In recent years, the number and types of wireless devices on the market has increased at a breathtaking pace, as have the number of people, schools, businesses, and other organizations using them. Smart phones, tablet computers, Wi-Fi, wearable technologies, and many more wireless devices and applications are more popular than ever. We can now talk on the phone, send texts and e-mails, surf the Internet, stream video and music, and so much more from almost anywhere without having to be connected to signal-carrying wires or cables.
There are many obvious benefits of wireless technology – convenience, productivity, and efficiency to name a few. But, there are also downsides to our love of and growing dependence on wireless equipment and devices. A big one is the potentially harmful electromagnetic fields (EMF), also known as electromagnetic radiation (EMR), these devices create. As use of them increases so does our exposure to the electro-pollution they produce.
Common Sources of Wireless Radiation
- Radio and Television
- Cell Phones and Smart Phones
- Cordless Landline Phones
- Telecommunication Towers and Antennas
- Wi-Fi and Wi-MAX
- Computers, Laptops, and Tablets
- Wireless Computer Peripherals (e.g., monitors, keyboards, mice)
- Wireless Printers and Scanners
- Wireless Headphones and Speakers
- Wireless Video Game Systems
- SMART Meters and Appliances
- Wearable Technologies (e.g., fitness trackers, smart watches)
- Digital Baby Monitors
- Remote Control Devices
- Wireless Fire Alarms and Security Systems
- Wireless Pest Control Devices
- Wireless Dog Fences
- GPS Systems and Devices
How Wireless Radiation Is Created
Rather than using wires or cables to carry information (e.g., audio, video, voice, data) from one place to another, wireless equipment and devices transmit this information through the air via man-made electromagnetic energy or signals.
The information can be carried by continuous waves of energy (i.e., analog signals) or, more commonly today, via non-continuous bursts or pulses of energy (i.e., digital signals). Both types of signals travel through the air at the speed of light, radiating electromagnetic energy outward as they go.
As use of wireless equipment and devices has skyrocketed, so has the number of electromagnetic signals zipping through the air around us.
Think about some places where people (often lots of them at once) can be found using smart phones, laptops, tablets, and other wireless equipment and devices. For example – homes, schools, office buildings, health clubs, coffee houses and restaurants, commuter trains and buses, airports, sports stadiums and arenas, etc. Now consider all of the wireless activities (e.g., calls, texts, browsing, streaming) carried out by individuals in these locations, and all of the wireless signals used to accomplish these tasks.
Imagine for a moment that we could give these signals an unpleasant smell like other forms of air pollution or a color to make them visible to the human eye. Most people would probably be surprised to see and smell just how much wireless “smog” there is around us.
Wireless Radiation Concerns
A growing body of solid scientific research suggests that we should not ignore wireless radiation in our environment. Scientists are finding connections between this type of electro pollution and a variety of health problems, including cancer, Alzheimer’s, autism, fertility problems, poor sleep, headaches, tinnitus (ringing in the ears), and many, many more.
Measuring Wireless Radiation
The electromagnetic signals used by common wireless devices today have frequencies that fall mostly within the radio wave and microwave regions of the electromagnetic (EM) spectrum. The strength of these signals can be measured with a radio frequency (RF) meter, such as the example shown here. It is typically reported in microwatts per centimeter squared or microwatts per meter squared. Other possible units of measure are microamps per meter and millivolts per meter .
Taking time to measure wireless radiation in your home and other places can help you identify specific sources of this type of pollution in your environment and determine whether your exposure is higher than recommended by building biologists.
If you would like to measure wireless radiation in your environment, you can hire an experienced expert for a comprehensive EMF/EMR evaluation or take basic measurements yourself. If you choose to do it yourself, here are some suggestions to consider when selecting an RF meter.
Tips for Choosing Radio Frequency (RF) Meter
Choose a triple-axis RF meter over a single-axis meter.
RF meters come in single-axis and triple-axis models. While single-axis meters are usually less expensive, it is easier to take quick and accurate measurements with a triple-axis meter. This type of meter includes three sensors (i.e., measuring bars) in three different orientations. You can hold a triple-axis meter in any direction to get an accurate reading. The meter uses the measurements from all three sensors to calculate a composite result.
Single-axis meters have only one sensor (measuring bar), which means they can only measure electromagnetic waves coming from the direction in which the meter is pointed. To get an accurate reading with a single-axis meter, you must point the meter in multiple directions until you find the highest reading.
Choose a meter that can measure a broad range of RF and microwave frequencies.
Different types of wireless devices and technology operate at different electromagnetic frequencies. If you want to measure wireless radiation from a variety of different devices, it is good to choose an RF meter that can measure a broad range of frequencies, for example from 10 MHz (megahertz) up to 8 GHz (gigahertz).
Many RF meters measure fields up to 3 GHz. If you choose such a meter, keep in mind that it won’t be able to measure radiation associated with some wireless devices becoming more common today (e.g., 5 GHz Wi-Fi routers, 5.8 GHz cordless phones).
Choose a meter that is sufficiently sensitive.
Every RF meter has an upper limit and a lower limit with regard to the strength of the signals it can measure effectively. Some meters are more sensitive than others, especially at detecting weaker (less powerful) signals. Because recommended exposure limits are pretty low, it is generally a good idea to choose a meter that can detect field strength accurately down to 0.01 microwatts per centimeter squared or even lower if possible (e.g., 0.0001 microwatts per centimeter squared or 0.1 microwatts per meter squared or 0.1 microwamps per meter or 0.1 millivolts per meter).
Choose a meter that can provide both AVERAGE and PEAK readings.
The strength of electromagnetic signals used by wireless equipment and devices can be reported in several different ways, for example: in terms of average intensity, peak intensity, etc. It is generally a good idea to select an RF meter that can provide both “average intensity” readings and “peak intensity” readings so that you will be able to evaluate radiation from both analog and digital signals effectively.
What does this mean? The electromagnetic signals used by wireless equipment/devices travel through the air in continuous or non-continuous waveforms with peaks and quiet periods. A meter in “average intensity” mode will measure the signal coming from a wireless device over a particular period of time, and report the average of all the peaks and quiet periods during the period. A meter in “peak intensity” mode will report the strongest peak (or burst/pulse) measured over a period of time.
Peak intensity readings are particularly important when evaluating the strength of digital signals. These signals are used by many wireless devices today, and are composed of short bursts (i.e., pulses) of electromagnetic energy followed by quiet periods. To best understand the strength of a digital signal, you will need to get a clear sense of the strength of the pulses that make up the signal. Average intensity readings are inadequate on their own for this purpose.
Recommended Exposure Limits
Building biologists evaluate the interior environment of buildings for a variety of irritants that may affect the health and wellbeing of occupants. They have developed a set of safe exposure guidelines for different types of electro-pollution and other irritants.
Here is what they recommend for radio frequency radiation, which is the type of radiation emitted by wireless technologies.
- Limit exposure to 10 microwatts per meter squared or less in sleeping environments. (This is equal to 0.01 microwatts per centimeter squared or less.)
- Many building biologists also recommend limiting exposure to 100 microwatts per meter squared or less during daytime hours. (This is equal to 0.1microwatts per centimeter squared or less.)
Reducing Your Exposure
In general, there are two main ways to reduce your exposure to wireless radiation.
- Minimize your use of wireless equipment/devices.
- Maximize the distance between yourself and wireless equipment/devices when they are in use.