Are EMFs harmful in Red Light Therapy? The Forgotten Facts.
Most red light panel brands are stating something like “no EMFs at 6 inches away.” Or “zero EMF exposure at treatment distance”.
Why is that statement there? What are EMFs, and why do nearly all brands mention it? What happens if you ARE exposed to those EMFs?
EMFs are Electromagnetic Frequencies, which we defined in a previous blog about what they are and how they are generated in red light panels.
In this blog, we dig up the original reasons why many brands still talk about EMF, and look into the scientific literature to see if there is any basis for wanting to avoid unnatural EMF.
Natural EMFs versus Artificial EMFs:
Red and Near-Infrared (NIR) light corresponds to certain wavelengths and frequencies on Electromagnetic Spectrum, indeed we could call them an EMF! Red and NIR light exposure has been a natural part of biological evolution for millennia since it is emitted by the sun.
Meanwhile, artificial EMFs are a relatively “new” type of exposure since the invention of electronics. We will refer to them as non-native EMFs, nnEMF. Perhaps humanity has only been exposed to nnEMFs from electronics for 140 years, so biologically that hasn't been much time to "adapt" to them. And of course, exposure to nnEMF has rapidly increased in recent decades!
Similar to how many people seek out “natural” skincare products and foods, and avoid artificial chemicals and processed foods – we find many people are seeking natural frequencies like light and choose to avoid nnEMFs.
Listen to the Customer:
Maybe only 5 years ago, the “early adopters” of red light therapy panels were also aware of the potential detrimental effects of nnEMFs. Many were followers of Dr. Mercola, Dr. Jack Kruse, Dr. Ray Peat, Alex Fergus, and Ben Greenfield. All of these doctors and influencers promote natural wavelengths like sunlight and red light therapy, but often recommend avoiding nnEMFs.
The good news for everyone is that the EMFs are usually very low at 6 inches away since EMFs follow the inverse square law (just like Red Light). But what would happen if we get closer inside the high Magnetic Field?
So naturally, the early red light panel companies were bombarded with questions about EMFs. Some companies like Joovv came up with the clever statement of “no EMF at 6 inches away” since their panels had unavoidably produced high magnetic fields in close range.
These nnEMF statements and mitigations came from customer and influencer requests. In fact, some influencers refused to endorse us (GembaRed) until we demonstrated our products were low-EMF. That is how serious people took EMFs in the early days of this Red Light Panel craze!
So, it wasn’t some companies finding a clever sales gimmick. Surprisingly, it was companies actually listening to their customers and addressing their concerns!
While red light therapy has become mainstream, the emphasis and understanding of nnEMFs have subsided. Many new customers are lured-in by all the fancy marketing and medical claims from red light panel brands, but are mostly unaware of nnEMF.
We even see new companies like Hooga are parroting these statements like “no EMFs at 6 inches away” – yet they advise people to hold their bulbs right in their hand. Clearly they don’t understand what they are saying, if they are paradoxically telling people to hold the bulb in their hands but are safe from EMFs at 6 inches away.
So with this new wave of mainstream interest, it seems like both new companies, customers, and some self-proclaimed "experts" are not entering this industry with an awareness or understanding of nnEMF. And they flat-out reject the concept that EMFs could be harmful because it doesn't agree with their confirmation bias.
High EMF Design Flaws:
Obviously red light panels are emitting nnEMFs. If a company is recommending staying at least 4 or 6 inches away, then they are basically admitting to emitting nnEMFs up-close. Which is usually the Magnetic Field generated from the power drivers and fans.
We recently tested several Flexible Red Light Therapy Pads and found some to be high Electric Field - despite being powered by external DC adapters. Unfortunately these are wrapped right on the skin and don't have the 6 inches of distance for safety like panels.
Will we ever find studies reviewing the safety of nnEMFs delivered by red light panels and products? Probably not.
But there is indeed a growing body of scientific studies on the effects of nnEMFs on the body! We will take a look at the science soon!
Radio Frequency Vs Extremely Low Frequency:
With Red Light Panels we are usually talking about a specific frequency called Extremely Low Frequency (ELF) EMFs. The two types are Magnetic Fields and Electric Fields, which will oscillate at the AC frequency of 50Hz or 60Hz depending on the region.
