What Is EMF Radiation? A Beginners Explanation In Plain English


If you are just starting to learn about


Abbreviations used in this article:
EMF: Electromagnetic Fields (All types of radiation)
RF: Radio Frequencies (Radiation from wifi, cell towers, and other wireless technologies)
ELF: Extreme Low Frequencies (Radiation from power lines)
EHS: Electro-Hypersensitivity (Syndrome where you are very sensitive to EMF radiation)
V/m: Volts over meters (How we measure RF radiation)


What Exactly Is EMF Radiation?

In short, EMF stands for “electromagnetic fields”. In plain English, we are talking about radiation.

We typically hear about radiation sources such as UV light from the sun, X-ray radiation from dental photos, as well as radioactive sources.

When we are talking about EMF radiation we are normally referring to radiation from everyday sources such as:

  • Wifi signals
  • Routers
  • Baby alarms
  • Smartphones
  • Smart meters
  • Access Points
  • Thermostats
  • Smart TVs
  • Gaming consoles
  • Wireless cameras
  • Wireless printers
  • Smart watches
  • Car stereos
  • Remote controls
  • etc.

But EMF radiation also includes the others and more dangerous types of radiation we mentioned above.

We find electromagnetic field radiation around everything that is electric as well as radio frequencies which are used for wireless communication (Bluetooth, Wifi, Cell towers, etc.)

Our home appliances emit these types of radiation (see our list of 19 EMF emitting home appliances here) and so do our smartphones and all the other wireless technologies we surround ourselves with. The number of wireless gadgets is increasing exponentially and people are starting to realize the combines radiation from all these sources is becoming a health problem.

Here’s a list of the many different types of EMF radiation:

I have placed the numbers 1-5 in order to be able to refer back to these in the article.

As you can see, we find a wide variety of gadgets and home appliances on the lists above. This is exactly why we need to pay attention to the radiation from these sources because they are starting to add up.

Even though most of the things we mentioned above only emit low levels of radiation they are critical. This is because we are exposed to the radiation constantly (unlike radiation from the sun etc.).

What Are The Different Types Of EMF Radiation?

As pointed out in the graphic element above, there are two different types of EMF radiation we are especially concerned about. These are:

  1. ELF radiation (extremely low frequencies)
    ELF stands “Extremely Low Frequencies” and we find this type of radiation around power lines, electric wiring, transformers, and all electrical devices.
    (In the next section, we will look closer at how and when these sources are dangerous)

  2. RF (radio frequencies) And Microwaves
    This is radiation from everything that sends out a wireless signal. So, we are talking about everything from baby alarms and radios to Wi-Fi and smartphones. We also have limits on how much radiation these devices are allowed to send out. Unfortunately, more often than not these limits are based on scenarios where we are using these wireless technologies away from our bodies.
    The problems arise when we are using our phones next to our ears, our tablets in our hands, our wifi routers near our sofas and beds, etc.

Let’s dig a little deeper into ELF radiation.

How To Measure EMF Radiation

You always need to start by identifying where you have EMF radiation in your home.

You do this with an EMF meter.

There are many different products on the market here and not at all are doing a good job. When I was just getting into the whole world of EMF radiation I simply looked to which devices the scientists and the building biologists are using.

Tip
I found that many of them are using this EMF meter (our review). It’s a great meter and it cost around $200. It does a really good job because you can measure RF radiation as well as magnetic and electric fields. Unless you are willing to spend much more this is probably the best option and it’s accurate enough for readings in your home.

It’s the same meter you can see at the pictures above in this article where I show readings from around my working desk and outside our house.

I especially liked this EMF meter because it has this very intuitive scale on the right side of the screen. It will flash a red light if you are in the danger zone or it will show a yellow or green light.

So for an amateur, this is a great tool because you’ll instantly know when the levels are bad.

What Are Safe EMF Levels?

It’s important to point out that the official limits set by the FCC and the government for EMF radiation are extremely high.

They are old numbers and the radiofrequency limits (RF radiation) haven’t been updated since the late 90s where we didn’t know much about them at all.

