EMFs Linked to Cancer, Autoimmunity, Immune Dysfunction
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Science shows electromagnetic fields are unavoidably harmful to human health, causing bioeffects and derailing the immune system at levels deemed within safe exposure effects
In previous articles, we have touched upon the undeniable influence of manmade electromagnetic fields (EMFs) upon human health. For decades now, with the increasing deployment of EMF-emitting technologies, scientists, journalists, public health authorities, politicians, and the public have debated whether or not our bodies are intrinsically affected by the whole-body irradiation with which we are constantly inundated. It is the conclusion of many scientists, including Olle Johansson of the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, Sweden, who published a review in the journal Pathophysiology, that we are subjecting ourselves to a risky game of physiological roulette. According to Johansson,
The answers appear to be: No, we are not designed for such EMF exposure loads. We are not immune. We are gambling with our future” (1).
An Epidemic of Mass Proportions
We have always been exposed to negligibly weak microwave electromagnetic radiation in the form of cosmic radiation from outer space, the natural light display that is the aurora borealis, and weather events such as thunderstorms; however, human innovations such as WiFi, cell phones, television, and other handheld devices have magnified our exposure to manmade sources of EMF within the microwave frequency bands. The photonics energy of anti-collision vehicle radars and WiGig are, in fact, 1000-fold higher in photonic energy relative to human exposures prior to the 1950s (2).
EMFs are everywhere, and besides those within the visible spectrum, are largely invisible to the naked eye. And magnetic fields as low as one millionth of a Tesla–the unit used to measure the magnetic component of EMF–have been shown to generate biological effects (1). By sitting in proximity to a cell phone, for comparison, you are exposed to magnetic pulses peaking at several tens of microTesla, orders of magnitude higher (1). Because these wireless gadgets, like cell phones, are those we most frequently employ, their use warrants the most caution. One paper published in Immunologic Research by Marshall and Heil cites a quote from NASA that encapsulates how all-encompassing our exposure is to this “electrosmog”:
As you sit watching TV, not only are there visible light waves from the TV striking your eyes, but also radio waves, transmitting from a nearby station, and microwaves carrying cellphone calls and text messages, and waves from your neighbor’s WiFi, and GPS units in the cars driving by. There is a chaos of waves from all across the spectrum passing through your room right now” (2).
Although once seen as the stuff of conspiracy theory, even mainstream organizations such as the World Health Organization (WHO) is throwing caution on the use of extremely low frequencies (ELF) that are utilized in domestic appliances and in the power lines that intersect so many neighborhoods–which are speculated to be a cause of some children’s cancers (1).
EMFs and Cancer
On May 31, 2011, the World Health Organization (WHO) International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) classified radiofrequency electromagnetic fields (RF-EMFs) from mobile phones and other devices that emit non-ionizing electromagnetic fields as a “possible,” or Group 2B, human carcinogen. Whether EMFs are associated with enhanced risk of cancer, however, has remained a source of contention.
We can glean insights, though, from one meta-analysis, the highest quality form of evidence–which resides at the pinnacle of the pyramid of the hierarchy of evidence. In this meta-analysis published in Pathophysiology, researchers assimilated the results of 42 studies entailing 13,259 cases and 100,882 controls in order to shed clarity on the issue. Overall, researchers concluded that ELF-EMFs are associated with cancer risk, primarily in the United States and in residential exposed populations (3). Another publication in Environmental Health showed an almost doubling of the risk of head tumors with long-term cell phone use (4). The researchers write,
Blind protocols, free from errors, bias, and financial conditioning factors, give positive results that reveal a cause-effect relationship between long-term mobile phone use or latency and statistically significant increase of ipsilateral head tumour risk, with biological plausibility. Non-blind protocols, which instead are affected by errors, bias, and financial conditioning factors, give negative results with systematic underestimate of such risk” (4).
Another study in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Healthalso reinforces that EMFs elicit carcinogenic effects. It found decreased survival of glioma patients with astrocytoma grade IV (glioblastoma multiforme) associated with long-term use of mobile and cordless phones, leading the researchers to conclude that “RF-EMF should be regarded as human carcinogen requiring urgent revision of current exposure guidelines” (5).
Novel Exposures, Ancient Biology
A relatively recent review paper published in Pathophysiology by Swedish researcher Olle Johannson, entitled “Disturbance of the immune system by electromagnetic fields–A potentially underlying cause for cellular damage and tissue repair reduction which could lead to disease and impairment,” presents ideas that merit all of our collective attention (1). In this paper, he emphasizes that our immune system was designed, or evolved, with basic defense strategies to deal with known enemies, a category under which ever-increasing electromagnetic signals does not fall (1).
