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Impact of EMF, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth on Employee Health at Work

By Dr. Amita Fotedar

The human body gets exposed to various kinds of EMFs that includes the cosmic rays from the outer space, natural nuclear radiation in the earth, and man-made radiations that come from electronic and electric instruments.

What are the impacts of EMF, Wi-Fi, and Bluetooth on employee’s health at work? Exposure to EMF radiations has biological effects on humans. Organizations and entities should take utmost care in devising strict guidelines for setting limits for exposure to harmful radiations. Offices should have low-EMF designs wherever possible. Also, EMF exposure times should be monitored and reduced. Scientific evidence suggests that there is a profound effect on health due to the exposure to low-intensity radiation. The cause of stress and trauma due to the absorption of Electromagnetic radiations.

EMFs or Electromagnetic fields, do not just occur at home or workplace but are present in our day to day lives wherever the flow of electricity exists and produce non-ionizing radiations. In some workplaces, exposure to electromagnetic fields (EMF) is considerably stronger and higher than at home or in public spaces. So, whether you are using a laptop/desktop at home or simply watching TV or using your mobile device, you are creating an electromagnetic field. Also, the higher the voltage, the stronger the electromagnetic field (Gajšek et al, 2016).

Strong radio frequency Electromagnetic fields with frequencies ranging between 100 kilohertz and 300 gigahertz can trigger overheating of the body and harm the body tissues and organs. Electromagnetic fields can also result in indirect impacts that may produce safety risks, like contact currents, interference with medical implants such as pacemakers and spark discharges (Romanenko et al, 2017).

The computer is the major culprit that produces Pulsed Electromagnetic Radiation. When we sit in front of a computer or a TV, we get bombarded by dangerous waves quietly transmitted from it. Even if we turn the appliance off, our biomagnetic field still gets bombarded by harmful EM radiations twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week from the electronic equipment and electric cables. ELF (extremely low-frequency waves) are present wherever there is flow and radiation of electricity from each and every electrical appliance around us.

Cathode Ray Tube based computer monitors make use of a beam of electrons facilitated by a high voltage to produce an image on the fluorescent screen. These electrons help the computer screen to light up in order to generate the picture. Some of the energy escapes from the electron beam in the form of radiations at various frequency levels particularly in the Very Low Frequency (VLF) and Extremely Low Frequency (ELF) bands (Balci, 2009).

The electrons sweeping the computer screen generate Pulsed Electromagnetic Radiations, which at close range, damage the balance of all living cells causing reactions which result in all kinds of illnesses: Fibromyalgia, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and Migraine Headaches. The dangerous effects of PEMR are present all around the screen (in the front as well as behind the monitor). These radiations remain active for several hours even after switching off the computer. So, the danger of radiation is not only from sitting too close to the screen but also from the sides or rear of adjoining computer terminals (Hardell, 2017).

6 Causes of Electromagnetic Pollution at work

  1. Computers and related equipment’s,
  2. Electric and electronic appliances,
  3. Information networks,
  4. High and low voltage power lines,
  5. Cars and two-wheelers,
  6. TV Transmitters

You may not realize it, but the building which serves as your workplace may be contributing to the dangerous cumulative radiation that is getting absorbed, making you, slowly, a bit more electrically sensitive every day.

Impacts of EMF, WI-FI and Bluetooth on the employee health at the workplace

5 health effects of exposure to EMFs include;

  1. Cataract
  2. Headaches & Depression
  3. Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)
  4. Tinnitus
  5. Male infertility

Cataracts

General eye irritation and cataracts have been reported in employees who get severely exposed to elevated levels of microwave radiation and radiofrequency.

The dielectric constant i.e. the absorption capacity of human eye tissues is around seventy which is higher than unity i.e. above fifty. This means that the human eye has the potential to absorb electromagnetic energy very quickly (Grellier et al, 2014).

Headaches & Depression

EMF radiation and the associated neuropsychiatric effects are responsible for depression and headaches. EMFs activate VGCC – voltage-gated calcium ion channels in the brain and these pathways are responsible for neural communication.

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)

EMFs create unscheduled leakage of calcium into the cells making them hypersensitive and causing them to transmit spurious signals. This results in Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). The disorder clouds normal mental activity triggers poor concentration, causes overactivity and weak control of impulses. The ability to socialize and learn is also impacted and can disrupt the family functioning (Byun et al, 2013).

Tinnitus

Cell phone radiation emissions cause hearing problems called Tinnitus. The excessive use of cell phones exposes the peripheral auditory channels to a larger dose of electromagnetic radiofrequency radiation (EMRFR). The energy produced by the mobile phone is the reason behind the worsening tinnitus (De Ridder et al, (2004).

Male Infertility

The use of laptops has been reported to cause negative factor contributing to the modern increase of female and male infertility. Older laptops emit the highest levels of EMF radiation. Reproductive parameters reported to be damaged by EMF exposure include the estrous cycle, gonadal function, male germ cell death, reproductive endocrine hormones, sperm motility, reproductive organ weights, early embryonic development, and pregnancy success (Erogul et al, 2006).

Restlessness, fatigue, tingling in the wrists, pain in the hands and discomfort, are some other issues resulting from extended electrical field radiation.

