EMFs: Some cursory research & recommendations


Cell Phones

Cordless Phones

Cars and Laptops

Other Sources

CELL PHONES

SARs

SARs are EMF radiation ratings, and

Powerwatch's opinion is that SARs are only minimally useful. If you are concerned about the SAR of your phone, then you would be much better using a personal-hands-free headset (especially the ones with "air, stethoscope" pipes where the wires stop at the microphone) which can reduce the effective SAR to your head by 500-fold, or using a 1cm foam spacer between the phone handset and your ear which will usually reduce the SAR by a factor of over 20-fold...

Phone ShieldShielding

Unlike cheap chips which don't work (see below) or using a phone with a speaker (which may not be acceptable in public places to you or those around you, this simple $50 solution makes sense to me. It looks dorky, but so does cancer. I imagine that, like the holster they also sell (see above), it shields the side facing your head while allowing the sound to pass through and the signal to exit the phone out the back (unshielded) side of the pouch– otherwise the phone wouldn't work. Now ideally, you should only have to buy one of these products– i.e., a shield that clips onto your belt. But I'd rather buy the holster and a decent earpiece so you can talk hands free.

Ear Pieces (headsets)

Testing has indicated that your headset can even act as an antenna and may actually raise the amount of radiation being directed into your head by more than 300 percent!

Apparently this issue is discussed in both documentaries listed above, but I haven't seen either. It's true that any wire placed in an EMF will have current induced in the wire, but as far as I know that doesn't mean the field is "directed" into the ear. This site however says it does happen and offers a cheap product (a $5 "ferrite snap bead") that I trust does prevent this.

But there is another problem with traditional earpieces: the speaker in the earpiece, like all speakers, has a coil, i.e., an electromagnet. This acts as an antenna which can pick up electromagnetic radiation and in turn radiate it into the head.

infrared

This article (from 2003) announces an alternative earpiece that uses an infrared signal. Infrared light does not induce electric currents in the human body and is widely believed to be safe (see here). But I don't know if this product is now available.

air

RF3 Headset without an ear hookRF3 Headset with an ear hookPowerwatch recommends the RF3 headset. It comes in two models, with and without an ear hook (pictured on left), and you'll find these online for about $19 and $33, respectively. Mercola sells a hooked version with a couple other features called the BlueTube (pictured on right) for $21 or less, depending how many you buy. This is the only other air headset I've found. However, I don't care for either the hook or the extra features so I'd go with the simpler one, which is less likely to break. Keep in mind that these earpieces, although healthier, are very shoddy: i.e., they won't last, so buy more than one.

 

I stopped using these earpieces after (1) they all broke, and more importantly, (2) I actually measured the RF radiation from my cell phone and there was none at all except during a call (i.e., as soon as you press Send). On the other hand, the mic/speaker on the earpiece, which hangs by your neck a few inches from your thyroid gland, goes well above 3 mg whenever there's any noise coming out of the speaker.

Keep in mind that if you're using an earpiece you're probably putting the phone nearother organs besides your brain. If you have it on your hip and you're male, you might lower your sperm count. If you're female and pregnant, you could be hurting your baby (see also "Why Regular Hands-Free Headsets DO NOT Protect You from Cell Phone Radiation").

Holsterholster

To hopefully resolve this issue (assuming that radiation can't "curve around" the shield), you can buy and wear this shielded cell phone holster (see images on right), which you can buy for $50 here. My guess is you can probably make one by taking any cheap hip pouch and adding a piece of something like lead sheet metal).

Note that the pouch is only shielded on the side against your body, so the phone still works. Of course this doesn't protect anyone else (just like smoke from a cigarette is worse for the people around you, who don't have the benefit of the filter).

Car use

If you're in a car, even with the holster recommended above, I've read that the car frame catches the signal and can re-radiate it back to you (I've heard this about metal boxsprings in bed frames as well). Therefore, in a car it makes sense to me ideally to have a rooftop antenna (receiver/transmitter). I don't know if the hands-free systems built into some cars have this, and I don't know of any aftermarket ones available. Short of that, I imagine you could somehow attach the phone outside of the car, which I imagine would help with reception anyway. Of course, it would have to be secure!

If your phone has a regular headphone jack (3.5, not 2.5 mm), you may be able to plug it into your stereo the same way you would an MP3 player. Then you can hear people over your car stereo as loud as you want. This has allowed me to talk on a cell phone in my convertible even with the top down. You'll need to either have a jack in your stereo for this purpose, or, if you have a cassette player, a cassette adapter. You could use a device that changes your MP3 player's output into a radio signal, but like bluetooth, that just creates more radiation.

