Unapologetically Canadian Episode 8: Pedro Gregorio explains how EMF harms people
This is a transcript of my interview with Pedro Gregorio who is an expert in electromagnetic fields. He’s been consulting on a class action lawsuit here in Montreal and he also happens to be my life partner. And so we’re talking about electromagnetic fields what they are and. How he’s learned about them over the years.Listen to Episode 8: Pedro Gregorio explains how EMF harms people [00:00:39] So before we begin, Pedro, can you tell us
What are electromagnetic fields?
[00:00:45] So electromagnetic fields are pretty much everywhere. Anytime you think of anything in nature, a technology that uses electricity, you’ll have an electromagnetic field present. It’s a phenomenon that’s so broad-ranging that it’s difficult to comprehend. It can be complex.
But I guess one of the simplest ways to think about it is a rainbow. Everybody knows what a rainbow is, right? It has light. It has colours. There are different colours but it’s all light. If you were to stretch that rainbow out in both directions towards the lower frequency end, you’d get heat, you’d get radio waves, you’d get microwaves. Eventually, you’d get static fields, like static electricity when you pull a sweater over your head or the Earth’s magnetic field which doesn’t change. And if you go in the other direction all the way up to higher frequency you get to dangerous things, things that can cause cancer directly like radiation, cosmic waves gamma rays, all those crazy things.
Relationship to Electricity[00:01:52] When I think of electromagnetic fields I think of the towers next to our house or my cell phone or heck even the computer we’re talking on now and the microphone, so how can you think about it when you’re thinking about those devices. [00:02:10] Sure. So I mean electricity you know people have been using electricity for a little over a hundred years. And not to put too fine a point on it any device that uses or creates electricity is using or creating electro magnetic fields. They come basically in two general flavours if you want to talk about it that way. There are power fields. So the kind of stuff that you’d have coming in on your hydro wires or devices that are making motors spin and use a lot of power, including microwave ovens that heat your food. And then on the other end, you’ve got low power stuff that’s used for communication. So TV signals, radio signals, your cell phones those kinds of things.
What are ionizing electromagnetic fields?[00:03:08] Right. So to come back to the rainbow analogy that I was talking about earlier people when you get those funny sunglasses they all say UVA and UVB protection. So if you were looking at the whole rainbow including the invisible stuff at either end, when you get past the light you see…the rainbow goes you know green and blue, violet…If you go past the violet the colours you can’t see, those are ultraviolet. And people know that those can cause skin cancer directly. That’s kind of on the thin hairy edge of where you start talking about ionizing radiation.
So ultraviolet light and above, ionize. What does that mean?
It means the individual particles of light if you want are powerful enough to actually knock electrons.
So think if you had a bowling ball and you throw it at a brick wall, you can knock bricks out of the wall. But if you’ve got a ping pong ball and you throw it at the brick wall, it’ll just bounce off. So the higher frequency radiation is called ionizing because each particle is powerful enough to knock bricks out of the wall to knock electrons out of the structures that make you and me.
What are non-ionizing electromagnetic fields?[00:04:22] The non-ionizing is more like the ping pong balls like the parts lower than ultraviolet on the rainbow like blue light, green light, red light. They include radio waves, microwaves all of those other frequencies all the way down to the FM radio signals, am radio signals, shortwave signals all of those things and the power frequencies the kind of 60-hertz stuff that comes out of the wall socket. The individual particles of those are small. They’re like ping pong balls or grains of rice. You can throw as many of those at a brickwall as you like, you’re not going to knock out a brick.
Why are EMFs harmful to people?[00:05:11] So just like we’ve figured out over the past 100 or so years as people how to manipulate electromagnetic fields to our advantage, evolution has had a head start on us. And in fact, all of biology depends on mastering electromagnetic fields as well. Throughout nature, you look at birds and insects, they navigate magnetically. You look at plants, they use electric fields and create electric fields as part of their metabolism as part of their growth.
And if you look at you and me, our entire biology is determined and takes advantage of, electricity and electromagnetic fields. Whether it’s neural signalling, such as all of the thoughts all of the nerves all of that happens in our body based on electric currents electric fields. When we dream, our thoughts, our memories, all of that is electricity in play.
On the other end, even making our muscles move requires electric signalling and even moving things throughout our body, you know like when we perspire or when we have to move chemicals throughout our body for metabolism, all of that leverages electricity.