Most of the recent fear-mongering hype about nnEMFs come from Radio Frequency (RF) like in 5G, Cell Phones, and WiFi. Any half-decent conspiracy-theorist can tell you about the overlap of recent pandemics, technocracy, and 5G rollouts.
WiFi routers and Cell Phones emit Radio Frequency (RF) EMFs as their way of wireless communication. Compared to Red Light Therapy devices which are mostly generating ELF EMFs.
But that is not what we are discussing today, since we want to focus specifically on ELF EMFs since that is primarily what is emitted from Red Light Therapy products.
ELFs Hazards and Cancer:
Lets first establish that the IARC (International Agency for Research on Cancer) has declared that ELF EMFs are classified as “possibly carcinogenic to humans (Group 2B)”. This is the same category as Lead, DDT (banned insectiside), welding fumes, and carbon tetrachloride. 
According to OSHA on ELF EMFs: “Research has focused on possible carcinogenic, reproductive, and neurological effects. Other suggested health effects include cardiovascular, brain and behavior, hormonal and immune system changes.”
One study had this to say in the introduction: "The association between exposure to extremely low frequency-magnetic fields (ELF-MF) and adverse health effects, including several cancers such as brain, leukemia and breast cancer has been widely discussed." (and they cite 5 sources) 
So maybe some people want to hold-out for the HARD SCIENCE that proves ELF causes cancer and other diseases.. For other people, hopefully people with self-preservation as a priority, if something is merely "associated" with cancers or labeled as only “possibly” hazardous – they will take steps to avoid the risks.
Electromagnetic Hypersensitivity (EHS) symptoms and disorder:
For some people, EMFs are not only “possibly” hazardous to cause long-term chronic disease – they also suffer immediate symptoms.
Electromagnetic Hypersensitivity (EHS) was recently defined as classification of distress caused by nnEMFs.
EHS describes acute, nonspecific symptoms that arise when sensitive individuals are exposed to EMFs.
Some documented symptoms of EHS include:
- Balance Disorder
- Concentration/attention deficiency
- Loss of immediate memory
- Depression tendency
- Transitory Cardiovascular Abnormalities
- Ocular deficiency
If some people are aware that they have EHS and they experience one of these symptoms, they may want to investigate the EMFs emitted from their products.
How many people are affected by EHS?
Some surveys show that between 3% to 13% of people identify as EHS. 
That is a large percentage of people that can experience immediate symptoms when exposed to nnEMFs! We want to make sure ALL customers are comfortable while using Red Light Therapy, and not exclude any people with sensitivities.
EMFs - Where are the studies?
Just like Photobiomodulation, the number of clinical studies on Bioelectromagnetics has rapidly increased over the years.
Bioelectromagnetics: the study of the interaction between electromagnetic fields and biological entities.
Sound familiar? Like how Photobiomodulation is the study of the interaction of light and biology?
There is a lot of clinical interest in understanding the biological effects of electromagnetic frequencies. A search on Bioelectromagnetics in PubMed yields over 3000 results!
Although dwarfed by meteoric rise of LLLT (Red Light Therapy), Bioelectromagnetics and EHS get nearly over 100 published papers per year since the year 2000 (might be some overlap of results between these terms)!
In addition to new keywords for Electromagnetic Hypersensitivity (EHS), and simply searching for ELF MF in Pubmed can yield a rapidly growing number of responses.
Stresses and Cellular Mechanisms:
Some sophisticated “quantum biology” experts can explain to you the mitochondrial dysfunction arising from nnEMF exposure. There is dis-regulation of voltage-gated calcium ion channels in the cell, leading to an imbalanced calcium homeostasis, thus, disrupted cellular function.
This blog seems to be the best summary we have found, along with peer-reviewed references.
A more simple explaination is that EMFs, including ELFs, induce a stress response in the cells. One study describes it as:
"Some authors argue that ELF-MF evokes cell/organism responses that are characteristic to general stress reaction. ELF-MF exposure “turns on” different intracellular—compensatory or deleterious—mechanisms and modifies stress-related function of nervous, hormonal and immunological systems." 
Which the stress response is a more likely explanation for the acute symptoms seen in Electromagnetic Hypersensitivity.
With the search terms we mentioned above, here is just a small sampling of peer-reviewed papers investigating the possible connections between ELF EMFs and various diseases.
