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When you first hear that your home WiFi router can cause health problems for you and your family, it may seem a little alarmist and a bit unbelievable. After all, if there was some health risk, WiFi routers would not be sold to the public, right?
However, the information available from EMF studies of WiFi exposure often seems contradictory with some studies reporting adverse effects and other studies demonstrating that WiFi is benign. Perhaps the router itself is not a great EMF contributor, but we do not live in a giant Faraday cage.
Other environmental sources of EMF constantly bombard us. It is much the same way as we see with carcinogens and real-world studies.
Some substances may seem relatively harmless and pose a low cancer risk (unless you eat a few boxcars of it), but that substance is not the only chemical in your environment. Most studies of carcinogens fail to consider common combinations of chemical exposures.
When real-world (called epidemiological studies) data is collected, cancer rates are often greater than one would suspect noting the carcinogenic potential of all the individual substances in the study environment. Much of the same idea applies to WiFi EMF emissions, in that they are not the only source of EMF in your environment but are typically studied as a separate exposure factor, not necessarily in concert with other common environmental EMF sources.
Therefore, reducing your exposure to WiFi EMF can make meaningful contributions towards better health for you and your family. It is the same idea as people choosing not to smoke and add that level of cellular stress to their bodies, despite being exposed to a host of other environmental carcinogens.
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- EMF in Your Environment
- What is EMF?
- Health Risks of Leaving Your Router On
- Reducing your WiFi Exposure
EMF in Your Environment
Before we proceed to talk about EMF emissions from WiFi router sources, it is very instrumental to this discussion to examine the breadth of EMF exposures typically encountered by people. These sources cover a broad range of electromagnetic frequencies and energy intensities, and individual rates of exposure are highly situation-dependent.
Being aware of what EMF sources lie in your immediate environment where you spend most of your time is important for a variety of reasons such as your choice to stay where you reside, whether to invest in EMF shielding materials, or whether to take grassroots public action to change the situation.
What is EMF?
Electromagnetic radiation consists of photons of differing wavelengths, frequencies, and emitted energy intensities. The wavelength of electromagnetic energy you receive has everything to do with whether radiation exposure is harmful or harmless.
Photons are the same fundamental particles you experience coming from a lamp or flashlight. Despite seeming rather benign, there are photons and there are photons. You intuitively know this fact since putting your face in a flashlight beam does not cause you any discomfort apart from your eyes adjusting to the intensity of the light.
However, if you were able to operate your microwave oven with the door open and you placed your hand inside, which will not occur unless the safety lock is broken, you would quickly feel a tingling and burning sensation as the pain neurons in your hand are stimulated. This is the result of high energy photons in the microwave band being absorbed into the tissues of your body and stimulating your pain receptors to notify you of tissue damage.
As you can see, not all photons are alike. Dangers from electromagnetic radiation are all based on photon wavelength, frequency, and energy intensity. Even standing in front of an arc lamp spotlight, which emits visible and infrared photons, will give you a nasty burn.
Studies of WiFi on Humans and Animals (just a few)
To be blunt, there is a lot of data characterizing chronic radiofrequency exposure from consumer electronics such as WiFi, Bluetooth, cell phones, etc. as very deleterious to human health, despite the industry claims to the contrary and the often-ambivalent positions of governmental regulatory agencies.
Here we will highlight a few studies and gloss over the general conclusions of the studies, but note that there is plenty of meat in this burger. We are just giving you the appetizer.
A recent meta-analysis of 23 epidemiology studies (5 with humans, 3 with mice, and 15 with rats) conducted by Jaffar and colleagues (Jaffar et al.  Tohoku J Exp Med 248:169-179) compiled results from 2.4 GHz WiFi exposure studies and reported significant health effects on reproduction. Reductions were found in testosterone titer, increased evidence of cellular apoptosis (cell death), DNA base modifications, and ultrastructural changes in testicular tissue.
In another recent and thorough review by Miller and colleagues (Miller et al.  Front Public Health 7:233), which included re-reporting the 2011 findings of the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), significant health effects of radiofrequency radiation (EMF) were found on examination of a breadth of field and laboratory studies. Studies on rodents exposed to EMF reported increased gliomas in the nervous system (glial cell tumors, benign and cancerous).
Studies of children using cellular phones indicated that children are exposed to 10x the radiation from cell phone use than that of adult users, mainly due to the thinner profile of juvenile cranial bones.
