Microwaves and health
The typical twenty first-century home is equipped with a range of devices which employ microwave technology. These include microwave ovens, mobile phones, digital cordless DECT telephones, Wi-Fi wireless internet connections, Bluetooth wireless devices, burglar alarms with microwave detectors, and digital cordless baby monitors. Unfortunately, this 'must have' technology, which we have so eagerly welcomed into our homes, carries a hidden threat to our well-being.
Scientists investigating the biological effects of microwave (radiofrequency) radiation, say that the pulsing ‘chatter’ of digital communications has even more potential to upset the structure of living cells than the 'static' low frequency electro-magnetic radiation associated with household wiring and appliances.
Microwave exposure causes cell membranes to harden, reducing the inflow of nutrients and the outflow of waste products, and resulting in the formation of free radicals, damage to DNA, and cell mutation. Click here for more on this.
Symptoms, which can appear immediately, or take many years to manifest, are being increasingly reported after even low-dose exposures. These include nosebleeds, sleep disruption, chronic exhaustion, immune system disturbance, heart rhythm changes, erratic blood pressure, nausea and digestion disturbances, epilepsy, headaches, depression, poor concentration, memory and learning problems, mood and behavioural changes, hyperactivity, skin complaints, and cancer.
Between 3 and 5% of the population are estimated to be hypersensitive to microwaves and other electromagnetic frequencies, and some of this number may go on to develop a full-blown sensitivity syndrome as a result of over-exposure.
The stories of Dr Carlos Sosa MD and Debbie Bird graphically illustrate the devastating consequences for those who develop Microwave Syndrome, and they serve as a timely warning to the rest of us about the need to avoid microwaves as much as possible.
There is already a great deal of hard evidence to support the link between microwave radiation and health effects, as can be seen from the long list of studies many of which looked at
The European Environment Agency – Europe's top environmental watchdog – last year responded to the growing evidence by calling for immediate action to reduce exposure to radiation from Wi-Fi, mobile phones and their masts, suggesting that delay could lead to a health
crisis similar to those associated with asbestos, smoking and lead in petrol.
In Germany, the government is advising its citizens to use wired internet connections instead of Wi-Fi, and landlines instead of mobile phones. And in Sweden, recognition of the dangers is already well developed. Two percent of the Swedish population are officially classified as electrosensitive, and electrosensitivity is recognised as a disability.
In the UK, however, the official response from medical and government sources is still that there is ‘no firm evidence’ of adverse health effects at the levels of microwave radiation to which people are normally exposed. The reason for this position may have something to do with the fact that mobile phone companies have paid the UK Government tens of billions of pounds to operate, creating huge commercial and political pressures against rocking the boat in respect of microwave technology.
Assessing personal risk
One can get an idea of the extent of one's personal exposure to microwaves by using this
A detailed assessment of the microwave situation in a home can be gained by using an A-COM Electrosmog Detector (which can be purchased or rented from the Healthy House)
This emits a distinctive sound for each type of radiation that it picks up – eg from phone mast, DECT device or Wi-Fi – each of which can be identified by listening to the sample sounds.
DECT phones and baby alarms
The most aggressive radiation in many homes comes from the base (docking-station) of a Digital Enhanced Cordless Telecommunications (DECT) telephone system. These typically irradiate the inside of a house more highly than even a mobile phone mast – and not just when a phone is in use, but the whole time that the base station is switched on. This radiation also reaches into adjacent homes, raising health risks for neighbours. (Read more on the
dangers of DECT.)
Special low radiation cordless digital phones are available which significantly reduce
microwave exposure, but the only way to avoid this form of radiation altogether is to use a wired analogue phone.
Some baby monitors use the same digital technology as DECT phones and produce a similar level of microwave emissions, which can be twice as strong as those found within 100 metres of a mobile phone mast.
In view of the many health risks already known to be associated with mobile phones,
it is obviously best to use a landline whenever possible. However, there are several things that one can do to minimise exposure to microwave emissions if the use a mobile phone is
• Choose a phone with a long 'talk time', which is indicative of greater efficiency. It should also be advantageous to use a phone with a low SAR (specific absorption rate, which is a measure of the amount of radio frequency energy absorbed by the body when using a mobile phone), although the SAR is not an entirely reliable measure of phone safety, as some high SAR phones can actually be very efficient and work at low power, whereas some low SAR phones can be inefficient and work at high power.
• Choose a strong reception area to make calls, because mobile phones emit much less radiation where reception is good.
