Intimate, Invisible Matters


by Katie Singer


About 200 years ago, we humans figured out how to generate, store and transmit electricity. After a Danish scientist discovered electromagnetism in 1819, electric inventions radically changed domestic life, created entertainment industries and allowed speedy international communication. The telegraph arrived in 1844, the telephone in 1875, and the first power plant in 1882. Radio became available in the 1890s. By 1904 you could buy an electric washing machine, and in 1913, a refrigerator.

In 1924, Rudolf Steiner noted that when “intimate matters of daily life” are energized by invisible man-made electricity, “life become(s) almost completely thoughtless.” (GA 327, p. 41) In Anthro-Tech News‘ 2016 issue, Paul Emberson reports that Steiner was also “deeply concerned about the harmful effects of the electromagnetic radiation (EMR) emitted by alternating current carried by overhead power lines.”

But most people were enamored with electronic inventions; and government agencies worked to protect technology. In 1934, the U.S. Congress created The Federal Communications Commission (FCC). By its regulation, manufacturers can sell products as long as they do not create “harmful interference” with existing radio or TV broadcasts or cellular or Internet services. Significantly, the FCC’s definition of “harmful interference” has never included biological harm.

Section 704 of the 1996 Telecommunications Act actually prohibits municipalities from denying permits to install cellular antennas based on health or environmental concerns. To determine whether or not a mobile device is safe, in the mid 1990s, engineers filled the head of a 220 pound mannequin with salty fluid, took its temperature, then gave it a cell phone for six minutes. Because this dummy’s temperature did not change by two degrees Celsius after those six minutes (call this a test of immediate, thermal effects), you can buy a cell phone.

We have nearly saturated our environment with man-made electromagnetic radiation. .Still, the FCC has never recognized the non-thermal effects of EMR exposure; chronic or combined exposure; nor exposure’s effects on pregnant women, infants, children, people with medical implants or wildlife. And yet, human organs, including our brains and hearts, function by electro-chemical signals. We depend on these signals to digest food, make decisions and know when to sleep. Even at rest, all of our cells have measurable voltage.

Peer reviewed research has demonstrated adverse biological effects of exposure to EMR emitted by mobile devices and the infrastructure that they require. These effects include single and double stranded DNA breaks, immune dysfunction, cognitive processing effects, stress protein synthesis in the brain, altered brain development, sleep and memory disturbances, ADHD, abnormal behavior, sperm dysfunction and brain tumors.

Screen-time exposure (different from EMR exposure) harms children’s brain development and can lead to addiction, eye problems and aggressive behavior.

Studies also indicate that land and sea animals as well as insects have an electrical sense. For example, bees are positively charged, and flowers are negatively charged. These charges help pollen stick to bees’ hair. Bees use cryptochrome–magnetically sensitive protein in their eyes–to sense the Earth’s electromagnetic fields and to navigate. Studies show that radiofrequency radiation (i.e. from cell towers) disrupts cryptochrome-based navigation.

Despite evidence of biological harm, our society continues to develop and use more e-technologies. Utilities have deployed millions of smart wireless, transmitting meters to track electricity use. Schools commonly give iPads and Chromebooks to children and even replace teachers with screens. The FCC’s 2016 Spectrum Frontiers Proceeding will allow the agency to lease millimeter wave frequencies for the Internet of Things (IoT), machine-to-machine communication. Other federal Acts (pending, at this writing), will allow telecoms to deploy cellular antennas on public right-of-ways without local permit. With the IoT, a chipped diaper can message your phone that your baby needs changing. A chipped pill bottle can message that it needs replenishing. Downloading a video will take less than ten seconds. Transportation, education, medical, household and entertainment systems (and everything else) will connect in the Cloud.

Already, the Internet is the largest thing humanity has built, and it demands massive resources. Manufacturing each wireless device requires chemically purified water, mining for conflict minerals, and more electricity than the device will use in its lifetime. In the U.S. alone, we discard more than 400,000 mobile phones per day. Factories manufacture more transmitters than farmers grow grains of wheat or rice. How will biodiversity, health and humanity itself change with these technologies? How do the IoT’s energy demands impact climate change?

We don’t know.

Unlike Steiner, most of us access man-made electric energies without questioning their safety or ecosystem impacts. Lack of federal regulation of electronics use requires us to create our own limits. This is exponentially harder now than it was even a generation ago. Here are some guidelines:

  1. Talk about these issues and ask questions: Could Wi-Fi, mobile devices, smart meters and/or a nearby cellular antenna be related to my insomnia, anxiety, gardening problems or _____? How can I minimize my use of electronics? What regulations exist to support local authority over cellular antennas, smart meters and tech use in schools?
  2. Protect your sleep. While you sleep, turn Wi-Fi off. Keep bedroom electronics unplugged. Replace electric alarm clocks with thrift-store wind-ups. Do not use a mobile device as an alarm clock. Keep mobiles and chargers out of bedrooms.
  3. Protect developing brains. Do not use mobile devices if you are pregnant, near a baby or child. Teach children to acclimate to wired devices and to keep mobile devices away from heads, hearts and genitals.
  4. Minimize children’s use of electronic devices until reading, writing and math are mastered on paper. Interactive screen-time (manipulating a screen with a mouse, keyboard or touch) is more hazardous to brain development than passive TV.
  5. Get hard-wired. Prefer a copper legacy landline with a corded telephone and wired web access. Avoid cordless phones and cell phones.
  6. If you must use a mobile device, keep airplane mode ON with WiFi and Bluetooth OFF. Use speakerphone. Keep tablets and laptops away from laps.
  7. Refuse digital, wireless transmitting smart meters.
  8. Don’t use mobiles in a car. In moving vehicles (metal boxes that trap EMR), mobile devices go to maximum power with each connection to a new antenna (about every mile).
  9. To save energy, upgrade less often. Download only via wired connection. Get informed about the energy and conflict minerals used to manufacture each device and to run data storage centers.
  10. Commit to learning about and reducing your electronic footprint. The average Westerner discards 66 pounds of e-waste annually. Becoming aware is the first step. Find references for this article at,,,,,,,


Learning Section 704 of the Telecom Act of 1996 shocked KATIE SINGER into researching the health and environmental effects of EMR exposure. A consultant with the EMRadiation Policy Institute, she posts her reports, including “Calming Behavior in Children with Autism and ADHD,” “Inviting Discussion About Safer Tech Use in Schools” and “E-lephants in Our Hands: How Electronics Impact Climate Change” at Her books include An Electronic Silent Spring, The Wholeness of a Broken Heart, The Garden of Fertility and Honoring Our Cycles. She still usually writes by hand.


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