Many people love the convenience of the Internet of things in their modern lives. How much do you rely on your cell phone and wireless technology to improve your quality of life throughout the day? Having your thermostat connected to your router, which you can manipulate with your cell phone, is convenient, so the temperature of your house is just right when you get home after a long day at work. Many people do not know what to do if their cellular service failed; we are all addicted to the immediate connection, gratification, and information at our fingertips. ScienceTM is currently debating the effects of increased nnEMF (non-native electromagnetic field, electromagnetic fields that are manmade) exposure in modern life. These effects can range from minor issues, including occasional sleep disturbances and sensitivity for some people, to increased cases of cancer, disease, and mitochondrial failure. Even if we cannot quantify the effect of nnEMF on our health, I do believe in doing what you can to reduce the amount you are exposed to (it is impossible to completely escape exposure unless you live out in a cabin in the woods with no wireless routers or cell phones deep in the United States National Radio Quiet Zone). What is nnEMF, and why is excessive nnEMF exposure detrimental to the health of our microbiome?

So, What is EMF?

EMF stands for an electromagnetic field, which is a physical field produced by electrically charged objects. Waves that emanate from electromagnetic fields are known as electromagnetic radiation (radio waves, microwaves, infrared, visible light, ultraviolet, X-rays, and gamma rays). Electromagnetic fields are ubiquitous. Sunlight, for example, mentioned earlier in the chapter, is comprised of different electromagnetic waves. Our Earth generates a native electromagnetic field. The Schumann resonance is a set of spectrum peaks in the extremely low-frequency portion of the Earth’s electromagnetic field and is dependent on lightning storms for a constant generation. Schumann resonances are the principal background the electromagnetic spectrum from three hertz through sixty hertz (Hz). The resonance appears as distinct peaks at extremely low frequencies around 7.83 Hz, 14.3, 20.8, 27.3, and 33.8 Hz. We also generate an electromagnetic field. Because of the invention of electricity and wireless technology, we have more nonnative electromagnetic fields (nnEMF) in our environment. We are exposed to vast magnetic fields, electric fields, “dirty electricity,” and radio frequency that is artificially generated. Most of the nnEMF radiation we are exposed to is low frequency and is non-ionizing radiation. However, it does not mean that nnEMF does not produce negative health consequences.[1] [2] [3] [4] [5] [6]

Radio frequency – is the oscillation rate of an alternating electric current or voltage or of a magnetic, electric, or electromagnetic field (three kilohertz to three hundred gigahertz). Natural radio frequencies are produced by lightning strikes or astronomical objects like our Sun. We use radio frequency to transmit information wirelessly, music or talk from radio stations, diagnostic medicine (ultrasound and MRI), and to cook our food (microwave ovens which operate at 2.45 GHz). Radio frequency signals can be both analog and digital. The main frequencies that we use now are between nine hundred MHz (megahertz) and six GHz (gigahertz). DECT 6.0 cordless phones are an example of six GHz usage. 5G, the next generation of wireless communication, is licensed by the United States Federal Communications Commission to operate below thirty-nine GHz and purposed as high as eighty-six GHz.[7] [8] [9] [10] [11]

SourceRange
Cordless phones900 MHz to 6.0 MHz
Wireless routers900 MHz to 5 GHz
WiGig wireless router60 GHz
Smart meters900 MHz to 2.4 GHz
Smartphones710 MHz to 2.7 GHz
Bluetooth devices2.4 to 2.485 GHz
Microwave oven2.45 GHz

Magnetic fields – are a mathematical vector field made up of photonic waves generated around magnetic material that either attract or repel depending on polarity. Magnetic fields are all around us; the Earth generates a magnetic field from the convection of a liquid iron alloy within the outer core. The Earth has a north (currently the south geomagnetic pole) and a south (currently the north geomagnetic pole) magnetic pole, and the strength of the field and location of the poles vary (magnetic pole shifts have occurred, which are why are poles are currently reversed) because the magnetic field is not constant. The Earth’s magnetic field extends into space and is known as the magnetosphere. The magnetosphere protects our atmosphere from solar wind charged particle discharges and cosmic rays. Humans also generate a magnetic field; we contain iron and from the electrical activity produced by our mitochondria, cell membranes, and our heart.[12] [13] [14] [15]

