Human Health and Electro-Magnetic Fields

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18 Οκτ 2013 (πριν από 3 χρόνια και 10 μήνες)

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Human Health and Electro
Magnetic Fields

by Natalia Golubkoff

“You cannot see it, taste it or smell it, but it is one of the most pervasive
environmental exposures in industrialized countries today.”

, 2007:3).

The last century witnessed an explosion of technologies that produce electromagnetic
fields (EMFs), and there will be even more of these innovative technologies in the 21st
century. Since the 1970s, a variety of laboratory and epidemiological s
tudies worldwide
came up with contradictory conclusions about health impacts of EMFs.
This essay
on recent investigations, and shows that there is growing evidence among scientists and the
public about possible health risks associated with EMFs (
, 2007). There are
also some studies, that do not show any adverse health effects of EMFs
Comission, 2004)
, but they are
beyond the scope of the essay.

Today, everyone is exposed to two types of EMFs: extremely low frequency
netic fields (ELF) and radiofrequency radiation (RF) (
, 2007).
are generated by electrical and electronic appliances (microwave ovens, hairdryers, etc.),
electric wiring, power lines, and electric train and tram cables (Health Canada, 200
7). RF
radiation arises from devices such as cell phones, cordless phones, “Wi
Fi” and
“Bluetooth” type technologies, and broadcast transmission towers (
European Comission,

Occupational exposure to ELFs may come from computers, industrial electric
urnaces and motors.

Our planet has an EMF of its own, and all living creatures are tuned to this frequency,
which determines all important processes in their life. “
Human hearts and brains are
regulated by internal bioelectrical signals. Environmental expo
sures to artificial EMFs can
interact with fundamental biological processes in the human body
” (
, 2007:3)
This interaction may result in adverse health effects. The existing limit for human EMF
exposure set by the International Council on Non
Ionizing Radiation Protection (ICNIRP)
is 1000 milligauss (mG) (904 mG in the US) (
, 2007)

International Agency for Cancer Research classified ELF as a Possible Human
Carcinogen (in the Group 2B carcinogen list) (Kheifets et. al., 2006). Edw
ards and
Rowe (2002) showed that increased risk for childhood leukemia starts at levels
almost one thousand times below the safety standard. Green et al. (1999) found that
leukemia risks for young boys double at only 1.4 mG exposure and above (cited

, 2007
). A study of South Korean children (1,928 with leukemia, 956 with
brain cancer and 3,082 controls) living close to AM radio transmitters reported an OR of
2.15 for risk of leukemia in children living within 2 km of the nearest AM tr
ansmitter as
compared to those living more than 20 km from it (Ha et al., 2007).
Children, who are
recovering in high
ELF environments, have poorer survival rates: a 450% increased risk of
dying if the ELF fields are 3 mG and above (Foliart et al., 2006),
and a 300% increased risk
of dying at exposure of 2 mG than as compared to 1 mG (Svedsen et al., 2007). Lowenthal
at al. (2007) showed that children, who were raised for their first five years of life within
300 meters of a high
voltage electric power lin
e, had a life
time risk that is 500% higher for
developing some kinds of cancers
(cited in
, 2007

Prenatal exposure to EMF has been identified as possible risk factor for childhood
(BioInitiative, 2007). It was found that exposure
to more than 16mG of
electromagnetic energy

increased a woman’s risk of miscarriage by six times in the first 10
weeks of pregnancy (EHSToday, 2002).
Low birth weight and perinatal depression might
be associated with exposure to EMFs as well (Laurence, 200

There is significant evidence of relationship between occupational exposure to EMFs
and leukemia in adults. Forssen et al. (2005) suggests that ELF is a risk factor for breast
cancer for women with long
term exposures in the workplace of 10 mG and high
It was
shown that workers in the highest 10% category for EMF exposure were twice as likely to
die of prostate cancer as those exposed at lower levels (Charles et al., 2003, cited in
, 2007

More than one dozen studies suggest that RF rad
iation from cell and cordless phones
exposure is a risk factor for brain tumors and acoustic neuromas
(Institute of Science in
Society, n.d.; Svoboda, 2004)
. For people, who have used a cell phone for more than 10
years, there is a 20% increased risk of a
brain tumor, when the cell phone is used on both
sides of the head, and a 200% increased risk, when the cell phone is used predominantly on
one side of the head (Herdell et. al., 2007, cited in
, 2007
). The risk of brain
tumor from cordless ph
one use is 220% higher when used mostly on both sides of the head,
and 470% higher (one side of the head) (Herdell et. al., 2007, cited in
, 2007
Recently, Herdell found that after one or more years of cell phone use, there was a 5.2
evated risk of malignant brain tumour in children who began using mobile phones before
age 20 (OR of 1.4 for other ages) (
Schmidt, 2009)
. Some studies reported higher brain
tumor rates in connection with occupational exposure (
, 2007)

There i
s strong evidence that exposing humans to cell phone radiation can affect
normal brainwave activity, memory and learning (
, 2007)
. The effects can
depend on such factors as age of the individual and state of health, head shape and size, the
cation, size and shape of internal brain structures, the hydration, thickness and dielectric
constant of various tissues, and so on (
, 2007)
. Exposure conditions, including
frequency, orientation and duration of exposure, also have a great inf
luence on the
outcome. Chronic exposure to RF radiation causes such symptoms as fatigue, headache,
insomnia, grogginess, dizziness, ringing in the ears, and problems with concentration,
balance and orientation (
, 2007)
There is little doubt t
hat long
term exposure
to ELF is a risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (Feychting
et al., 2003; Hakansson et al.; 2003 Qio et al., 2004; WHO, 2007b).