Here are the numbers that building biologists aim for when they are trying to create safe living environments:

EMF type Recommended level (day) Recommended level (night)
RF Radiation 0.2 V/m 0.06 V/m
Magnetic Fields (ELF) 1 mG 1 mG
Electric Fields (ELF) 10 V/m 1.5 V/m

In other words, you will definitely be exposed to EMF levels way beyond the limits above if you are living inside a major city in the United States or Canada. And probably most of Europe too.

This is why people are starting to take matters into their own hands. This is probably also why you are starting to investigate more into the world of EMF radiation.

Now we will take a closer look at each type of radiation, where it is found, and what you need to do to decrease the levels.

What Is ELF Radiation?

Most people know that cell phones and Wi-Fi routers send out radiation. But most people are not aware of the radiation levels that come from all electronic devices and home appliances.

ELF radiation comes from all of our electronic devices and the electric wires in our homes. Electricity produces two nearby fields:

  1. Electric Fields
    Electric fields come from the voltage inside the powerlines. This is also why the strength of an electric field is measured as volts per meter (V/m). The strength of the electric field decreases quickly over distance. You only need a few feet of distance between you and the laptop charger and order to reach safe levels of ELF radiation. Most building materials we find in newer buildings will shield electric fields to some extent.
    But this is typically not the case for older buildings and old houses. They would often not have a grounded connection which increases the electric fields significantly. (we will get back to that)
  2. Magnetic Fields
    The other type of field we find around electric devices is a magnetic field. Every time you have current flowing in your wires you will have magnetic fields around them. We measure the magnetic field as amperes per meter (A/m) or milliGaus, which is often used in ELF meters. Unlike electric fields, we only have magnetic fields whenever our devices are turned on. So there’s no need to worry about this if your computer or lamp is now turned on. These fields also decrease quickly as you move away from the source.

It’s important to remember that you have electric fields whether your devices are turned on or off.

This is a fact that people often overlook because you wouldn’t think an electrical device would emit radiation when it’s not turned on.

But that is the case.

In order to remove the electric field around the lamp, a cord, a clock radio, etc. you need to unplug the wire completely from the socket. As soon as I found out about this I decided to unplug all my electrical wires in our bedroom during the night.

This gave us a significant decrease in ELF radiation around our bed.

This is actually the part main problem with ELF (and RF) radiation. You never notice it unless you have an EMF meter. At least with pollution from radon, cigarettes, exhaustion, etc. you can either see or smell the problem. But not with radiation. It’s completely invisible and odor-free.

We need special equipment in order to detect it and we need to educate ourselves on the matter.

Where Do We Find ELF Radiation?

How wifi radiation is blocked in walls

These are the most common places the ELF radiation becomes problematic:

  • Chargers for electronic devices
    Many of our electronic devices need to get charged. This goes for laptops, smartphones, Bluetooth devices, tablets, etc. These chargers convert the power from the power socket so it fits our device. This is done with the use of transformers. That’s basically what’s inside a charger.
    You can read more here about problems with EMF from chargers and transformers in our homes.
  • Electrical Wiring
    Our houses are full of electric wiring in the walls and every time you have an electrical wire or a cord you will also have ELF radiation. Electricity creates electromagnetic fields which is a two-dimensional field consisting of the magnetic and an electric field.
  • Power Lines
    Powerlines and high-voltage power lines are probably the most common sources of problematic ELF radiation around our houses. We have written a separate article about how far away you need to stay from power lines in order to avoid radiation. It’s important to pay attention to because every time you have power lines you will typically also have a strong generator that converts the power.

How to decrease ELF radiation

There are several easy things to do in order to decrease the amount of ELF radiation in your home.

It’s especially important to decrease the levels around your bedrooms and other places where you tend to stay for longer periods of time or where you rest.

This is how you do it:

1) Unplug your electric devices
As we mentioned above, the electric fields will be present as long as your electrical devices are plugged into power. You need to pull the plug off the wall in order to get rid of the electric fields.

2) Ground everything
The next thing you need to do is to ground and everything.

I find extremely high readings around my computer monitors, my laptops, or even a tiny lamp as long as this connected to our electric wiring.

When I’m sitting next to my working desk I am actually being exposed to levels around 155 V/m:

This number actually goes up to around 400 V/m around my knees as they are closer to the metal frame of my table. The metal frame work like a giant antenna in this case.