Household objects generate magnetic fields that we are exposed to with differing intensities depending on our distance; the following is a link to an accurate pamphlet for reference. Magnetic field generators within our home include speakers, headphones, breaker panels, faulty wiring, microwave ovens, induction cooktops, handheld hair dryers, electric shavers (especially if plugged in and not battery operated), and an electric clothes dryer.  You are also exposed to a non-native magnetic field if you get a diagnostic magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan. The magnetic fields and radio frequencies generated by MRI machines are known to interfere with pacemakers and implantable cardioverter defibrillators (causing the metal leads to heat up and burn the heart muscle) and can pull out any magnetized metal in or attached to our body.[16] [17] [18] [19]

Electric fields – are a mathematical vector field that surrounds an electrical charge that attracts or repels other charges through force exertion. The Earth also has a DC electric field that moves upward from the Earth’s surface, the atmosphere, and the ionosphere. The Earth’s surface is negatively charged, and the ionosphere is positively charged, causing a constant flow of electricity at around thirteen thousand amperes. Lighting helps maintain the Earth’s surface electric field by keeping the electric field negatively charged.[20] [21] [22] [23]

Household devices that generate electrical fields include (the devices must be connected to a power source to generate an electrical field):[24]

Chargers

Electrical cords

Household wiring that is not properly shielded

Lamps (mostly lamps that do not contain a third prong and the end of their cord, which is used for grounding)

Light bulbs

Outlets

Standard wiring

Surge protectors

Ungrounded appliances

Ungrounded electronics

Dirty electricity – Electromagnetic frequency bands that are generated with the production, transmission, distribution, and use of electrical power usually have a frequency of 50–60 Hz (hertz). Dirty electricity is any electromagnetic energy flowing along a conductor that deviates from a pure 50-60 Hz sine wave (operates anywhere between 300 Hz to 10 MHz [megahertz]) and has both harmonic and transient properties. Interrupting the flow of electricity many times per second, for example, the usage of dimmer switches for light bulbs, can produce “dirty” electrical fields. LED bulbs and fluorescent bulbs that contain switch mode power supplies also produce dirty electricity. Dirty electricity generated by electrical equipment within a building is distributed throughout by the indoor electric wiring, causing interference. Dirty electricity is usually the result of current flow being interrupted by electrical appliances and equipment within the building, like a dimmer switch in your living room or the switch mode power supply in your personal computer. Other household items that contain switch mode power supplies include laptop chargers, phone chargers, televisions, monitors, and gaming system power supplies. Arcing, sparking, and bad wiring connections also generate dirty electricity. Finally, dirty electricity generated outside the building can also enter a building through electric wiring, grounding rods, and conductive plumbing (metal pipes).[25] [26] [27]

Effects of NnEMF on Our Microbiome

Most people have heard of the gut microbiome but are unaware that our skin has a microbiome. Since our skin is the first part of the body exposed to nnEMF, how does it affect our skin’s microbiome? There are nnEMF exposure studies of single-cell organisms, and the results are mixed. Some studies have shown that exposure to nnEMF slows the growth, disruption of cellular membranes, damage to DNA replication, and death. However, a few studies show that nnEMF might have somewhat neutral effects on single-cell organisms and possible beneficial responses like increasing their growth as well. What about microbes that are cultured specifically from human skin samples. How are they affected by nnEMF?[28] [29] [30] [31]

