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The term electromagnetic smog refers to all artificially generated (anthropogenic) electromagnetic fields in the environment and the resulting permanent exposure of people and the environment to them. Electromagnetic smog is classified as non-ionizing radiation. This means that the electromagnetic waves unlike ionizing radiation such as radioactivity, do not produce the energy required to remove electrons from atoms or molecules. Non-ionizing radiation is sub-divided as low-frequency and high-frequency electromagnetic fields.
High-frequency radiation fields created by cellular and cordless phones, cellular phone towers, Wi-Fi, and microwaves are the most damaging. But low frequency electromagnetic smog can also be harmful when we are exposed to it consistently. Due to the exponential increase in the use of wireless personal communication devices (e.g., mobile or cordless phones and Wi-Fi or Bluetooth-enabled devices) and the infrastructure facilitating them, levels of exposure to radiofrequency electromagnetic radiation have increased from extremely low natural levels by about 1018 times. Levels are now exponentially surging even more as technologies like 5G add millions of additional radiofrequency transmitters around us.
Security solutions for private households and businesses also contribute to an increase in electromagnetic smog. Networked and remotely controllable devices and installations are designed to provide more security and efficient energy use and consequently improve the quality of homes and life in general. However, this technological convenience leads to further exposure to electromagnetic radiation. The trend of increased exposure to electromagnetic smog is even rising in cars as well. In addition to radiation from Bluetooth, GPS, seat heating and the mobile data of smartphones, the future use of electric cars will further increase passenger exposure because of the electric engine and its battery.
Cordless phones and smartphones have long become part of everyday life. Many children and teenagers use smartphones, tablets and laptops all day, and the latest devices are at the top of their wish lists. In order to ensure seamless accessibility, more and more mobile phone towers are being built and 5G is spreading. Mobile phones, antennae of mobile towers, Wi-Fi, cordless phones, tabs and other such wireless equipment work on frequencies ranging from 700 Megahertz (MHz) to 2.8 Gigahertz (GHz) and the proposed new arrival of 5G is supposed to work on a frequency of 30 GHz to 300 GHz. All these very high frequencies cause multiple resonances at a cellular level, causing disturbance in cell-to-cell communication. This radiation is silent and invisible, but cells are adversely affected by it.
According to recent estimates, more than 7 billion cellphones and smartphones are currently in use worldwide, and the numbers and cell towers continue to increase. In addition, there are Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and ultrawideband. Never have so many people (especially children) been exposed to radiofrequency radiation, at such intensities with such proximity to the head. Most modern cellular systems operate in a pulsating mode in which the data is accumulated and transmitted in short pulses. Such modulated radiofrequency radiation at low average power has been reported to have detrimental effects on the central nervous system. Because of the widespread use of wireless technology, even a small risk increase would have serious public health consequences.
Humans have an electromagnetic field with a power of approximately one hundred millivolts. Since we live in an artificially created field significantly higher than this, over time our bodies become irritated and distressed and constantly compensate for the effects of this greater electromagnetic field. In order to compensate, our bodies lose energy (electrons) constantly. The strength of our body current is described as emitting four Pico Amps. In contrast, the current surging through mobile/cellular and cordless phones is 0.2 Amps. This is fifty billion times stronger. If you consider that the human body performs one-quadrillion electrical connections every second, it becomes clear how much can go wrong.
Electromagnetic radiation can interfere with numerous cellular regulatory mechanisms, as cells and the fluids around them are composed of water. It has been widely claimed that radiofrequency electromagnetic radiation, being non-ionizing radiation, does not possess enough photon energy to cause DNA damage. This has now been proven false experimentally. Radiofrequency electromagnetic radiation causes DNA damage apparently through oxidative stress, like near-UV radiation, which was also long thought to be harmless. Additionally, evidence of its effects on the CNS, including altered neurodevelopment and increased risk of some neurodegenerative diseases, is a major concern considering the steady increase in their incidence. Evidence exists for an association between neurodevelopmental or behavioral disorders in children and exposure to wireless devices, and experimental evidence shows that prenatal exposure could cause structural and functional changes in the brain associated with ADHD-like behavior.
Damage goes well beyond humans, as there is growing evidence of harmful effects to both plant and animal life. For example, the reported global reduction in bees and other insects is plausibly linked to the increased radiofrequency electromagnetic radiation in the environment. Honeybees are among the species that use magnetoreception, which is sensitive to anthropogenic electromagnetic fields, for navigation.
Studies have shown exposure to electromagnetic smog can have a fundamental impact on biological processes in our body with the following effects:
Damage to reproductive health,
Damage to proteins and cellular membranes,
Increased oxidative stress,
DNA damage and alterations in gene expression in some human cell types,
Alteration of the blood-brain barrier system,
Altered electrical brain activity and cognition,
Increased behavioral problems in children, and
Risks of some cancers.
