Dr. Michael Ruscio, DC is a clinician, Naturopathic Practitioner, clinical researcher, author, and adjunct professor at the University of Bridgeport. His work has been published in peer-reviewed medical journals and he speaks at conferences around the globe.
Practical Ways to Reduce Your Exposure to Electromagnetic Fields
Electromagnetic fields (EMFs) are all around us, emanating from many modern devices like microwaves, cell phones, and WiFi.
The research linking EMFs with poor health is scientifically weak quality, but observational studies suggest there could be potential issues, such as lowered sperm count and neurological issues, with high-level EMF exposure.
Fortunately, EMF protection strategies are easy to implement — simple things like sitting further away from screens and WiFirouters, and using cellphones on speaker mode can all help.
It’s worth reducing EMF exposure where you can, but you don’t have to stop using the modern devices that make life more enjoyable.
In today’s digital age, the topic of electromagnetic field (EMF) exposure has become a contentious issue.
On one hand, some individuals are adamant that EMFs are the root cause of numerous health effects, from minor things like fatigue and headaches to more serious issues, including certain cancers. On the other side, skeptics dismiss any potential risks completely.
In reality, the truth most probably lies somewhere in between these two extremes. Simply put, the scientific evidence regarding the health risks of EMFs is inconclusive, but taking simple, practical, and inexpensive steps to protect ourselves from potential risks makes sense.
We will look at the steps you can take to cut down on your EMF exposure in more detail Iater, but for now, I really like the analogy of “bees in the room”, which came up in my discussion with telecommunications engineer Daniel DeBaun. The concept is that while just one or two bees will likely be fine, a thousand bees could cause a lot of harm. By reducing the sources of EMFs (the number of bees) in your environment, you minimize your potential risks.
Before we get into practical EMF protection measures, let’s take a look at what EMFs really are, and their potential impact on your health and wellness.
What Are EMFs?
Electromagnetic fields are invisible areas of energy that radiate from sources of electrical power and from natural and man-made light sources. There are two types :
Non-ionizing: Extremely low frequency to moderate frequency radiation types that are generally considered weak and unlikely to have significant harmful effects in humans. Common sources are:
Energy smart meters
Wireless devices and networks
Power lines and cell phone towers
Ionizing: Higher-level radiation which has the potential to cause damage to the DNA within cells. The three main types are:
Sunlight (when you are exposed to it for too long without sunscreen, and you get sun-burned)
Gamma rays (e.g. from nuclear accidents, radioactive materials, and lightning strikes)
The EMFs that are a current hot topic are the first type — i.e. the type that we already know are lessdangerous. However, the concern stems from accumulated low-level radiation exposure. As Bluetooth and WiFi-enabled devices, microwaves, cell phones, smart meters, etc, have become more common over recent decades, we have become more exposed to EMFs than we were in the past.
EMFs: Cutting Through the Health Confusion
Vociferous opinions exist on either side of the EMF debate, so it pays to take a step back and look at it a little more dispassionately.
The National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) is a useful source of research into EMFs, and this body acknowledges that while the evidence is weak, there is some potential for EMFs to contribute to health problems, making it worthwhile to limit our exposure when it’s practical to do so .
However, the scientific evidence supporting the notion that EMFs pose health risks remains weak, with the strongest evidence being derived from observational studies that can only establish associations, and not demonstrate a cause-and-effect relationship [1, 2].
In a nutshell, more research is clearly needed, but in the meantime, public education on how to reduce exposure to EMF is warranted [1, 2].
Practical EMF Protection Measures
If you like data and are curious as to the EMF levels surrounding you, there are a number of affordable EMF meters for sale online in the region of $20 to $40.
If you do get one of these meters it makes sense to prioritize checking EMF levels where you spend the most of your time .
Whether you know the exact levels and locations of EMFs or not, you can take any of the steps (whatever you find reasonable) in the below table to improve your radiation protection . I haven’t included more extreme options, such as Faraday bed canopies and EMF-shielding wall paints, as they can be very expensive, and are unlikely to provide enough extra benefit for the cost. I’d also advise reading the sections on EMF hypersensitivity and the nocebo effect below, before spending too many dollars on EMF protections you simply might not need.
Effective Ways to Reduce EMF Exposure at Home
Increase Your Distance
Reduce Exposure /Turn Off
Lounge/ General Living Space
Keep your WiFi router and any Echo/Alexa-type devices away from areas where you sit/stand/sleep for prolonged periods.