Now whereas in technology, usually, you’re talking about electrons as carriers of electricity, in biology, you’re talking about ions. It’s slightly different, but the result is the same. You and I are electromagnetic beings.
If we’ve got technology creating electromagnetic fields, and people creating electromagnetic fields, why don’t they just work together?[00:06:57] Right. So they don’t work together because they weren’t designed to work together.
All of the electromagnetic phenomena that occur in nature have been there forever. The Earth’s magnetic field. Lightning from thunderstorms. All of these other phenomena have been around and biology has evolved over millennia, over millions of years with all of these as a background. In fact, you and I have actually tuned in to that the beat, the heartbeat of the planet.
There’s actually a frequency, kind of like a pulsing, that happens in nature that people need to be tuned into in order to sleep, for example.
So the difference with our technology is that it’s only about a hundred years old and from an evolutionary point of view, that’s instant. That’s like if you’re sleeping comfortably and someone comes in and flips on the light. It’ll disturb you.
All of these new technologies are disturbing. Why don’t they play well together? Because conventional technology and science doesn’t acknowledge that there’s an issue.
How exactly do they affect people? What is happening?[00:08:13] Right.
So going back to the person sleeping, what do we do when we want to go to sleep? We turn off the light. If someone was to come in and turn on a pulsing light like a strobe light it would be pretty hard to sleep. It disrupts your sleep right?
Well, the reality is that electromagnetic fields used in communication–cell phones etc.–those are always on. We can’t see them, but our brains can actually feel them. Some of the fundamental frequencies that phones use to talk to each other are actually matched to the frequencies of theta waves in our brain, the frequencies that we use for deep sleep and deep thought and they can actually get disrupted.
Even cardiac pacing, your own internal pacemaker that lets your heart beat in time, that can be effected by external technology electromagnetic fields.
So there’s lots of evidence that shows how even weak electromagnetic fields created by technology can impact biology and human biology in particular.
Why doesn’t everybody get sick from electromagnetic fields?
I think there’s a couple of things we want to be careful about. One is “is there an effect?” and another is “do I know as an individual what’s affecting me.”[00:09:51] There are lots of days when I wake up and I feel lousy. I may not be able to know why but there’s probably something making me feel lousy.
And yes there are estimates of between three to five percent or more of the population are what we call the electro-hyper sensitive individuals. These are people who can be affected when they’re surrounded by technology whether it’s power technology or mobile phones technology or wi-fi, bluetooth, those kinds of things more commonly.
The reality is we are all electro-sensitive. As we discussed before, our bodies depend on electricity for our for our rhythms and for all of our vital functions. And we are sensitive to those electric fields, the ones that our bodies create to regulate them and the disturbing fields that come from outside accidentally, those can also impact us.
Some people are electro hypersensitive.
They’re more sensitive than the normal population and as you say some of them, they can tell if there’s a cell phone on in the room. And they can be affected in profound ways, debilitating ways. Some people have to literally try and escape technology and find one of the few remaining spots where they’re not exposed. But having said that, people aren’t born electro-hypersensitive. It’s a phenomenon that develops on either chronic exposure to fields or other environmental issues–it could be chemical sensitivity, and then typically there’s a trigger event, an acute exposure, following which the individual continues to be hypersensitive to ever weaker exposures. So somebody who you know for a number of years, no issue. All of a sudden something happens., and then from then on, they can’t tolerate being in a room with people who have cell phones for example.[00:11:45] Wow that must be really tough. [00:11:47] It’s actually a huge challenge. And part of the challenge is a) for a very long time they don’t know what’s going on. All of a sudden they know that they’re sick but they don’t know why? Some of these folks struggle for a long time just to identify what the issues are. The medical establishment not only doesn’t know what’s going on but they are actively encouraged and taught that if someone presents with these symptoms, you refer them to a psychologist. So these people sometimes get ostracized. They get isolated. They find themselves in a situation where they have to remove themselves from social situations. They lose their friends. It can collapse relationships. They can spend a lot of their personal fortunes trying to mitigate, once they do find out what the issues are and how to protect themselves, they literally have to build cocoons and technological shells to protect themselves. It’s really a very challenging circumstance.
