It Started With Microwave Syndrome

In the 1970s, during the Cold War, Soviet researchers noticed a set of health problems, termed “microwave syndrome”, among military personnel frequently using radio and radar equipment. These soldiers experienced symptoms such as chronic fatigue, dizziness, headaches, and sleep disturbances, seemingly linked to prolonged exposure to low-level electromagnetic fields (EMFs). This initial report led to ongoing global research into the potential health effects of EMFs, even influencing today’s discussions about the health impacts of modern technology, such as mobile phones and Wi-Fi devices. It underscores the need for continuous research as our technological environment evolves. [PMID: 32289567].

Then There Were CRT Computer Screens

In the 1980s, as computers became common in workplaces, workers in Sweden and Finland started reporting health problems. These issues included skin symptoms like flushing and tingling, along with headaches, dizziness, fatigue, and sensitivity to light. These symptoms were associated with prolonged use of cathode ray tube monitors. The Finnish identified this pattern of symptoms as electromagnetic hypersensitivity (EHS), potentially linked to exposure to electromagnetic fields (EMFs). Both Swedish and Finnish governments took these reports seriously, instigating research into the effects of EMFs on health and leading early efforts to manage potential occupational health risks associated with evolving technologies. This marked a crucial period in understanding the health implications of man-made EMFs.

What Are The Health Hazards Associated With EMF?

Electromagnetic fields (EMFs) are areas of energy that surround electronic devices. The World Health Organization (WHO) states that low-level EMF exposure produced by electronic devices poses minimal risk to human health. This is at the same time that 5G and smart meters are dramatically increasing our ambient exposure to EMF. High-level exposure may have health effects. Some health hazards associated with high-level or prolonged EMF exposure include:

  1. Depression and Anxiety: Some research indicates a connection between high levels of EMF exposure and mood disorders, though more research is needed. [PMID: 26300312]
  2. Cognitive Dysfunction: High-level exposure to EMFs may affect cognitive functions such as attention, memory, and problem-solving. More research is needed to substantiate these findings. [PMC9189734]
  3. Electromagnetic Hypersensitivity: Some people report a variety of symptoms that they attribute to EMF exposure. While these symptoms are real, it is currently unclear whether they are caused by EMF exposure or other environmental factors. [PMID: 32289567]
  4. Headaches: There’s limited evidence linking exposure to EMFs to headaches, although the research is not yet definitive.
  5. Cancer: There’s been extensive research on the link between EMF exposure and cancer, especially brain tumors. However, the findings are mixed, and the WHO’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) classifies EMFs as “possibly carcinogenic to humans,” highlighting the need for more research. [PMC5504984]

Problems Interpreting the Science

There is a fair amount of skepticism about the science surrounding EMF. One issue is the problem of studies prematurely declaring safety of EMFs on the basis of studies that seem as though they are specifically designed not to find an effect. This is evidenced by the very short duration of studies citing the safety of EMF. Then, there is the problem that any symptoms of the expected harmful effects would be very non-specific because of the nature of EMF damage. Current research also does not address the problem that one person may be much more sensitive than another. Therefore if EMF is only affecting 2 people out of the 10 people in the study, the effects on those 2 people are easily dismissed because the group as a whole did not have a statistically significant difference from the control condition. All these factors add together to make it a very difficult challenge for researchers to design studies that would pick up the subtle changes that might be related to EMF exposure.

It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends upon his not understanding it. 

Upton Sinclair-Author of The Jungle

As if this wasn’t problem enough, vague evidence and bias of scientific reviewers makes it even more challenging. There are unlimited amounts of money available from the telecom industry to fund organizations friendly to their cause. Their duty to make profits for their shareholders requires them to do all they can to shape the public narrative. Even agencies that are supposed to be objective in their interpretation of the science sometimes appoint scientific bodies that have clear and obvious industry bias. This was the case when WHO was widely criticized for its handling of appointments to a scientific review board. [PMC5504984]

Yet, even with all these difficulties in study design and interpretation, science is moving forward.

