Could Your iPhone Be Making You Sick? What You Need to Know About Tech Health
From checking emails or texting and scrolling to using our phones as alarm clocks, most of us can’t quite imagine life without our cellphones, iPads or other wireless tech. Our devices have become an extension of us, ready to connect us to the world at large with a single swipe. Our relationship with technology has become so ubiquitous that we probably haven’t stopped to consider the side effects of being tuned in all the time. Luckily for us, August Brice and the experts at Tech Wellness have.
As the founder of Tech Wellness, August is a technology wellness expert and advocate. Through her own complicated relationship with technology and the energy it emits, August has made it her life’s mission to educate and empower us to improve our relationship with technology so we may become healthier—physically, mentally and emotionally.
For our readers who may not know that invisible waves of energy are being emitted from our wireless devices, can you give us an explanation of what they are?
Technically, it’s referred to as Radio Frequency (RF) non-ionizing radiation. That’s a mouthful, I know. The energy travels in high frequency waves. Dr. George Carlo and Tech Wellness further define the type of energy from smartphones, cell phones and WiFi as Information Carrying Radio Waves. Many people use the term “EMF” because yes, RF non-ionizing radiation is part of the EMF spectrum. Others call it “EMR,” or electromagnetic radiation, which is a term we see quite a bit internationally. The point that I would like to make about all these terms is this important consideration: The particular wireless energy that we are concerned about is manmade (vs. naturally occurring). The Tech Wellness Guide to RF, EMF and electro-smog goes into a ton of detail and includes research explaining what exactly this “wireless energy” does.
After living with Electromagnetic Sensitivity for more than 20 years, you founded Tech Wellness to help educate readers about the dangers of wireless EMF and RF in tech, while empowering them to take action to reduce their exposure. How did you discover you suffered from ES? Were there specific symptoms you encountered, and if so, how did you attribute them to ES?
Since I held my first cellphone in my hand, I realized I could feel a tingling with intermittent energy zaps. I thought everyone else could, too. That uncomfortable feeling magnified when I put the cellphone to my ear, and often after a phone call that lasted only a few minutes, my ears would begin to ring. Since I had such discomfort using the technology, it was easy for me to avoid, but it sent me on a quest to try and figure out what the energy was, exactly, and why I was reacting the way I did.
I found an EMF detection device that many people still use today—the Tri-Field meter—that had settings to detect different types of EMF, magnetic, electric and microwave energy. When I used that microwave setting, I could see the energy coming from cellphones. That was step one: seeing and confirming that this energy was real.
Next, I started researching. Unfortunately, there weren’t many books on EMF at the time, and even fewer specifically addressing the types of RF non-ionizing radiation the cellphone was emitting. Along the way I met Dr. George Carlo, who wrote Cellphones: Invisible Hazards of The Wireless Age, the original book regarding the safety of cellphones. I explained to him how extraordinary it was that I could “feel” the energy; how it caused my ears to ring and how I got strange headaches when I was around someone (a.k.a. my husband) using it too much. He told me that this “power” I had might not be such a good thing, and that it signaled something called electromagnetic hyper-sensitivity. EHS was the only term for it back then. Now, people refer to the controllable and less severe symptoms I experience as ES or electro-sensitivity.
That’s such an incredible story. With such sensitivity, how do you manage to resist being fearful around technology?
We all react differently to electromagnetic fields. I have particular sensitivity to the higher radio frequency fields. My lifestyle—avoiding wireless energy, taking care of my body, feeding my mind what is good, true and beautiful—all help me to keep my symptoms at bay. However, my journey led me through explorations, consultations and research on all types of EMF sensitivity. My focus in sharing and creating awareness for others has been on wireless energy—not only because of my particular sensitivity to it, but also because the amount of wireless devices is growing at quite a clip and the energy is increasing exponentially.
I like that we can take steps to preventing it! Solutions to the “near-field” exposure, as it’s called, are within our reach. It’s important to me to not create fear around the technology that we no longer can—or want to—avoid completely. Personally, I believe fear, with no way out, can turn health and happiness into illness and depression and it’s important to stand strong against fear whilst pursuing good, achievable change.
