Good Vibrations

Please view our entire online May issue of Integrated Roots, here.

Dr. Sonya Nobbe, ND

Electromagnetic radiation (EMR), such as what cell phones and WiFi internet routers emit, is a serious health risk. Rigorous scientific studies on the human health effects of chronic EMR exposure suggest significant impact on health ranging from mild sleep disturbances to increased rates of certain rare cancers and health conditions that mimic neurological illness and Lyme disease. The World Health Organization (WHO) recognizes Electromagnetic Hypersensitivity (EHS) as a genuine health condition and in 2011 their International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) listed EMR as a potential human carcinogen. Other nationalities, including Switzerland, China, Italy, and Russia, have set acceptable exposure limits to at least 1/100th of what Health Canada insists is safe in its well debated Safety Code 6. In fact, Health Canada does not recognize EHS as a health condition and states that their policies are based on current scientific studies that demonstrate “no effect” from EMR exposure. Clearly the safety of EMR lacks scientific consensus, yet WiFi continues to be installed in our elementary schools, cell phone towers continue to be erected in high-density residential areas, and hydro Smart Meters continue to be installed on many homes and businesses. Has Health Canada failed to adequately balance economic and health interests of Canadians?

Estimates of the prevalence of EHS vary from a few people in a million, up to about 4% of the general population. Incidence and severity of EMR-related illness appears to be a combination of personal sensitivity and cumulative exposure, which is characteristic of many environmental illnesses, such as those attributable to pesticide, mould, or heavy metal exposure. Symptoms of environmental illness are often very generalized, variable, and involve many organ systems in the body, thereby defying the categorical labeling and standardized laboratory testing required by mainstream medical approaches. The lack of diagnostic criteria available in our early understanding of new environmental illnesses often results in finding fault with the patient rather than with the medical system. (Fortunately, this is where integrative medicine and Naturopathic Doctors excel.)

Some of this safety debate hinges on the understanding that EMR from cell phones and WiFi (also called non-ionizing radiation), lacks the strength to break molecular bonds in our body. The assumption by Physicists is commonly that radiation must break bonds to cause cancer and since non-ionizing radiation lacks this potential, then research suggesting a link between EMR exposure and cancer is based on poor science. However, human illness is actually much more complicated than this and recent laboratory evidence suggests that EMR damages the body by mechanisms other than bond breakage, including by damaging the body’s natural repair mechanisms for DNA, or by a process called “oxidation”. This means that the normal daily wear and tear on our DNA progresses more quickly. Further studies find that the popular anti-oxidant and “anti-aging” supplements N-acetyl cysteine (NAC) and ECGC from green tea may reverse some of the damage caused by EMR.

If it’s true that chronic EMR exposure affects some people by speeding up natural mechanisms of aging, then identifying these harmful effects by regular scientific study is challenging. This kind of harm can take at least a decade to clearly manifest and might easily be disregarded by individuals and health professionals as “just old age”. Also consider that EMR-related technologies are advancing at unprecedented speeds and environmental exposure to EMR is substantially higher today than in population studies conducted just 10 years ago. Some of the best human data we have is too old to account for current EMR exposures, and too recent to evaluate the effects of chronic progressive illness. I know that this is an extremely complicated issue with substantial legal, political, and economic implications. And despite what many people would like to believe, science is similarly not black and white, with the human body existing in ever-more shades of grey. Accordingly, medical professionals are expected to abide by the “Precautionary Principle” in which treatments are only administered if proven safe. If we instead applied treatments because they lacked scientific proof of harm, and ignored evidence suggesting possibility of harm, we’d be in trouble. The communications industry appears to be held to a different standard and the corresponding potential for human harm is very real. Educate yourself, minimize exposure of children, and be safe.