Cars themselves can emit significant magnetic fields; see below.

Home use

Here the same applies. It makes sense to me to have most of the reception and transmission work take place outside of the house. But I haven't looked into these options, and I understand that even then, you would have to consider and address the same issues associated with cordless phones (see below).

Wireless earpieces (Bluetooth)

Apparently wireless Bluetooth devices are not believed to be safe, only multiplying your exposure to EMFs.

Although [Bluetooth] works at a lower power, we cannot recommend it, as some people, and it is impossible at the moment to predict who, can be affected by levels of microwave exposure as low as 0.05 volts per meter. The effects reported have included memory, learning and concentration difficulties and behavioral disturbances…

http://www.powerwatch.org.uk/faq.asp

Bluetooth also pulses at 1600 Hz, again quite near the proton resonance frequency in the Earth's magnetic field. Bluetooth (also called Wi-Fi) is used to allow electronic devices to send data to each other, (e.g. PCs, modems and mobile phones, through to allowing kitchen appliances to 'talk to each other', and increasingly continuously active Bluetooth systems are being installed in more expensive cars. These expose the driver and front passenger to continually pulsing microwaves). We do not recommend the use of Bluetooth in your home, car or workplace.

http://www.powerwatch.org.uk/tech/pulsing.asp

Protective Chips

Biopro

For $35, a little piece of plastic that you glue onto the cell phone, and when EMFs go through it, it emits its own signal, apparently strong and irregular enough to turn the EMF signal into supposedly harmless noise. One of the more well-known is the Biopro chip. However, according to Powerwatch,

"I wouldn't go near that stuff with a very long pole. We have had an example of products from both firms and believe that they are completely ineffective and lack any scientific basis that would suggest otherwise. Our FAQ at chips FAQ was a generic criticism of these types of products, but it was all taken very specifically from a BioPro promotional site...

...having dissected the chip there is nothing in our opinion that could be capable of doing anything..."

They also point out:

An example of a typical "scam" scientific proof is that shown on most of the "BioPro" sites (see here, under "Scientific Tests Prove That The BIOPRO Chips Really Work!"): This shows a supposed study from a Dr. Braun, of the Reseach Institute for Vital Energetics. There is no link to the study that the summary is supposed to be summarising. There is no data saying how many people were tested, no scientific methodology, and no description of jargonised terms such as "t-Test". The second paragraph states of a statistical verification, but there is nothing to say what this was or how it was performed. More Doctors Smoke Camels than any other Cigarette!There is no quantified definition of "a significant stabilization" in the third paragraph, nor what the supposed "identical parameters" were. There are no tables of data or any obvious pieces of information to come to the conclusions stated in the last paragraph. They site a "research institute for vital energetics", yet if you use Google to search for it, you will only find reference to it on BioPros sellers websites, which is not what you would expect to see if such a place really existed (which it may do, but it is certainly unlikely to be a large or well-known research institute).

This is followed by looking at "Stress Response" levels, which use arbitrary units and arbitrary guidelines to healthy and unhealthy levels. Not only does this mean that nothing they are showing is actually testable, but if they are going to assert an unhealthy level, you would expect to see a reference to a paper, journal or guideline that explains why this level is unhealthy, and what it means in real terms.

Even without the other points mentioned above, these references to the site on their own would be enough to make us completely discount the product.

Sounds like if you're gonna rely on this chip you should probably also choose to smoke Camels.

EMX

Apparently there are products that operate on the same principle and do work, but note last paragraph below:

What are EMX Biochips? Do they really work? EMX biochips are a technology based on genuine scientific research. These are not the same as protection devices that are widely marketed yet have no real effect (other than placebo). The EMX devices work on the basis of superimposing random, low frequency magnetic fields over other electromagnetic fields (EMFs) being emitted by other devices.

The theory behind this is that the extra fields hide the unwanted EMFs, in a similar way to music being played in a restaurant hides conversations between other people on nearby tables. A number of peer-reviewed scientific studies have been carried out and replicated, showing that this has genuine scientific basis.