The government has established maximum exposure limits, which they say, must not be exceeded. Many scientists believe these limits are unrealistically high and sacrifice our safety in order to cater to corporate, industrial and political interests. At a time when environmental health scientists undertake global issues such as climate change and chemical toxicants in public health, there is also an urgent need to address electromagnetic smog. Much has already been shown with an evidence-based approach to the risk assessment and regulation of anthropogenic electromagnetic fields.
The following are selected articles on various types of electromagnetic smog and its health consequences.
Betzalel, Noa, Paul Ben Ishai, and Yuri Feldman. "The human skin as a sub-THz receiver–Does 5G pose a danger to it or not?." Environmental research 163 (2018): 208-216.
Blackman, Carl. "Cell phone radiation: evidence from ELF and RF studies supporting more inclusive risk identification and assessment." Pathophysiology 16, no. 2-3 (2009): 205-216.
Buchner, Klaus, and Horst Eger. "Changes of clinically important neurotransmitters under the influence of modulated RF fields—a long-term study under real-life conditions." Umwelt-Medizin-Gesellschaft 24, no. 1 (2011): 44-57.
Carlberg, Michael, and Lennart Hardell. "Evaluation of mobile phone and cordless phone use and glioma risk using the Bradford Hill viewpoints from 1965 on association or causation." BioMed research international 2017 (2017).
Coureau, Gaëlle, Ghislaine Bouvier, Pierre Lebailly, Pascale Fabbro-Peray, Anne Gruber, Karen Leffondre, Jean-Sebastien Guillamo et al. "Mobile phone use and brain tumours in the CERENAT case-control study." Occup Environ Med 71, no. 7 (2014): 514-522.
Dasdag, Suleyman, Mehmet Zulkuf Akdag, Mehmet Emin Erdal, Nurten Erdal, Ozlem Izci Ay, Mustafa Ertan Ay, Senay Gorucu Yilmaz, Bahar Tasdelen, and Korkut Yegin. "Effects of 2.4 GHz radiofrequency radiation emitted from Wi-Fi equipment on microRNA expression in brain tissue." International journal of radiation biology 91, no. 7 (2015): 555-561.
Dasdag, Suleyman, Muzaffer Taş, Mehmet Zulkuf Akdag, and Korkut Yegin. "Effect of long-term exposure of 2.4 GHz radiofrequency radiation emitted from Wi-Fi equipment on testes functions." Electromagnetic biology and medicine 34, no. 1 (2015): 37-42.
Deshmukh, Pravin Suryakantrao, Namita Nasare, Kanu Megha, Basu Dev Banerjee, Rafat Sultana Ahmed, Digvijay Singh, Mahesh Pandurang Abegaonkar, Ashok Kumar Tripathi, and Pramod Kumari Mediratta. "Cognitive impairment and neurogenotoxic effects in rats exposed to low-intensity microwave radiation." International journal of toxicology 34, no. 3 (2015): 284-290.
Di Ciaula, Agostino. "Towards 5G communication systems: Are there health implications?." International journal of hygiene and environmental health 221, no. 3 (2018): 367-375.
Diem, Elisabeth, Claudia Schwarz, Franz Adlkofer, Oswald Jahn, and Hugo Rüdiger. "Non-thermal DNA breakage by mobile-phone radiation (1800 MHz) in human fibroblasts and in transformed GFSH-R17 rat granulosa cells in vitro." Mutation Research/Genetic Toxicology and Environmental Mutagenesis 583, no. 2 (2005): 178-183.
Divan, Hozefa A., Leeka Kheifets, Carsten Obel, and Jørn Olsen. "Cell phone use and behavioural problems in young children." J Epidemiol Community Health 66, no. 6 (2012): 524-529.
Eliyahu, Ilan, Roy Luria, Ronen Hareuveny, Menachem Margaliot, Nachshon Meiran, and Gad Shani. "Effects of radiofrequency radiation emitted by cellular telephones on the cognitive functions of humans." Bioelectromagnetics: Journal of the Bioelectromagnetics Society, The Society for Physical Regulation in Biology and Medicine, The European Bioelectromagnetics Association 27, no. 2 (2006): 119-126.
