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Are Cell Phones and Wi-Fi Hazardous to Your Health?

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"You may not be able to see electropollution, but your body responds to it as though it were a cloud of toxic chemicals."
--Ann Louse Gittleman, author of
Zapped: Why Your Cell Phone Shouldn't Be Your Alarm Clock and 1,268 Ways to Outsmart the Hazards of Electronic Pollution

The latest form of environmental pollution -- and one that industry, government and wireless consumers don't like to acknowledge -- may be the most devastating threat to health yet: electromagnetic fields (EMFs). A few years ago, I was so concerned that I took a certification course in the detection and harmful effects of EMFs. What it taught me, above all, was how much the scientific community is learning daily, and how little we in the medical profession knew. This area was both frightening and daunting in its scope. I'm grateful that following Devra Davis's Disconnect: The Truth About Cell Phone Radiation we now have Zapped to educate the public on this serious issue.

The UK's BioInitiative Report of July 2007 (updated in 2009) describes hundreds of studies that link EMF exposure to Alzheimer's disease, ALS (Lou Gehrig's disease), brain fog, cardiovascular disease, miscarriage, infertility, insomnia, learning impairment, as well as anxiety and depression. Wireless technologies -- like cell and cordless phones -- produce microwaves that increase the permeability of the blood-brain barrier, leading to changes in brain chemistry. Even low-level EMFs can cause brain cells to leak.

That's not all: Although actual tissue heating does not occur, EMFs also cause breaks in DNA, speed up cell division, disrupting the orderly process of chromosome matching and detaching, and activate stress protein or heat shock proteins. And as Anne Louise Gittleman writes in Zapped:

Most disturbing of all, the Swedish National Institute for Working Life found that people using cell phones for 2,000 hours -- a total most of us could easily rack up over the years -- had a 240 percent increased risk for malignant brain tumors on the side of the head where they usually held their phone.

So, what do we do to avoid these dangers? I'm relieved that Gittleman, my friend and colleague and author of over 30 bestselling books, has tackled this topic. We'll learn that most of us don't need to give up all the digital and electronic gadgets that make life so much easier. To protect ourselves, we first need to recognize the risks and then make smart choices in how we use all the available technological wonders.

Why Are EMFs So Dangerous?

What most people don't realize is the human body is naturally electrified. From the organic computer that is your brain, which sends out sensory messages like hunger and pain, to the energy that pumps your heart and makes your muscles contract, electricity powers your body. This innate electromagnetism within you is so critical to your daily functioning that modern medicine uses it in diagnostic testing (including electrocardiograms and MRIs) and, increasingly, to heal.

The "body electric" is an exquisitely tuned and sensitive creation, but unfortunately, human beings (and animals) respond favorably to only a very small range of electromagnetic frequencies. And there's a big difference between the body's natural electricity and the man-made electromagnetic frequencies that surround us 24/7 today. According to New York Times reporter B. Blake Levitt in Public Health SOS:

Most living things are fantastically sensitive to vanishingly small EMF exposures. Living cells interpret such exposures as part of our normal cellular activities (think heartbeats, brainwaves, cell division itself, etc.) The problem is, man-made electromagnetic exposures aren't "normal." They are artifacts, with unusual intensities, signaling characteristics, pulsing patterns, and wave forms. And they can misdirect cells in myriad ways.

Some of this radiation -- extremely low frequency (ELF) radiation in power lines, the radio frequency (RF)/microwave range where all things wireless live, intermediate frequencies ("dirty electricity" or freaky frequencies linked to sick building syndrome), and the highest frequencies (gamma and X-rays) -- is more damaging than natural frequencies to which humans (and animals) have adapted over millennia. Today, most Americans are constantly exposed to artificial frequencies, given the rapidly escalating pace of microwave and wireless expansion.

The bottom line is that electropollution -- from cell towers, computers, cordless and mobile phones, PDAs, Wi-Fi, even the electrical appliances and wiring in our homes, offices and public buildings -- continuously disturbs the sympathetic nervous system. This, in turn, elevates the body's fight-and-flight response, raising levels of the stress hormone cortisol. Fluctuations in cortisol lead to a wide range of health concerns ranging from belly fat and thinning skin to accelerated aging, blood sugar imbalance, cardiovascular problems, erratic sleep patterns and mood disturbances. Dr. Stephen Sinatra elaborates on this issue in his new book, Earthing.

Your body responds to EMFs as though they were public enemy number-one, triggering what two-time Nobel Prize nominee Robert Becker, M.D., in his 1998 book The Body Electric, called "subliminal stress." While intellectually you don't recognize this kind of stealth stress the way you would overwork or being stuck in traffic when you're late for an important appointment, your body's internal antennae pick up on it in several ways, according the late scientist, Dr. W. R. Adey, from Loma Linda University:

  • The flow of blood and oxygen shuts down to all except major organs like the brain and heart.
  • Any systems -- including digestion and immunity -- that aren't necessary for fight or flight response are put on hold.
  • Blood pressure and heart rate as well as blood sugar levels increase to prepare your body for danger.

Recent research by Magda Havas, Ph.D., associate professor of Environmental and Resource Studies at Trent University in Canada, shows that dirty electricity -- EMFs in electrical wiring -- can raise blood sugar levels in diabetics and people at risk for diabetes. "Exposure to electromagnetic pollution in its various forms may account for higher plasma glucose levels and contribute to the misdiagnosis of diabetes," she writes. Dr. Havas' website is a goldmine of information on the entire topic of EMF pollution, as is Dr. Mercola's EMF site!

Electromagnetic Hypersensitivity

There are "canaries in the coal mine" -- hypersensitive individuals who are severely weakened by EMFs, and find themselves marginalized by the medical profession and society in general. Some must live in areas far from cell towers, Wi-Fi and the like. On a cellular level, these individuals have measurable damage to the mitochondria, the energy factories in each cell, and require reparative nutrients, for starters. I recently heard from a concerned family member of a man who had been exposed over time to a cell tower beaming through his office window. Quite ill, he was nonetheless unwilling to move his office location as I suggested, and I didn't hear from them again. Ignoring the messenger, however, doesn't solve the problem.

Zap-Proof Your Children

Today, an estimated 31 millions kids are on their cell phones close to four hours a day. Mobile phone companies are even marketing phones to preschoolers. Gittleman writes:

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