You are listening to part one of a two-part series that explores EMFs or electromagnetic fields.
Part one will discuss what EMFs are and a little bit about their potential health effects. And part two, we’ll go into some of the practical things we can do to mitigate our exposure to EMFs. I hope you enjoy these two episodes. Thank you.
On today’s episode of the Modern Vital Podcast, we’re gonna talk about the potential health effects associated with EMF exposure and or pollution.
And I’m excited to announce that today’s special guest is, Kim O’Neil Lear, Director of Education and Communications at GreenWave International, an expert in EMF mitigation solutions. And with a background in research, writing and education, Kim develops content and works on product development at GreenWave.
She holds degrees from UC Berkeley and Stanford, and is pursuing certification as an electromagnetic radiation specialist.
Dr. Ben Reebs: Welcome to the show, Kim.
Kim Lear: Thank you so much. I’m thrilled to be here.
Dr. Ben Reebs: So excited to have you here. I just wanna ask, first, I know a certified building biologist attempts to mitigate EMF exposure in the home. Is this similar to electromagnetic radiation specialty?
Kim Lear: Yes, electromagnetic specialty really is looking at kind of all of the different types of electromagnetic radiation that we experience kind of in our daily living and looking at how can we know what our exposures are and how can we reduce those exposures if they’re higher than as desirable for our health and wellbeing.
Dr. Ben Reebs: Well, I’d love to before we kind of get into the world of EMFs, uh, I’d love to know how you found it. What’s your story?
Kim Lear: Yeah, so it’s interesting. I mean, before 2006 or so, I really didn’t have any idea about electromagnetic fields. I knew very little about, you know, the ins and outs of even electricity at that point.
And in 2006, my spouse became electrically hypersensitive. So he was a kind of an early adopter of all technologies. He was on technology a lot, and yeah, he became sensitive and at first, I’ll be honest, I was skeptical. You know, I wanted to make sure that we had kind of figured out that he seemed pretty clear early on that, you know, it seemed to be connected to his use of his phone to being around lots of other people that were on their phones, et cetera.
And, you know, I of course wanted to make sure, let’s make sure we’re not dealing like with some other kind of problem. I’ve never heard of this. This sounds strange to me. And that began our journey of learning about this and eventually led to a startup company related to EMF education and mitigation. Just because we realized it’s a growing problem and more and more people are becoming hypersensitive and even those who aren’t, can be affected and are affected.
Dr. Ben Reebs: What exactly are EMFs? I mean, people are wondering out there.
Are these things real, you know, electromagnetic fields?
Kim Lear: So, yeah, electromagnetic fields basically. Sometimes you’ll also hear them referred to as electromagnetic radiation or EMR. And really essentially it’s, it’s kind of a type of energy. It’s invisible areas of energy around us.
EMFs are naturally found in nature, others are artificial or human-made. Some are what we call ionizing, which means they have enough energy and enough power to basically change the structure of an atom, to change a charged atom into a charged particle, either positive or negatively charged ion.
And then others are non-ionizing because they don’t have quite that much energy. But basically it’s just invisible energy that exists in nature and exists for us to harness and use, to kind of fuel different technologies that we have.
Dr. Ben Reebs: Well, you and I were talking a little bit about how our environment has changed so dramatically over these last couple of decades. Can you talk a little bit about that and how do we navigate this changing environment?
Kim Lear: Yeah, that was, I think when, when we kind of learned about this and, and started our journey, that was one of the things that I think was most surprising to me is to realize that up until about 125 years ago, the only types of EMF that we were exposed to were those found in nature.
So things like earth’s magnetic field, or you know, sunlight. There’s various types of EMFs or EMR: sunlight, infrared light, visible lights, UV radiation, cosmic rays from space… These types of natural EMFs are ones that have existed since the beginning of time.
Many of them are essential for life on earth. And our bodies have evolved with them. It doesn’t mean that they’re always good for us, in too much quantity, but we’re more used to them than we are to what has come since.
So basically, since around the late 1800s or early 1900s, our electromagnetic environment has changed dramatically.
So now in addition to kind of all the natural forms of EMFs, we’re also exposed to a variety of what I’ll call artificial or man-made, human-made EMFs. Sometimes I refer to these artificial forms as EMF pollution or electro-smog.
And it is sort of fascinating because it started with the introduction of electricity into homes when the first mass light bulb was introduced. Electricity started to be rolled out into homes and people started using electricity to light their homes.
And then came a whole barrage of new fancy devices that ran on electricity. So we got refrigeration and air conditioning and coffee makers. And then since I’d say about the 1980s, late seventies, early eighties, there’s just been an exponential growth in technology.
We had kind of a whole boom in electronics and electronic equipment. We had a real push for energy efficiency, which has good for saving energy, but not so good from an EMF standpoint.
And then of course we had the whole wireless revolution, really since the 1980s. Just this growth in technology has obviously…there’s so many benefits that we’ve achieved as a result of that.
I mean, productivity, efficiency, convenience, just entertainment. But it’s come at a cost and the cost that a lot of people are not aware of yet. And that is that we’ve increased technology, so have we increased the amount of electromagnetic radiation that we’re exposed to.
And it’s not just these natural forms, but all these artificial forms. So it’s like we’ve gone from a world in which we only were exposed to natural forms to one in which we’re immersed pretty much 24/7, in kind of a soup or fog of electromagnetic radiation. I’s dramatically different. And I remember being really surprised by that.