For the static magnetic field experiment, the laboratory cultures of three bacteria commonly found from human microbiota, (Escherichia coli [ATCC 25922], Pseudomonas aeruginosa [ATCC 27853], and Staphylococcus epidermidis [ATCC 12228]) were obtained from Microbiologics.[32]

Four volunteers between the ages of 20 to 22 were selected at random for sampling of skin bacteria from the hand, cheek, and chin. Each volunteer completed a cell phone use survey before sampling. The demographics were one Caucasian male with high cell phone usage, one Caucasian female with very high phone usage, and two Asian females with moderate cell phone usage. They all have been using cell phones for the previous 6–7 years. Using aseptic technique, swabs used for sampling skin (palm, chin, and cheek) were each streaked onto Trypticase Soy Agar (TSA) media and incubated at 37°C for 24 h. Using standard isolation procedures and diluting colony density through further streaking, colonies with distinctive morphology were isolated from each sample for a maximum of three bacterial isolates from each sampling skin area. Twenty-four individual colonies were isolated in total. Bacteria were then incubated at 37°C for 48 h in liquid suspension using Difco Nutrient Broth preparation for growth in BD Falcon 48-well plates under RF-EMF.[33]

An RF-EMF generator was designed to simulate the effect of cell phone use and was connected to an antenna and mounted in an incubator kept at 37°C. Growth was monitored at two distinct power settings, high and low, at 1.563 mW and 0.783 mW, respectively. The power levels were measured by a 50 Ω monopole antenna placed in three different radial positions on a blank plate and averaged over 360° rotations. These power settings were estimated average EMF exposed by typical cell phone use.

The study used three strains of bacteria, Escherichia coli [ATCC 25922], Pseudomonas aeruginosa [ATCC 27853], and Staphylococcus epidermidis [ATCC 12228] that are either commonly found in the human gut and our skin microbiome and microbiome cultures from four volunteers. They exposed the organisms to nnEMF typical of standard cell phone usage after they were cultured. The isolates they used from the experiment included two hand samples from Subject B, two hand samples from Subject C, and four randomly selected insignificant growth response samples were further processed for 16S rRNA gene sequencing. What were the results of the experiment?[34]

In comparison to control condition (B0), growth of P. aeruginosa was suppressed significantly and S. epidermidis was marginally suppressed, while E. coli growth was significantly increased under SMF (Fig. 1 and Supplementary data Table S2). Between random (BR) and homogenized (BH) magnetic fields, the growth response was marginally different except for E. coli, whose growth was significantly increased under BR field over BH field. Note that both E. coli and P. aeruginosa are Gram-negative bacteria but produced the opposite trends, which seems to make the hypothesis relating cell envelope structure with magnetic field irrelevant (Shamis et al., 2011). The static magnetic field (homogenized and random magnetic field) clearly differently affected the growth of three bacterial strains of typical human microbiota.[35]

According to the test results, P. aeruginosa which is a Gram-negative opportunistic bacteria, was significantly hindered by the nnEMF exposure, and S. epidermidis, which is Gram-positive, was mildly hindered. E. coli, which is also a Gram-negative bacteria, its colonies increased, depending on the individual strain, can be either probiotic or pathogenic. Both E. coli and P. aeruginosa are Gram-negative bacteria, so it cannot affect the magnetic field on the Gram-negative cell envelope that harms bacteria. Both bacteria have a similar cell envelope, and E. coli thrived, and P. aeruginosa perished.[36]

