The Invisible Pollutants: Electricity and Magnetism

With electromagnetic pollution on the rise, applying these commonsense, natural living guidelines can help decrease your EMR exposure.

Electromagnetic radiation (EMR), electromagnetic field or frequency (EMF), extremely low frequency (ELF), microwave radiation, radar, radio and TV frequency, wireless technologies — these are all terms that can be intimidating to most people. Add information about their dangers as pollutants — too “shocking” for most — and only those interested in alternative health and the environment will want to know more.

Electric and magnetic fields are two different forms of radiation. Electricity is the current that runs through wiring or appears as lightning. When machinery and appliances are on and the electric current is flowing, a magnetic field radiates from the wiring. The more you know about the origins of electromagnetic radiation, the better equipped you are to protect yourself against its risks.

Billions of years ago when Earth formed, it was tiny amounts of electrical waves or currents that brought and kept a living cell together. As this current moves, electric and magnetic fields are formed in the presence of radiation from the sun and atmosphere. These combinations set in motion the inconceivably coordinated miracle that is the basis for all living things — bacteria, plants, insects, fish, animals and humans — as well as created Earth’s natural magnetic field to which the sensitive orientation and navigation apparatus of all living creatures are attuned.

An example of what a minute current can do is documented in the 1985 groundbreaking book, The Body Electric, by physician and researcher Robert O. Becker, MD. The book reports stunning results of regenerating salamander limbs and organs, as well as a child’s cut-off fingertip, with the application of minute electrical current, as long as the wounds are kept clean and without medical intervention.

The Research

There’s been decades of research on the effects of man-made EMR and much of it is conflicting, especially since EMR levels have skyrocketed in just one decade. Our homes are equipped with many new electrical appliances and devices that emit a constant stream of EMFs, not to mention the ubiquitous personal communication devices so popular today. As more electrical devices are introduced, this radiation accumulates, much like the CO2 in the atmosphere. According to Jim Waugh, author of Living Safely with Electromagnetic Radiation, “Levels of background radiation are 200 million times higher than they were 100 years ago.”

As would be expected, industry-sponsored research is most prevalent in the news and assures us that all current levels of electromagnetic radiation are safe for public exposure. The most well-known of these studies, the Interphone study completed in 2006, coordinated multi-national case-control studies to assess whether radio frequency exposure from mobile phones is associated with cancer risk. Results were not published until 2010, concluding, “An increased risk of brain cancer is not established from the data from the Interphone study.”1 Industry experts claimed victory and cell phone safety.

However, heavy controversy over the study reported in Business Week and other publications, cited serious design and data collection flaws in the study, such as a median cell phone use of less than 3 hours per month. Several of the national reports suggested, for example, that ever having been a regular mobile-phone user offers statistically significant protection against some brain tumors. The finding is so counter-intuitive that it has led most people involved to acknowledge the serious flaws in that study.2

In addition, the study only measured thermal effects (heat damage) of radiation and did not measure non-thermal effects, such as possible cell damage. Devra Davis, PhD,3 Robert O. Becker, MD4 and Magda Havas, PhD5, are well-respected, published researchers who have documented that exposure to the low frequency pulsing of cells phones causes disruption of cellular activity. Comprehensive research by the BioInitiative group, a consortium of renowned international scientists, has also documented EMR damage to humans. As a result, the European Environmental Agency, the top scientific environmental authority of the European Union, warns of the possibility of looming health crisis from the increasing density of EMR: “The process of electrifying the human body is complex but the bottom line is that disruption occurs from outside electricity, magnetism and radiation.”6

This disruption results in the production of free radicals and oxidation at the cellular level, causing inflammation that is at the root of many of our chronic 21st century health conditions: arteriosclerosis, heart disease, cancer, diabetes and more. The resilient body will continue to keep cellular damage under control until eventually it becomes diseased. It can take years for various diseases to manifest in the body this way. While today’s cell phone research may not show evidence of disease connected to current cell phone usage, how can we know if an epidemic of brain tumors will occur after 10, 15 or 20 years of extended use?


There is an industry for protective devices on EMR for a good reason. They include meters, shielding fabrics, cell phone shields and computer shields. In addition, EMR-sensitive people may have low to normal levels of ionized calcium.7 Potassium and calcium maintain a delicate ion-charged balance in regulating cell membrane functions that can be disrupted by outside electromagnetic currents. Supplementing with calcium could help. As EMR can degenerate heath of the cell wall, building cell integrity cam be enhanced with good oils, in particular, omega-3s found in fish and krill oil. In addition, try these holistic living tips for cutting back on EMR exposure:

  • Keep a good distance from power lines, cell towers, wireless Internet towers and electrical transfer stations.
  • Unplug electrical devices when not in use. Statistics show that the average household spends $100 annually on “vampire draw” — energy used by electrical devices that are plugged in but turned off.
  • Keep your alarm clock at least 5 feet away from body. Avoid electric blankets or wire the circuitry so it can be shut off when you sleep.
  • Keep your gas and electric hot water heater 12 feet away from working and living area.
  • Dimmer switches emit EMR on settings except for the highest and off. Keep seating away from the switch.
  • Limit electronic toys, cell phone and computer use for children. Because children have thinner skulls and their nervous systems are still developing, children are especially vulnerable to EMR damage.
  • Keep an arm’s length away from your computer screen or consider putting an EMR shield around it.
  • Cordless phone base stations emit EMR even when not in use. Use a landline if possible.
  • Use manufacturer’s recommendations of keeping your cell phone away from the body (usually 1 inch). Do not keep in the on position when stored next to the body. Use speakerphone or a head set with low power. Use only when the signal quality is good.
  • Smart meters are being installed on houses and businesses to remotely read utility meters and control appliances in the home. Research your “opt out” choices with local grassroots organizations.


  1. WHO International Agency for Research on Cancer, May 17, 2010 press release,
  2. “Mobile Madness,” The Economist, Sept. 25, 2008.
  3. Environmental Health Trust,
  4. Robert O. Becker, MD,
  5. Magda Havas, PhD,
  6. The BioInitiative Report,
  7. Andrew Goldsworthy, PhD,

Additional Resources

Becker, Robert O., Crosscurrents: The Promise of Electro-Medicine, The Perils of Electro-Pollution. J.P. Tarcher, 1991. and

Mary Shaffer is a freelance writer and elder living self-sufficiently, sensibly and sustainably. Her approach to health care is self-care first and when help is needed search out more than one discipline. “I’m not a scientist nor have I studied medicine, but my years of research and healthy lifestyle have garnered me a great storehouse of practical information about healthy living on a budget.” Mary can be reached at 413-339-4342.