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WiFi May be the New Cigarettes

a man drove his car into this pond nine years ago and it was hidden in plain sight ever since

A man drove his car into that pond next to a busy downtown road nine years ago.

Last fall, someone finally noticed his car.

He was still in it.

Now every time I walk or drive by that pond (which is daily since it’s at the end of my street!) I marvel at how many times I looked right down at it and never in a million years would have guessed that an entire vehicle was submerged there.

Sometimes, we can’t see what’s right in front of us, especially if we don’t know where to look or what we’re looking for.

Do You Think Smoking is Dumb?

WiFi may be the next cigarettes

The doctor who delivered my husband was smoking a cigarette at the time.

Welcome to the world, little guy!

If that made you cringe like it does me, think how much the world has changed since then. How much norms and knowledge have changed.

We love the old Little Miss and Little Mr. books like the one containing the page shown above. When I read that one in particular to my third graders, which described the bird as clever, they all called the author’s bull:

How can he say that bird is clever and show him smoking a cigar? That’s totally not smart at all…

Touché. Good point, O wise youngsters.

Isn’t it amazing how in a few short decades (copyright of the book was 1976 and 82 and this happened in 2004) the norms can shift so radically? In the 70s and 80s, people really didn’t understand how harmful smoking was. And I’m sure as studies began to point to what is now obvious to us, people resisted. They disagreed.

They remained stuck in their habits because they couldn’t see it causing harm.

I worry that WiFi will be that way someday.

EM Fs are the New Cigarettes

Andrea Fabry of It Takes Time and I first started talking EMFs last summer and she wrote this fabulous guest post about WiFi in schools and its impact on children. I thought and thought about that post, but I never did anything about it in the schools.

I did make some tweaks at home, and I began to invent some new habits that would reduce my own family’s exposure to electromagnetic fields. But I wanted to know more, and Andrea and I started chatting again. When I asked her to meet me for an interview to share with you all, she said:

I believe this is the elephant in the room when it comes to our health and we are playing with fire with our kids. I am beyond passionate about this and am grateful you took the chance to address the topic.

And with that, here’s our interview:

If you can’t view the video above, click here to see it on YouTube.

Quick Summary

I completely understand that life is busy and that you may not have the time at this exact moment to watch the full video (we kept it short – only 27 minutes!). So if you’ve only got a few minutes, here are the things you’re going to want to check out.

1:55 – What “EMF” stands for and what it does.

2:55 – How EMFs are different from X-rays and an interesting tidbit about alternating currents.

4:31 – Do experts think EMFs may hurt our bodies? Andrea references this report by the BioInitiative. She also describes some of the discussed potential carcinogenic impact highlighted in the report.

Note: updated after a very helpful comment!

The World Health Organization classifies EMFs as a class 2B carcinogen. From the report referenced off the WHO website: “a category used when a causal association is considered credible, but when chance, bias or confounding cannot be ruled out with reasonable confidence.” In other words, the statistics of it aren’t conclusive — but there is some evidence of causation.

Philosophically-speaking, if a scientist comes up with a new food product [like an artificial sweetener], I’m not going to rush out and try to put it in my mouth just because it hasn’t caused any problems in the three months it’s been on the market. There hasn’t been enough time to prove that it’s safe. So if we look at EMFs through the same lens, it’s worth taking some little baby steps to help protect ourselves. (Hear the discussion at 7:44)

8:03 – How distance and intensity of EMFs can make a difference.

9:36 – You won’t believe her describe her experience with her meter as she ran home tests!!!

10:07 – Andrea tells us about something crazy that you’ll find in the fine print of your phone’s owner manual.

12:18 – A recommendation for women on where to carry your phone.

13:55 – Time to play a little Devil’s Advocate and ask the question we’re all wondering. What good will it do for me to turn off my phone’s WiFi because I’m swimming in a sea of waves from my neighbors, my coworkers, my internet router running in the background… So will any of this really make a difference? Check out Andrea’s response… and the results she found on her meter just by turning ONE thing off.