Remember, we don’t want more than 10 V/m so we are 15-40 times above the limits set by building biologists.

I recently talked to a certified building biologist and he told me that I needed to ground all the electrical cords in order to get down to the safe levels. So that’s what we’re doing.

We have some major problems with this because we live in a very old house from the 40s and it doesn’t have grounding other than in the kitchen. So we are actually about to connect our rooms to the power sockets in our kitchen in order to get our stuff grounded.

We have rented this house so we don’t want to put in new electrical wiring because it’s a huge deal to get done.

3) Turn off the breaker panels for the bedrooms at night
The last thing we should do in order to rid of the high levels of ELF radiation is to turn off the breakers at night.

If you go through the breaker panel in your home you will easily find exactly which breaker(s) that cut the power to your bedrooms. We don’t want electricity to be running all night as long as we have all fridges, alarm systems, and smoke alarms connected.

This is why we always recommend people to cut the power to their bedrooms (at night). By doing that you will eliminate all the ELF radiation around the walls from the electrical wires inside them. This is especially a problem with older houses where grounding is nonexisting or the wiring is full of dirty electricity.

It’s really important to create safe sleeping environments where we go as radio-silent as possible. During the night, our bodies need to rest in order to recover and relax.

It’s almost impossible not to be exposed to high levels of EMF radiation during the day if you have a day job are you need to get outside your house. So during the night, you need to ensure that your body gets as much rest as possible.

Far away from EMFs.

What is RF radiation?

RF radiation is a totally different thing.

We mentioned a long list of RF emitting devices at the top of the article. As you might have noticed, these are all wireless devices and technologies.

They are what we call radio frequencies and They are everywhere in the air around us. If you haven’t looked for these sources in your home yet you will be surprised to find that they are all over the place. We are talking about your smart TV, your baby alarms, your Wi-Fi router, your smartphone, etc.

The list goes on and on.

Radio frequencies are electric current that moves back and forth at very high speeds (oscillation). This creates radiation as the signal is sent out between our devices. The waves heat up our bodies (thermal effect) but it also causes biological changes to our cells.

You can read much more in our article about what RF radiation is and where it is found.

Where do we find RF radiation?

Now you know where to look for RF radiation inside your home.

But unfortunately, the main sources of RF radiation are typically placed outside your house.

We are talking about cell towers.

Cell towers emit a very strong RF signal. Much stronger than the radiation you get from your router inside your house. The walls in our house this will shield some of the radiation from outside (check our article here to see exactly how much each type of wall will block EMF). But most of the radiation will continue right through our houses and into our main living spaces.

Here’s a reading from outside my house. As you can see, that RF levels from the cell tower across the street are against the roof:

EMF reading from cell tower with EMF meter

It’s picking up RF radiation at 1.9 V/m and we only want 0.2 V/m.

This is extremely important to understand. We are constantly being bombarded by very high levels of RF radiation from cell towers around us. And more often than not they are being camouflaged into the architectural design of the buildings.

Would you even notice these six cell towers in the picture below?
(Hint: Check out the chimney)

The worst part about this picture is that this is actually a school. These students are being exposed to very high levels of RF radiation every time they are inside or outside the school building.

And I wouldn’t be surprised if they have plastered the walls with Wi-Fi routers inside the building as well.

More and more countries are starting to take down cell towers around schools and institutions. These are countries such as Switzerland, India, Greece, Chile, New Zealand, & Austria. In Argentina, it’s actually mandatory to consult the public before you can place an antenna with a cellular signal.

Here in the United States and Canada, we haven’t woken up to this challenge. But hopefully, this website will help to create awareness about the challenges and problems this radiation is causing.

And it gets worse. Kids are up to three times more receptive to EMF radiation than adults. Check out our article here on how to protect babies from EMF radiation.

Tip
Some of the biggest sources of ELF radiation are our appliances and electronic devices. Here’s our list of home appliances that emit high levels of ELF radiation.

How To Decrease RF Radiation In Your Home

Are many things we can do in order to decrease the labels of RF radiation in our homes.

1) Find the sources in your home

The first thing you need to do is to locate all the sources of RF. You can start with the list at the top of this article and you can also find more examples of RF radiation in our article here.