Some studies show that

EMFs can cause changes in how DNA works
Lai and
, 2007)
. The European research program (REFLEX, 2004) produced
information on EMFs effects from more than a dozen different researchers, and
documented many changes in normal biological functioning in tests on DNA
. It was shown that
“genotoxic effects and a modified expression of numerous genes
and proteins after EMFs exposure could be demonstrated with great certainty
” and “t
induced DNA damage was not based on thermal effects and arouses consideration abou
the environmental safety limits for ELF
EMF exposure”

(REFLEX, 2004). Chronic
exposure to ELF and RF can change normal immune function, lead to chronic allergic
responses and inflammatory diseases
, 2007)

Electrohypersensitivity (EHS) is
intolerance for any level of exposure to ELF and/or
RF (WHO, 2005). According to reports from many countries, about 3
5% of population
have the disease, and it is a growing problem (WHO, 2005). EHS requires the affected
person to make drastic changes in wo
rk and living conditions, and can be disabling
, 2007)
. In Sweden, EHS is officially recognized as fully functional
, 2007)

Significant fact is that EMFs can be effective in medical treatments at energy levels
far be
low current public exposure standards (
, 2007)
. Some forms of EMFs
exposure are used to treat depression, to heal bone fractures and wounds to the skin and
underlying tissues, and to reduce pain and swelling (
, 2007)
. “
How can
entists dispute the harmful effects of EMF exposures while at the same time using forms
of EMF treatment that are proven to heal the body? No one would recommend that drugs
used in medical treatments and prevention of disease be randomly given to the publi
especially to children, yet random and involuntary exposures to EMFs occur all the time in
daily life”
, 2007:20)

The ICNIRP limiting standards for EMFs exposure are based on short
term acute
exposure and immediate health effects, such a
s stimulation of peripheral nerves and
elevated tissue temperatures, but the biological cell communications systems of people is
likely to be harmfully disrupted at energy levels below that needed for tissue heating
(ICNIRP, 1998; Gee, 2009). The guideline
s do not do not include time weighted averaging
of human exposure to EMFs, a consideration important in the determination of a health
effect, and do not protect the public from long
term exposure (Manitoba Clean
Environment Comission, 2001; Havas, 2004). B
esides, the standards for exposure to EMFs
are based on the “standard reference man”, not scaled to children or adults of smaller
stature (Manitoba Clean Environment Comission, 2001). Moreover, the guidelines do not
consider that children may be more susce
ptible to the effects of EMF exposure, as they are
growing, their rate of cellular activity and division is more rapid, and they may be more at
risk for DNA damage (BioInitiative, 2007).

The existing public exposure limits of 1000 mG (904 mG in the US) can

no longer be
said to be protective of public health: exposure level that has been linked in occupational
studies with increased risk of adult cancers and neurological diseases is 4 mG and above
(Feychting et al., 2003; Hakansson et al.; 2003 Qio et al., 2
004; BioInitiative, 2007), and
increased risk for childhood leukemia starts at exposure levels over 1.4 mG (Green et. al.,
1999). BioInitiative (2007) suggests that the EMF exposure limits should be set below this
1.4 mG
level and plus an additional safety

factor. “
What stands out is the consistency of the
association of exposure and disease

says Dr. David Carpenter, director of the Institute for
Health & the Environment at the University at Albany, discussing findings of 15 studies
from health researche
rs in six countries.

The evidence is sufficiently strong that there
needs to be public warnings, there needs to be establishments of exposure guidelines and
that the present guidelines

in Canada, the United States or anyone else

are not
protective of

human health
” (
Schmidt, 2009).

Appropriate, precautionary and proportionate actions taken now to avoid plausible
and potentially serious threats to health from EMF are likely to be seen as prudent and
wise from future perspectives
” (Prof. Jacquie McGlad
e, Executive Director ,EEA, Sep.
2007, cited in Gee, 2009). Government and industry should promote research to further
reduce the uncertainty of the scientific evidence on the health effects caused by EMF
exposure (
European Comission, 2007;
WHO, 2007a). Ho
wever, it is very difficult to do
clinical studies on EMFs, as everybody with and without diseases has multiple and
overlapping exposures, and as it is almost impossible to find anyone who is not already
exposed to EMFs (
, 2007)
. Policy decisi
ons and community action are required
to reduce occupational exposure, ensure placement of high
voltage power lines to minimize
exposure, and ensure adequate manufacturing guidelines to minimize EMFs (Toronto
Public Health, 2001). It is necessary to educat
e decision
makers and the public about
sources of exposure and ways to reduce risk.
As well, coordination and consultation should
be improved among industry and government at the planning process for low
environments and in EMF
emitting facilities (WHO
, 2007a).

In today’s world, no one can avoid exposure of EMFs.
“There may be no lower limit
at which exposures do not affect us. Until we know if there is a lower limit below which
bioeffects and adverse health impacts do not occur, it is unwise from a pub
lic health
perspective to continue “business
usual” deploying new technologies that increase ELF
and RF exposures, particularly involuntary exposures.”
(BioInitiative, 2007:7).

It is vital to
consider ways in which to evaluate risks and to reduce exposu
re, while there is still time to
make changes.


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