Replace compact fluorescent bulbs with LED. Swap dimmer switches for straight on/off switches Use a power strip with built-in switch to completely turn off your TV when not in use. Opt out of using a smart meter; ask your utility company for an analog meter.
Consider magnetic shields for your circuit breaker box, WiFi router, and smart meter (if you can’t get an analog one).
Move a couple of feet away from your microwave when it’s on.
Use the dishwasher on a timer overnight. Unplug appliances like toasters and kettles when not in use.
Move the bedhead away from any EMF hot spots.
Use an analog / battery alarm clock. Use hot water bottles in bed, rather than an electric blanket.
Workspace, Including Cell Phone Use
Work with your device on a table (not your lap) and your feet planted (earthed) on the floor. Position screen or monitor at least 24 inches away from you. Make phone calls handsfree. Charge phones away from you as much as you can.
Go for LCD screens over others. Use wired, not WIFI or Bluetooth accessories (mouse/keyboard). Use phone on airplane mode when you don’t need WiFi or Bluetooth connections.
Use a computer screen EMF shield.
Swap an electric rechargeable toothbrush for a battery-operated one (AA or AAA battery). Buy a lower EMF hair dryer.
Savvy Cell Phone Use
Smartphones are worth considering separately because they emit radiation and have become such a large part of our life. Some ways to protect yourself include:
Use an EMF-protective cell phone case
Use the hands-free speakerphone mode for phone calls
Don’t carry your cell in your pants pocket or tucked into your bra
Disable Bluetooth and data while you are not using them
Charge your phone in a different room, and not using a wireless charger
It’s worth knowing that there are some times when the radiation emissions from your cell phone can be much higher. These include :
When you are trying to make a phone call in areas of low network signal .
Solution: Unless it is an emergency, wait until the signal is stronger before using the phone.
When several apps are active.
Solution: Shut down apps you aren’t using so they don’t run in the background.
When your cell phone or device is streaming audio or video, or downloading large files.
Solution: Where possible, download files onto your device (instead of streaming). Prioritize a corded internet connection when using social media or making video calls.
When using your cellphone/tablet in your car.
Solution: Keep your phone on airplane mode, only making calls if really necessary. Choose a non-wireless GPS model for navigation, and try not to stream inside vehicles.
My Take on EMFs
I don’t consider EMFs a big risk to my own health, but I do keep my phone in an EMF-blocking case and use an EMF-shielding laptop screen as these are easy wins. I also keep my WiFi router in a location where I’m not physically close to it during the day or at night, and I do not charge my phone near my bed at night.
Which changes you make will depend on your own risk assessment: what works for me may not work for you. However, I do think it’s worth reiterating that for most people, the distance you are away from an EMF-transmitting device is probably the most important factor of all. For example :
If you stand 6 inches away from a 60-hertz magnetic field (which is typical for many commonly used electronic devices), you’re exposed to 90 milligauss (mG) of magnetism.
If you stand 1 foot away, you’re exposed to 20 mG.
At 2 feet, it’s 7 mG.
At 4 feet, it’s only 1 mG
If you are seeking ways to enhance your EMF protection, consider distancing yourself from electronic devices when not actively using them.
Conditions That Have Been Linked with EMFs
Let’s look in a little more detail at some of the health issues that have been linked to electromagnetic radiation and EMF exposure.
The jury is still out on how EMFs may affect sperm, and research on the topic over the last 10 years has had conflicting conclusions.
Largely, animal and in vitro (lab) studies have shown that cell phones and WiFi routers may negatively impact sperm, but human real-world studies have been far less conclusive [7, 8, 9, 10, 11].
One 2021 MA showed that cell phone use may be associated with reduced sperm motility, viability, and concentration in humans , and one observational study found that WIFI routers may negatively impact counts, motility, and DNA integrity of sperm .
However, another meta-analysis of human studies did NOT support an association between cell phone use and sperm quality overall, though in East Europe and West Asia, cell phone use was related to reduced sperm density and motility .
From all this, we can only say that there is a tenuous link between EMFs and male fertility, and we don’t know if it is causal.
If you’re a man concerned about your fertility, it’s easy to reduce your exposure to higher EMF levels (e.g. cell phones and WiFi routers) by shielding and keeping your distance.
As far as female fertility is concerned, one systematic review discovered that physiotherapists exposed to radiofrequency EMFs from diathermy devices at work were more likely to take longer to get pregnant, have miscarriages, and have other pregnancy abnormalities. However, the evidence was inconsistent with earlier studies, and no cause or effect relationships could be determined .