Johansson notes that, for greater than 3.5 billion years, humans have existed under a virtually static geomagnetic field and solar radiation, and that it is just not feasible that our biology has found ways to adapt to altered levels of electromagnetism which have just been introduced in the last century alone (1). The use of electricity, in particular, puts our physiology in a head-on collision with four phenomena, namely, ground currents, electromagnetic fields from power supplies and other power grid equipment, so-called “electromagnetic smog” originating from communication instrumentation, and from high frequencies on power lines known as “dirty electricity,” all of which represent under-investigated environmental conditions with unknown effects (1). In his review, he discusses other little-recognized immune effects that go beyond the suspected carcinogenic effect of EMF.
The Canaries in the Coal Mine: Electrohypersensitivity
In the early 1980s, a syndrome known as the functional impairment electrohypersensitivity (EHS) was defined to encompass individuals who experienced reproducible symptoms upon exposure to electromagnetic devices such as mobile phones and WiFi equipment (1). Although this condition is not on the radar of the allopathic medical establishment, EHS is a condition acknowledged by the WHO, which has reported that remediating exposure to EMF may ameliorate symptoms of chronic fatigue that appear in this syndrome.
The WHO, in fact, in their acknowledgement of the potential health effects of EMF, went so far as to add radio frequency fields to their research agenda over a decade ago (1). Direct quotes from the WHO discuss how EHS individuals may exhibit hyperactivity in the central nervous system as well as autonomic nervous system imbalances, meaning disharmony or disequilibrium between the sympathetic “fight or flight” and the parasympathetic “rest and digest” arms where activity in one branch or the other deviates from the norm (1).
The EHS syndrome has been reported in various countries, including Belgium, Denmark, Italy, Germany, The Netherlands, Norway, Switzerland, Sweden, and the United States. Prevalence rates of EHS have varied considerably, however, with 3.1% of the population in Sweden claiming hypersensitivity to EMF versus 5% in Switzerland and 8% in Germany, illuminating that further research is required to discern the true number afflicted (1).
According to Johannson, the symptoms of EHS oftentimes include rhinitis, eye irritation, olfactory impairment, coughing, a hoarse, dry throat, a “heaviness” in the head, cognitive issues, disrupted sleep, gastrointestinal upset, dizziness, cardiac symptoms, and facial skin symptoms including burning, itching, stinging, redness, and rosacea (1). In a phone survey of 2072 Californians, the strongest predictor of self-reporting EHS was diagnosis with environmental illness or multiple chemical sensitivity (MCS), illuminating that environmentally sensitive individuals are likely most vulnerable (6).
In a presentation by Cox at the World Health Organization International Workshop on EMF Hypersensitivity, he discusses that 36% of individuals report sensitivity to DECT cordless phones, 27% to visual display terminals (VDTs), 18% to fluorescent lights, 12% to television, and 6% to landline phones (7). The following percentages of individuals in the United Kingdom reported various symptoms of EHS associated with use of cell phones (7):
Because these symptoms are so are non-specific, generalized, system-wide, and diffuse, they are likely to be misdiagnosed as manifestations of other disorders or branded as psychosomatic. However, validity is conferred to this diagnosis by a recent prospective study in International Journal of Molecular Medicine that examined oxidative stress(inflammation) and antioxidative capacity in individuals claiming to be afflicted by EHS. For the first time, it was shown that approximately 80% of self-reported EHS patients present with one, two, or three detectable biomarkers of oxidative stress in their peripheral blood, “meaning that these patients-as is the case for cancer, Alzheimer’s disease or other pathological conditions-present with a true objective new pathological disorder” (8).
EMFs and Autoimmune Disease
In a previous article, we reported on a pilot study in which blocking exposure to electromagnetic fields (EMF) resulted in significant symptomatic relief in 90% of patients with autoimmune disease. This study, published in Immunology Research, recruited 64 patients with assorted autoimmune diagnoses such as systemic lupus erythematous(SLE), rheumatoid arthritis (RA), multiple sclerosis, (MS), Sjogren’s syndrome(SS), and celiac disease (2). For four hours at night and for four hours during the day, subjects wore shielding clothing and tenting comprised of silver-coated polyester threads interwoven with bamboo fibers that were partially capable of blocking penetration of microwave EMF (2).
Admittedly, this was not a blinded or controlled study, which knocks it down a few tiers on the hierarchy of evidence and renders it vulnerable to criticism that it is not sufficiently authoritative. However, the researchers found the underlying mechanisms supporting the intervention to be so scientifically sound, and the mechanism of therapeutic efficacy so theoretically plausible, that they decided that the idea of using a control group would be morally unethical.
The conclusion arrived at by this research group was that patients with autoimmune disorders demonstrate a pronounced susceptibility to EMF at levels normally encountered in home and occupational environments, and speculated that these EMFs may be a contributing factor to their disease pathogenesis (2). This is no surprise, given the far-reaching effects of EMFs on the immune system.