9 Tips to Reduce EMF Exposure at Work

1. Avoid keeping your laptop on your lap

Using your laptop keeping it on the lap, especially when connected to Wi-Fi, is extremely dangerous. Magnetic field radiation from laptops comes from either a transformer in the computer or on the power cable. Fortunately, many workplaces offer lap sized desk to employees for their laptop to rest on. This reduces 100% exposure to the harmful radiation, as well as minimizes heat exposure by 99% (Bellieni et al, 2012).

2. Raise awareness

Awareness workshops and seminars should be conducted from time to time at a workplace to educate employers and employees about the possible hazards of magnetic fields (Shariful Islam, 2014).

3. Rearrange electronic and electrical equipment’s in your office

Avoid creating an EMF field around you. Rearrange electrical and electronic items in your office so that you are not exposed to Electromagnetic radiations from the sides/backs of computers and other electrical appliances at your workplace.

4. Ground your computer/laptop

Electrical field radiation exposure from laptop causes all kinds of issues if it is plugged into power but is not earthed or grounded. If the computer is not grounded, the employees absorb a significant amount of electric radiation when they rest their wrists on the laptop case at the workplace. Workers feel fatigue, restlessness, pains and tingling in the wrists and hands from extended field radiation.

Proper electrical grounding should be established at the workplace for the safety of employees as well as the appliances. A “grounded” connection is achieved by using the third, round prong that can be identified in electrical outlets and many cords. When wired in a proper manner, this grounded connection offers the devices/laptops a safe place to discharge any misdirected or excess electrical current. This safeguards everyone from dangerous electrical shock, and other dangers (Bellieni et al, (2012).

5. Take breaks and stay away from a computer

It is very important to take regular breaks whenever one can, and whenever it is reasonable. Avoid working constantly on the laptop or desktop and take a break every one hour by walking completely away from the electronic devices. This offers body relief in all sorts of ways. By taking breaks, one can minimize the computer radiation exposure (electrical and magnetic forms) and also gives eyes a much-needed break (Epstein et al, 2016).

6. Avoid using Bluetooth headsets

Bluetooth headsets emit short wavelengths that damage the human cells by throwing off calcium ion signaling and triggering a leakage of ion channels. This cellular disruption causes damage to the DNA that increases cancer risk. Bluetooth headsets should be discouraged at your workplace. A simple set of earphones should be provided. Even making use of speaker mode on a mobile device will help in reducing exposure to harmful EMF exposure (Mandala et al, 2014).

7. Get some indoor plants at the workplace

Believe it or not, some indoor plants absorb toxins, air pollutants and dissolve some EMF Radiation. Such plants include Aloe Vera which absorbs EMF radiation through its meaty leaves, Cactus, Sansevieria and Stone Lotus Flower. Such indoor plants should be placed in every nook and corner at the workplace (Vian et al, (2016).

8. Set limits for worker exposures to EMFs

Organizations should develop guidelines to protect employees from the known effects of high EMF exposures. Offices should have low-EMF designs wherever possible. Also, EMF exposure times should be monitored and reduced. Management should take no action to minimize EMF exposure if it elevates the risk of a health hazard such as electrocution (International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection, 2010).

9. Regulations similar to EU Directive 2013/35/EU should be implemented

EU Directive 2013/35/EU offer the guidelines and regulations, all the workplaces need to follow for the minimum health and safety requirements regarding workers’ exposure to EMF. Regulations similar to this one should be implemented by all the organizations across the globe.

The Regulations require that, as an employer, you should

  • Evaluate the levels of Electromagnetic radiations to which your workers may be exposed
  • Make sure that the exposure level is below a set of Exposure limit values mentioned in the EU Directive.
  • Design and develop an action plan to ensure compliance with the exposure limits
  • Monitor the risks of employees’ exposure and design an action plan to eliminate or minimize those risks.
  • Extensive information and training on the potential risks that could arise due to EMFs in the workplace and details of an action plan in place. The plan should also be forwarded to their safety representatives.

Related Questions

Why are the lower power cell phone masts, Wi-Fi etc. dangerous?

Wireless radiation has been reported by the World Health Organization as a “possible carcinogen”. Cell phone mast radiation results in an elevation in the permeability of the blood-brain barrier harm in a nerve cell and an elevation in oxidative stress.

Should workers and employers try to reduce exposures to EMFs?

Concerned employees and employers need to consider simple, inexpensive measures for minimizing EMF exposures. No action should be taken to minimize EMF exposure if it elevates the risk of a known safety or health hazard such as electrocution.

What are electromagnetic radiations?

Electromagnetic radiations (EMR) refers to the waves of an electromagnetic field, radiating through space. These radiations carry electromagnetic radiant energy. The radiations include gamma rays, infrared, X-rays, radio waves, ultraviolet and microwaves.

Is Electromagnetic Radiation dangerous? How to protect yourself?

Electromagnetic Radiation is dangerous because it often changes field direction, thereby creating a vibration within the sensitive tissues of the body. These vibrations trigger heating up of cells in some dangerous ways. When using electronic appliances close to your body, it is advisable to take a few precautions and maintain a distance from these radiations or utilize EMF shielding.


Dr Amita F.

Dr Amita F. – Technical Research/Academic Consultant and Writer

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