The sad truth is that until we have more epidemiologic evidence–whether from disease clusters like the ones at La Quinta and on Cape Cod or from long-term analyses of the health of the world’s 4-billion-and-growing cell phone users–we won’t know definitively whether electrical pollution is harming us. And even then, we are unlikely to know why or how. “In this country, our research dollars are spent on finding ways to treat disease, not on what causes it–which is to say, how we can prevent it,” says Marino. “And that’s a tragedy.”
But that’s also another story.
The Opposing View: “No need for regulation”
In 1993, the National Institutes of health and Department of Energy began an extensive review of all studies on the possible health effects of electromagnetic fields. six years later they completed their project, called the Electric and Magnetic Fields research and public Information Dissemination (EMF RAPID) program, and reported their findings to Congress: scientific evidence of human health risk from EMF exposure is “weak,” they concluded.
While acknowledging a link between both childhood and adult leukemias and EMFs, the researchers’ laboratory studies with cells and animals failed to identify a mechanism– that is, how EMFs might cause cancer. (read the EMF RAPID report at prevention.com/links)
To longtime EMF investigators such as David Carpenter, MD, the NIH dismissal of EMF hazards was patently absurd then and even more so now, given the spate of new findings. “We don’t know the mechanism for most carcinogens,” he says. “there’s this idea that anything that causes cancer must directly damage DNA, which is nonsense because most carcinogens don’t directly damage DNA. and physicists are adamant that the energy in everyday EMF exposure is so low, it couldn’t possibly do anything to biological systems. It’s like saying the Earth is flat because you can’t see over the edge.”
In fact, biological impacts of EMFs–therapeutic ones–are well known. Low-level frequencies are commonly used to promote healing of wounds and bone fractures, and experimental studies show positive effects of pulsed EMFs in treating pain and depression. recently, Michael persinger, PhD, a cognitive neuroscientist at Laurentian University, found that pulsed magnetic fields also halted the growth of melanoma cells in mice.
In a neat twist of logic, many scientists believe that the more we document beneficial effects of EMFs, the better we’ll understand their hazards. “If EMF at low intensities can heal,” says environmental consultant Cindy sage, “then when we are constantly and randomly exposed to it from multiple sources, it may also be harmful, like any medicine used indiscriminately.”
What was wrong with the La Quinta School?
According to epidemiologist Sam Milham, MD, the middle school was rife with the usual suspects– fluorescent lighting, electronic devices–whose toxic effects were exacerbated by an electrical supply overloaded with high-voltage transients.
Substandard wiring in the new school also undoubtedly played a role; officials have since added protective shielding to the electrical room. Milham also measured transient pollution along the transmission lines that fed power to the school. “I found it all the way from the substation to the school–more than a mile,” Milham says. “There are three other buildings along the route that also serve children. I’ve reported it to the FCC and the utility, but they ignore the problem.”
How electrical pollution harms
Here, a partial spectrum of the electromagnetic fields that surround us, from strong (waves of extremely high frequency and short length) to weak (waves of extremely low frequency and long length). In each category, you’ll find sources that generate the EMF, and associated health risks from overexposure.
[medical imaging devices]
Used to diagnose illness
Damages tissue and organs by breaking bonds
The only visible EMF
Ultraviolet light can burn skin and cause cancer
MICROWAVE (a higher frequency RF)
[CELL AND CORDLESS PHONES AND TOWERS]
Can heat tissues and penetrate blood-brain barrier
Increased risk of brain cancer, dementia, and heart disease
[RADIO AND TELEVISION SIGNALS]
Can disrupt body’s cellular interactions
“Radio sickness” and electrical hypersensitivity syndrome
EXTREMELY LOW FREQUENCY (ELF)
Can cause weak electric currents to flow through the body
Exposure is associated with childhood leukemia
Garden Grove, California
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