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Is your wi-fi hurting your health?

Keep at arm’s length: use your speaker function instead of holding your phone to your ear, or invest in an air tube headset

Last week I made the mother of all shipping errors. I completely, totally, ballsed it up.

I’d become worried about electromagnetic radiation (EMR) exposure from wi-fi and my mobile phone. So, after a glass of wine and a quick browse on Amazon, I decided that Himalayan salt lamps were the way to go. Apparently the negative ions they emit help to neutralise EMRs. So I ordered one for every room in the house, one for my office, one for the LH’s office and two for the girls’ classrooms at school. A comprehensive sweep of salt lamps to put my mind at ease — and all for $170. Not bad.

But I didn’t really think about how heavy they were. I’ve seen rock stars fling lamps around hotel bedrooms as if they were feathers. I forgot my lamps were made of actual rock (salt). If I tried to throw one of these across a room I would dislocate my shoulder. As for all eight of them, I might as well have shipped a pony. You don’t want to know how big my bill was. All you need to know is that it took two very buff men to carry the parcel to my car. Whoops.

However, newly installed, they are beautiful. They genuinely have an amazing ambient glow. After I confessed, the LH had a glow about him too. Not quite so ambient though. And not helped by the fact that the deeper research (that I should have done in the first place), revealed that when it comes to EMRs, salt lamps are next to useless. Whoops again.

Oh and did I mention that they also sweat in humid climates? Amazon left that part out. So I came home to find my beautiful, useless lamps, in electrified pools of water. Whoops doesn’t quite cut it here, so feel free to insert your expletive of choice. Mine starts with an F.

Fortunately, after a few deep breaths, I managed to see the funny side. (The LH is still hyperventilating in a corner so let’s give him some time …)

What’s not quite so funny is the issue of electromagnetic radiation itself. In his Wireless Wake Up Call TEDx talk, Jeromy Johnson (a silicon valley engineer turned tech health advocate) shows us that while approximately 30 per cent of industry-funded studies uncovered negative health issues, more than 70 per cent of non-industry-funded studies found issues of major concern.

Worried parties have identified links between EMRs and a wide variety of health issues, from headaches and insomnia to fertility damage and cancer.

That EMRs could affect our health shouldn’t really come as a surprise. As Johnson points out, our bodies are electric. Every single cell communicates using tiny electric signals. That’s how our nervous system operates. Is it any wonder it’s affected by the high volume of EMRs in our homes, public venues, businesses and schools?

The World Health Organisation has listed wireless technology as “possibly carcinogenic”.

The US regulatory body that governs EMRs uses regulations that are more than 20 years old. How far has our mobile phone and wi-fi usage come along in 20 years? Growing bodies of doctors and environmentalists are calling for greater regulation and caution — especially when it comes to our children. Too many to list here, I will post some references on my Facebook page for you.

Our biggest challenge will be that wi-fi and other sources of EMRs are absolutely, hugely convenient. Our economic and social set-up is evolving at a rapid rate and much of it revolves around this technology that we now consider so essential. It’s part of life. Are we really going to take a backwards step? Who is going to lead the movement that causes a massive shake-up and inconvenience?

Now, surely, if it was that bad for us, it wouldn’t be legal, would it? I know this will sound alarmist, but I really do wonder if wi-fi exposure will become the “cigarette” of our generation. Remember that tobacco commercials used to feature doctors actively encouraging people to smoke after all. Do we always know what we are getting ourselves into?

On the flipside, although there’s a huge amount of concern and debate in this area, as Johnson et al mention, there are some fairly easy measures you can take to reduce your exposure to EMRs. I’ve listed some of the more doable options for you below. Give them a try and let me know your thoughts!

Tips for reducing EMR exposure:

1. Use mobile phones wisely. The fine print of your mobile phone manual should tell you to keep your phone at least one inch away from your body. So avoid carrying it in your pocket or tucked into your bra strap (please, ladies!). If you must carry it on you, switch over to aeroplane mode wherever you can. In addition, instead of holding it up to your ear, use your speaker function or an “air tube” headset, which can reduce EMR exposure by up to 98 per cent. In your car, use an air tube headset vs. the bluetooth. Only let children use mobile phones in emergencies. If they play games on them, use aeroplane mode. Finally, be wary if your phone has poor reception. If it’s struggling to get a signal, the EMR will be higher.

2. Use iPads and laptops wisely. Download the data and use aeroplane mode when you can. Teach your children how to find the aeroplane mode setting. Don’t allow iPads or laptops on laps. Place them on a table or other surface instead.

3. Turn off your wi-fi at night. The most important time to be wi-fi free is at night when you are resting, healing and (for children) growing. Turn it off or set a timer so you don’t forget. Don’t use your mobile phone as an alarm. Buy an alarm clock! Try and avoid wireless baby monitors. Jeromy Johnson has recommendations on his website for wired alternatives.

4. Reduce your exposure to blue screen light. According to Johnson, studies show that exposure to “blue” screen light (i.e. your phone, tablet and computer) reduces the melatonin (which helps you sleep and may also help to fight cancer). There are free apps and software that tone down the blue light as you go through the day. Try f.lux as a starting point for your Mac or PC. This no longer works on iPhones right now, but there are other options — or simply adjust the brightness in your settings.

5. Hardwire your homes, offices (and schools). Argh, this will be a battle won’t it? Definitely one for the wish list, especially for schools and an important conversation to start having. As adults, we have only been exposed to such high levels of EMRs for a short space of time. However, our children (with developing bodies and brains) are growing up in it. Fibre optics look like they will be the safe solution here. Rethink your home set up. Raise this issue with the PTA at your child’s school and in your offices.

6. Kit out your home. There are some bits of kit that are proven to be significantly effective at reducing EMRs. Johnson has several links on his website, but the two that look most significant to me (aside from air tube headsets) are the Router Guards (for wi-fi) and Defender pads (for laptops).

The advice given in this article is not intended to replace medical advice, but to complement it. Always consult your GP if you have any health concerns. Catherine Burns BA Hons, Dip ION is the Managing Director of Natural Ltd and a fully qualified Nutritional Therapist trained by the Institute for Optimum Nutrition in the UK Please note that she is not a Registered Dietitian. For details, please go to www.natural.bm or call 236-7511. Join Catherine on Facebook: www.facebook.com/nutrifitandnaturalnutritionbermuda