There’s a lot of talk these days about whether or not wireless devices emit enough radiation to cause adverse health effects, so when my husband, Chris, purchased a wireless sleep monitor/alarm clock—to help him adjust to working in a different time zone—my interest in the link between the use of wireless devices and health risks was piqued.
For those that are interested, the alarm clock works as follows: A wireless monitor, which my husband wears while he sleeps, reads his stages of sleep from “light” sleep to “deep” sleep and everything in between. The alarm goes off within a 30-minute window at an optimal point in the sleep cycle, so he wakes up easier and feeling more rested. Pretty cool, but I was concerned that having a wireless device in bed with us—and strapped to Chris’ forehead—might not be safe over the long term. Wireless devices emit radiofrequency (RF) energy, a form of non-ionizing electromagnetic radiation (EMR), after all.
The effects of RF radiation have been most studied in the form of cell phone use, so I went about trying to find the latest research that might prove or disprove that cell phone use (and by extension wireless sleep monitors) is linked to adverse health effects.
The Interphone Study is the largest study conducted on cell phone users to date. It began in 2000 and followed cell phone users in 13 countries for ten years. The study found that in subjects with the highest cell phone use there was a “suggestion of increased risk for glioma,” a deadly type of brain tumor, but no direct correlation. However, the study’s own director notes further studies are needed because Interphone focused only on adults, and its highest users only used the cell phone for 30 minutes per day on average. Today, young people are also big cell phone users, and 30 minutes is a fraction of the time that many people spend on their cell phones.
The study’s conclusions and its cautions for further research are not surprising really: The strength of an electromagnetic field is measured in milligauss, and typical safety guidelines are between 0.5 and 3 milligauss. A cell phone can emit 100 milligauss!
Cell phones and other wireless devices aren’t the only sources of radiation energy, of course. In today’s world EMR sources, or electromagnetic fields (EMFs), are all around us. Power lines, electric blankets, microwave ovens, TV sets, computers, etc. all emit EMFs. Wireless devices—and cell phones in particular—as a source of radiation just happen to be a focus of concern due to their frequency range and prolific use. All things considered, it just seems wise to adopt the policy that the US government recommends with respect to EMFs: exercise “prudent avoidance.”
Completely avoiding electromagnetic radiation is impossible these days, so all we can realistically do is manage our exposure better. Putting more distance between us and the devices that produce EMFs is a start.
- Relocate a computer, printer and other electronic office equipment to a workspace outside the bedroom. Plug all devices into a power strip and cut its power at night.
- If particularly concerned about EMF exposure at night. Switch off the breaker in the circuit box that feeds your bedroom. Make sure this won’t interrupt power to vital home systems that might be tied into the same breaker.
- Arrange furniture so electrical outlets in the bedroom are at least four feet from your body as you sleep.
- If you have wireless devices, turn them off whenever you aren’t using them.
- Leave your cell phone outside the bedroom or several feet away from your bed. Turn it off at night if you won’t need it.
- When talking on a cell phone, never hold the device against your ear. Use a headset or put your call on speaker. Here are more tips for protecting against cell phone radiation from EarthTechling.com.
And if you want to play it safe, don’t strap a radio transmitting sleep monitor to your forehead—honey, are you reading this?