What is a Farraday cage?[00:12:48] A Faraday cage is a shield. What a Faraday cage does is it interrupts an electro electric electromagnetic field. So for example, you look out the window, you can see the light coming through. You pull on the blind the light doesn’t come through. Electromagnetic fields generally, the kinds we’re talking about radio and power frequencies, they’ll go straight through solid walls. But what does stop them, depending on thefrequency, is a metallic shell. So a Farraday cage. Think of it as kind of a mesh. But it has to completely surround you look like like a cocoon. And if you have a Faraday cage that’s grounded, then the waves instead of passing through and impacting the individual, they meet the shell and they’re kind of directed around like a skin. So they pass around the individual. So you literally make a protective cocoon. Some people who suffer from hypersensitivity, they find that they have to create Faraday cages in their homes, particularly in their sleeping areas. And in some cases, it looks like a mosquito net over the bed, but it’s actually a metallic mesh.
How did you get involved with all this stuff?
A few years ago when my daughter came to me and said that for a school project they were looking at how some people are sensitive to Wi-Fi and how Wi-Fi should be controlled if not banned in schools, I looked into it. I did a little bit of research and of course, I found it was all in her head. It was completely something she imagined. And there was no issue whatsoever, which sadly is the situation for a lot of folks. A lot of people today who are the most expert advocates trying to raise awareness on this issue also started out in the same way, including you know epidemiologists, oncologists, medical experts et cetera. People who had no idea anything was going on. Later in talking with Maitre Charles O’Brien about the work he was doing on the class action, that’s when my interest was piqued and so I dug a little bit deeper. I dug beyond the industry-sponsored research and the lines that the mainstream want people to believe, which is basically that if it doesn’t heat it can’t hurt.
So for basically for almost a hundred years the thought has been that electromagnetic fields that are too weak to heat tissue can’t possibly cause any harm.
A cell phone is a microwave oven
So we all know what a microwave oven is, right. We all know microwave popcorn, you put popcorn in and you hit the button, pop right? What people don’t know is a lot of the communication technology we use today, a cell phone, if you tell somebody a cell phone tell them, it’s a radio they’ll say Aha. They’ll understand a cell phone is a radio. If you tell them a cell phone is a microwave oven, they’ll look at you like you’re crazy. But the reality is that the radio frequencies that cell phones work on are identical to the frequencies used by a microwave oven to pop your popcorn. The difference is the cell phone power is vanishingly tiny compared to the microwave, so it doesn’t heat. However, you’re holding the cell phone right near your brain, right near the softest the wettest, most sensitive and fragile tissue on the body. And even though it can’t heat doesn’t mean it can’t hurt. Sure a ping pong ball can’t knock a brick out of a brick wall, but the human body isn’t a static structure like a brick wall. We’re constantly rebuilding ourselves, right. So think of it as a brick wall thats constantly with a mason taking out old bricks and putting in new bricks. If you start bombarding a mason with ping pong balls while he’s trying to replace bricks, he’s not going to put the bricks in very straight. So non-ionizing radiation, microwave radiation, even low power radiation like in our telephones and our communication technologies, they may not be powerful enough to break apart the structures of our bodies. They can, however, and they do– there’s a huge amount of epidemiological and other scientific evidence–they do impact our body’s natural processes of regeneration, of growth, of signalling. And those effects can be pernicious. Maybe they don’t happen on one exposure. The people who are using cell phones for extended periods of time can have huge impacts on their health up to and including cancers.
[00:18:22] Wow that’s pretty shocking. And it means you’ve been working on this for what three years sort of?
[00:18:30] About three years.
[00:18:31] And what have you learned in that time? Where has your personal thinking on this issue gone? I mean other than the fact that I mean if you align satellite dishes for a living.
[00:18:47] What do you do for a living?
