The increasing use of electronic and electric devices such as televisions, computers, mobile devices, cell phones and recent 5G towers significantly elevated the exposure of our bodies to electromagnetic fields (EMG-EMFs).
Effects of EMF Exposure in our Daily Life
The health risks of constant EMF exposure has become an important topic for public health and safer environment. The history of non-natural sources of electromagnetic radiation and fields is relatively new and covers only the last hundred years. However, the sources of electromagnetic radiation, especially telecommunication systems (radio, television, internet, Wi-Fi and 5G) as well as electrical devices are getting utilized more and more in our daily lives, that non-stop EMFs exposure became unavoidable.
The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) classifies electromagnetic fields (EMFs) as ‘possibly carcinogenic’ to humans that might transform normal cells into cancer cells. Moreover, many studies show that exposure to EMFs disturbs brain functions, hormones, fertility and enzyme activity, depending on the frequency and duration of the exposure.
Effects of EMF Exposure on Melatonin Production
The crucial melatonin hormone is produced in pineal gland in the brain by circadian rhythm. Its daytime level goes almost zero and makes its peak in the middle of the night during the sleep. Melatonin plays a key role in the control of many processes like sleep, metabolism, reproduction and cognitive function. Additionally, melatonin is also involved in the regulation of immune system, cardiovascular health and cancer development.
The melatonin secretion by the pineal gland is particularly sensitive to electric, magnetic, and electromagnetic field signals. We are widely exposed to magnetic fields with a frequency of 50 Hz (in Europe) or 60 Hz (in North America) generated by the electrical devices around us. These dense electric and magnetic signals are sensed as light by the cells in the pineal gland and consequently, the melatonin production gets decreased. The decrease depends on the exposure time and frequency of EMFs. Since the exposure is almost non-stop in today’s environment, that may possibly lead to long-term adverse health effects.
Most of the studies on the effects of melatonin on humans have been conducted in the presence of EM fields, focusing on the effects of work place or residential exposures. Since the exposure duration and intensity of the signals have a very significant role in the adverse effects of EMFs on health, it is very difficult to evaluate long term exposure on humans with reliable studies.
Health Effects of Melatonin Suppression
Suppression of melatonin hormone leads to physiological disturbances such as sleep disorders, depression, stress, and cancers. Clinical studies on humans showed decrease of melatonin level with exposure to EMFs especially those of higher frequencies emitted from mobile devices.
Melatonin is also strong antioxidant, capable of reducing the harmful free radicals. The exposure of electric, magnetic, and electromagnetic fields disturb not only melatonin but also cortisol rhythms—two major hormones of the circadian system as well as on sleep.
The decreased melatonin metabolites in urine was observed in the workers, who were exposed to high frequency magnetic fields due to their work. Exposure to a 60 Hz magnetic field or bright light in home environment showed profoundly decreased pineal gland activity in women by one study. The level of melatonin production was lower in infants kept in incubators and rose when they were moved to a place free from electrical devices.
Research Studies on the Effects of EMF on Babies and Children
Reliable experimental studies also show cells and organs are more vulnerable to EMFs at their younger stage of life. Especially in the prenatal period, the embryo and the fetus are highly sensitive to any external factors. The effects of EMF exposure in the fetal period can vary, but can involve cognitive function, memory impairment, and DNA damage in neuronal tissue. Some researchers linked EMF exposure in prenatal stage to autistic spectrum disorders (ASDs).
Some experts have also reported the damaging effect on DNA molecule in EMF-exposed cells. Other studies have suggested no such damage in EMF-exposed cells. These conflicting findings may attribute to the differences in the apparatus used to generate electromagnetic fields, experimental design, exposure time, genetic endpoints, and biological materials such as cell lines and animal species, strain, and age etc.
As DNA damage is frequently a prerequisite for cancer disease, more serious studies should be conducted on the effect of EMF on genetic material.
Additional research is also necessary where it includes older populations. Research is also needed to evaluate of the interactions of electric, magnetic and electromagnetic fields in different frequency ranges to examine their effects on human beings.