How EMF Exposure Really Affects Your Health

Modern life is bombarded with electric and magnetic fields (EMFs). Appliances, computers, cell phones, wi-fi routers, and power lines all emit some form of this type of radiation, leaving you to wonder if they are safe.

In short, the answer depends on the type of EMFs you're talking about. There are low-to mid-level EMFs, which are referred to as non-ionizing radiation, and high-level EMFs, also known as ionizing radiation. Microwaves, computers, home smart meters, cell phones, and power lines discharge non-ionizing EMFs. Sunlight, Xrays, and some gamma rays emit ionizing radiation (via National Institute of Environmental Health Studies).

While there has been controversy over the years related to the health dangers from non-ionizing radiation, there is no credible evidence to back it up. In fact, the NIEHS considers low-level EMFs to be safe for humans. On the other hand, ionizing radiation has the ability to alter human cells and DNA.

Types of EMFs and the risk of cancer

In 2011, the World Health Organization's International Agency for Research on Cancer released a report stating that EMFs could possibly be carcinogenic to humans. This information is based on limited studies that showed an increase in brain cancer risk with cell phone use. That being said, there are no studies that link low-level EMFs to cancer, according to the National Cancer Institute. Some theories suggest that low-level EMFs might cause cancer indirectly, pointing out that they could reduce melatonin production which suppresses the growth of some tumors. However, animal studies do not show a link between low-level EMFs and cancer. It should also be noted that while one study from 1979 showed a link between children living near electric power lines and childhood leukemia, later studies yielded varied results. 

Exposure to high-level EMFs is a different story, however. Ionizing radiation has been linked to an increased risk of cancer as well as skin rashes, acute radiation syndrome, and hair loss. Exposure to this kind of radiation can damage tissues and organs, depending on the amount of exposure as well as the type (via World Health Organization).