EMFs and Hypersensitivity Reactions
EMFs may be capable of triggering hypersensitivity reactions, wherein the immune system reacts in an excessive fashion, triggering both local and systemic tissue damage. Although hypersensitivity reactions can be invoked by self-antigens (parts of our own bodies) and foreign entities (infectious agents), they are also known to be incited by environmental disturbances, a category under which EMFs fall.
For environmental threats to induce a hypersensitivity reaction, they must be small enough to gain access to the immune system. For example, dust is sufficiently small to navigate into the small bronchioles of the lungs, which can trigger an adaptive immune response that generates immune hypersensitivity, manifesting in allergic symptoms such as rhinitis or asthma. The permeation of small molecules, such as the metal nickel, across the skin barrier can also trigger delayed hypersensitivity by acting as a hapten, producing a reaction known as contact dermatitis. Johannson notes, in his discussion, that EMFs fulfill this basic criteria as they penetrate ever single part of the body–our bodies are effectively translucent to EMFs (1).
EMF & Mast Cell Issues
In addition to cancer, autoimmune disease, and electrohypersensitivity, EMFs may be capable of eliciting other effects on the immune system, one of which is increased mast cell reactivity. The sentinels of the immune system that directly interface with the environment, mast cells patrol for insults to the body and are present in the connective tissues throughout the body. Mast cells are instrumental in the normal functioning of our bodies, and play a role in vascular homeostasis, vasodilation, angiogenesis, pathogen defense, venom detoxification, and innate and adaptive immunity (9).
However, they are also implicated in atopic diseases such as allergy and asthma, as well as anaphylaxis, malignancies, cardiovascular disease, and the more recently recognized phenomena of histamine intolerance and mast cell activation syndrome (MCAS). When triggered, mast cells release granules of histamine, a mediator that is responsible for the redness and swelling that accompanies insect bites, for example. One of the primary effects of histamine is that it causes increased capillary permeability–or increased leakiness of the small blood vessels–leading to a multitude of body-wide symptoms, including edema, pain, itching, erythema, and dermatoses (diseases of the skin).
Interestingly, researchers have observed a profound increase in the numbers of mast cells in the upper skin layers of electrohypersensitive people as assessed by mast cell markers such as chymase, tryptase, and histamine (1). Not only that, but subjects with electrohypersensitivity have been observed to have larger infiltrating mast cells, more degranulated mast cells in the dermal reticular layer, with more densely distributed cytoplasmic granules relative to the control group. The same changes were observed later when normal healthy subjects spent time in front of visual display units such as ordinary televisions (10). Increases in mast cells are a bedrock indicator of allergic and inflammatory conditions, meaning that these profound elevations are a clear warning signal of the dangers of EMF.
Other immune alterations Induced by EMF, as discussed by Johansson (2009), including the following (1):
- Decreased counts of natural killer (NK) cells
- Decreased counts of T-lymphocytes
- Changes in viability of white blood cells
- Immunosuppression or immune system impairment
- Negative effects in pregnancy such as placental dysfunction or utter-placental circulatory disturbances
- Inflammatory cascades that can ultimately materialize as pathology
Unproven Safety, Untested Outcomes
Worse yet, existing standards are incredibly lax, established based upon the immediate heating of cells and tissues, oftentimes in safety testing models that used fluid-filled plastic dolls rather than live, breathing, animated human beings. Recommended safe exposure levels do not take into account long-term effects or non-thermal effects elicited before heating is detected (1). The review in the journal Pathophysiology that examined the effects of EMFs on the immune system concluded,
Based on this review, as well as the reviews in the recent Bioinitiative Report, it must be concluded that the existing public safety limits are inadequate to protect public health, and that new public safety limits, as well as limits on further deployment of untested technologies, are warranted” (1).
It is urgent that biologically based exposure limits be established that are entirely protective against both extremely low frequency and radio frequency fields. We must ascertain the exposure standards which do not interfere with normal biological processes as well as systematically assess the bioeffects and adverse health consequences of chronic EMF exposure (1). The safe exposure standard may, for all intents and purposes, be zero, as EMFs are reported within the literature to cause the following:
- Disrupt cellular communication
- Disrupt cellular metabolism
- Disrupt cellular repair
- Disrupt cancer surveillance
- Change brain wave activity
- Impair cognition
- Impair attention
- Impair memory
- Induce sleep disorders
- Induce cardiac effects
- Induce genotoxicity (interfere with integrity of the genome)
EMFs and Our Bioelectromagnetic Bodies
It makes intuitive sense that manmade electromagnetism would disrupt the processes of human physiology, as research has reinforced a poetic principle embedded within so many ancient traditions: that human beings are dynamic entities of light. As reported on previously, much of human physiology, including cellular metabolism and functioning of the energy-demanding immune and nervous systems, depend upon quanta of electromagnetic energy called biophotonic emissions (BPE) with a visibility one thousand times lower than the sensitivity of our naked eye (11). Miraculously, this light that we emit in the form of biophotons, fluctuates along the axis of diurnal time, is modulated by mental intention, and is even synchronized transcontinentally according to rhythms associated with the lunisolar tide (12).
