Wireless and Health: Why I won’t make a Bluetooth ZENBand
I get asked ALL OF THE TIME why I don’t make a wireless or Bluetooth ZENBand option. I encourage folks to get the phone adapter (dongle) from Amazon or, if you are really serious about your wellness, hypnosis or meditative practice and want to minimize distraction completely, to get an Mp3 player. One person recently exclaimed, “What is this? The 1980s?” So let me explain:
At one point, I was going to make a Bluetooth ZENBand. It was incredibly affordable to make, and wires started to feel retro, even antiquated. But I was still interested in any potential health risks attributed to EMF radiation exposure. EMF stands for electro-magnetic field. It’s non-ionizing radiation, and how things like our cell phones, Wifi and Bluetooth operate. I began casually searching studies and contacting researchers so I could pick their brains. One doctor I came across was Dr. Joel Moskowitz, director of community health at the University of California, Berkeley. He didn’t mince words. He wrote me, “Wireless headphones are the opposite of wellness.”
I was a bit stunned, given the seemingly ubiquitous nature of wireless technology. I put the wireless production on hold and began to dig deeper. The tedious systematic literature review ensued!
Trying to make a health assessment on a “new” exposure is tricky. When a new tech product comes to market, no robust studies are required to prove health safety. It’s not like a drug that requires several levels of testing. A randomized controlled trial involving humans, the gold standard of evidence, would be unethical. Hence, we have to rely on animal studies and epidemiological data and analyze trends. Essentially, is the epidemiological data trending with the results of animal studies?
My search uncovered that 250 scientists and doctors from around the world had sent a petition to the World Health Organization warning about the potential health problems from wireless technology. The petition was signed prior to the rise of wireless headphones and earbuds, and mostly focused on cell phones. Cell phones emit more EMF radiation than Bluetooth, but my concern with Bluetooth was its proximity to the head and brain.
Still, that was one petition and I wasn’t convinced. Plus, everyone I talked to would call me a “Quack” for even expressing concern. I was the object of numerous eye-rolls. Clearly, if there were no warnings and wireless was everywhere, there couldn’t be any deleterious health effects. Right….RIGHT?!?
My next step was to contact some of the signers of the petition and talk to them. My hope was to have them on my Causes Or Cures podcast. Several agreed, and so far, two podcasts related to EMF exposure and health problems are posted. I plan on posting more.
The first person I interviewed on the topic of wireless and health was Dr. Fiorella Belpoggi. She is the head of research at the Ramazinni Institute in Italy and director of the Cesare Mal-toni Cancer Research Center. She has published over 100 peer-reviewed papers and has conducted the largest animal study to date on EMF exposure and cancer. Her study found that EMF exposure increased the risk of gliomas, a type of brain tumor and schwannomas, a type of heart and ear tumor. The results of her study were consistent with the results of another million-dollar study conducted by the U.S. Health and Human Services’ Department of Toxicology. Both studies showed an increase in the same type of rare tumors. ( The Dept of Toxicology also found a link to pheochromocytomas, tumors of the adrenal gland.) So, the two largest animal studies on EMF exposure and cancer showed consistent results. Dr. Belpoggi stated that there is no question that EMF radiation affects mammalian cells. When I asked her about potential mechanisms of action, given that EMF radiation was non-ionizing, she told me that the fact that it is non-ionizing is “nonsense” when studies clearly show it affects mammalian cells. To listen to her podcast, click here. I also wrote a separate blog post summarizing her points and recommendations for mitigating risk from exposure.
Next, I interviewed Dr. Anthony Miller, a trained medical doctor and Professor Emeritus at the University of Toronto’s Dall Lana School of Public Health. He is a longtime advisor to the World Health Organization and was the Senior Epidemiologist for the International Agency for Research on Cancer. He’s published numerous studies on the epidemiology of cancer and environmental causes of cancer, so I wanted to ask him about wireless and health. When I asked him to rate the evidence for potential harm from wireless technology, he told me it was very robust. He said that he expected an epidemic of brain tumors related to EMF exposure. I then asked him how it was possible to make such a strong statement against wireless technology, when it’s used everywhere and people are either listening with their wireless headphones or on their cell phones most of the day. He told me that tech and phone companies are extremely powerful enterprises with a lot of ad money. In short, money talks. On a promising note, he said that the World Health Organization will most likely reopen the analysis of EMF radiation and its current carcinogenic ( cancer-causing) ranking. You can listen to my podcast with Dr. Miller here.