I mean, it’s sort of obvious when you like start to think about it, but it’s not something I had really thought about. The fact that we really have changed and experts actually estimate that we’re probably exposed to literally millions or billions of levels higher than what you would just find in nature.
And that’s happened in a relatively short span of time. You know, when you look at the whole span of human history that we’re only talking about a little over a hundred years, and so our bodies aren’t necessarily well adapted to kind of deal with all of this extra electromagnetic pollution.
I think the other thing I find kind of interesting is I think people hear the term EMF and they kind of think it’s all one thing, you know? And really there are different types of EMFs and that becomes sort of important to understand, once you know about the issue and wanna start reducing your exposures. Knowing the different types, knowing what their sources are, kind of helps you then figure out what you can do to kind of reduce your exposures in your environment.
So there are four types really that are prevalent in our daily lives, I would say, and there are three of them that are actually related to our use of electricity.
So, we’ve got just what we call power frequency electric fields. So those are a 50 or 60 hertz electric fields, and those are associated with the voltage part of electricity.
Voltage is almost like water pressure in that it sort of sits there on your wiring, kind of waiting to push electrical current, you know, through a wire or another conductor when we turn something on.
Dr. Ben Reebs: So that’s just like a standard outlet, right?
Kim Lear: Yes. So as long as your circuit breakers are turned on, and any outlets that you have are controlled by switches that are on, then your voltage will always be present there if those things are on.
And so as long as they’re on, then you will always have electric fields, for example, radiating off the wiring in your home. Even if nothing’s running.
So, you know, when I have a lamp, for example, you know, when I have the lamp cord, then there’s gonna be voltage applied to that cord all the way up to the on/off switch for the lamp.
And so I’ll have electric fields coming off of that wire or that cord, as well as the wiring in the walls. You know, even if I don’t have that lamp on. Now when I turn the lamp on, now I have electric current actually running through the wires, and that’s where we get the second type of EMF pollution.
It’s what we call those power frequency magnetic fields. And magnetic fields are caused by the flow of current. So whenever you have electrical current flowing through a conductor like a wire or any other kind of conductive surface, you will always have a magnetic field radiating off of that surface.
And so that’s the second type.
And then we’ve got something that’s called dirty electricity, which is kind of a byproduct. It’s also, as the name implies, associated with our use of electricity. But it’s really a byproduct of how a lot of modern equipment has to use electricity.
So rather than using electricity as is…many of the electronic and electrical devices we have these days have to kind of change or manipulate electrical current in one way or another. And that creates kind of like a Reader’s Digest version of electrical trash that can get conducted back onto your wiring. It can kind of spread around your house, even from building to building.
And as it’s flowing, it kind of radiates off higher frequency, electric and magnetic fields than just those power frequency fields.
And then the fourth type of artificial EMF pollution that’s now common is what we sometimes refer to as wireless radiation. Really, it’s called radiofrequency radiation, but the primary source is everything wireless.
So all of the wireless devices we use and all of the infrastructure that supports them, like cell towers, antennas, broadcast towers, all of those use, basically, electromagnetic energy to send information through the air wirelessly, rather than via cords or cables. And so we’ve got all of this stuff kind of like flying around us in the air, and we call that a kind of wireless radiation.
So those are the four types or kinds of EMF pollution that have become really prevalent in most homes and businesses and schools and other places these days.
Dr. Ben Reebs: And that fourth one includes like 5g, Bluetooth, those kinds of things.
Kim Lear: Follow anything wireless. Yeah.
Dr. Ben Reebs: So what, what are some of the potential health effects that we see associated with EMFs?
Kin Kear: So what’s interesting about this, and this is I think one of the big misconceptions that has been kind of debated now, probably for 50, 60 years, but I sort of mentioned it before that there’s kind of like ionizing radiation versus non-ionizing radiation.
And so ionizing radiation, as I mentioned, has enough energy to basically change atomic structures, you know, it can change an atom to an ion.
And it’s long been kind of accepted and acknowledged that ionizing forms of radiation can affect our health short term and long term.
So, for example, we know that UV radiation from the sun…if we’re outside too long, we can get a sunburn.
You know, if we get too many sunburns, we can potentially get skin cancer down the road. We’re warned against getting too many x-rays, because they’re not healthy.
And when you do go get an x-ray, you usually have to wear a special kind of, I think it’s probably a leaded apron in order to protect all the parts of your body, except that one part that’s being X-rayed. And that’s because those are ionizing forms of radiation and we know that they can have some pretty serious health effects.
What was long believed is that non-ionizing forms of radiation and all of these common types of EMF pollution that I just talked about…your AC electric and magnetic fields, that wireless radiation, dirty electricity…are all forms of non-ionizing radiation. And for a long time, it was believed, and it still is by some, that non-ionizing radiation was harmless, unless it had enough energy or enough power to like actually heat body tissue.
And what research is showing is that that’s not the case. That non-ionizing radiation actually can have effects on our bodies well below what are called those heating levels. And so they can cause actual biological and physiological changes within our bodies down to the cellular level.
And they can also kind of over time with extended exposure lead to unpleasant health symptoms and some pretty serious diseases like down the line.
(To Be Continued)
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