What are your biggest concerns with our constant interaction with technology?
You said it. The big concern is constant interaction. Like Mom always said, “Everything in moderation, darling.” We need to approach our devices with awareness and respect. When it comes to our beautiful bodies, the wireless energy has been shown to have all kinds of health impacts: Anxiety, headaches, nausea, ringing in the ears, etc. (I cover symptoms in the Tech Wellness Guide.) We’ve also seen research, lots of it, connecting this energy to serious disease. Too much blue light from our screens is affecting our melatonin production and physiologically, our eyes. Tech Wellness promotes awareness and mindful interaction to prevent the emotional impacts of technology.
Screen addiction, internet addiction, isolation and depression are just some of outcomes of too much tech time. We’ve all just inhaled this super fun and super convenient technology without really knowing what could happen. I lovingly refer to smartphones the “Oreo cookies of Technology,” based on that university study several years ago that found that Oreo cookies light up the pleasure centers of rat’s brains more than cocaine does. That creamy combination of fat and sugar triggers addiction with ease—just like cocaine. As it turns out, something very similar happens in your brain when you’re sucked into the power of the hypnotic games or apps like Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat and even many shopping sites, which are programmed to keep you entranced.
And then there’s the privacy aspects of interacting with tech, which has been in the news a lot in the last couple of weeks. One really effective privacy protector? Resist the temptation to “Log On With Facebook” when you visit a website. Another is to continually erase cookies and clear your cache.
We live in a culture that communicates largely through texting. Is texting as potentially harmful as talking on our cellphones?
That’s a great question. Yes and no. No, but it’s better if you use a long stylus to text, keeping your fingers a good six inches from the phone where the energy is strongest. When you text, you mainly expose just your hands to the same wireless cellphone radiation that you would otherwise be directing to your head if you were talking. In this way, texting allows you to protect that most precious of organs—your brain—from the focused plume of cellphone radiation. The best case scenario is if you text while keeping WiFi and Bluetooth off; then you might say it’s potentially less harmful than holding the phone to your ear.
But the answer would be yes, texting is potentially as harmful (if not more) as talking if when you talked on your cell phone you took precautions the way I do: I use an air-tube anti-radiation headset that has a nice long cord, keeping the cellphone two to three feet away from my body. I keep WiFi and Bluetooth off. I carry my cellphone from a long strap, so I actually don’t have to touch it. I know it sounds complicated, but for me, I get so much less exposure this way. By now, I’m used to it, so it’s easy.
We love that Tech Wellness is all about achieving balance in our increasingly tech-obsessed world—not instilling fear around using technology. What are three things readers can do every day to balance their relationships with their devices while reducing the harmful effects of technology?
Just three? Well, okay. Here goes:
- Turn It Off. Wireless energy decreases with distance—and it’s ZERO when it’s off. If you don’t need WiFi, shut it off (with a switch so you don’t have to get close to where the energy is the strongest). Keep cellphones out of pockets, out of hands, not up against your body. If they are in a purse or backpack, put them in “airplane mode” or turn them off when they are not in use. When you do power on, stand a bit away as your device boots up, as lots of wireless energy flows during the power up/searching for connection phase. A heads up: The power density level is higher and there’s more resulting RF radiation when you have fewer bars, as the phone has to work harder for signal.
- Unplug Daily. A simple daily unplug is so empowering! You get to be in control and decide when you want to use your device. Consider that you’re not a prisoner to email, social media, chats or texts or anything else that phone seems to want from you. Choose to power off for a certain time period each day. This could be for 15 minutes or five hours. It’s up to you.
- Look Out for the Light. Be really aware of the digital light that emanates from your devices. Grab a pair of computer glasses that block the most harmful spectrum of blue light, or use orange glasses—which block all the digital blue light—beginning in the afternoon. Also, taking frequent breaks way from your screens—20 minutes on, two minutes off—really gives your eyes a much-needed break.
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