An Easy Way to Reduce Your Kids’ Exposure to EMFs

16:57 Don’t we all want to reduce our kids’ exposure to EMFs? Put tablet devices on airplane mode when they use them. Turn off the WiFi, Bluetooth, and other data. Andrea pulls out her meter and does a live screen test – and you can see the difference between the iPad signal being on and off. She shows the difference on the meter in real time!! (*Note: The unit of measurement on the meter is mW/m2. While there is much debate about safety limits, the BioIniative 2012 recommends a 0.03  mW/m2 upper threshold for safety, well below the levels we see when the iPad is on.)

See a real-time EMF monitoring test! Scrub to 16:57 and see the live results!!

19:53 – Science can sometimes get things wrong. It wasn’t that long ago that people smoked in hospitals, in cars, around their kids – and it was encouraged as a healthy habit. Now we know so much more about the risks involved. What we will say in thirty years about our WiFi exposure? Will we just look back and wince at what we’re doing now?

20:58 – Andrea talks about the VERY FIRST change she made and how to turn off your router without having to flip any manual switches (or having to remember to do it).

22:01 – WiFi, Bluetooth, Cellular… which ones do I need to turn off?

23:56 – If you’ve only got three minutes, these are the three to listen to. Get a list of practical steps you can do RIGHT NOW to limit your EMF exposure without spending a penny.

  1. Getting phone farther away from you when using it (speaker phone)
  2. Not carrying the phone on your body, but putting it in your purse or on your counter.
  3. Get the phone out of your bedroom at night.
  4. Turn router off at night.
  5. Turn off WiFi, Data, and Blue Tooth on your devices when not in use.
Do This One Thing

24:31 – This is the ONE change that can make the biggest difference. If you want to take a baby step in reducing your EMF exposure, you can do this. Turn your router off at night. Put it on a timer so it’s off between the hours of midnight and 5am (because as I learned from my Sleep Series, you shouldn’t be on your blue-screen devices during that time anyway). And if you don’t believe Andrea that turning off the router can make a difference in your EMF exposure, buy your own meter here (or search for the same brand, updated version) and begin testing your own house.

EMF Action Plan

Robyn over at Green Smoothie Girl has prepared an EMF Action Plan with 10 tips to decrease your family’s EMF exposure. She shares how to measure the EMF in your home, and then stop it from impacting your family’s health, mood, and focus.

Employing these tips will literally “recharge your battery!” and protect your children’s sensitive, developing brains.

Grab your free EMF Action Plan, and check off all the “easy, free, and really expensive” items in a day or two.

Is WiFi Really All That Bad?

Maybe. Possibly not. But I really do prefer to err on the side of caution. And major organizations are beginning to come forward with research and information:

  • The World Health Organization classified radiofrequency electromagnetic fields as possibly carcinogenic to humans (Group 2B) in 2011.
  • Martha Herbert is an Assistant Professor of Neurology at Harvard Medical School, as well as a Pediatric Neurologist. Her research suggests a profound connection between wireless radiation and neurological issues.
  • See more sources and a video of a Cornet meter spiking in a public high school here.

There are enough things in the world to worry about most days, so I’m trying not to get all stressed out over this. But I kind of see carcinogens flashing out from cell phones and tablets when kids pick them up, and I want to know more.

RELATED: Why You Should Sanitize Your Cell Phone

My Wireless is Off on my Phone as Much as Possible

A lot of folks avoid having their wireless on because it’s always searching while they’re traveling and burns down the battery. Me? I put my phone in airplane mode so I can avoid EMFs, for better or for worse. It’s an easy enough thing to do, and it really may make a difference. More on that in my post about my Republic Wireless phone…most phones should just turn off WiFi and cellular data, but my phone won’t allow that right now which is dumb…

Just because I can’t see what happening doesn’t mean that it’s not real, and as much as I’d like to think the Internet age has brought us nothing but sunny days and a walk in the park by a pond…I know there might be something startling hiding just beneath the surface.

And thirty years from now, I want to say I was one of the smart ones.

Do you do anything to protect from EMFs? Do you allow children to use mobile devices with the WiFi on?

Read more about EMFs:

Unless otherwise credited, photos are owned by the author or used with a license from Canva or Deposit Photos.

17 thoughts on “WiFi May be the New Cigarettes”

  1. Becca @ The Earthling's Handbook

    I appreciate the information from Ryan and Amy! I think wifi and cellular signals are worth studying carefully, but I’m not yet convinced that they’re very harmful.