Low-quality evidence suggests that people who are exposed to high levels of EMFs at work may be slightly more likely to develop Alzheimer’s [13, 14]. Low-quality evidence also supports the possibility that both residential and occupational exposure to EMFs may be linked to a higher risk of developing Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) [14, 15].
Again there is enough of a potential risk here to take care around EMFs but not enough to be unduly concerned.
Higher exposures seem to be the issue, so again, employing as many simple EMF protection measures as you can is key. This may also involve talking to your employer about mitigation strategies if you are exposed to high EMF levels at work.
Brain Tumors (and Cell Phones)
It’s obviously an alarming thought that EMFs from the use of a cell or cordless phone could be increasing your brain cancer risk, so let’s look at the evidence carefully.
The bad news is that using a cell phone for more than 10 years has been associated with a higher risk (1.32 times greater odds) of brain tumors, especially when people used the phone mainly on one side of their head .
High cumulative exposure to the use of radio frequency (RF) radiation fromwireless phones (cell phones and cordless phones) was specifically associated with a higher risk of glioma brain cancers .
The good news is that you can easily massively reduce the risk by following the tips for safe mobile phone use above, such as using a shielding case and using your phone hands-free.
While some people are certain that they are extra sensitive to the effects of EMFs, there is no scientific consensus on this topic, and further research with improved study design is needed [18, 19, 20].
One review that analyzed 2,000 self-reported cases of electromagnetic hypersensitivity (EHS) and/or multiple chemical sensitivity (MCS) found that in approximately 80% of these patients, there were :
Signs of oxidative stress in their blood
Abnormal blood flow to the brain, particularly the limbic system and thalamus
The researchers concluded that EHS could be recognized as a neurological disorder with public health implications.
However, two other reviews concurred that the question of whether EMF hypersensitivity is real remains unresolved, due to inadequately designed and unreliable studies.
Different research approaches are required to confirm whether EMFs, or some other factors, are responsible for the symptoms seen in people who believe themselves to be EMF-sensitive.
The Nocebo Effect
This is all complicated by a strong “nocebo effect” that has been noted in people who believe themselves to be EMF sensitive.
The nocebo effect is when people experience negative effects because they believe they’re being exposed to something unhealthy .
For example, a 2016 meta-analysis that investigated 17 controlled studies to find out whether EMFs from cell phone towers affect people’s well-being found that people in unblinded studies reported depression, anxiety, headache, fatigue, poor concentration, dizziness (or vertigo), and irritability .
However, in double-blind studies in which neither the participants nor the experimenters knew who was being exposed, EMFs had NO effect on well-being .
Please don’t think that I am minimizing your valid concerns if you have health issues that seem related to EMFs. The effects may well be real in some people, and even if you are “just” experiencing the nocebo effect, you may still be having real and distressing symptoms that should be addressed.
Studies on EMFs and symptoms also look at pooled results across populations and don’t necessarily account for the experiences of individuals.
That said, symptoms including brain fog, fatigue, and headaches blamed on EMFs might also be down to other issues like poor gut health, stress, and a sedentary lifestyle. By taking other important steps to improve your health, such as regular exercise, a gut-healthy diet, and getting plenty of sleep you might find the symptoms decrease.
EMFs: Worth Taking Seriously But Not Obsessing Over
What we keep coming back to is that while there is no solid proof that EMFs are much of a credible health concern, it makes sense to minimize your exposure where you easily can. Many of the EMF protection steps I’ve outlined are cost-effective, simple, and won’t interfere with your enjoyment of modern life, so why wouldn’t you do them?
However, I don’t think you need to be obsessive about EMF protection — be aware that there are plenty of internet sites that are designed to specifically create fear around EMFs, with the purpose of selling you expensive and unnecessary EMF protection products.
If you came to this page because of confusing or unexplained health problems you can head over to my YouTube channel for more science-backed discussion and practical steps to improve your health and wellbeing. For help with complex health issues, you can also reach out to us at the Ruscio Institute for Functional Health.
The Ruscio Institute has developed a range of high-quality formulations to help our patients and audience. If you’re interested in learning more about these products, please click here. Note that there are many other options available, and we encourage you to research which products may be right for you.
Kim S, Han D, Ryu J, Kim K, Kim YH. Effects of mobile phone usage on sperm quality – No time-dependent relationship on usage: A systematic review and updated meta-analysis. Environ Res. 2021 Nov;202:111784. DOI: 10.1016/j.envres.2021.111784. PMID: 34333014.
