If you're thinking about getting a tablet for your little one this holiday season, you may want to think again. It's true: Children do love iPads and tablets. They're bright, easy to use, tactile, and fun. Schools are incorporating them into daily learning curricula. In just a few short years, tablets have already changed the way we think about education and the world.
But there's a question we should be asking: How safe are they? For years, people have been concerned that microwave electromagnetic fields (EMFs) emitted by cellphones and other sources are dangerous, possibly carcinogenic. And since tablets are basically enlarged phones, they might also pose a significant risk. With the rapid rise in devices' being brought into schools, homes, and public places, and the increase in exposure time, we need to take a hard look at the potential dangers.
Electromagnetic fields are forms of radiation produced by any electrically charged object. In other words, we are pretty much surrounded by these fields of radiation in today's modern world. More research needs to be done, but there is some early evidence EMFs can do harm, particularly wireless communication forms of radiation.
An animal study in the Journal of Neuro-Oncology suggested that radiation from cellphones can damage DNA in the brain. Another study, published in the International Journal of Basic and Applied Sciences, showed a heightened risk of DNA damage when cellphones are held near the head. A study published in Antioxidants and Redox Signaling found that people who reported long-term cellphone use had significantly higher markers of oxidative stress in saliva samples, compared to controls.
In 2011, the World Health Organization classified EMFs as potential carcinogens. Let's be clear, this does not mean EMFs can definitively cause cancer; it simply means the issue warrants further in-depth research. Since there are billions of wireless communications devices in the world, the sooner we determine their safety level, the sooner we can say what constitutes appropriate use.
But what about tablets? They are similar to cellphones, and every time a tablet refreshes a web page it emits wireless radiation signals. Looking at the numbers, iPads in Wi-Fi mode appear to produce more radiation than smartphones, even when not connected to a network. Because children often use iPads for long periods, usually close to or on their bodies, they may be getting a significant dose of this radiation. This is concerning because we have yet to completely clarify what constitutes a safe EMF level.
Nonethless, there is some anecdotal evidence that EMFs from tablet computers can have health consequences. For example, there are a number of accounts on tablet forums from people who've become dizzy or nauseous after using their iPad or tablet. Again, we must approach the issue with caution. People could be reacting to the EMFs, but their eyes could also be sensitive to the type of flickering light emitted from their screens.
However, from my clinical experience, I believe it's quite possible that some people are more sensitive to EMF radiation. There have been many accounts of patients experiencing migraines, fatigue, insomnia, and other symptoms from exposure to these fields.
Whether or not we are noticeably sensitive to EMFs, there are a number of ways to protect ourselves from radiation. The first line of defense is to adopt a diet high in antioxidant-rich foods. These foods and compounds help neutralize free radicals and inflammation that can damage DNA.
Emphasize fruits and vegetables in your daily diet, particularly brightly colored produce. The same compounds that give countless plant foods their vibrant hues also provide important plant-based nutritional protection. Rosemary is a particularly good source of antioxidants and compounds that protect against radiation. Sea buckthorn is an antioxidant-rich fruit that's available as a supplement, a form that also provides antioxidant protection against radiation. Medicinal mushrooms such as reishi can also help. Food-based antioxidant nutrients provide important protection, particularly vitamins A, C, D3, and E, as well as the trace mineral selenium. These protective nutrients and compounds help to reduce inflammation, support DNA integrity, maintain strong immunity, and detoxify the body.
In my practice, I've often noted that people who have trouble with EMFs also show sensitivity to heavy metals, molds, and other toxins because their detoxification capacities aren't as strong on a genetic level. For those with susceptibility to toxin overload (detectable in genetic tests such as MTHFR or CYP1A1), regular, gentle detoxification programs are essential. It's estimated that a significant percentage of the population has some form of genetic susceptibility that results in impaired detoxification capacities.
As part of a gentle comprehensive detox program, I recommend the clinically researched nutraceuticals modified citrus pectin (MCP) from citrus peels, and alginates from brown kelp. These specialized preparations are excellent at removing heavy metals, as well as radioactive isotopes and toxic chemicals. MCP also inhibits the inflammatory protein galectin-3, which has been linked to cancer, cardiovascular disease, chronic inflammation, and fibrosis of organs and tissues.
How we use tablets and other wireless communication devices affects our radiation exposure. I strongly recommend that everyone thoroughly read their iPad or tablet instructions, which describe where the Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and cellular antennae are located on the device. Try to keep these antennae directed away from you, and don't place the tablet directly on your body. Best practice: Limit use whenever possible.
There are also special protective cases that can help shield against EMF radiation. They may be worth investigating, particularly if children are using the device. (Rodale News has recommended the Pong case in the past.)
There's no doubt that iPads and other tablets are a revolutionary, game-changing technology that are only going to increase in availability. This also means their safety quotient isn't fully understood yet. Twenty years from now, we may find they pose no appreciable risk. We could also find the opposite. In my view, it's best to play it safe.
Isaac Eliaz, MD, is an integrative health pioneer and founder of the Amitabha Clinic & Healing Center in Santa Rosa, California