Electromagnetic Fields—Can You Protect Yourself with EMF Clothing?

Wednesday Dec 11 | BY |
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Some studies show that living near high-voltage power lines may be harmful to human health.

Can you increase your risk of cancer through exposure to electromagnetic fields? The studies we have are inconsistent, but a number of them say it’s possible.

The biggest risk comes from the strongest fields—those found around large power lines and other strong power centers. If you live near one of these, or work near one of them, or even if you’re just surrounded by electronic gadgets all day, can you protect yourself by wearing so-called “EMF clothing?”

What Are Electromagnetic Fields?

A “field” is simply an area of energy. The type of electricity we normally encounter in our lives is “alternating current, (AC),” which produces both an electric field and a magnetic field. The electric field is produced by voltage—the pressure through the wire. The higher the voltage, the stronger the electric field. The magnetic field is related to the flow (or movement) of the electric current—the greater the current, the stronger the magnetic field.

You can think of the difference between the two when you imagine plugging in a light bulb. Plugged in but not turned on, the bulb will generate a small electrical field. When the light is turned on and electricity moves to the bulb, it creates a magnetic field, as well.

These two fields together produce electromagnetic fields (EMFs), or electromagnetic energy. These fields are invisible to the naked eye, but they exist naturally, as a product of electric charges in the atmosphere associated with storms. The Earth itself is also surrounded by an EMF, which is why we can use compasses to find our way around.

Man-made sources of EMFs include power lines, appliances, x-rays, TV antennas, radio stations, mobile phone based stations, and more.

Are They Dangerous?

Though both electric and magnetic fields are present around power-producing products, electric fields are easily weakened by walls and other objects. Magnetic fields, however, can pass through buildings, humans, and most other materials, so it is these fields that have been most studied for their health effects.

Here are a few of the studies that have shown a connection between EMFs and health problems:

  • 1979: A study published in the American Journal of Epidemiology finds high rates of leukemia among children living near large power lines in Denver.
  • 2000: A study published in the British Journal of Cancer finds that living in a home with a magnetic field above 0.4 microteslas (what you’d find in homes living within 100 feet of a large power line) seemed to double the risk of childhood leukemia.
  • 2003: A Canadian study finds that pregnant mothers exposed to high levels of magnetic fields in their occupations had a higher risk of giving birth to a child with leukemia.
  • 2005: A study published in the British Medical Journal found that children born to homes as far as 650 yards from a power line had a 20 percent greater chance of developing leukemia than children born in houses farther away.

The National Cancer Institute states that researchers haven’t found a consistent relationship between EMFs and childhood brain tumors, but neither have they been able to completely rule out a potential link.

What Are EMF Clothes?

Today, we live in a world where we’re exposed to a number of electromagnetic fields on a daily basis. Some people say these fields make them feel poorly, causing them to suffer things like headaches, digestive issues, and fatigue when spending all day under fluorescent lights, for instance, or when spending considerable time in a busy city area or around significant power or mobile phone stations.

In these situations, it may help to be shielded from these fields. If you’re sitting with your laptop on your lap, for instance, or at your computer all day, or working in an office where the electric devices surround you, you may also feel a bit more protected with EMF clothing. In response to these concerns, a number of clothing manufacturers have created items that are advertised as shielding you from potentially damaging EMF fields:

  • Levi Strauss announced in 2002 that they were launching a new Docker’s model with anti-radiation lined pockets to protect people from cell phone radiation.
  • MummyWrap is a sleeveless, loose-fitting garment for pregnant women made to protect babies in the womb from EMF fields and cell phone radiation.
  • Swiss clothing manufacturer Isabodywear launched a special line of men’s underwear meant to protect from EMFs.
  • These and other manufacturers use fabrics with copper and silver threads said to fend off harmful radiation and EMFs. Do these work?

    Do EMF Clothes Work?