Of the total of 24 isolated colonies from the four subjects, a total of eight showed altered growth patterns due to exposure to RF-EMFs (Supplementary data Table S3). The growth of three was colonies altered at high power and low power, respectively. Only one (hand 3 sample from subject B) experienced a significant increase in growth at both high and low power. The growth of 5 isolated colonies was increased (Fig. 2A and B and Supplementary data Fig. S3) while growth of two of them was suppressed (Fig. 2C and D). All the isolated colonies identified were the members of genus Staphylococcus: S. pasteuri, S. lugdunensis and S. epidermidis from NCBI BLAST and RDP SeqMatch analysis (Supplementary data Table S4). The growth of majority of isolated colonies were not affected, and we suspect this may be due to the RF-EMF generation setting. The power settings were to simulate average exposure in which EMF power is much stronger when cell phone is in use (~25 dBm). The more realistic experimental setting of oscillation of RF-EMF would have produced more obvious responses. Out of those 12 isolated colonies from hands, growth of six was substantially altered (4 increased and 2 suppressed), while only 1 out of 6 chin colonies’ growth was increased under high power. No colony from cheek had altered growth patterns. Subject B had most isolated colonies whose growth patterns were altered by RF-EMF (4 out of 7 colonies tested). Subject B is of Asian descent and considered herself a light cell phone user, meaning she used her phone a few times per day on average and only for phone calls. Subject B, who had multiple isolated colonies affected from the hand, including one at low power, seemed to have the most susceptible bacteria to alteration of growth patterns. The low cell phone usage and lack of exposure to RF-EMF could be linked to a higher chance of affected growth in bacteria. On the other hand, subject A had no colonies with substantial growth change out of seven recovered. Subject A and B were roommates and shared a common life style and culture. However, subject A was under antibiotic treatment at the time of sampling and used face wash regularly, which might have contributed to the difference. The most susceptible component of microbiota may be equally venerable to any antagonistic impacts, in this case for example, antibiotics and RF-EMF. Thus, the remaining bacteria populations might have beenquite resistant to environmental perturbations. Two heavy users (subjects C and D), i.e., texts or other form of phone use at every thirty min or less, had only 3 out of 10 isolated colonies showing altered growth patterns. These habits their skin microbiota might have adapted to a high RF-EMF exposure environment.[37]

The results of the study show that certain bacteria can become resistant to frequent nnEMF exposure. If the bacteria are opportunistic or pathogenic that become resistant and survive, it can lead to serious skin infections when the opportunity arises (a severe laceration, for example). For people that do not use cell phones or use them sparingly, their microbiome is more susceptible to nnEMF exposure. The study concludes:

Several Staphylococcus species are known to cause skin infections: S. lugdunensis is the causative bacteria of illnesses, including endocarditis, osteomyelitis, and peritonitis. S. epidermidis causes infection, too, often in hospital settings or with patients who have medical devices. These two species of Staphylococci are typically commensal to the human skin microbiota, but given uninhibited growth, these coagulase negative Staphylocci (CNS) can cause severe complications for any individual. Even if over exposure of skin microbiota to RF-EMFs were not enough on its own to cause an increased growth rate and possible infection, other known or unknown increases may additively affect them and thereby negatively impact human health. The growth of Staphylococci from certain individuals were enhanced under RF-EMF, and in some other cases the growth was suppressed, which means the disruption to the balanced skin microbiota make it more vulnerable to infection possibly by those opportunistic pathogens or foreign pathogens. These findings add to the ever-growing evidence that even cell phone level RF-EMFs have the potential to negatively impact human health and that human exposure may need to be more strictly regulated.”[38]

Nnemf exposure modifies the skin microbiome depending on frequency, which could lead to dysbiosis and infections. However, there are no current studies on the effects on the fecal microbiome when exposed to nnEMF. However, I would assume that if you keep a laptop near your abdomen frequently, it should have some impact on the microbiome of your digestive tract. There is a study on the effect of solar radiation on the microbiome. Being exposed to sunlight directly modifies the microbiome, and that it is not cholecalciferol production but direct radiation exposure from the sun that changes it. We also have multiple studies that nnEMF can affect single-cell organisms. Hopefully, a study will be done soon to determine what effects nnEMF has on our gut microbiome.[39] [40]


[1] Debaun, Daniel, Debaun, Ryan. Radiation Nation, The Fallout of Modern Technology, Icaro Publishing, March 20, 2017.