Thank you for asking. I build microwave communications technologies. I build satellites. Yes, I do. Like with so many dangerous things, distance is our friend. And so the best way to keep yourself safe from electromagnetic fields is to avoid them. Now the nature of these things is that when you move twice as far from a source, you’re exposed one quarter as much power. If you move ten times as far from a source you’re exposed to one hundredth the power. So when we think of things like cell phones, they work by putting up cell phone towers in neighbourhoods, in backyards, near schools, in church steeples. These are things that are in our community. And in order for those signals to go far enough to be useful, they have to be powerful enough that if you’re close you can be exposed to some pretty important fields. A satellite’s always 36000 kilometres away. You can’t get too close to satellite. And so rather than being something that creates an acute exposure for certain individuals, it creates a uniform exposure for everybody at a level that’s millions of times lower than what we’re talking about with the technologies we typically carry around.[00:20:07] So yes I do build microwave communications systems for a living. And yes, I have looked at the numbers and I feel good about what I do. [00:20:17] And but you can’t you can’t do cell phones that way can you? [00:20:22] Today’s technologies don’t make it practicable but it comes back to one of your earlier questions. Why aren’t people doing things better or is there a better way to do things? People do stuff if they’re told to do stuff. Technologists and companies that make these systems, they have no reason to do it. For almost 100 years, everyone’s been told this is safe. Don’t worry about it. And so what happens? The regulations reflect that this is safe don’t worry about it. And the technology development and deployment reflect that this is safe, don’t worry about it. But if you were to look at where we’re living today compared to what is the natural background.
How much more radiation is there now than there was even 200 years ago?
It’s not a thousand times. It’s not a million times. It’s not a million million times. It’s one with 18 zeros after it. It’s almost unimaginable. These are levels that have never been seen. Ever. In the history of humanity, of evolution. And they’re increasing dramatically. When we went from the introduction of cell phones in the 90s and then we went 2G and 3G and 4G. Every time the background radiation in our cities is increasing thousands and thousands of times. And now people are talking about 5G, which is again a whole other technology that brings its own risks. Which risks? I can’t tell you. No one has studied them. We haven’t even identified what the 5G protocol is and deployment is set for two years time.[00:22:08] Wow. And it seems to me I’ve heard that they’re going to be going on the Montreal Windsor corridor. Is that true? [00:22:15] They’ll be everywhere pretty much. There are a few locations that have been identified as being key spots to bring them up to deploy initially and test it out make sure it works. There are sites all over the world. I don’t know specifics but the density of these stations will be at least ten times what today’s cell towers are. So look we are talking about before, one where to stay safe is to get farther away. You won’t be able to get farther away. [00:22:47] All of this conversation sort of makes me think of a friend of ours who talked about isn’t it depressing being too informed about things? [00:22:55] Ignorance is bliss. [00:22:57] And
Is there anything people can actually do or is it too late?[00:23:02] I think it’s never too late. There’s a lot of things people do. I mean heck, you know that I spend most of my time on my mobile phone and it’s not a question of oh my god this is dangerous, lock them all up and get rid of it. Let’s go live in caves. But it’s a question of informed consent and it’s a question of knowing what your danger is and knowing what to do about it. Do I use a microwave oven? Sure I use a microwave oven. Do I stand at the door and stare into it. No, I don’t, because that’s dangerous. Companies won’t tell you it’s dangerous, but we have examples of very high profile individuals who today are hypersensitive because they did just that. They looked in the microwave oven during an unfortunate event.
So there are things individuals, consumers and citizens can do.
Believe it or not, laptops are not meant to go on the lap.[00:24:07] Some of the most sensitive biology we have is our reproductive organs. They’re very fragile and they’re also poorly located for having a laptop on your lap or having a cell phone in your pocket.
These are behaviours that we can control.
If you’re using a cellphone, don’t hold the to your head. Use handsfree. Use a wired headset. Text rather than talk.
Putting your phone in flight mode in airplane mode when you go to sleep or preferably keeping it far away from your bed. Because even when you’re not talking on the cell phone, it’s still chattering away. It’s checking in with the network. It’s receiving e-mails. It’s doing all kinds of stuff. It’s updating to the latest version of the Google apps or whatever. Our phones are busy little bees and if we just by turning the screen off they don’t stop. They keep doing stuff And when we’re asleep when our brains are trying to regenerate when we want our quiet time we don’t want that strobe light pulsing in the room. Put the phone in airplane mode and you’ll sleep better.[00:25:05] OK. Actually, that reminds me of the little container that you made for me which is which I can wear around my neck so that I can listen with my wired headsets to podcasts. And what is that lined with? [00:25:22] In the case of the pouch that I made for you and for our daughter it’s like with a metallic mesh that’s been designed to match and to block the frequencies that the phone uses. I mean cell phones are indiscriminate little communicators. They’re they’re basically little. They’re constantly talking in every direction. Now obviously the signal has to get to and from your phone or else your phone won’t work as a phone it’ll just be a pretty box on the screen but there’s no reason that those signals have to go through our bodies. And so when I saw that you were constantly using your phone all the time wearing it for listening to podcasts and things like that, I made this pouch and it hangs around your neck because you say it’s a pretty little pendant and it’s lined just on the side that faces your body. So the phone is perfectly comfortable communicating away from your body but it sort of shields the radiation from getting towards you too much. [00:26:21] But it’s not 100 percent of course. [00:26:23] If it was 100 percent, your phone wouldn’t work. [00:26:27] So it’s not like a luddite you don’t want to give up my phone. [00:26:31] No I’m not asking anybody to give up their phones. What I’m asking is for people to get informed about what the real dangers are to get informed about what their rights are and to start demanding that governments regulate real safety and that companies build devices that are truly safe.