Erogul, Osman, Emin Oztas, Ibrahim Yildirim, Tayfun Kir, Emin Aydur, Gokhan Komesli, Hasan Cem Irkilata, Mehmet Kemal Irmak, and Ahmet Fuat Peker. "Effects of electromagnetic radiation from a cellular phone on human sperm motility: an in vitro study." Archives of medical research 37, no. 7 (2006): 840-843
Fragopoulou, Adamantia F., Athina Samara, Marianna H. Antonelou, Anta Xanthopoulou, Aggeliki Papadopoulou, Konstantinos Vougas, Eugenia Koutsogiannopoulou et al. "Brain proteome response following whole body exposure of mice to mobile phone or wireless DECT base radiation." Electromagnetic biology and medicine 31, no. 4 (2012): 250-274.
Gandhi, Om P., L. Lloyd Morgan, Alvaro Augusto De Salles, Yueh-Ying Han, Ronald B. Herberman, and Devra Lee Davis. "Exposure limits: The underestimation of absorbed cell phone radiation, especially in children." Electromagnetic biology and medicine 31, no. 1 (2012): 34-51.
Grigoriev, Yury G., Oleg A. Grigoriev, Alexander A. Ivanov, Antonina M. Lyaginskaya, Anton V. Merkulov, Natalia B. Shagina, Vyacheslav N. Maltsev et al. "Confirmation studies of Soviet research on immunological effects of microwaves: Russian immunology results." Bioelectromagnetics 31, no. 8 (2010): 589-602.
Hardell, Lennart, Michael Carlberg, Tarmo Koppel, and Lena Hedendahl. "High radiofrequency radiation at Stockholm Old Town: An exposimeter study including the Royal Castle, Supreme Court, three major squares and the Swedish Parliament." Molecular and clinical oncology 6, no. 4 (2017): 462-476.
Hardell, Lennart, and Michael Carlberg. "Mobile phone and cordless phone use and the risk for glioma–Analysis of pooled case-control studies in Sweden, 1997–2003 and 2007–2009." Pathophysiology 22, no. 1 (2015): 1-13.
Hardell, Lennart, Tarmo Koppel, Michael Carlberg, Mikko Ahonen, and Lena Hedendahl. "Radiofrequency radiation at Stockholm Central Railway Station in Sweden and some medical aspects on public exposure to RF fields." International journal of oncology 49, no. 4 (2016): 1315-1324.
Hardell, Lennart, and Michael Carlberg. "Using the Hill viewpoints from 1965 for evaluating strengths of evidence of the risk for brain tumors associated with use of mobile and cordless phones1." Reviews on Environmental Health 28, no. 2-3 (2013): 97-106.
Hedendahl, Lena, Michael Carlberg, and Lennart Hardell. "Electromagnetic hypersensitivity–an increasing challenge to the medical profession." Reviews on environmental health 30, no. 4 (2015): 209-215.
Lerchl, Alexander, Melanie Klose, Karen Grote, Adalbert FX Wilhelm, Oliver Spathmann, Thomas Fiedler, Joachim Streckert, Volkert Hansen, and Markus Clemens. "Tumor promotion by exposure to radiofrequency electromagnetic fields below exposure limits for humans." Biochemical and biophysical research communications 459, no. 4 (2015): 585-590.
Leung, S., R. J. Croft, Raymond J. McKenzie, Steve Iskra, Beata Silber, N. R. Cooper, Barry O’Neill et al. "Effects of 2G and 3G mobile phones on performance and electrophysiology in adolescents, young adults and older adults." Clinical Neurophysiology 122, no. 11 (2011): 2203-2216.
Luria, Roy, Ilan Eliyahu, Ronen Hareuveny, Menachem Margaliot, and Nachshon Meiran. "Cognitive effects of radiation emitted by cellular phones: the influence of exposure side and time." Bioelectromagnetics: Journal of the Bioelectromagnetics Society, The Society for Physical Regulation in Biology and Medicine, The European Bioelectromagnetics Association 30, no. 3 (2009): 198-204.
Markovà, Eva, Lars OG Malmgren, and Igor Y. Belyaev. "Microwaves from mobile phones inhibit 53BP1 focus formation in human stem cells more strongly than in differentiated cells: possible mechanistic link to cancer risk." Environmental health perspectives 118, no. 3 (2010): 394-399.
Megha, Kanu, Pravin Suryakantrao Deshmukh, Basu Dev Banerjee, Ashok Kumar Tripathi, Rafat Ahmed, and Mahesh Pandurang Abegaonkar. "Low intensity microwave radiation induced oxidative stress, inflammatory response and DNA damage in rat brain." Neurotoxicology 51 (2015): 158-165.
Moskowitz, Joel. "5G wireless technology: millimeter wave health effects." Electromagnetic Radiation Safety 3 (2017): 3-6.
Nittby, Henrietta, Arne Brun, Jacob Eberhardt, Lars Malmgren, Bertil RR Persson, and Leif G. Salford. "Increased blood–brain barrier permeability in mammalian brain 7 days after exposure to the radiation from a GSM-900 mobile phone." Pathophysiology 16, no. 2-3 (2009): 103-112.