[2] Pineault, Nicolas. The Non-Tinfoil Guide to EMFs : How to Fix Our Stupid Use of Technology, CreateSpace, November 1, 2017.

[3] Milham, Samuel. Dirty Electricity: Electrification and the Diseases of Civilization, iUniverse, December, 2012.

[4] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2656447/

[5] Plourde, Elizabeth, Plourde, Marcus. EMF Freedom: Solutions for 21st Century Polution, New Voice Publications, April 26, 2016.

[6] https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0013935118300355

[7] Debaun, Daniel, Debaun, Ryan. Radiation Nation, The Fallout of Modern Technology, Icaro Publishing, March 20, 2017.

[8] Pineault, Nicolas. The Non-Tinfoil Guide to EMFs : How to Fix Our Stupid Use of Technology, CreateSpace, November 1, 2017.

[9] https://www.fcc.gov/5G

[10] https://transition.fcc.gov/Daily_Releases/Daily_Business/2016/db0714/DOC-340310A1.pdf

[11] Plourde, Elizabeth, Plourde, Marcus. EMF Freedom: Solutions for 21st Century Polution, New Voice Publications, April 26, 2016

[12] Debaun, Daniel, Debaun, Ryan. Radiation Nation, The Fallout of Modern Technology, Icaro Publishing, March 20, 2017.

[13] Pineault, Nicolas. The Non-Tinfoil Guide to EMFs : How to Fix Our Stupid Use of Technology, CreateSpace, November 1, 2017.

[14] http://www-gpsg.mit.edu/12.201_12.501/BOOK/chapter3.pdf

[15] https://www.heartmath.org/research/science-of-the-heart/energetic-communication/

[16] Pineault, Nicolas. The Non-Tinfoil Guide to EMFs : How to Fix Our Stupid Use of Technology, CreateSpace, November 1, 2017.

[17] Debaun, Daniel, Debaun, Ryan. Radiation Nation, The Fallout of Modern Technology, Icaro Publishing, March 20, 2017.

[18] https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/heart_vascular_institute/conditions_treatments/treatments/mri_implanted_cardiac_pacemakers_difibrillators.html

[19] Plourde, Elizabeth, Plourde, Marcus. EMF Freedom: Solutions for 21st Century Polution, New Voice Publications, April 26, 2016

[20] Milham, Samuel. Dirty Electricity: Electrification and the Diseases of Civilization, iUniverse, December, 2012.

[21] Debaun, Daniel, Debaun, Ryan. Radiation Nation, The Fallout of Modern Technology, Icaro Publishing, March 20, 2017.

[22] Pineault, Nicolas. The Non-Tinfoil Guide to EMFs : How to Fix Our Stupid Use of Technology, CreateSpace, November 1, 2017.

[23] Plourde, Elizabeth, Plourde, Marcus. EMF Freedom: Solutions for 21st Century Polution, New Voice Publications, April 26, 2016

[24] Milham, Samuel. Dirty Electricity: Electrification and the Diseases of Civilization, iUniverse, December, 2012.

[25] Plourde, Elizabeth, Plourde, Marcus. EMF Freedom: Solutions for 21st Century Polution, New Voice Publications, April 26, 2016

[26] Milham, Samuel. Dirty Electricity: Electrification and the Diseases of Civilization, iUniverse, December, 2012.

[27] Pineault, Nicolas. The Non-Tinfoil Guide to EMFs : How to Fix Our Stupid Use of Technology, CreateSpace, November 1, 2017.

[28] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28956351

[29] Pineault, Nicolas. The Non-Tinfoil Guide to EMFs : How to Fix Our Stupid Use of Technology, CreateSpace, November 1, 2017.

[30] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21401315

[31] https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s11157-018-09491-9

[32] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28956351

[33] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28956351

[34] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28956351

[35] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28956351

[36] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28956351

[37] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28956351

[38] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28956351

[39] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28956351

[40] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6116187/

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