We are fundamentally bioelectric beings, with physiology premised upon electromagnetic forms of energy transmission and communication that operate on exponentially faster scales than simple chemical diffusion. EMFs interfere with our bioelectromagnetic bodies, which Curtis and Hurtak have characterized as “an entire body distinct from the chemical body that interpenetrates it” and “a light circulatory system operating on an energetic level in a markedly different manner from that of its molecular counterparts” (13). It is intuitive, then, that EMFs will inevitably, and in some cases irreparably, harm human health, as summarized by an article in Electronic Physician:
If the body’s biological system is exposed to EMFs, which produce electric currents and fields, which, in fact, deal with the current and voltage, the normal physiological balance is upset” (14).
The time to act is now–to demand more thorough long-term safety testing and to lobby for biologically based exposure limits–in order to safeguard both the integrity of our own health and that of future generations.
Don’t take our word for it – visit the GreenMedInfo database on Electromagnetic Radiation and see for yourself why studies suggest you should limit your exposure time.
1. Johansson, O. (2009). Disturbance of the immune system by electromagnetic fields–A potentially underlying cause for cellular damage and tissue repair reduction which could lead to disease and impairment. Pathophysiology, 16, 157-177.
2. Marshall, T.G., & Heil, T.J.R. (2017). Electrosmog and autoimmune disease. Immunology Research.
4. Levis, A.G. et al. (2011). Mobile phones and head tumours. The discrepancies in cause-effect relationships in the epidemiological studies – how do they arise?
3. Zhang, Y. et al. (2016). Meta-analysis of extremely low frequency electromagnetic fields and cancer risk: a pooled analysis of epidemiologic studies. Environment International, 88, 36-43.
5. Carlberg, M., & Hardell, L. (2014). Decreased survival of glioma patients with astrocytoma grade IV (glioblastoma multiforme) associated with long-term use of mobile and cordless phones. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 1111(10),10790-10805.
6. Levallois, P. Et al. (2002). Study of self-reported hypersensitivity to electromagnetic fields in California. Environmental Health Perspectives, 110(4), 619-623.
7. Cox, R. (2004). Electrical hypersensitivity–human studies in the UK, in Conference Presentation at the WHO International Workshop on EMF Hypersensitivity. Prague, Czech Republic, October 25-27, 2004.
8. Irigaray, P. et al. (2018).Oxidative stress in electrohypersensitivity self-reporting patients: Results of a prospective in vivo investigation with comprehensive molecular analysis. International Journal of Molecular Medicine, 42(4), 1885–1898. doi: 10.3892/ijmm.2018.3774
9. Krystel-Whittlemore, M. et al. (2015). Cell: A Multi-Functional Master Cell. Frontiers in Immunology, 6(620), doi: 10.3389/fimmu.2015.00620.
10. Johannson, O. Et al. (2001). Cutaneous mast cells are altered in normal healthy volunteers sitting in front of ordinary TVs/PCs–results from open-field provocation experiments. Journal of Cutaneous Pathology, 28(10), 513-519.
11. Schwabl, Herbert, and Herbert Klima. “Spontaneous Ultraweak Photon Emission from Biological Systems and the Endogenous Light Field.” Forschende Komplementärmedizin / Research in Complementary Medicine 12, no. 2 (2005): 84-89. doi:10.1159/000083960.
12. Gallep, C.W. et al. (2013). Coincidence of biophoton emission by wheat seedlings during simultaneous, transcontinental germination tests. Protoplasma. 2013 Jun ;250(3):793-6. Epub 2012 Sep 26. PMID: 23011402
13. Curtis, B.D., & Hurtak, J.J. (2004). Consciousness and quantum information processing: Uncovering the foundation for a medicine of light. The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, 10(1), 27-39.
14. Asghari, A. et al. (2016). A review on Electromagnetic fields (EMFs) and the reproductive system. Electron Physician, 8(7), 2655-2662.
Ali Le Vere holds dual Bachelor of Science degrees in Human Biology and Psychology, minors in Health Promotion and in Bioethics, Humanities, and Society, and is a Master of Science in Human Nutrition and Functional Medicine candidate. Having contended with chronic illness, her mission is to educate the public about the transformative potential of therapeutic nutrition and to disseminate information on evidence-based, empirically rooted holistic healing modalities. Read more at @empoweredautoimmune on Instagram and at www.EmpoweredAutoimmune.com: Science-based natural remedies for autoimmune disease, dysautonomia, Lyme disease, and other chronic, inflammatory illnesses.
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