancer have also been linked with EMF exposure.

I have a huge collection of posts that talk in-depth about the many health effects of EMF.

Debates, Disagreements, and Answers

The concerns about EMF are based on scientific findings. And when it comes to science, there are always several sides. Similarly, there are people who disagree that EMF can cause real health problems.

Here are some of the questions frequently raised in response to research that shows EMF’s health effects, and the answers to those questions.

Proof of Mechanism Debate

The science behind EMF and its health effects are pretty complicated. This is why many experts simplify the language to make it easy for the general public to understand.

Let’s take the statement “EMF causes cancer” as an example. If we look at it from the scientific perspective, it’s only part-way correct. This is because, to this date, there hasn’t been a single experiment where scientists have kept a subject under EMF exposure long enough for it to develop cancer.

But it doesn’t make this statement untrue. Several researchers have found in their experiments that constant EMF exposure causes DNA damage. And it’s well-known that DNA damage can eventually cause cancer to develop in the patient’s body.

Proving things like this is not as simple as many people may think. I’ve also often heard debates about the concept of EMF-induced health problems having no proof of mechanism.

A mechanism is the manner of combination of parts and processes, which subserve a common function.

To understand mechanism better, think of going from the first floor to the second floor of a building. You take the flight of stairs, and although they’re at different levels, they lead you to the same destination.

With that understanding, you can conclude that the first step of the stairs causes a second step, and then the second causes a third, and so on. You can be certain that if you take the first step, and continue moving upwards, your final destination, the second floor, is inevitable.

You can’t have certainty of this degree in science. We have research studies that show a problem, and based on previous data, we have to conclude that a specific problem may lead to another problem.

Here are some examples:

  • DNA mutations can eventually lead to cancer
  • Changes in melatonin secretion can alter cellular rhythms
  • Blood-brain barrier leakage can result in the death of brain cells

Experts say that knowing the entire mechanism of a problem is not essential for setting up safety standards. Action is what’s deemed necessary, even if we don’t understand the mechanisms fully yet.

For instance, limitations on smoking were instituted long before scientists definitively concluded that it could cause lung cancer. There was mounting scientific evidence of health issues that pointed towards lung cancer development, and that was enough to conclude that smoking causes lung cancer.

So, even though we don’t have the proof of mechanism to show that EMF exposure can lead to chronic and harmful diseases, you have to understand that there’s no shortage of scientific documents informing us about the biological changes from EMF exposure that can lead to chronic health problems in the long-term.

Science Doesn’t Prove These Health Effects: Debate

The definition of the word ‘proof’ is not the same in the science world as it is for the general population.

Proof is often governed by logic for us. For example, you can prove that you’re a mortal using logic.

  • All human beings are mortal
  • You are a human
  • Therefore, you’re a mortal.

Assuming that the above two statements are correct, you can prove that you’re a mortal. And, you know for a fact that this wouldn’t be incorrect, even hundreds of years from now. Establishing proof doesn’t work the same way in science.

A scientist comes up with a hypothesis, performs an experiment, and publishes the results with a theory to explain it.

Other scientists can then repeat the experiment to verify if their results match the previously published one. This process can go on for generations. And sometimes, a theory once proven right can be proven entirely wrong after several decades.

For instance, we knew that matter could not be created nor destroyed. That was the conclusion until the creation of the atom bomb. This bomb released energy by destroying matter, and it completely changed our understanding.

Science can only ever say that something is probable after a number of experiments and the replication of those experiments. It’s never a simple yes or no.

Proof in science is an ongoing process, which reflects the best information available for us to understand the world at the time, given the observable facts.

So, in the case of EMF’s health effects, we can’t “prove” whether it causes chronic illnesses like cancer or not. We can only make an educated guess based on research studies that we have available at the moment.

Man with microscope
In science, establishing proof is an ongoing process that requires experiments to be repeated and results to be replicated.

Weight of Evidence

  • X number of studies show health effects from EMF.
  • Y number of studies show no health effects from EMF.

The number of studies is greater in Y; therefore, it’s proven that EMF has no health effects.

This kind of approach is called the ‘weight of evidence.’ Tech and telecom industries often use this approach to downplay EMF’s health risks.

You need to understand that the weight-of-evidence approach is misleading, and science doesn’t work this way.

A well-designed scientific experiment tests a single, specific hypothesis following a specific procedure. If other scientists can repeat those results, following the same procedure, the results are accepted and become the basis for further experiments.

If they can’t repeat the result, this too becomes part of the record, and this process continues until we understand why we received a different result.

Science does not operate on a weight-of-evidence basis. If it did, there would be no progress. Individual new findings would always be outweighed by the more numerous expressions of prevailing ideas.

An article published in 1998 shows a clear example of how this approach obscures the quality of the scientific data.

This article compares the work of Drs. Roti and Malyapa with the work of Drs. Lai and Singh.

Lai and Singh designed an experiment with a specific set of procedures and reported that constant EMF exposure results in DNA strand breaks. Roti and Malyapa experimented on the same hypothesis but used a completely different procedure to Lai and Singh’s.

After their experiment, Roti and Malyapa concluded that EMF exposure does not result in DNA strand breaks.

Now, if we look at it logically, Roti’s work does not contradict the original ground-breaking work demonstrating DNA strand breaks at all. But, despite this, Motorola and other companies claimed that Lai and Singh’s work does not hold validity because it was disproved.

The weight-of-evidence approach only encourages the funding of poorly designed studies that produce ambiguous findings, which only further confuses the general public.

So Now What?

When it comes to EMF’s health effects, you’ll never get “conclusive proof” or “specifically identified causes and mechanisms.” The scientific community will always be divided on the matter because that’s how science works and advances.

The research we have at the moment clearly shows that long-term exposure to EMF from sources like cell towers, electronic gadgets, and household appliances are harmful to your health. We simply can’t afford to wait until science comes to a unanimous conclusion. Taking action right now is what will benefit you in the long term.

Taking Action

I am not against modern technology. Humanity must move towards the future, and technology will help us do precisely that.

My mission is to help you reduce your EMF exposure and live a safer, healthier life without having to break off your relationship with technology.

The idea here is to reduce your EMF exposure, not eliminate it. And you can do that by making simple changes in your tech use habits.

I have a huge collection of posts that contains actionable tips on how you can reduce your EMF exposure to a level where it’s safer for you to interact with technology.

Final Thoughts

Are our current EMF standards adequate for public protection?

We know for a fact that long-term EMF exposure can result in several health issues that can eventually lead to critical problems like chronic diseases – and that current safety standards do not protect us from this level of exposure.

Existing EMF safety standards must be lowered by at least several orders of magnitude, so as to limit non-thermal effects, minimizing the cellular changes that occur at non-thermal levels of EMF exposure.

Until these standards are modified for improved consumer safety, you can start taking necessary actions to reduce your EMF exposure today.

If you’re interested in learning more about living a healthy life alongside technology, be sure to listen to “The Healthier Tech Podcast.” Produced by Shield Your Body, this podcast features legitimate voices on the subject of electromagnetic radiation and technology health and safety.

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About the Author

Have a Question?

I take pride in designing great, effective products, based on real, measurable science – AND taking the time to ensure that each and every one of you has the information you need to understand EMF and make informed decisions.

So if you have a question, just email me and ask.


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