How much are we affected by the EMF's coming from cell phones, microwaves and other electronic equipment? What statistics are there?

Asked by Claudia Harmon Worthen
Cambria, CA

Your recent article addressed out-gassing from granite. The EMF's from cell phones, microwaves and other electronic equipment are much more harmful than granite, but how does it effect us? What studies have been conducted?


William Janhonen

Answered by William Janhonen

Norwalk, CT

WSJ Enterprises

August 9, 2010

EMF's also known as Electronic Magnetic Frequency and EMR, Electro-Magnetic Radiation comes in various forms. Electric transmission lines, cell towers, pico towers, DAS systems, even your wi-fi modem in your home and the invisible dog fence in your yard emit radiation.

I cannot address every single type of emission in this one answer so let's stick with just cell towers and cell phones. 

Radiation from cell towers

The Telecommunicaitons Act of 1996 specifically prohibits any state or local agency from regulating telecommunications towers on the basis of environmental effects from radio frequency emissions that do not exceed the maximum permissible levels deemed safe by the FCC.

That written, the controversy over cell tower location is the third rail for many local municipalities.

  • The "not in my back yard" syndrome is rampant in many areas. Wantagh, New York is considering local legislation to prevent cell towers.
  • Greenwich, Ct. and Branford, Ct. are waging war between the Connecticut Siting Council and local townspeople and legislators are trying to regain some control over location of towers.

The experts I have heard talk directly to this subject (State Department of Health toxocologists, Board of Health Phd. representatives) state that the radiation from cell towers has no deleterious effect on humans, period. The amount of radiation emitted by cell towers is dissipated over distance and no epidemiological evidence had ever been shown to connect cell towers to any disease.

That being said there are plenty of studies and reports of cows giving less milk in Germany and several studies from England and Australia denouncing cell tower radiation as deleterious to health, but none of them are conclusive and they admit more study is necessary.

Radiation from cell phones

As for cell phones this website lists cell phones by category, manufacturer, radiation level, type, and date of release. The number of new phones is exploding and in the 2nd Qtr. of 2010 (44) new cell phones from 15 different companies are scheduled for release. 

  • Phones on the website referenced above are listed by signal strength and radiation output.
  • I have not seen any studies directly relating cell phone use to illness, however, this may change over time.

A person who argues about a cell tower then goes out and buys their 12 year old child a cell phone where they get a constant input of radiation through their brain by direct contact. 

Personally, I am investing my money in hearing aid companies so when the current teenagers who have been ramming earphones into their ears for years turn 40 I should be sitting on a gold mine. Intelligence is defined as behavior modified by experience.

Hopefully we can all experience safe practices that keep our children and ourselves healthy.

Do you have a question about greening your home? GreenHomeGuide invites you to Ask A Pro. Let our network of experienced green building professionals – architects, designers, contractors, electricians, energy experts, landscapers, tile & stone specialists, and more – help you find the right solution.