Heavy Metal Accumulation: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/23448860/
Magnesium and Nutrition Depletion: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/20872091/
Male Fertility: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30289990/
Multiple Sclerosis: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/31168332/
Chronic Stress: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/23323864/
Obesity and Diabetes: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/23781992/
Weakened Immune System: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/20074470/
While many of these studies do show ELF EMFs as a suspect and correlation to these diseases, there still isn’t definitive proof that ELF causes these diseases. 
Indeed, chronic diseases are often complex and multifaceted. We can’t simply blame one factor for them. However, with ELFs being very high on the culprit list for many diseases, we like to play it safe and avoid the risks when possible.
Benefits of EMFs!
On the other side of the coin, there are potential BENEFITS to nnEMF exposure in the right context. That’s right, this isn’t just a fearmongering blog post after all!
Most notably, the science of PEMF (Pulsed ElectroMagnetic Frequency) is rapidly emerging as another frequency-based healing modality.
As we mentioned nnEMFs induce a type of stress on the body. Just like Sauna, Exercise, and even Red Light Therapy can be considered cellular stresses. These “stresses” in low doses and the right context promote hormesis, where there is a healing response after the stimulation.
PEMF has been FDA approved for bone healing, but it’s potential therapeutic applications are nearly as wide as Red Light therapy!  Even one study with 50Hz ELF-EMFs noted an improvement in memory and reduction in Alzheimer’s progression.
Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS) is one form of PEMF aimed at studying the effects on the brain.
Just like red light therapy – too much nnEMF or PEMF is certainly counterproductive. One article notes a “therapeutic window” where too much PEMF delivers a worse result. Sound familiar?
With all this great potential of PEMF as another modulator of healing, I’m surprised we haven’t heard any clever red light therapy companies come up with some clever rhetoric like:
“Don’t worry about ELF EMFs in our products, in fact, it could be beneficial because it is kind of like PEMF.” Just like how high-flicker brands will claim that flicker is beneficial because it is kind of like pulsing.
If they haven’t made these claims yet… they will now! You heard it here first, folks.
There are no clear guidelines on safe ELF exposure. Some government agencies do set exposure limits, but these limits are incredibly high.
Which is why ANY company can claim to be “low EMF” – since it is all relative and there are no real standards or definitions for what “low EMF” or even “no EMF” even means.
According to the Bioinitiative Working Group:
“The trend continues to show that exposure to low-intensity ELF-EMF/Static Fields and RFR at levels allowable under current federal public safety limits pose health risks.”
One practical guide we often see referenced (and included with most EMF meters) is this one from the Institute of Building Biology and Sustainability which gives their recommended ranges for EMFs in sleeping areas. It also summarizes the governmental agencies' standards in the fine print.
While there are some definitions and limits, it is clear we need more influential agencies to review the latest data and determine practical and science-based safety limits for nnEMF exposure.
Why bother avoiding nnEMF? Its Everywhere!
We have heard to nauseating repetition the claim that “well you get more nnEMFs from your cell phone and hair dyer.” So just give up, there is no point in avoiding it, buy a high nnEMF red light panel and never mind the risks.
EMFs are already everywhere, but some people are trying to reduce exposure.
It’s nonsense. The world is filled with junk food, air pollution, water pollution, electro-smog (nnEMF pollution), noise pollution, light pollution, etc. We do the best we can to control and reduce our personal exposure as much as possible.
We know many people ARE choosing to live a low nnEMF lifestyle. If people are EHS, they don’t have much choice but to reduce nnEMF in their lives. Otherwise they would live in constant discomfort, even in their own homes.
In an interview between Dr. Mercola and Ben Greenfield - they discussed how they don't use electric razors and electric toothbrushes to avoid the Magnetic Field exposure near their brains. That may sound extreme to some people, but it is their choice. (I don’t think either of them use a hair dryer either)
This electric razor emits over 100 millligauss! Is it detrimental or beneficial to the brain?
Like most things - the dose makes the poison.
Just like how we support people trying to eat clean and live a healthy lifestyle, we support people if they want to choose low-EMF products and reduce their usage of cell phones and electronics. We may never be perfect, but even small mindful steps can bring our health in the right direction.
