Device-use (tablets, laptops and smart phones) has skyrocketed since I first wrote this post back in 2014. They not only are used widely but dominate the lives of many.
The rampant use of devices is apparent when looking about. So many people walk down the street glued to their device. Somehow they manage to avoid colliding with power poles and people.
It has become such a problem that we have new phrases, like “Digital Detox” as part of our vocabulary, now.
With my work as an Indoor Environmental Health Consultant, I get a range of enquiries from people about different things. One of the biggest areas of questioning is about reducing exposure to electromagnetic energy (RF EME).
The most asked question is, “How can I use my laptop or device safely?”
There are three types of EME exposure associated with laptops and devices which will be discussed below.
Let’s cover a bit of the scientific background so it makes more sense.
AC Electric Fields – ELF
The electric fields emitted from many household appliances fall into the category of Extra Low Frequency (ELF). Electric fields are created where there is electricity under pressure. This means that any wiring connected to a power source, can emit an electric field.
Further, a buildings’ wiring can have an electric field even when there are no appliances plugged in. Electric fields can occur when an appliance is plugged in and not in use.
I always recommend people to unplug cords from power points when they are not in use.
Electric fields are also proportional to voltage and they decrease with distance from the source. Therefore, keeping away from appliances that are plugged in can reduce exposure.
Common sources include power lines, household wiring, lighting, and smartphone chargers. As well as all appliances, including, hair straighteners, irons, kettles, electric blankets, electric ovens, electric hot water systems, slab heating…
ELF electric fields have been associated with Electrical Hypersensitivity Syndrome (EHS), also known as Electrical Sensitivity (ES). This condition can manifest with some or all of these and other symptoms:
- skin symptoms (a feeling of itchiness or biting, redness, a burning sensation)
- eye symptoms (redness, dryness, pain)
- poor concentration, and
Some other health effects that have been associated with ELF electric fields include:
- sleep disturbances,
- ringing in the ears (tinnitus),
- and a constant feeling of a cold or flu about to start but not eventuating.
AC Magnetic Fields – ELF
Magnetic fields exist in nature. This can be seen when the field of the earth causes the compass needle to point to north.
However, it is with man-made magnetic fields that we are mostly concerned.
Magnetic fields are created when an appliance is switched on. That is, it directly relates to a current being drawn. This is why I always recommend clients turn off any appliance that is not in use at the wall.
Magnetic fields arise from the motion of the electrical charge (WHO, 2012). This is especially the case in alternating current (AC) as the electricity changes direction frequently.
Common sources of ELF magnetic fields are the same as for Electric Fields.
There is a large body of evidence that links ELF magnetic fields with biological changes. Possible health effects, according to Professor Adey, include:
- a reduction in the immune system,
- abnormal foetal development,
- changes to cell growth and development,
- changes or interruptions to the brain and central nervous system
Other linked or suspected health effects include breast cancer, miscarriage, depression and suicide.
Radio frequency electromagnetic energy (RF EME)
On the electromagnetic spectrum, radio frequency electromagnetic energy (RF EME) is between 3kHz and 300GHz. Here we measure the combined electric and magnetic fields and refer to this as electromagnetic radiation.
There is an ever-increasing range of sources for radio frequency electromagnetic energy (RF EME) as we move towards wireless technology.
As the race to “get rid of unsightly wires” continues, we are adding many layers of convenience to our lifestyles. Some of these “advances” include driverless cars, 5G and so on.
Sources include mobile phone towers, cordless telephones, satellite transmitters, mobile phones, tablets and i-pads, wireless games such as Wii and X-Box, many baby monitors, wireless computer accessories including printer, keyboard, and mouse, wireless internet connections, smart meters and so on.
Numerous health concerns have been linked with RF electromagnetic energy. These include:
- disturbed sleep,
- learning difficulties,
- concentration problems,
- waking feeling unrefreshed,
- muscle and joint aches and pains,
- ringing in the ears,
- hearing loss,
- palpitations, and more.
As well, there have been some links made to brain tumours, epilepsy, blood pressure, and lowered immunity.
UPDATE (Jan 2020): As we speak, research is being done as the new technology of 5G is being rolled out.
What is evident is that there is not enough research that shows it is safe to use.
Some of the concerns centre around the fact that we will be utilising even higher up the electromagnetic spectrum, into the millimetre waves.
Millimetre waves do not travel very far, and cannot penetrate walls, however, they can penetrate our skin and our eyes. (Lower levels of RF EME can penetrate deeper into our bodies.)
How Can I Use My Laptop or Device Safely?
1. Laptops and devices have a massive advantage over the desktop computer, in my eyes
This advantage is that they can be used on battery. Anything that is plugged in uses AC power. AC stands for “alternating current.” Alternating current is where electricity passes back and forth through the wires. In contrast, a battery uses DC, or “direct current” – which only goes one way. In short, DC is safer than AC.
Unplug the charger and use your laptop or device on battery.
2. No matter what, I always recommend that you used wired connections – for Internet, mouse and keyboard.
This point is a bit of a 3-for-1 deal – I can’t just give you three tips!
Ultimately, this tip is about reducing your exposure to the radio frequency end of the electromagnetic spectrum.
Here’s the best things that you can do – get a keyboard and mouse that you can plug into your laptop. (Not all devices have this option, so I would suggest using a stylus instead of your fingers.)
Using the wired keyboard and mouse means that you have a greater distance from your laptop. This is always a good thing. It also means that you are not relying on a wireless (radio frequency electromagnetic energy (RF EME) connection).
Using a wired Internet connection is part of this solution.
Note that you will also need to turn off the Wi-Fi capabilities on your computer. Otherwise, it will constantly be searching for a connection. Leaving it on would then be defeating the purpose of using a wired connection) AND you will need to have a modem that does not have Wi-Fi capabilities.
Finding one can be a little tricky. I located some at my local office supply store. I got a modem that had no aerial and only worked via Ethernet connections. It only cost about $50.
So, swap your wireless bits and pieces for wired/cabled equivalents.
3. Despite its name, do not EVER use your laptop or device on your lap.
We have already discussed the health implications above, and I have pointed out that distance is the key.
The other thing to think about is that by having it on your lap, it is close to your reproductive organs.
Science is only beginning to recognise and accept that there can be health effects beyond the thermal changes.
A bit of background information
When radar began to be used mid last century, the thermal effects of radiofrequency EME were recognised as problematic for health.
The thermal effects on the body have been used as the measuring stick for health effects. This is despite the fact that the vast array of associated health effects have nothing to do with tissues being warmed.
Therefore, never use your laptop or device when it is in contact with your body.
There you have it – 3 tips to help you use your laptop or device more safely.
I hope you have found this information helpful. Please feel free to get in touch with me if there is more you would like to hear about.
As things have evolved, there are many laptop mats that shield from wireless technology (RF).
RF EME can bounce back off the mat. This can increase what you are exposed to. So if you are sitting over it, it can be a double whammy.
As much as it would be lovely to have a “magic pill” to protect us from RF…
The best and most reliable way is to not have it.
This is a stretch for many people, but would you knowingly put your health at risk?
Available in store now – all for shielding/reducing your exposure to ELF AC Electric Fields:
It is also important to consider connectivity – using an ethernet adaptor is key. Read more here.