Oscar, Kenneth J., and T. Daryl Hawkins. "Microwave alteration of the blood-brain barrier system of rats." Brain research 126, no. 2 (1977): 281-293.
Papageorgiou, Charalabos C., Chrissanthi D. Hountala, Argiro E. Maganioti, Miltiades A. Kyprianou, Andreas D. Rabavilas, George N. Papadimitriou, and Christos N. Capsalis. "Effects of wi-fi signals on the p300 component of event-related potentials during an auditory hayling task." Journal of Integrative Neuroscience 10, no. 02 (2011): 189-202.
Regel, Sabine J., Julie M. Gottselig, Jürgen Schuderer, Gilberte Tinguely, Julia V. Rétey, Niels Kuster, Hans-Peter Landolt, and Peter Achermann. "Pulsed radio frequency radiation affects cognitive performance and the waking electroencephalogram." Neuroreport 18, no. 8 (2007): 803-807.
Regel, Sabine J., Gilberte Tinguely, Jürgen Schuderer, Martin Adam, Niels Kuster, HANS‐PETER LANDOLT, and Peter Achermann. "Pulsed radio‐frequency electromagnetic fields: dose‐dependent effects on sleep, the sleep EEG and cognitive performance." Journal of sleep research 16, no. 3 (2007): 253-258.
Remondini, Daniel, Reetta Nylund, Jukka Reivinen, Florence Poulletier de Gannes, Bernard Veyret, Isabelle Lagroye, Emmanuelle Haro et al. "Gene expression changes in human cells after exposure to mobile phone microwaves." Proteomics 6, no. 17 (2006): 4745-4754.
Schmid, Marc R., Sarah P. Loughran, Sabine J. Regel, Manuel Murbach, Thomas Rusterholz, Alessia Bersagliere, Niels Kuster, and Peter Achermann. "Sleep EEG alterations: effects of different pulse‐modulated radio frequency electromagnetic fields." Journal of sleep research 21, no. 1 (2012): 50-58.
Starkey, Sarah J. "Inaccurate official assessment of radiofrequency safety by the Advisory Group on Non-ionising Radiation." Reviews on environmental health 31, no. 4 (2016): 493-503.
Sudan, Madhuri, Jorn Olsen, Oyebuchi A. Arah, Carsten Obel, and Leeka Kheifets. "Prospective cohort analysis of cellphone use and emotional and behavioural difficulties in children." J Epidemiol Community Health 70, no. 12 (2016): 1207-1213.
Tang, Jun, Yuan Zhang, Liming Yang, Qianwei Chen, Liang Tan, Shilun Zuo, Hua Feng, Zhi Chen, and Gang Zhu. "Exposure to 900 MHz electromagnetic fields activates the mkp-1/ERK pathway and causes blood-brain barrier damage and cognitive impairment in rats." Brain research 1601 (2015): 92-101.
Volkow, Nora D., Dardo Tomasi, Gene-Jack Wang, Paul Vaska, Joanna S. Fowler, Frank Telang, Dave Alexoff, Jean Logan, and Christopher Wong. "Effects of cell phone radiofrequency signal exposure on brain glucose metabolism." Jama 305, no. 8 (2011): 808-813.
Wyde, Michael, Mark Cesta, Chad Blystone, Susan Elmore, Paul Foster, Michelle Hooth, Grace Kissling et al. "Report of partial findings from the national toxicology program carcinogenesis studies of cell phone radiofrequency radiation in Hsd: Sprague Dawley® SD rats (Whole Body Exposure)." BioRxiv (2018): 055699.
Yakymenko, Igor, Olexandr Tsybulin, Evgeniy Sidorik, Diane Henshel, Olga Kyrylenko, and Sergiy Kyrylenko. "Oxidative mechanisms of biological activity of low-intensity radiofrequency radiation." Electromagnetic biology and medicine 35, no. 2 (2016): 186-202.
Yao, Ke, Wei Wu, KaiJun Wang, Shuang Ni, PanPan Ye, YiBo Yu, Juan Ye, and LiXia Sun. "Electromagnetic noise inhibits radiofrequency radiation-induced DNA damage and reactive oxygen species increase in human lens epithelial cells." Molecular vision 14 (2008): 964.
Zothansiama, Mary Zosangzuali, Miriam Lalramdinpuii, and Ganesh Chandra Jagetia. "Impact of radiofrequency radiation on DNA damage and antioxidants in peripheral blood lymphocytes of humans residing in the vicinity of mobile phone base stations." Electromagnetic biology and medicine 36, no. 3 (2017): 295-305.