    My personal approach has been to have no cell phone and to leave my iPad at home most of the time; I take it on most overnight trips but don’t have it right next to me unless I’m using it. I will admit that I rarely remember to put it in airplane mode except when I’m taking it out of the house–it’s so convenient to be able to get online instantly.

    My 11-year-old has an iPod Touch that he’s allowed to take to school and so forth (as long as he’s using it appropriately) and he not only puts it in airplane mode when leaving a wifi zone but also powers it down completely when he’s done using it. We also have a rule that when screen-time ends at 6pm, he has to put it on the desk next to the computer–before that rule, he was often keeping it in his pants pocket all the time, and I didn’t like the idea of keeping it next to his body for no reason, just in case it is harmful to him but also because of the possibility of damaging the device when jumping around playing….

    1. Jill,
      Airplane mode is just the quickest way for me to turn off both wireless and cell data. BUT my phone is odd and different – more on that in the next post. For most people it would be better to just turn off wireless and cell data when not using it. For tablets that our kids are using, airplane mode ensures that no signals are going out from the device. 🙂 Katie

  2. Wait…what? As an IT professional, this boggles my mind.

    Blind tests show no correlation between so-called EMF/Wi-Fi sensitivity and any known medical condition. Placebos have more of an effect on subjects than any exposure. Wi-fi is non-ionizing radiation, which is distinct from ionizing radiation (i.e. cosmic rays, x-rays) which can contribute to cancer.

    In order to reach a level of electromagnetic radiation from Wi-fi that has any kind of effect, one would have to lay their head directly on a modem for over a week – straight, not intermittently. That’s the modem – the device that actually transmits those radio waves throughout your home or place of business. Keep in mind that anywhere you can receive Wi-fi – a coffeeshop, a church, the middle of your town – you are impacted by this radiation.

    If you’re concerned about the WHO report, keep in mind that coffee also falls into Group 2B, along with pickled vegetables, magenta dyes, gasoline fumes, and the carpentry profession.

    At the very least, there is convincing evidence to counter Prof. Herber’s claims. While yes, we should be careful, I don’t see anyone ranting about the dangers of coffee. As someone who studies and works with these technologies for a living, I appreciate the discussion…but recommend that we all research both sides of the issue to put it into perspective.

    1. Hi Amy,
      Thanks so much for ringing in! I appreciate learning more, and I just updated the post with info about class 2B carcinogens per another helpful commenter. I feel pretty safe around pickled vegetables (although I bet if they’re done poorly they could cause harm!!) but magenta dye and gasoline fumes…if EMFs are in that category, they can still be suspect. And maybe someday coffee will be horrid for us as well! Our information is so constantly changing that I do feel it’s good to be skeptical of “the new.”

      I’d love to hear more about the research on both sides – are there some studies you can point me to about the evidence to counter Prof. Herber’s claims? I do understand the non-ionizing radiation is different from X-rays and the like, but my bottom line is this: We can’t prove it to BE safe, so I want to be cautious of what we don’t yet understand, especially when there is some evidence in the direction of “carcinogenic” or other issues. And I asked Andrea about being ‘bathed’ in wifi from homes, coffee shops, etc., and her testing with the Cornet meter has shown that levels are the HIGHEST when in close proximity to a receiving (or emitting) source. So if your phone is on you with wifi on, the EMFs are stronger right there as compared to just being in range of a router. It’s all so…new. I wish I did understand more and would love to hear anything you can share as an IT professional. Thanks so much! Katie

  3. Any ideas of what a husband can use when he has to have his phone on him all day? Are there any recommended blocking things that anyone knows that actually works?