Regulations[00:26:51] Actually there were a couple of things that I learned when we were listening to the court case hearings that kind of surprised me. One was the lawyer from Canada said that Canada regulations were not designed to keep individual Canadians safe but only can Canadians as a whole safe. Can you tell me a little bit about what you’ve learned about how we are regulated at the moment and how those regulations differ around the world? Because I understand Russia has been a little further ahead and primarily because of some of the things that happened during World War II, which I’m also investigating because of the book I’m writing. [00:27:36] So yeah the history of EMF is fascinating and it’s you know geopolitically speaking, people first began to be aware of this stuff on or around the second world war when we first started using radar for detecting ships. And there was a condition called Radar sickness that these radio operators would suffer from. Some of them were acute cases. Now this equipment was very primitive, very indiscriminate and really really loud and people a lot of people got very very sick with it. But that’s when people started investigating and realized, hey there’s more here than meets the eye. Let’s figure out what’s making people sick and how we can control it to keep people safe. And the Russians did a lot of early work on this and they arrived at a safety level that was about 100 times lower than the level that the Western world eventually settled on as being quote-unquote safe. The level that is considered safe is a level that doesn’t heat. What does that mean? It means if you… [00:28:49] This is in the Western countries. [00:28:50] In the Western countries and it’s enshrined in law. Health Canada has safety code six, which is a guideline. It’s not a regulation. It doesn’t have the force of law but it’s a guideline that’s enforced in government facilities and which industry Canada uses it to set permit levels for technology vendors.
Safety Standards[00:29:13] And what it says is the standard for safety is based upon using a device for six minutes and having it not heat tissue more than 1 degree Celsius. There’s a safety factor tenfold or so that’s applied to do that. Somewhere between 10 and 50 depending on the circumstance. But still. That’s what’s considered safe. If it doesn’t heat, you’re all good. And that’s enshrined in Canadian statute today. Health Canada, as you said the attorney general of Canada at the authorization hearing stated quite explicitly that the mandate of Health Canada is to ensure the health of Canadians. However, Health Canada has no legal responsibility for the health of any individual. Canadian citizen. Which is a somewhat contradictory statement. [00:30:19] But what about Russia. You said that there…Are their standards still 100 times lower? [00:30:24] Russia standards are still significantly lower. I’m not sure if it’s 10 or 100 times at this point depends on the frequencies. And frankly, I haven’t reviewed them recently. But what we have started seeing around the world are certain countries in certain geographies and jurisdictions starting to take the matter much more seriously. Recently in France, there’s been a law that bans the use of Wi-Fi in kindergartens and that mandates that Wi-Fi used in primary schools for lessons be on a switch. So they turn on the Wi-Fi during the lesson and they have to turn it off after a lesson. And it’s all about reducing exposure and keeping children safe. Because as we’ve said the health effects, they don’t happen overnight with one exposure. They happen over time with the cumulation of exposure. And when we think about kindergartens and children they will be exposed in their life to levels way beyond anything you and I have seen. We only started using phones in the 90s, right, when we’re already adults. And so starting to expose children, as we’re now doing routinely, from infancy in some cases, creates a huge amount of cumulative exposure at a time when the biology is fragile. The children are small and the exposure is now ubiquitous. You can’t get away from it.
