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What exactly is Electrosmog?

Electrosmog, electromagnetic fields (EMF), and electromagnetic radiation (EMR) are terms that most people have heard in some context. But what do these terms refer to exactly, and why is this issue becoming more and more important for each of us?

“Smog” is a combination of the words smoke and fog, usually used when talking about air pollution from exhaust fumes in metropolitan areas. The term electromagnetic smog refers to all artificially generated electromagnetic fields in the environment and the resulting  exposure of people and the environment to them.

Electromagnetic smog is classified as non-ionizing radiation. This means that the electromagnetic waves do not produce the energy required to remove electrons from atoms or molecules, unlike ionizing radiation (which includes X-rays and gamma rays). Electromagnetic smog is sub-divided as follows:

  • Low-frequency electric and magnetic fields
  • High-frequency electromagnetic fields

Electric and magnetic fields in the low-frequency range are generated when electric energy is generated, transported, or applied. For example, this is seen in alternating current circuits and electric appliances. High-frequency electromagnetic fields are generated by wireless transmission via technology like WiFi or baby monitors. Microwaves in kitchens also use a high-frequency electromagnetic field for heating food.

Electromagnetic fields can be produced artificially, but also occur naturally in the environment. For static and low-frequency fields, the electrical and magnetic components are considered separately. The two components are closely coupled to one another in high-frequency fields, so that we speak of electromagnetic fields. A good overview of the current state of science concerning electromagnetic fields, their impact on humans and what protective measures are recommended, is available on the website of the German Federal Office for Radiation Protection.

How does exposure to electromagnetic smog develop?

Due to rapidly advancing digitization and the expansion of electricity networks, exposure to electromagnetic smog is continually increasing in private households, schools, at work, and on the road. In particular, the artificially generated low-frequency and high-frequency fields are increasing due to the development of new technologies and their distribution. Cordless DECT phones and smartphones are a part of everyday life. There are children, teenagers, and adults who use smartphones, tablets, desktops and laptops all day, whether it be for school, work, or leisure, and new devices are always in demand. In order to ensure seamless accessibility to , more and more mobile phone masts are being built. According to statista.de, more than 7.3 billion cellphones and smartphones are currently in use worldwide. And the numbers are still rising.

In addition, there are WiFi, Bluetooth and ultrawideband (UWB). These are applications with high-frequency electromagnetic radiation, with the help of which various (mobile) devices for telecommunication and data processing can be interconnected wirelessly.

SMART home solutions for private households and businesses also contribute to an increase in electromagnetic smog. Networked and remotely controllable devices and installations are designed to provide more security and efficient energy use and consequently improve the quality of homes and life in general. However, this convenience leads to further exposure to electromagnetic radiation. The trend of increased exposure to electromagnetic smog is even rising in cars as well. In addition to radiation from Bluetooth, GPS, seat heating and the mobile data of smartphones, the future use of electric cars will further increase passenger exposure because of the electric engine and its battery.

What are the consequences of electromagnetic smog?

Possible consequences are extensively described by the ‘Competence Initiative for the Protection of Man, Environment and Democracy’ (Kompetenzinitiative zum Schutz von Mensch, Umwelt und Demokratie e.V.). This non-profit association of scientists and physicians deals with the effects of mobile and wireless communication. A small excerpt from the international doctors’ appeal 2012 states that “Our body consists largely of water and is controlled by bioelectrical impulses. Electromagnetic radiation can interfere with these natural processes. These rays penetrate into the body and prevent optimal cell supply. If we are exposed to artificial electromagnetic fields (called electromagnetic smog or electrosmog), these can have a fundamental impact on biological processes in our body with the following effects:

  • Lack of concentration and sleep problems
  • Disturbance in the balance of our vegetative nervous system
  • Weakening of the immune system
  • Metabolic disorders due to hyperacidity and clogging
  • Mental strain and stress”

What measures are being implemented by governments and government institutions to protect us?

Measures to protect the population from health hazards due to electric and magnetic fields from low-frequency and DC systems are set in the 26th Ordinance on the Implementation of the Federal Emissions Control Act (26th BImSchV) limiting emission values.  In order to take account of the scientific uncertainties regarding the health effects of these fields, the Federal Office for Radiation Protection recommends supplementary precautionary measures.

The assumption that WiFi radiation, smartphone radiation and the rays of other artificially generated fields are harmless is still widespread, since the ‘legal limiting emission values’ are usually observed. The SAR value (specific absorption rate) is used as the basis for defining limiting emission values ​​in mobile communications area. It is a measure for the absorption of electromagnetic fields in a body or material. The absorption of electromagnetic energy always results in heating of a body. Consequently, the limiting emission values ​​for smartphones are only based on the thermal effect of electromagnetic radiation. Other influences of radiation, such as the possible damage to a cell genome or similar matters, are not considered.

However, other countries have already gone further here. A higher court in India has banned mobile phone masts on schools and hospitals due to health risks. Israel bans WiFi in kindergartens and preschools and restricts its usage in schools. The bottom line is that every citizen has to obtain information about this himself or herself and acquire the necessary protection in the light of the present findings.

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