While this appears to be effective, we do not think that increasing EMFs is an ideal solution, and we believe that other options should be explored first. For more information see [link]

See also:

"Mobile Phones - Reducing Your Exposure"

"This is your brain on cell phones," Mother Jones, July 2008

Cell Phone War, one hour documentary

7-minute 'trailer'
This piece at least is quite sensationalist and not too informative.

Public Exposure: DNA, Democracy & the Wireless Revolution

another documentary

Lots of links here.

CORDLESS PHONES

First you need to understand that a cordless phone in your house is just a cell phone tied to its own private base station or in-house "tower." Yes, it doesn't need as much strength but cell phones don't need much strength either. It's not like there are towers everywhere that close to you. The problem has more to do with frequency both operate on than the signal strength.

There has been quite a lot of publicity about the research showing that using digital cordless (DECT) phones results in similar adverse health effects as using a mobile phone, including the risk of developing brain tumors [1,2]. This research seems to be scientifically sound and the evidence for problems is growing...

We have written a much more detailed article on DECT phones on the subscriber part of the website, available from [link].

from Are Digital Cordless Phones (DECT) dangerous?

The DECT phone’s base station continuously emits pulsing microwave radiation at full power as long as the base station/charger is plugged into the... wall socket. This means that the base station, usually placed on a bedside table, or on a work desk, is broadcasting a 2.4 GHz... transmission... regardless of whether the handset is charging in the base station cradle or being used 300 meters away...

If patients insist on having a DECT phone, at least advise them not to place the base station by the bed or anywhere where they spend extended amounts of time. As for a recommended distance from a bed head or desk, at lease three meters would be an absolute minimum. It is recommended that advice to new parents would be to have nothing to do with DECT baby monitors whatsoever.

Medical warnings needed on DECT cordless phone use

Digital cordless phones and their base units emit pulsed microwaves and these can exceed the levels from an actual mobile phone in areas where the mobile phone service has good signal strengths. Holding a digital cordless (DECT) phone to their head will always expose the user to higher levels of microwave fields than they will ever experience (in public access areas) from a mobile phone base station. Most DECT base units continuously emit pulsed microwave radiation even when no call is in progress. The level is typically still over 3 V/m half a meter away from the base unit and can be over 1 V/m in rooms directly above. These are higher field levels than those measured from a typical mobile phone mast. If you are concerned about the potential adverse health effects from microwave radiation, you might want to think carefully about whether you want a DECT phone in your house. If you want it to monitor incoming calls when you are, for instance, at the bottom of the garden, then answer the call briefly, and have the main conversation on a normal wired phone when you go back inside. All types of microwave exposure at the levels received from handset use have been shown to produce genetic damage inside blood cells. Radio frequency radiation has been used for a variety of covert purposes for some considerable time. It was used to deter the women at Greenham Common, some of whom still suffer ongoing health problems. The Soviet's irradiation of the US embassy in Moscow produced serious adverse health effects, including Leukemias and lymphomas, was the conclusion reached by a relatively recent reanalyzes of the Lilienfeld report (Refs) based on information from USA Defence Intelligence Agency papers that only became fully available following the Freedom Information Act. Over 23 years ago the US was well aware of both cognitive and biochemical changes in the brains of adults exposed to pulsed microwave radiation. It is also interesting to note that the microwave frequencies the Russians used in many of their microwave weapon experiments were around 1800 MHz the same as is now used in Europe for GSMI800 / PCN and for DECT cordless phones.

from What About The Cordless Phones I Use In My House?

Actually, this 2005 WHO study tested three DECT units and the results graph shows only 1 V/m at half a meter away, though in the conclusions it lists about 3 V/m a meter away; I think the discrepancy may be because these figures are for the receiver and the base unit, respectively. In any case, Powerwatch recommends levels below .05 V/m, at least in bedrooms. These and all the values that follow are significantly higher than this. In the same study, two wireless-B base stations measured 2 V/m at half a meter away, and two wireless dongles (for wireless mice or keyboards) were at .2 and .7 V/m, respectively. The mouse and keyboard themselves, on the other hand, let off ten to 200 times that amount at the typical distance to your hands (1-5 cm). On that note, all units were extremely high within a foot or so of the unit, especially baby monitors.