• Text rather than talk, and hold the phone at least 6-7 inches away from your body while in use. If it is essential to talk, use speaker mode, if available.
• As mobile phones produce the most radiation at the moment they are switched on or off (up to 500 times more), while they are dialing and ringing, and when they connect or disconnect, they should be held as far away from the body as possible during these operations. Only put a phone to your ear once your contact has answered, and keep calls short.
• Use a hands-free kit, preferably one with air tubes (like a stethoscope) rather than wires, and position the phone away from your body, rather than slipping it into a pocket. For a source of air tubes.
• Avoid the use of mobile phones in enclosed metal structures such as cars, trains and planes, where microwave radiation becomes trapped and concentrated.
• When not using your mobile phone, turn it off, or at least keep it as far away from you as possible. This is especially important while you are sleeping.
• Take advantage of messaging services and, whenever possible, access messages from a landline.
• Avoid using mobile phones while pregnant and when holding a baby or small child in your arms. The use of mobile phones by children themselves should be strictly limited.
Wi-fi and bluetooth
Wireless internet connection devices which utilise microwave technology are now widespread. The range of many of the current wireless local area network (WLAN) devices – commonly known as WI-Fi – typically extends far beyond the buildings where they are located, spreading continuous radiation into the homes of neighbours in every direction.
For more on Wi-Fi and health, see the Powerwatch and Townsend Letter sites.
There is now an alternative, microwave-free technology for internet connection and computer networking within the home or office. Called direct local area network (dLAN), it utilizes the domestic ring main wiring to allow users to access the internet and other networked computers within the same building by plugging an adapter into any convenient socket outlet.
dLAN provides a similar level of flexibility to Wi-Fi, at a comparable price, it is not adversely affected by distance or heavy walls, as Wi-Fi can be, and it is not accessible to
hackers. dLAN systems are also easier to set up than Wi-Fi.
dLAN units are available from a number of sources, including Home Plugs and Dixons.
Bluetooth, a similar technology to Wi-Fi, uses microwaves to transfer information between electronic devices such as phones, printers, computers and headsets in relatively close proximity to one another. But, while it uses the same frequency range as Wi-Fi, Bluetooth generally uses less power, so the risks involved are more comparable with those of mobile phones than with Wi-Fi.
Wi-Fi and Bluetooth devices which are built into computers may be switched on by default, so users need to ensure that they are off, in order to avoid being inadvertently irradiated while using their computer.
Wi-fi in schools
Wi-Fi has become the standard internet connection method in British schools, and most establishments now bathe their pupils and staff in microwave radiation throughout the entire school day.
Grave concerns have been expressed about this situation by those who understand the implications, and a few establishments have removed their wireless networks after lobbying by parents, and when pupils or teachers have become ill as a result of Wi-Fi activity.
A re-think on this issue is urgently needed, but the Government's Department for Children, Schools and Families is currently following the advice of the Health Protection Agency, which does not consider that any risk exists.
Lists of those schools which use, and those which do not use Wi-FI, are being assembled.
A mast by any other name...
The domestic Wi-Fi system now has a big brother, in the form of the much more powerful WiMAX, installations of which are springing up in town and city centres, airports, railway stations, shopping centres, universities and colleges, with the aim of providing people with universal access to the internet.
Whereas the range of
domestic Wi-Fi base stations is measured in hundreds of
metres, WIMAX bases have ranges of up to 10 miles. However, you are unlikely to have seen one, because they are often contained inside burglar alarm-like boxes placed high on walls and lampposts, or hidden inside chimneys and ceiling cavities.
Apart from WIMAX equipment, the main source of microwave radiation from outside the home is mobile telephone base stations, which, like WiMAX bases, are not always in the form of actual masts, and can be effectively hidden inside buildings, such as church steeples, so the absence of any obvious structure in your area does not mean that there is not a 'mast' near you.
You can check your locality for the presence of mobile telephone (but not WiMAX) base stations at Ofcom's Sitefinder website, although it is neither up to date nor comprehensive – http://www.sitefinder.ofcom.org.uk/. The use
of an Electrosmog Detector will also reveal their microwave
(For more about the health effects of mast transmissions and related research)
If the use of an Electro-
smog Detector indicates
that external microwave
radiation is a problem in
a particular home,
shielding materials are
available to reduce exposure. Special wall paint, and fabrics for use as curtaining, can be
obtained from EMFields (www.emfields.org) where you can also find more information on shielding and related topics. Still further advice and additional shielding products are available from the US EMF Safety Superstore.