Diving Into The Science

Like in Multiple Chemical Sensitivity (MCS), repeated exposure to Electromagnetic Fields (EMFs) can cause hypersensitivity. Many hypersensitive people have a weak detox system that can’t cope with high-stress levels. EMFs can affect cell processes, increase harmful free radicals, and disrupt normal brain function. EMFs have the potential to cause variations in cellular calcium signaling pathways, stimulate free radical processes significantly, and excessively produce reactive oxygen species (ROS) in living cells.

Magnetite crystals, which come from polluted air, may also contribute to how EMFs affect the brain. [PMC49775] EMFs might cause symptoms related to the heart, skin, immune system, and blood vessels.

The conclusion drawn is that the mechanisms causing electrical hypersensitivity symptoms are biologically feasible, and a variety of organic physiological responses are triggered post-EMF exposure.

After EMF exposure, patients can have symptoms affecting their nervous system due to damage and heightened responses. Researchers conclude that we need better tests for EHS and lower exposure limits to protect against the effects of EMFs. [PMID: 32289567]

EMF and Cognitive Dysfunction

In a paper entitled: “Low-Intensity Electromagnetic Fields Act via Voltage-Gated Calcium Channel (VGCC) Activation to Cause Very Early Onset Alzheimer’s Disease: 18 Distinct Types of Evidence“, researchers lay out the evidence that EMF may contribute to serious levels of cognitive decline.

The author is concerned that smarter, more highly pulsed “smart” wireless communication may cause widespread very, very early onset AD in human populations.

Martin Pall, Professor Emeritus of Biochemistry and Basic Medical Sciencs, Washington State University

Electromagnetic fields (EMFs) from devices like cell phones and Wi-Fi can make the amount of calcium in our body’s cells increase. Some researchers think that too much calcium could be a cause of Alzheimer’s disease, as it could trigger damaging processes and inflammation. It seems like a harmful cycle between a protein linked to Alzheimer’s and calcium exists. Some studies suggest that EMFs could cause Alzheimer’s Disease, including cases that start early in life. Research in animals also shows that low-level EMFs can lead to brain damage similar to Alzheimer’s Disease. Interestingly, a moderate increase in cellular calcium from EMFs might also have protective effects. The author worries that new wireless technology might increase the risk of Alzheimer’s Disease, especially at an early age. [PMC9189734]

EMF Research on Depression And Anxiety

Electromagnetic fields (EMFs), like those from microwaves or Wi-Fi, work by activating certain channels called Voltage Gated Calcium Channels (VGCCs) that manage calcium in our cells. These channels are found all throughout our nervous system and are key for sending signals in our brains. Some researchers suggest that low-intensity EMFs can affect our mental health, causing symptoms of sensitivity. Studies show that EMFs cause changes in the brain and nervous system of animals, likely through the activation of VGCCs. This leads to an excessive release of brain chemicals and stress responses. In humans, certain genetic variations in VGCC activity have been linked to mental health changes.

Past studies done by the U.S. government found evidence that exposure to non-intense microwave EMFs in the workplace could cause a variety of mental health effects. Recent studies suggest similar effects from exposure to cell towers, excessive cell phone use, and wireless smart meters. Some symptoms reported include difficulty sleeping, headaches, depression, fatigue, difficulty concentrating, memory changes, dizziness, irritability, loss of appetite, restlessness, and changes in brain wave patterns.

The way microwaves and other EMFs work, their effects on the brain, past research, and several tests for determining cause-effect relationships all point to the possibility that various exposures to EMFs can cause a wide range of mental health effects. [PMID: 26300312]

EMF Effects on Headaches

Researchers reviewed 30 studies that had been done to determine whether cell phones were associated with headaches. They found that the odds of having a headache was 1.30 times higher for people who used mobile phones. The researchers then split the studies into groups based on the age of the people and how long they were exposed to the electromagnetic fields (EMF) from the phones.