    1. Janette,
      There are a number of products out there that are supposed to block, reduce, or neutralize the EMFs. Whether they “work” – that will take some digging. I’ve just been introduced to one that I’m looking into and will update here when I know more. If your husband can have his phone on his person but just “available” by call or text and only check email at dedicated times, that would make a huge difference (in other words, turn his wifi and data plan off when he’s not actively using them). If a boss requires that emails are answered within minutes, that’s different. If he’s at a computer, he could turn the cell data off. If he’s stationary and needs his phone near him, having it on a surface instead of a pocket is another improvement. This is all so new – that we’re really all making it up as we go along to a certain extent! But if something like taking a phone out a pocket and setting it on a table 3 feet away could make a difference, and it doesn’t impact my life or my work efficiency much, that’s the kind of baby step “insurance” I like to take. Hope that helps!! 🙂 Katie

  4. Aaron Stafford

    My wife just sent me this article. While I do believe that it is better to be safe than sorry, I would like to know the differences between wifi and cellular data and their harmful effects. All of this talk is about “wifi” and in most cases both wifi and cellular seem to be clumped together into the same designation. I would assume that a cellular data connection would be stronger (longer distance to connect) and more harmful than wifi (which has a limited range). My wife is so concerned about the effects of “wifi” that she is turning off her connection to our wifi network and instead using the cellular data connection, which she thinks is safer (as she burns through our data plan at the rate of 15gigs per month). So my question is this….Does cellular data use put off more emfs vs wifi?

    1. Aaron,
      I’ve been asking Andrea the same question – and I am fairly certain there is no difference. Your device is sending out the alternating signals one way or the other – or both! And your proximity to those is the potential problem. So using cell data over wifi is not the answer. Having both off when not in use at all is a possible protection, as is keeping your phone farther away from your head when in use and farther away from your person if data is on and not in use. When I asked Andrea this exact question, here was her answer:

      “Airplane mode is the only way to keep it from pulsing constantly. Distance is your friend with this, so if you want to keep it “on” away from your desk that would be preferred.”

      I’m considering getting my own Cornet meter to measure it further and will add more posts as I gain more knowledge! Hope that helps! 🙂 Katie

  5. My wife is urging me to use restraint in my response, so I’ll do my best.

    I’ll give you a little background to myself. I’m currently a graduate student in Medical Physics at a Big Ten University. I’m a little insulted that you subject-matter expert makes the claim that “most scientists would have a hard time explaining it.” I would have a hard time finding any one of my colleagues that doesn’t have an understanding of electromagnetic radiation and its interaction with matter.

    The sources on this subject are flimsy at best. Claiming that the WHO classifies non-ionizing radiation as a Class 2B carcinogen without specifying what a Class 2B carcinogen is a disservice to your audience. From the report referenced off the WHO website ( : “a category used when a causal association is considered credible, but when chance, bias or confounding cannot be ruled out with reasonable confidence.” In other words, the statistics of it aren’t conclusive in either direction.

    Fun fact: Did you also know that coffee and pickled vegetables are also classified as Class 2B carcinogens?

    Throwing random numbers out off of a meter without stating what the units are is completely irrelevant. I can only infer based off of the product description what the units might have possibly been. It would appear as though it displays magnetic field strength in mG (milligauss) and uT (microtesla). The number that was flashed was 14. 10 mG = 1 uT, so at most it was what, 14 uT? Note that I have to assume that you were measuring magnetic field strength since the one paper referenced (H. Lai, N. Singh) discussing double strand breaks used 2 hours of continuous exposure to magnetic field strengths of 0.1-0.5 mT. That’s over a hundred times more than was displayed on your meter, and your meter didn’t read that value continuously. If you were reading RF values in mW/m^2 or V/m or dBm, those aren’t magnetic field strengths and are not mentioned in the paper cited so claiming they induce DNA strand breaks is a bit if a jump. Numbers without units are frequently meaningless.

    I’ll give you credit for attempting to explain this all in layman’s terms, but to do so without the use of an expert in the field leaves you well short of the mark, in my opinion. I’ll even give you credit for at least allowing for the possibility that this research is wrong. However, I think a more careful, detailed assessment is warranted by those interested. Is non-ionizing radiation potentially dangerous? Absolutely. I don’t recommend pointing a laser in your eye, for example. If you want to err on the side of caution and reduce your exposure to various frequencies used in wireless communication, good for you. I’ll even address a concern you raised about being exposed to your neighbors wifi and cellphone towers — build a Faraday cage. However, I can’t help but feel as though the overall tone of the conversation lends itself to more fear-inducing for the uninformed than to information conveyance, which I suspect was your initial goal.