Further, reproductive effects were found in studies of men who typically carry their phones in their pants pockets. Effects on sperm morphology reduced sperm count, and sperm mitochondrial DNA damage was notable in men who use smartphones and carry them in a typical manner.
The sum conclusions in this work were that the adverse health effects of chronic WiFi exposure are grossly underestimated and, given enough time, this may become considered a major health threat.
A paper by Marin Pall basically says it all as far as radiofrequency radiation goes: “Wi-Fi is an important threat to human health” (Pall ML  Environ Res 164:405-416). After surveying epidemiology studies of humans exposed to different EMF spectra, he concluded that among all the reported effects, seven were consistent across all the studies and likely represent real phenomena, the consequences of which are negative impacts on human health.
These effects include accelerated cellular apoptosis (accelerated cell death), increased oxidative stress in cells, sperm abnormalities and testicular dysfunction, neuropsychiatric effects, DNA damage, hormonal changes, increases in intracellular calcium (which can drive apoptosis), and evidence that WiFi activates voltage-gated sodium channels in neurons and muscle fibers.
If you are tempted to think that perhaps the radiofrequency energies Pall examined were from people standing on transmission towers getting blasted in the gonads and noggins with radio waves, that was not the focus of his study. The EMF he examined were from 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz WiFi sources typical of home router transmissions.
It goes without saying that these common EMF exposures are driven by home consumer electronics with radio signals and there is a compelling corporate interest to dismiss these claims. When in doubt, go by the cardinal rule of both epidemiology and criminal investigations: follow the money.
Health Risks of Leaving Your Router On
Several studies of homeowners with WiFi have reported negative effects on sleep patterns necessary for good sleep hygiene (see Schmid et al.  J Sleep Res 21:620-629; Halgamuge  Rad Protec Dosimet 154:405-416). Disruption of REM (rapid eye movement phase) of sleep and induction of stage 3/4 sleep during the initial phases results in a person sleeping, but not receiving the quality and stability of sleep necessary for proper rest.
Disruption of stage 3/4 sleep induction results in prolonged WASO (wake time after sleep onset), in which people awaken and fall back asleep repeatedly and fail to enter stage 3/4. You may lay in bed all night, but find you awaken exhausted and feeling sleep deprived.
Prolonged sleep deprivation results in a variety of other health problems including an increased incidence of developing depression (Pall M  J Chem Neuroanat 75:43-51; reviewed in Pall M  Environ Res 164:405-416) and is suggested to promote hypertension (Saili L et al.  Env Toxicol Pharmacol 40:600-605; Havas M  Rev Environ Health 28:75-84).
Although the exact causes of hypertension and the mechanisms underlying it are poorly understood, apart from a small percentage of the population that has a genetic predisposition to hypertension, many factors contributing to the development of hypertension have been described.
Developmental effects in children
Other studies have demonstrated a strong association with WiFi radiation in the home and negative impacts on fetal development during pregnancy. An increase in post-natal effects in children and experimental animals who have been gestated in homes with WiFi routers has been documented (Poulletier de Gannes et al.  Birth Defects Res B Dev Reprod Toxicol 95:130-136; Laudisi et al.  Bioelectromagnetics 33:652-661; Othman et al.  Behav Brain Res 326:291-302).
One of the unexpected issues that have arisen concerns the current and widespread problem of adolescent asthma (De-Kun Li et al.  Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med 165:945-950). Despite being the last health issue you might expect as occurring from WiFi exposure, recent studies have characterized genetic changes that occur in developing children and in ovarian tissues of women prior to pregnancy.
Epigenetic changes in gene expression (either upregulated or downregulated, meaning increases in gene expression or decreases in gene expression) have been determined to result from exposure to environmental stressors that alter patterns of DNA base methylation. The enzymatic attachment of methyl groups (CH3-R) to DNA bases changes the way in which genes that produce products such as proteins or genes which regulate the expression of other genes are affected.
Adolescent asthma is essentially a modern health plague and has been demonstrated to result directly from altered patterns of gene methylation. These changes occur either in utero to the fetus or occur in ovarian germline cells prior to fertilization.
An additional problem suspected to result from environmental stressors, including radiofrequency radiation, is the problem of childhood obesity. Prior to the introduction of electrical appliances, microelectronics, and radio-emitting devices, this problem was virtually unheard-of.
