"I have never seen a set of epidemiological studies that remotely approached the weight of evidence we are seeing with extremely low frequency electromagnetic fields. Clearly there is something here."
Martin Halper, The Environmental Protection Agency, Director of Analysis and Support
We have all heard of the threats we face from pesticides in our food and water; from acid rain; from holes in the ozone; from toxic waste; from nuclear leaks and accidents; from nuclear wastes that can't be safely disposed of. But what about electromagnetic energy fields?
Yes, EMFs (electromagnetic fields) of all kinds are becoming a growing threat to our health and well-being. And unlike some forms of pollution, electromagnetic pollution exists virtually everywhere.
Twenty-four hours a day we are exposed to an alarming array of harmful electromagnetic fields.
Inside our homes, we are zapped by:
Outside our home, we are zapped by:
Unless you live in some remote corner of the planet, there is no escape. Simply put, our growing exposure to electromagnetic energy fields is a serious threat to our health, and the health of our children.
A few examples:
* Of thirty five international research studies on EMR, thirty three made a conclusive link between brain tumours, leukaemia, and other forms of cancer and electromagnetic stress. 1
* Electric utility workers with high exposure to magnetic fields had more than twice the risk of brain cancer than workers with lower exposures. 2
* Workers with moderate to high exposure to electromagnetic radiation were three to four times as likely to develop degenerative brain disease, such as Alzheimer's disease, as those who did not work around strong electromagnetic fields. 3
* Low level microwave radiation (used in cellular phone technology) causes DNA breaks in the brains of experimental animals and may have the same affect on human beings. 4
* Women in electrical occupations have a greater chance of dying of breast cancer than those working in non-electrical occupations. 5
* Women who use video display screens that emit strong electromagnetic fields are at a greater risk of having miscarriages than those using low-field video display screens. 6
* A growing number of people who live near high voltage power lines are developing life-threatening illnesses. Some have even died. Some of these people have taken their local power companies to court, claiming the companies had information on the harmful health effects of EMFs for years, but deliberately withheld that information from their customers. 7
* After noticing an unusually high rate of cancer among teachers, and learning disabilities among children who attend schools that are overshadowed by high voltage power lines, concerned teachers and parents in several school districts persuaded their administrators to relocate classrooms to safer locations. These moves, however, did not go unchallenged. Moves to safer locations were often preceded by bitter fights with local power companies who claimed there was no danger, but could not account for the unusually high incidence of cancer among teachers who taught in areas overshadowed by high voltage power lines. 8
* Other EMF symptoms include:
Eyestrain, headaches, inability to concentrate, neckaches, irritability, depression, memory loss, weakened immune system and, in more extreme cases, birth defects and leukaemia in children. Children, unfortunately, are especially susceptible to EMRs.
* The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency publicly acknowledged that electromagnetic pollution is a serious threat to health. While the White House and U.S. Air Force apparently tried to suppress an EPA report for fear the report "might be unnecessarily alarming to the public", EPA staffers felt the situation was so serious that they leaked a draft copy of their findings to the press.
Called "Evaluation of the Potential Carcinogenicity of Electromagnetic Fields", the EPA report was 150 pages long. It reviewed studies that had been completed prior to 1990 that included six residential studies of children and adults; over thirty studies of workers in electrical occupations; two studies of the relationship between children's cancer rates and their father's EMF exposures; as well as hundreds of laboratory studies.
"The several studies showing leukemia, lymphoma, and cancer of the nervous system in children exposed to magnetic fields from residential 60 Hz (50 Hz in Australia, but no less harmful ed.) electrical power distribution systems, supported by similar findings in adults in several occupational studies also involving electrical power frequency exposures, show a consistent pattern of response that suggests... a causual link." 9
Now that we know electromagnetic pollution is a problem--A BIG problem, what can we do about it?
A Few Suggestions
While we should all be concerned about how much ourselves and our children are exposed to harmful electromagnetic fields, we don't need to feel powerless. In the public arena, you can demand for this problem to be squarely addressed by government, science and industry. Personally, you can take a look around your home and offices and design things in such a way that you minimize your exposure to electromagnetic energy.
Here are a few suggestions:
* Scan your environment with a gauss meter (a meter designed to detect electromagnetic energy fields) to determine how much electromagnetic energy is in your immediate environment, as well as what sources generate the strongest fields. When testing individual sources of energy, test them when they are turned both on and off.
* Don't sleep under electric blankets or on a waterbed. Both of these products generate a constant stream of electromagnetic energy that quietly saturates your body for long periods of time. You should also relocate any electric wires that might be running under your bed.
* Sit at least 3 metres away from televisions. Generally, the bigger the screen, the further away you should sit. A gauss meter can tell you how far the harmful field extends for a particular television .
(TV manufacturers have traditionally been far more lax with their monitor emission standards than computer manufacturers ie, computer monitors generally emit less radiation than TVs of a similar size ed.)
* Rearrange your office so that you and others are not exposed to EMR from the backs and sides of video display monitors. In addition, you can minimize your exposure by sitting at least an arms length from your monitor. Only purchase equipment that meets or exceeds the Swedish standards for electromagnetic emissions.
* Avoid standing too close to microwave ovens when they are in use move about 3 metres away. Better still, leave the room. Unplug your microwave when not in use. (Consider getting rid of your microwave altogether, as some studies also indicate they alter food in a way that is harmful to our bodies.)
* Move electric clocks away from your head-- at least 1 metre. Keep other electrical appliances, such as telephones, answering machines and stereos, well away from your head.
* Get rid of dimmers and three-way electrical switches altogether. They emit especially strong electromagnetic fields.
* Avoid using cordless electronic devices, such as electric toothbrushes, cordless phones (especially digital ones) and razors, all of which use magnetic induction to charge the battery. Such devices create large magnetic fields.
* Electromagnetic energy can pass effortlessly through walls, so avoid setting up something on one side of a wall thinking it won't effect you or anyone on the other side. Stay several metres away, depending on how strong a field the item in question produces.
Applying these simple suggestions will help you minimize your exposure to harmful electromagnetic fields. Unfortunately, they won't stop your exposure altogether. Nor will these suggestions protect you from exposure to electromagnetic energy fields outside your home.
RADIATION PROTECTION DEVICES
For a listing of devices which will help to protect you and your house, office, etc, from EMR, see Radiation, Protection in the Alternative Directory.
1. "Electromagnetic Radiation," Chloe Wadsworth
2. Associated Press, From a study co-authored by David Savitz
3. From three studies of more than 800 people in Finland and the United States. Eugene Sobel, PhD, professor of preventive medicine and neurology at the University of Southern California School of Medicine, led the analysis.
4. Microwave News, November/December, 1994
5. Microwave News, November/December, 1993
6. Microwave News, March/April, 1992
7. Microwave News, January/February, 1994
8. & 9. "Warning: The Electricity Around You May Be Hazardous To Your Health," By Ellen Sugarman