Right To Know and "other ingredients":
At GembaRed we believe that transparency is the best policy. Food and supplement labels legally must include all the ingredients because people have a right to know what they are ingesting. People have the right to informed choice, and can choose to avoid certain ingredients at their discretion.
Similarly, in the year 2021 and beyond – many people are realizing that wavelengths and electromagnetic frequencies that we are exposed to DO have an impact on health (both positive and negative). Hence, we have a right to know the types and magnitude of those frequencies we are being exposed to.
Unfortunately some companies and self-proclaimed “experts” try to downplay the seriousness of nnEMFs while making poorly measured claims of "zero EMF."
The same companies using Solar Power Meters and PAR meters probably aren't using professional grade EMF meters either. They might as well be waving around a Geiger Counter.
The Technology Adoption Curve:
Not long ago, people were not taking Red Light Therapy very seriously as a potential healing modality, now look at it! Dr. Hamblin stated in a 2017 paper that 10 years ago red light therapy was considered “snake oil” and something only charlatans practiced. We suspect that the same people that are doubting EMFs now, probably would have ridiculed PBM only 14 years ago.
Photobiomodulation has progressed into acceptance with the Early Majority, but it seems Bioelectromagnetics is still caught in "The Chasm" with being denied and ridiculed. 
At GembaRed we have always listened to our customers and delivered the lowest-possible EMFs that we can manufacture. Our customers are relieved to know they are using transparently measured and low-EMF products. We sleep easy knowing that our products are mitigated from flicker and EMFs so they have the lowest possibility of causing harm (however small of a chance that may be).
Ultimately, it should be the customer’s choice. They can be informed of nnEMFs and the current science, and be allowed to make thier own purchasing decisions.
Either way, hopefully now we remember why most manufacturer’s guidelines say to be at least 4-6 inches away from your red light panel to avoid EMF exposure. It isn’t some meaningless gimmick, but came from early customers demanding high-quality and safe products - based on a growing amount of published science on Bioelectromagnetics.
Belpomme D, Irigaray P. Electrohypersensitivity as a Newly Identified and Characterized Neurologic Pathological Disorder: How to Diagnose, Treat, and Prevent It. Int J Mol Sci. 2020;21(6):1915. Published 2020 Mar 11. doi:10.3390/ijms21061915
Klimek A, Rogalska J. Extremely Low-Frequency Magnetic Field as a Stress Factor-Really Detrimental?-Insight into Literature from the Last Decade. Brain Sci. 2021;11(2):174. Published 2021 Jan 31. doi:10.3390/brainsci11020174
Karimi A, Ghadiri Moghaddam F, Valipour M. Insights in the biology of extremely low-frequency magnetic fields exposure on human health. Mol Biol Rep. 2020 Jul;47(7):5621-5633. doi: 10.1007/s11033-020-05563-8. Epub 2020 Jun 8. PMID: 32515000.
Cadossi R, Massari L, Racine-Avila J, Aaron RK. Pulsed Electromagnetic Field Stimulation of Bone Healing and Joint Preservation: Cellular Mechanisms of Skeletal Response. J Am Acad Orthop Surg Glob Res Rev. 2020;4(5):e1900155. doi:10.5435/JAAOSGlobal-D-19-00155
Akbarnejad Z, Esmaeilpour K, Shabani M, Asadi-Shekaari M, Saeedi Goraghani M, Ahmadi-Zeidabadi M. Spatial memory recovery in Alzheimer's rat model by electromagnetic field exposure. Int J Neurosci. 2018 Aug;128(8):691-696. doi: 10.1080/00207454.2017.1411353. Epub 2017 Dec 20. PMID: 29185809.
Hamblin MR. Photobiomodulation or low-level laser therapy. J Biophotonics. 2016;9(11-12):1122-1124. doi:10.1002/jbio.201670113
The 4 Stages to Technology Adoption Inside the Chasm
Omar M. Khateebhttps://omarmkhateeb.medium.com/the-4-stages-to-adoption-inside-the-chasm-6c9c19e4375
EUROPAEM EMF Guideline 2016 for the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of EMF-related health problems and illnesses:
Choi S, Cha W, Park J, et al. Extremely Low Frequency-Magnetic Field (ELF-MF) Exposure Characteristics among Semiconductor Workers. Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2018;15(4):642. Published 2018 Mar 31. doi:10.3390/ijerph15040642