From cell phones and CrackBerries to iPhones and laptops, technology has become such an integral part of our daily lives, we wouldn't know how to live without it.
However, as convenient as these devices are, a new book argues they may take a not-well-known toll on our health. In "Zapped: Why Your Cell Phone Shouldn't Be Your Alarm Clock and 1,268 Ways to Outsmart the Hazards of Electronic Pollution
," Dr. Ann Louise Gittleman, author of the New York Times bestseller "Fat Flush Plan," as well as 30 other books on health and nutrition, explores the various ways our bodies are affected by "electronic pollution" -- and how to protect ourselves from these electromagnetic frequencies, or EMFs.
We had the chance to talk to Dr. Gittleman and find out how her own health scare inspired the book, and, according to her research, how your laptop may prevent you from having kids, and what's in asparagus that can protect you from evil EMFs.
Lemondrop: Where did the idea for this book come from?
Dr. Ann Louise Gittleman:
It really started when I began to see some common symptoms among many of my clients who were very plugged in. I started seeing a litany of common symptoms like major headaches, light sensitivity, fatigue, skin problems, dizziness and a major lack of energy, among people who were doing everything right. And that concerned me. When I started evaluating their lifestyles, the one thing I noted they all had in common is that they were all consistently using some sort of digital device. They were either on a wireless computer very frequently, living on their cell phones or were even working from their home office with a mobile phone.
Now, the real clincher was several years ago. I was diagnosed with a parotid tumor, which was benign. And I came to realize through my reading that it was associated with really heavy cell phone usage
. So, to see what was going on with real-life clients and what was going on with this unusual situation with myself, that made me think that there was something going on with the environment. And lo and behold, I read and consumed everything I could at the time and figured out that we were all being zapped.
When you talk about being "zapped," you don't just mean anything that's connected to the Internet, but also the everyday appliances we use, right?
What I learned is that it's not only the latest technology, but there are some frightening links to the exposure of the fields that are coming from electronics -- whether that's at work or it's your refrigerator or even that microwave oven that so many of us come to depend upon. So it really has to do with everything electrical.
And when Thomas Edison invented the light bulb, it was the beginning to a whole new Pandora's box of challenges that we had never faced before. That's the reason I talk about what we're exposed to when we were at our grandmother's houses in the beginning of the book: If you take a look at what we're exposed to [now] ... we have over 200 times more EMFs and live in a sea of man-made frequencies and wavelengths that we've never been exposed to before. So this is a brand-new phenomenon, and I think we're moving into uncharted territory.
The whole idea that cell phones can cause tumors and cancer has been floated before, yet people have seemed to just ignore it. Why do you think we turn a blind eye to the potential dangers?
I think that convenience of using cell phones and microwaves overshadows everything else, and we move so quickly during our days that we're just conscious of the fact that these elements are electrical, and not that they're exposing us to these unseen pollutants. You can't see or smell the electrical pollution, but you're feeling the effects. But because they've become so much a part of life -- and we've got such an active telecommunications industry -- we're just concerned about convenience. No one is connecting the dots and saying, "Wow, I've been tired and I can't sleep. I'm taking more anti-depressants." And it's really all about convenience. And I think we're too busy to pay attention, and it is an inconvenient truth. People just don't want to look at it.
How likely is it that someone will get a brain tumor from their cell phones?
What we've seen is that they're heavy-duty users of their cell phones. Normally cancer may take up to 40 years to develop, so it's a slow-growing thing. And the fact that so many users are developing brain cancer after 10 years shows that something is going on because of the frequency of use and the severity of use. So it's becoming much more frequent. Everybody knows at least three or four people with some sort of cancer, whether it's a brain tumor or a parotid gland tumor or an auditory gland tumor. But what really gets me concerned is that a lot of the cell phones are being advertised to kids who want something really fancy with some sort of cartoon character or some ringtone. And I think it's the children who are growing up with the technology and the cell phones and smartphones
and so on that really are at much more risk than even the adults.
You mention a study that finds men who carry cell phones in their pockets have a lower sperm count. Where do you suggest they keep their cell phones?
If you have to carry your cell phone on your person, then make sure that the keypad is facing inward -- that somehow can deflect some of the radiation. And I think it's important to just use the cell phone when you need it for emergency use or as much as possible use a special ear-tube headset
so you're not touching the cell phone or it's not up to your head. I'm not a believer in wired or even wireless headsets.
What about Bluetooth?
According to researchers, it's not safe either. The only thing that is safe is this plastic ear-tube earpiece, which reduces radiation to the brain.
What are some other tips that you can give on how to use our cell phones safely?
You don't want to keep a cell phone or any PDA unit directly against the body, especially when it's turned on. It's really better to not touch it at all. And it's just better to send text messages or connect to the internet, as opposed to talking [on the phone]. Put yourself on speaker all the time, and don't use your cell phone in the car or on the train or in a plane: Those are probably the most dangerous places because you're in a metal tube, which reflects and magnifies the radiation. It's very important that it's fully charged. If it isn't, you're amping up the radiation when you've got lower than those three bars on the cell phone itself.
What's the most common thing that women do to put us at risk of being exposed to ultra-high levels of EMFs?
They're tied to their wireless computers, and they put them on their laps
. The laptops are emitting radiation into their reproductive organs. So it's really keeping your wireless phone off of your lap, too. Your body is a terrific conductor of any type of radiation -- microwaves, radio frequencies, etc. And the important thing is that keep it away from your body. If you want to get pregnant, you should use your cell phone as little as possible, or certainly not put it right next to your ear because there are studies that show that mothers who used their cell phones a lot were more likely to have children who were hyperactive and have behavioral problems
One more thing for women to note is that really heavy cell phone use has been linked to miscarriages and birth defects
. And one more thing that is interesting that a study reported that women who have autistic children were found to have more electrical pollution in their bedrooms. So it's important to "clean up" your bedroom like moving around things or shutting off the circuit breakers at night.
So many people work in front of a computer (especially laptops), which you point out is actually a hazard to our health. Since many of us can't avoid being on the computer for hours on end because of work, what can we do to shield ourselves from too much toxicity?
In reference to the computer, you should turn it off when it's not in use. And if you have a wireless router, you make sure to turn it off at night. You take frequent breaks where you go outside and put your feet in the earth, the bare earth, which will ground you and act like a kind of insulation to the electromagnetics you're getting from your computer. And if possible, get a desktop computer because it doesn't emanate as many electromagnetic frequencies as wireless does.
When at home, you should also get an old-fashioned corded phone that isn't a Digital Enhanced Cordless Telecommunication (DECT) phone
because DECT phones' bay stations are radiating 24/7 whether the phone is in use or it is not in use. These phone are the most toxic things in your house.
There's a list of superfoods and seasonings that you say will equip our bodies with the protection from EMFs. What's in these foods that make them great for us? And what are the ones people should eat daily?
A couple of blueberries a day will keep the EMFs away. Blueberries are high in antioxidants that are very important for us. Asparagus is also high in glutathione, which is very, very important in protecting against EMF exposure and protecting us from the free radical damage to ourselves. And then there's extra virgin olive oil, which people use all the time. It's very important because it contains potent antioxidants that boost the glutathione which protects you from free radicals and cellular damage.
Emily Tan is a freelance writer and photographer who frequently contributes to Lemondrop including the daily 'Memba Them?. Although she's completely attached to her BlackBerry, she no longer puts her notebook computer on her lap.