They found that both age and exposure time affected the risk of headaches. They concluded that the age of the person and how long they were on the phone both influenced the risk of headaches. The longer someone used a mobile phone and the older they were, the more likely they were to have a headache. [PMID: 35064837]

Protecting Your Family From EMF

The complete elimination of EMFs is impossible due to their ubiquitous nature in our modern world. However, these steps can significantly reduce exposure, leading to a healthier living environment. Here are some practical steps families can take to reduce their exposure to electromagnetic fields (EMFs):

  • Limit the Use of Wireless Devices: Try to limit the time spent on wireless devices such as smartphones, tablets, and laptops. When not in use, switch them to airplane mode.
    • Turn Off Wi-Fi at Night: Turning off your Wi-Fi router at night can significantly reduce your EMF exposure.
    • Have Regular Screen-Free Times: Encourage activities that don’t involve screens, such as outdoor play, reading physical books, or board games.
  • Maintain Distance: Keep some distance between you and your electronic devices. Avoid carrying your cell phone in your pocket or sleeping with it next to your bed.
  • Use Wired Connections: Whenever possible, opt for wired connections. For example, use a wired phone for long conversations and a wired internet connection for your computer.
  • Choose Low EMF Devices: When buying new appliances, look for those that have been designed to emit lower levels of EMFs.
  • EMF Shielding: Consider EMF shielding products such as cases and covers for cell phones, tablets, and laptops.
    • Shielding Babies in Utero: Pregnant women, in particular, should be cautious about their EMF exposure. Consider wearing EMF shielding clothing during pregnancy, especially when in environments with high EMF, like near electronic devices or Wi-Fi routers. This type of clothing can help protect the developing fetus from potential harmful effects of EMFs.
    • Use Protective Canopies: EMF protective canopies can be used over beds to reduce exposure while sleeping.
  • Be Aware of Power Lines: If possible, avoid living near high-voltage power lines or cell towers.
  • Limit the Use of Bluetooth Headsets: Instead, use the speakerphone or wired earphones.

Products That Can Reduce Your EMF Exposure

There are several products available on Amazon that are designed to help shield against EMF. Here are a few:

EMF Radiation Meter

EMF Blocking Faraday Fabric

Land Line Phones

Old fashion phones with cords attaching them to the wall emit essentially no EMFs. On the other hand, a cordless phone connects to a base station that’s operating at low power 24-7. Cordless phones don’t emit as much EMF as cell phones. However, the base station of a cordless phone continually emits EMFs, even when the phone isn’t in use, leading to continuous exposure in the home. If you decide to keep your cordless phones, consider using a Faraday cloth to cover it to reduce your EMF exposure.

Device Covers

EMF Blocking Clothing


Pregnancy Belly Armor

Device Covers

Bed Canopies

EMF Blocking Paint

To Sum It Up

The discourse surrounding the potential dangers of electromagnetic fields (EMF) is laden with biased and conflicting scientific evidence, making it a complex and contentious issue. Some studies highlight the possible health risks associated with EMF exposure, ranging from sleep disturbances to more severe neurological effects, while others refute these claims.

Amidst this scientific uncertainty, EMF shielding remains a practical approach for anyone concerned about potential EMF-related health issues. Using the available shielding methods to minimize exposure may provide peace of mind and an extra layer of protection against the unknown and debated effects of EMF. Though the definitive risks of EMF remain a subject of ongoing research and debate, taking precautionary measures reflects a practical response to the existing body of evidence.

Notice: The NutriScape.NET site is intended for educational purposes and does not constitute the practice of health care advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Individuals should seek the advice of a qualified healthcare provider for any questions regarding personal health or medical conditions. Access to independently licensed Registered Dietitian Nutritionists can be found through our Telenutrition site.

About the Author

Stephanie Figon, MS, RDN, LD

Creator of Supplement Sciences and NutriScape.NET. As a dietitian since 1992, Steph has had experiences in consulting, 15 years in clinical, and has operated a private practice nutrition counseling office for since 2011. Log in to comment and save this article on your board or send your comments to reviews@supplement-sciences.com