I also interviewed Dr. David Carpenter via Skype audio, but sadly my recording didn’t record. Dr. Carpenter is a public health physician and director of the Institute for Health and the Environment, a collaborating center of the World Health Organization. He’s a professor at the University of Albany’s School of Public Health, where he previously served as Dean. Dr. Carpenter received his medical training at Harvard medical school, has over 400 peer-reviewed publications and wrote 6 books. He echoed what the other researchers/doctors told me: that there is significant evidence that EMF-radiation causes harm and the World Health Organization needs to address it. I remember him telling me that his daughter is a veterinarian and when she ran around seeing animals, she’d put her cell phone in her bra, because it was a convenient place to put it. He scolded her, told her to never do that, because he was worried about the increasing rates of breast cancer. I related to that story, because when I’m running around without a purse, etc., I’m always wondering where to stick my cell phone. It’s ended up in my sports bra a few times- but I’ll never do that again! Dr. Carpenter also said there is zero proof that any of the EMF shields/ protection devices now flooding the market truly work. That’s worth digesting, because a person might feel protected with a “shield” and not cut back on their use of EMF-emitting devices, when there’s no solid or repeat evidence to suggest they are even remotely effective.
Prior to these interviews and even my notion of creating a wireless ZENBand, I had interviewed Dr. Hugh Taylor, the chief of Ob/Gyn at Yale New Haven Hospital. He is the editor-in-chief of Reproductive Science and editor of Endocrinology. Dr. Taylor published a randomized controlled trial showing that cell phone exposure in pregnant mice led to mice that exhibited symptoms that would be classified as Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder ( ADHD). You’re probably saying to yourself, “But those are mice. And how in the world does one identify ADHD in mice?” Fair question, and I’m linking to the interview here. The most compelling finding of Taylor’s study is that he had actual objective evidence to support the ADHD observations. He and his team took pathological samples, or sections of the fetal mice brain, and analyzed them for differences. The pathological specimens between the fetal group exposed to EMF radiation were different than the pathological specimens of the group not exposed to radiation. That’s a compelling objective finding. Other researchers have documented cognitive and memory impairment in relation to in-utero EMF exposure, in addition to decreased fertility overall, and I plan on exploring these areas more in the future. I plan on exploring how EMF affects the microbiome, our memory and cognitive ability overtime.
I want to note that everyone I spoke to mentioned that the distance between the EMF-emitting device and one’s head/body is highly significant. If you reduce this distance, even by a small amount, you significantly reduce your risk of potential harm. Your exposure decreases by the square of the distance the device is from your body. In our tech-infested lives, this is good news. It means I can put my phone on speaker if I need to make a call, use wired headphones and keep all EMF-emitting devices off of my body.
The studies above are a mere sliver of the expanding body of evidence showing that EMF radiation can be hazardous to our health – That wireless and health are linked and impact each other. We should be even more concerned when we consider our increasing reliance on technology and the time we spend on wireless devices. We should be really concerned about exposure in vulnerable groups, such as children and pregnant people. In the spirit of the oath I took in medical school, “First Do No Harm,” we shouldn’t choose to do anything with the potential for great harm if it’s not necessary, and we should uphold the Precautionary Principle. For those unfamiliar with the Precautionary Principle, it’s this: “The principle that the introduction of a new product or process whose ultimate effects are disputed or unknown should be resisted.”
Not making a Bluetooth ZENBand is a horrible marketing decision for me, but it’s the one most consistent with my ethos as a doctor and proponent of public health and wellness. Just like I won’t fry my brain and walk around with two microwaves in my ears, I won’t wear Bluetooth or wireless headphones, so I won’t sell them to you. If I sold them to you, I’d be an awful hypocrite. When I use my ZENBand and listen to audiobooks or music for a prolonged period of time, I use an old Mp3 player. It’s a nice way to engage with the world around me and escape the distractions in my phone.
Finally, for the wireless and health risk dedicated doubters, remember the story of cigarettes. Cigarettes were immensely popular and mainstream for years and years. It took a very long time for the health risks of cigarettes to catch up with the popularity and profitability of smoking and the formidable power of the tobacco industry. Think about Roundup, the world’s most popular pesticide. These exposure stories usually follow a similar plot, but luckily for us, the Hippocratic Oath eventually prevails.
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