2) Shut off as many signals as possible (including the router)

Now you need to shut off us many signals as possible.

All building biologist will advise you to turn off the Wi-Fi router in your home. This may sound like a drastic step to take but it’s actually pretty important because the Wi-Fi router is one of the main sources of RF radiation in our homes.

It’s totally possible to Install ethernet cables from your router to your computers and laptops. That’s exactly what we have done in our house and the doesn’t only eliminate that or if radiation, it also creates a safer Internet connection for us because wireless connections are much more exposed to intruders.

Oh, and did I mention that our Internet speed just went up from 20 Mbit to more than 100 Mbit? This is because the cable Internet connection is always much faster than a wireless connection.

It’s a little more tricky to connect your wireless phones and tablets.

The best way to do this is to turn off the cellular signal and only switch it on when you need the data. On top of that, you should only use them inside an EMFs shielded case or cover. You can see here which recommendations we have for smartphones and tablets covers with EMF protection.

3) Shield yourself

As I mentioned above, it’s important to shield yourself from the EMF radiation from your smartphones, tablets, and laptops.

These are typically the devices we used closest to our bodies.

Many people are placing their smartphone in the front pocket, in the bra, in a fitness band on their upper arm, or other places close to their bodies. This is a very bad idea.

Start by removing these devices from your body. They need to be at least a couple of feet away from you when you’re not using them.

Next, you need to use shielded covers for your smartphones and tablets. There is no easy way to connect these devices to the Internet without having them emit RF radiation. So you need to put them inside of the shielded case. Here you can see which products we recommend for this.

4) If you are hypersensitive…

If you are very sensitive to electromagnetic fields you are suffering from what we call EHS. It’s an abbreviation for “Elektro-hypersensitivity”. We have made a list of typical EHS symptoms you can check in order to find out whether you are among this group of people.

If you are hypersensitive to electromagnetic fields you will need to shield yourself more than we have to described above. My wife is suffering from electromagnetic hypersensitivity which is also what got me into this in the first place. So we have decided to shield our walls with EMF blocking paint. You can see here how we did this.

It’s a good idea to consult a building biologist if you are seeing quick improvements when you limit the exposure around you. The easiest way to find out is typically to remove all EMF radiation around in your bedroom.

The quick test:

  1. Switch off the breakers (at night) in order to shut down the electric wires inside your walls.
  2. Remove all cell phones, DECT phones (!), tablets, and laptops from your night table.
  3. Turn off the wifi router

If you didn’t do this already, you should see an immediate effect after a few days. This will be a strong indication for you that you are actually showing signs of hypersensitivity toward electromagnetic fields.

4) Limit the time you get exposed

The last factor that comes into play is the amount of time you are being exposed to radiation during the day.

We can limit the amount of exposure significantly by switching our mobile phones and tablets to flight mode whenever we aren’t using them. After the last couple of updates from Apple, it has become a little more complicated to make sure you’re iPhone and your iPad is completely radio silent.

Here are the settings you need to look for:

FLight mode without EMF radiation

You can also choose to turn off your Wi-Fi router at night if you cannot get rid of it completely. That should be the bare minimum you aim for.

If you do need to have the Wi-Fi signal on during the day you can remove it as far away from your couches, kitchen tables, sofas, and other places where you rest and stay during the day.

You should also pull out the plug on your TV if you are using a smart TV. Smart TVs are actually not that smart because you are not able to turn off the RF F radiation and the Bluetooth signal. This is a big deal because we don’t want anything to be sending out a constant RF signal in our homes.

The only way to know for sure where are all these different RF and ELF emitting devices hide is to get an EMF meter. You can read more about this great little device in the next section.

 

Sources:
https://www.who.int/peh-emf/about/WhatisEMF/en/index1.html
https://www.niehs.nih.gov/health/topics/agents/emf/index.cfm

George Willington

I'm George Willington. I've researched EMF radiation in order to create a safe home for my family. My background is Information Science (University of Aarhus, Denmark) and I've worked with Wifi and router communication for many years. I believe I have a good understanding of the technical side of the various types of EMF. I hope you can learn something from my tips and guides.

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