Effects on tissue repair
A recent study conducted by Danish researchers demonstrated that radiofrequency radiation from home WiFi routers produces alterations in plant growth, curtailing the production of plant tissues (Vian et al.  Biomed Res Int 2016:1830262). Although these effects occur in plants, it is suspected that cellular growth, in general, is affected by radiofrequency common to WiFi and Bluetooth sources.
Plants cultivated under identical conditions in two different locations, one set near a WiFi router and another set far from any WiFi sources (as verified by taking an environmental survey with an EMF meter) showed markedly different growth patterns with those nearest to the WiFi source failing to propagate.
Effects on brain activity
A study on WiFi effects and electroencephalographic (EEG) patterns has demonstrated measurable negative effects on brain wave patterns (Kramarenko & Tan  Int J Neurosci 113:1007-1019; Kim et al.  Biomol Ther [Seoul] 27:265-275).
Examination of sperm morphology and motility by researchers using WiFi as a treatment has demonstrated increases in sperm cell DNA fragmentation and reduced sperm motility (Shokri et al.  Cell J 17:322-331; Kesari et al.  Reprod Biol Endocrinol 16:118). In studies of women, radiofrequency radiation from home WiFi routers produced negative impacts on proper egg implantation in the endometrial wall during fertilization (reviewed in Gye & Park  Clin Exp Reprod Med 39:1-9).
These effects were consistent, even when controls for confounders such as use of anti-inflammatory medications were considered. Collectively, these studies suggest there exist markedly negative effects on human reproductive health.
Studies of radiofrequency radiation exposure from cellular phones and WiFi routers have demonstrated increases in cancer risk from long term exposure (see Miller et al.  Front Public Health 7:223). Noting the prolific nature of these devices in the environment and the fact that human beings have never been exposed to EMF levels of this nature in all of human history, concerns have been raised regarding what long term effects we will eventually see for human cancer rates.
Studies examining the cardiovascular effects of WiFi radiation have reported significant tachycardia in persons exposed to radiofrequency radiation. These changes were produced in human volunteers with good cardiovascular health and no prior family history of heart disease (see above Saili et al., Havas M, and Miller et al.).
Reducing your WiFi Exposure
Although you cannot be expected to go and live in a Faraday cage, shielded away from all electromagnetic radiation, several simple steps can be undertaken to reduce the levels of your exposure. Since you cannot control everything in your environment, taking care of the parts over which you do have control can substantially lessen the stressor load you and your family daily experience.
Below, we provide for you a list of easy to do changes in your home environment to lessen your exposure level.
Turn the router off before going to sleep
One of the easiest things to do to reduce your overall EMF exposure at night is to simply turn off your WiFi router. You will be asleep, so you do not really need to have the device on since there will be no streaming media viewed, no web pages, browsed, no email checked. All WiFi routers have an on-off button on the rear of the unit.
Simply switch it off when you go to sleep. Initiation and establishment of a new random DHCP address when you turn it back on only takes a couple of minutes.
Use a timer
If you are a person with a lot going on and have trouble remembering to do all the little things in life, such as shutting off your WiFi before bed and brushing your teeth, etc., attach a simple dial timer to your router or the power strip powering your router. Set it to be on for the times when you will be using the internet and to shut off the power when you will be sleeping.
As far as reminding you to brush your teeth, we really cannot help you much with that. However, there are electric toothbrushes you can purchase that have alarms to remind you when to brush.
Turn routers on only when using them
If there are times during the day when you do not require the internet, simply turn off your router during these times by the power switch on the back of the device or by your power strip. Some newer WiFi routers have menu-driven controls that are programmable and can select times when you want the router on or off.
To access the menu for your router, consult your owner’s manual for the default router web page address. This is a dummy Http address that brings up a menu with all the various options for your router.
Use direct cabling
When all else fails, go old school. Simply shut off your WiFi signal on the router.
This can be done on many routers by a button on the front panel and in older models through the router menu system. On the rear of the router, you typically have 2-4 10-base-T jacks to which you can attach a standard internet cable to which you can connect your computer.
This recommendation is, however, situation-specific in that it assumes your computer will be used close to the router. The decision to use hard cabling connections is up to you.
Avoid smart home devices
Smart home devices such as computer assistants or smart televisions are really fantastic stuff, but keep in mind that these too are wireless devices that employ WiFi or Bluetooth technologies. Nearly all of them have the option to use them with direct cabling.
Eliminating any radiofrequency emissions from these devices by turning off their WiFi connections but maintaining connectivity through internet cabling will allow you to continue to enjoy their convenience without any of the electromagnetic frequency radiation associated with their wireless components.
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