Jaffar FHF, Osman K, Ismail NH, Chin K-Y, Ibrahim SF. Adverse Effects of Wi-Fi Radiation on Male Reproductive System: A Systematic Review. Tohoku J Exp Med. 2019 Jul;248(3):169–79. DOI: 10.1620/tjem.248.169. PMID: 31353326.
Yu G, Bai Z, Song C, Cheng Q, Wang G, Tang Z, et al. Current progress on the effect of mobile phone radiation on sperm quality: An updated systematic review and meta-analysis of human and animal studies. Environ Pollut. 2021 Aug 1;282:116952. DOI: 10.1016/j.envpol.2021.116952. PMID: 33862271.
Liu K, Li Y, Zhang G, Liu J, Cao J, Ao L, et al. Association between mobile phone use and semen quality: a systemic review and meta-analysis. Andrology. 2014 Jul;2(4):491–501. DOI: 10.1111/j.2047-2927.2014.00205.x. PMID: 24700791.
Adams JA, Galloway TS, Mondal D, Esteves SC, Mathews F. Effect of mobile telephones on sperm quality: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Environ Int. 2014 Sep;70:106–12. DOI: 10.1016/j.envint.2014.04.015. PMID: 24927498.
Shah SGS, Farrow A. Systematic literature review of adverse reproductive outcomes associated with physiotherapists’ occupational exposures to non-ionising radiation. J Occup Health. 2014 Jul 25;56(5):323–31. DOI: 10.1539/joh.13-0196-ra. PMID: 25069893.
Jalilian H, Teshnizi SH, Röösli M, Neghab M. Occupational exposure to extremely low frequency magnetic fields and risk of Alzheimer disease: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Neurotoxicology. 2018 Dec;69:242–52. DOI: 10.1016/j.neuro.2017.12.005. PMID: 29278690.
Gunnarsson L-G, Bodin L. Occupational Exposures and Neurodegenerative Diseases-A Systematic Literature Review and Meta-Analyses. Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2019 Jan 26;16(3). DOI: 10.3390/ijerph16030337. PMID: 30691095. PMCID: PMC6388365.
Filippini T, Hatch EE, Vinceti M. Residential exposure to electromagnetic fields and risk of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis: a dose-response meta-analysis. Sci Rep. 2021 Jun 7;11(1):11939. DOI: 10.1038/s41598-021-91349-2. PMID: 34099747. PMCID: PMC8185090.
Bortkiewicz A, Gadzicka E, Szymczak W. Mobile phone use and risk for intracranial tumors and salivary gland tumors – A meta-analysis. Int J Occup Med Environ Health. 2017 Feb 21;30(1):27–43. DOI: 10.13075/ijomeh.1896.00802. PMID: 28220905.
Carlberg M, Hardell L. Evaluation of Mobile Phone and Cordless Phone Use and Glioma Risk Using the Bradford Hill Viewpoints from 1965 on Association or Causation. Biomed Res Int. 2017 Mar 16;2017:9218486. DOI: 10.1155/2017/9218486. PMID: 28401165. PMCID: PMC5376454.
Leszczynski D. Review of the scientific evidence on the individual sensitivity to electromagnetic fields (EHS). Rev Environ Health. 2022 Sep 27;37(3):423–50. DOI: 10.1515/reveh-2021-0038. PMID: 34229366.
Dieudonné M. Electromagnetic hypersensitivity: a critical review of explanatory hypotheses. Environ Health. 2020 May 6;19(1):48. DOI: 10.1186/s12940-020-00602-0. PMID: 32375774. PMCID: PMC7201940.
Belpomme D, Irigaray P. Electrohypersensitivity as a newly identified and characterized neurologic pathological disorder: how to diagnose, treat, and prevent it. Int J Mol Sci. 2020 Mar 11;21(6). DOI: 10.3390/ijms21061915. PMID: 32168876. PMCID: PMC7139347.
Klaps A, Ponocny I, Winker R, Kundi M, Auersperg F, Barth A. Mobile phone base stations and well-being–A meta-analysis. Sci Total Environ. 2016 Feb 15;544:24–30. DOI: 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2015.11.009. PMID: 26657246.
I care about answering your questions and sharing my knowledge with you. Leave a comment or connect with me on social media asking any health question you may have and I just might incorporate it into our next listener questions podcast episode just for you!
Transform your health
Every product is science-based, validated by real-world use, and personally vetted by Dr. Ruscio, DC.