    Very Respectfully,


    1. Ryan,
      Tell your wife you did great. 😉 Thanks for giving me some credit – I am an intelligent person BUT I’ll be the first to say that I’m definitely not a scientist. I’d love to work to understand this issue better. The info here (in text of description and short video) shows all of the units you mentioned, depending on what setting the Cornet meter is on. So…I have some learning to do! Would you say that the mHz and mV/m measurements are irrelevant completely or just not applicable to the paper cited about DNA?

      I’ve updated the post with the class 2B carcinogen info and link, thank you very much. I did not understand the classes at all and should have done due diligence on that one! At least coffee and pickled vegetables have been around for hundreds or thousands of years – my skepticism meter goes on high power with things that have only been around decades or less, because there’s so much we don’t understand and it’s impossible to “prove” them safe.

      If you’d be willing to help me convey information better, I’d love to talk with you more – either as an “expert,” as a layman with a medical/science background who might be able to explain more about EMFs in layman’s terms, or if you have any people at the university you could put me in contact with.

      Thanks for your grace and your information! Both are much appreciated! Katie

      PS – now I need to hope you’re at the RIGHT Big 10 U…then we can remain on good terms. 😉

  6. Hi Katie,
    Great interview with Andrea! I follow her blog and am thankful for all her research and information! I am also grateful that you have addressed the EMF exposure issue! I would love to see some follow up in this area especially since it is now in practically every home and school in America. I too was very overwhelmed with the lack knowledge of potential long term effects when I first began researching this area of concern. I started to slowly get ringing in my years beginning about 3 years ago and finally just recently connected the dots and truly believe that it is from my heavy IPad use which I started using constantly for the last 3 years. I also developed sleeping and attention issues. I don’t use my Ipad anymore and now turn off my router every night. I have done tons of research on EMF protection and it is just so hard to know what works and what doesn’t. I do believe that turning off your router is the simplest things to do and it just makes sense! I do sleep better and hoping my other issues go away soon.
    If you get the opportunity to interview Lloyd Burrell from Electric Sense, he would be a great source of information.
    Jean Gallick from EarthCalm would also be a great interview! I am currently trying her EMF home protection system. This is a totally different approach but really makes sense to me.
    I am also trying Shungite as another form of EMF protection. The book called Shungite by Regina Martino is very fascinating!

    Lastly, Smart Meters are being installed slowly but surely in homes and schools. As Andrea said, “why would you want your microwave on 24/7?” That is exactly what a Smart Meter will do! There are reports all over the internet of people who have become extremely ill when a Smart Meter was installed on their home. If you own your home you can opt out which is what I did. I also put a lock on my Analog meter just in case! 🙂

    I have seen the docu-series, The Truth about Cancer and it is excellent!

    Keep up the good work!

    P.S. Sorry this is so long! If you are interested, I would be happy to follow up with you on my EMF research.


    1. Thanks, Lynn, those are great recommendations for interviews! I was so upset when our Smart Meter was installed far before it was supposed to be BUT it’s one that only makes one “call” a night, so it’s not on all the time (thank goodness). I’ve decided to live with it but I’m wary.

      If you find out anything interesting in your research, I’d love to hear – and I sure hope your tinnitus goes away! 🙂 Katie

    2. Lynn,

      Thank you for mentioning EarthCalm. Since reading your post I have been reading their site and have also ordered the home system. I have at least one daughter who is sensitive to EMF’s and our smart meter.


  7. This is so good, Katie. We’ve also tried to be wary of the EMFs put out by cordless phones, cellphone towers, electric blankets and DECT baby monitors (baby monitors!). We are “old school” at home, and use corded phones for the landline instead of wireless ones. We have been looking for a new house for a while, and one of the first searches I do on any property of interest is on . There are quite a few we have decided not to look at because they were too close to a tower. It appalls me that many schools in our area seem to be padding their budgets by allowing the installation of cellphone towers on their properties! That’s definitely like the doctor in the delivery room smoking a cigarette — except maybe worse.

      1. you might be interested in this; Fun fact a microwave works by using incredibly powerful emf’s; This in itself is not a bad thing though. In addition the world has had emf’s for a very long time, it’s how birds know where to migrate.
        Source ~ I’m an engineer.
        P.s. I really enjoy your site so far; lot’s of different viewpoints and you’re willing to admit where you’ve gone wrong! definitely coming back for more.

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