Baby Monitors[00:31:53] Didn’t we actually expose our children? Didn’t we have a baby monitor that we could leave on and hear from other parts of the house like on Wi-Fi? [00:32:00] The baby monitor that we had, because we’re old people, back at the time when our kids were little, the baby monitor we had was what we call analog. It’s kind of like an AM radio. So that’s substantially safer because of a lot of details in the way they work. But today, yes baby monitors that are available are similar to those cordless house phones. There are digital devices. They’re always on. They’re always transmitting. There are pulsed frequencies and they are among the most hazardous especially for hypersensitive individuals. But they are among the most hazardous devices you can have in your home. And unfortunately, the use of that demands that it be placed closest to the baby. So you’re taking is the most dangerous enough device you’re placing it on the nightstand next to the most fragile and precious thing that you’ve got. And nobody knows about it. Well, citizens don’t know about it. The companies do know. Because while here in North America that’s the standard, in Europe the devices have a very simple feature that’s called Sound activation. If the baby isn’t making any sound, it turns off the radio transmitter. [00:33:16] But we don’t have that in North America? [00:33:18] No. It’s not available in North America. [00:33:21] You can’t even buy it in North America. [00:33:23] You cannot even buy it in North America. [00:33:25] Is that because it’s cheaper to produce it the other way? [00:33:29] I haven’t looked at it in detail. There may actually be a regulatory thing. People regulate technology deployment in order to keep you safe. Government regulations that tell you what you’re allowed and not allowed to sell. I don’t believe North American regulation supports it. Now the cost. Sure maybe it costs a little more to put that sound sensing circuit in and the logic to switch it on and off. But you have pretty much identical products available in Europe and in North America almost identical packaging. The only difference is the one in Europe will shut off when the baby is not making a sound and the one in North America does not. So the company’s know. [00:34:10] And so the one that doesn’t shut off that means always sending out those pulses. [00:34:17] Yup. [00:34:17] Wow That’s kind of horrifying.
House phones[00:34:19] Just like those House phones. What we call the DCT. [00:34:22] Oh the ones that you got rid of. [00:34:24] Yes. Really loud, really annoying from an EMF point of view. Very dangerous and even your cell phone, when you’re travelling in your car. [00:34:35] You ever notice that when you’re out in the country, your cell phone battery lasts not as long or when you during long trips. Well, that’s because your cell phone is doing what’s it’s constantly hopping as it’s moving in and out of cell phone coverage. It basically has to scream ‘here I am,’ ‘here I am’ to find a signal as you’re travelling or if you’re out in the country and the cell station is farther away, your phone actually boosts its power transmit power so it can scream louder to get a signal to the station. So you go out into the country to get away from electromagnetic radiation. And what does your phone do? It turns up the electromagnetic radiation in order to be able to keep working. Not his fault that’s how it was programmed. And it’s not really the programmer’s fault either. He doesn’t know. Nobody knows. It’s an industry well-kept secret. [00:35:23] Wow. [00:35:25] So what’s next in your adventures on this. How would you like to communicate to people about all of this? Do you have any idea of what you’re going to do next? [00:35:38] Well there are lots of great resources out there for anyone who’s interested in the issue and I think we all should be some of them are really approachable and readable and there’s a huge wealth of scientific literature site thousands of papers dissecting expanding and investigating every aspect of EMF and health-related issues. So anyone who’s keenly interested can look into those. But there are some great Web sites including C4ST Canadians For Safe Technology set up out of Ontario that’s gathered together some great resources. There are lots of really motivated people around the world who take this issue to heart and are doing some fundamental and groundbreaking work to try and raise awareness to try and effect change in terms of the way these technologies are regulated and ultimately how they’re designed and deployed. So it’s not all doom and gloom. I think with everything it starts with education. But really it really is about people a) understanding that the dangers are not non-existent and they can be quite significant and b) gathering together and asking seeking out and assisting with our with our political leaders that the issue is real it’s something we care about and be addressed.
Do you consider yourself Canadian? And if so what does that mean to you?[00:37:47] I’m a proud Canadian and have been since 1984 when I took my citizenship oath. You know I wasn’t born here I’ve been in Montreal pretty much all my life and it’s the only country I’ve ever known. So for sure, I’m Canadian. I still have a very strong heritage from my birth country of Portugal and I’m very proud of that too. But being a Canadian means never having to say you’re sorry.
About the Author
Tracey Arial helps Canadians grow with notable nonfiction and urban agriculture.