 

CARS & LAPTOPS

Many of us spend significant amount of time either in our cars or on the computer. The main problem in both cases, especially with electric car seats, is the magnetic field. The amount of magnetic field generally considered safe is 3 milligauss (mG). I measured the magnetic field in my 2002 Toyota Solara and got readings of 4mG on the passenger seat, 5 on the driver seat, 10 at the steering wheel, and 25 on the floor. I've also measured the magnetic field around several laptops and found it to also exceed 3 mG in several places. The LCD sceen is not an issue, but often to the left of the trackpad is the power inverter, which can measure 25 to 100 mG. This is where my left palm would normally rest, and that is the wrist that tends to get carpal-tunnel-like symptoms.

Carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS) among typists was rare before computers. There are many possible reasons for this. For one, the fact that a computer is easier to type on means we tend to have to move our hands less, and holding them in the same position is the problem with that. But some claim that EMFs contribute to CTS. In any case, a "laptop" used on your lap is no friend to your "privates" either.

The best solution for magnetic fields, as with all EMFs, is distance. Three feet from the source is typically ideal. With a laptop, you can use an external keyboard and mouse for thie purpose. But you can only distance yourself so much from the car you're riding in. That brings us to shielding...

A nice primer on magnetic field shielding can be found here. LessEMF also talks about it on their FAQ page. Like it explains, steel works well. In fact, judging from their fabrics page, any steel mesh or steel-reinforced fabric would do perfectly well, i.e., afford 40 db attenuation (reduction) of the field, which amounts to 99% shielding. You could lay some on your lap and line your car seat with some. For laptops, there may be an even easier solution...

The way magnetic field shielding works is that if you give the field an easier path to go through (i.e., metal rather than air), it will take that path instead. However, as the illustration on the FAQ shows, I'm not clear on just how much shielding you need. The magnetic field travels in arcs, not a straight line, which suggests that a person (or field source) would have to be much more enclosed. Another website concurs that "you need to almost completely enclose the source." Otherwise, when discussing circuit boxes on this page, lessEMF says "you must cover an area larger than the source... you need a fairly wide shield to prevent fields from coming around the edge of the shield." They recommend measuring where the field drops at least as low as 2 mG. For that, "in general, you will extend the shield at least 2 feet beyond the size of the circuit box (or other fairly concentrated source) in all directions... Remember that you will end up concentrating the field at the edges of the shield. In other words, the field will be stronger at the edge of the shield as compared to having no shield at all. So think about positioning the edges away from where the people are likely to be."

I very much doubt the field drops to under 2mG only two inches from the computer when I've measured it at 25-100 mG an inch or two within the edge. Yet on their FAQ page, they say that to shield the magnetic field from a laptop, it's enough to form a "tray" (with sheet metal) "under" the laptop. And in fact, they sell a simple pad that is hardly wider than the computer and they claim that it's 100% effective! If that's the case, then the best solution would seem to be a simple padded piece of steell sheet metal with some non-skid material to keep the computer from sliding off of it.

In summary, I'm not convinced that a straight-line shield is enough. I'll try one with my meter and see. Even then, you still have only protected the part of the body beneath the computer. For that, you can shield the person instead, as with an apron. However, all of the clothes they sell are electric and RF (e.g., cell phone), not magnetic, shielding. None of their light fabrics are either.

Besides, these solutions still don't shield your hands. They do sell a sheer (nearly transparent) fabric to lay over keyboards, but again, this only blocks electric fields. The reason can be found at the bottom of the page. They say "as far as we know, no fabric currently exists which can offer magnetic field shielding (and we keep looking!)." I don't understand why their sheer offerings made with nickel don't work when nickel is supposed to work as well as iron. But they say nickel can produce skin allergies.

I couldn't imagine why there wouldn't be a flexible, light mesh or fabric made with steel, so I asked a friend who works with industrial fabrics and he quickly found and ordered some. I'll try it out, and I imagine it should work fine. If so, my seamstress friend and I might have a future in EMF-shielding with the Asheville Granola/Goth scene. I'm sure we can improve on the tin-foil hat.

OTHER SOURCES

Keep in mind that there are many other, much stronger sources of EMFs. Hair dryers are the worst, and you might consider attaching an air hose, like on a vaccuum cleaner, to keep the motor away from your head. TVs and CRT's, the large, old-style (non-LCD) computer screens, emit magnetic fields exceeding 3 mG for several feet in all directions. More examples include power strips, fans, clocks, air filters, digital cameras (when operating), and light switches. Buy yourself a meter and see for yourself; it's fun, empowering, and disconcerting.

The question high-intensity items like electric shavers raises is how much TIME matters: if you only hold the shaver to your face for a couple minutes a day, is that a big deal?