The most important area to protect is where you sleep, and the mosquito net-style protective bed canopies sold by EMFields are a convenient way to achieve this.
There are also devices which claim to provide individuals with additional personal protection by countering the biological effects of microwaves. The Healthy House offers a range of such protection devices.
Cooking with microwaves
It is wrong to assume that the radiation produced by micro-wave ovens is all kept within the confines of the oven's metal shell. Holding an Electrosmog Detector several feet away from a microwave oven will reveal that microwaves are in fact
spread into the vicinity of the oven during use, and typically
extend for several feet. It is therefore wise to
stand well clear
while these cookers
are in operation.
What is happening outside the oven is, however, only part of the problem with this type of cooking, which is, technically, a form of food irradiation. Indeed, the first microwaves were proudly advertised as 'radar ranges', when they were introduced in the 1970s.
Microwave ovens heat food using a process which creates molecular friction, but the mechanism by which heat is produced also causes internal damage to the delicate molecular structure of vitamins and phytonutrients within the food. Minerals are largely unaffected, but the all-important B
vitamins, flavonoids and other nutritional elements are easily destroyed by microwave
One study has shown that microwaved vegetables lose up to 97% of their nutritional content, and there is even some
evidence to suggest that micro- waving destroys the natural harmony in water molecules, creating an energetic pattern of chaos in the water within food. Read more.
As far back as 1989, a Swiss food scientist discovered that food which has been cooked or defrosted in a microwave oven can cause changes in the blood of those who eat it – changes which are indicative of a developing pathological process also found in cancer. Regrettably, this evidence was suppressed by the Swiss courts, which effectively gagged the scientist concerned after the manufacturers of microwave ovens invoked Swiss trade laws.
However, these findings have been corroborated by
others from around the world, including Russian forensic
scientists, who found that cooking food in a microwave oven creates free radicals and other cancer-causing agents, as well as significantly decreasing the nutritional value of all the foods that were studied.
For more on the health risks of microwave cooking.
2 Tower Road, Sutton CB6 2QA
The Healthy House
The Old Co-op, Lower Street, Ruscombe GL6 6BU
0845 450 5950 / 01453 752216
The US EMF Safety Superstore (carries a huge range of protection options) www.lessemf.com
www.es-uk.info and www.electrosensitivity.org (support for electro-sensitives)
www.detect-protect.com (A-COM Electrosmog Detector)
Update – January 2010
In the twelve months since the above piece was written, there have been a number of significant developments in parts of the world where governments which are not as much in the pockets of the telecoms industry as they are in the UK and the US have begun to take action to raise awareness about the risks of microwave radiation and to protect their citizens by introducing legislation.
January 2009. France introduced new laws - the strictest so far in Europe - banning all advertising of mobile phones to children under 12, and the sale of any phones designed to be used by those under six. The French government is also to introduce new limits for radiation from phones and make it compulsory for handsets to be sold with earphones, so that users can avoid irradiating their heads and brains.
May, 2009. Following publication of a report suggesting that mobile phones and Wi-Fi can damage the developing brain, the French government went even further by banning these technologies from every primary school in the country.
June 2009. The European Parliament declared itself to be greatly concerned by the international Bio-Initiative report on electromagnetic fields (http://www.bioinitiative.org/report/index.htm), which highlights the health risks posed by emissions from devices such as mobile telephones, UMTS, Wi-Fi, Wimax and Bluetooth, as well as DECT wireless telephones. Declaring the current limits on exposure obsolete, they have adopted a resolution calling on the European Council to set stricter exposure limits for all equipment which emits electromagnetic waves in the frequencies between 0.1 MHz and 300 GHz. The European Parliament has also issued a press release about the dangers which these technologies pose for citizens.
August 2009. Liechtenstein and Switzerland announced their intention to drastically reduce RF radiation exposure limits.
October 2009. The French believe the biological effects of exposure to RF radiation are now beyond doubt.
December 2009. France leads the way in reducing RF exposure and a US Senate hearing confirms mobile phone dangers.
In spite of all this activity elsewhere, the UK government has so far still made no attempt whatsoever to protect its citizens from radio-frequency radiation, or even to warn them about the risks, and UK consumer organisations, such as the Consumer's Association (publishers of Which? magazine), appear to have their heads well buried in the sand on this issue.
In the absence of responsible guidance, the UK population can't get enough of this Trojan horse, as the madness continues with the latest craze - wireless internet - which will further intensify the haze of microwave radiation to which we are all exposed.
More articles on ES
2008 updated 2010
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