    So far, it’s difficult to find any information on the matter. We do know that copper, nickel, and silver shields against these fields, but they have to be solid enough to keep out small wavelengths or they don’t provide the protection they’re supposed to. Copper actually absorbs radio and magnetic waves—but is there enough in these fabrics to actually protect the body?

    The theory is sound. Putting these metals in the fabric should ward off harmful fields. But we don’t have studies showing whether they actually do or don’t.

    There are other factors involved, such as whether or not the material continues to be protective over time and through several washings. Shield performance increases with increased thickness and numbers of layers, yet much of the protective clothing is made to also be comfortable, which may take away some of the effectiveness.

    At this point, we can’t advise people to try these garments or not—without research, it’s a personal judgment call.

    What to Do

    While we don’t know yet whether protective clothing actually works, there are other things you can do to lower your risk of exposure:

    • Use hands-free devices when talking on a cell phone.
    • Stand clear of working microwave ovens.
    • Avoid electric blankets.
    • Clear your bedroom of as many electric devices as possible. For the ones that remain, try to keep them at least four feet away from the head of the bed.
    • Turn appliances off when not in use. Consider unplugging when you can, such as your kitchen toaster, coffee maker, lamps, etc.
    • Watch television from a minimum of 18 inches away.
    • Don’t place cribs or beds against a wall with major appliances nearby.
    • Think about light placement—fluorescent lights generate stronger fields than incandescent lights. Estimates one foot for incandescents, and three for fluorescents.
    • Stay away from the circuit breaker—don’t forget to keep in mind that it could be below you or on the other side of a wall. Keep beds away.
    • Remember that cordless phones can emit as much radiation as mobile phones when you’re using them. Consider reinstalling corded (landline) phones.
    • Unplug your computer—many laptops produce strong EMFs when plugged into an outlet. Use it on battery power, then stay away while it’s recharging.
    • Check the background field in your home. You can purchase an “EM” meter or call a utility company to install one.

    Have you tried EMF clothes? What other tips do you have for reducing exposure to EMFs?

    * * *

    “What are electromagnetic fields?” WHO, http://www.who.int/peh-emf/about/WhatisEMF/en/.

    “Magnetic Field Exposure and Cancer: Questions and Answers,” National Cancer Institute, http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/factsheet/Risk/magnetic-fields.

    Chris Woolston, “Electromagnetic field studies reach different conclusions,” Los Angeles Times, February 15, 2010, http://articles.latimes.com/2010/feb/15/health/la-he-electromagnetic-studies15-2010feb15.

    Infante-Rivard C, Deadman JE. Maternal occupational exposure to extremely low frequency magnetic fields during pregnancy and childhood leukemia. Epidemiology 2003; 14: 437–441.

    John W. Farley, “Power Lines and Cancer: Nothing to Fear,” Quackwatch.com, July 27, 2003, http://www.quackwatch.com/01QuackeryRelatedTopics/emf.html.

    Jackie LaMuth, “Are Electromagnetic Fields Hazardous to Your Health?” Ohio State University, 2008, http://ohioline.osu.edu/cd-fact/pdf/0185.pdf.

    Graeme Wearden, “Levi’s to sell ‘anti-radiation’ trousers for mobile users,” ZDNet, September 12, 2002, http://www.zdnet.com/levis-to-sell-anti-radiation-trousers-for-mobile-users-3002122192/.

    Colleen M. Story

    Colleen M. Story

    Colleen M. Story, a northwest-based writer, editor, and ghostwriter, has been creating non-fiction materials for individuals, corporations, and commercial magazines for over 17 years. She specializes in the health and wellness field, where she writes and ghostwrites books, e-books, blogs, magazine articles, and more.

    Colleen is the founder of Writing and Wellness. Her fantasy novel, “Rise of the Sidenah,” was released with Jupiter Gardens Press in September 2015. Her literary novel, “Loreena’s Gift,” is forthcoming in spring 2016 from Dzanc Books. She lives in Idaho. www.colleenmstory.com

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