Electricity is what causes our hearts to beat and our brains to think. Without it there would be no cell division; we could not hear, see, feel or move. We don’t just use electricity it is an essential part of who we are. Our planet has its own natural electrical and magnetic fields. Lightning, for example, creates natural electric fields as it strikes the planet hundreds of times each hour. The Earth itself is like a giant magnet, with lines of magnetic force running from the North Pole to the South Pole. Life has adapted to and existed within this natural electromagnetic environment for millions of years. That is, until the last century. Our civilization now runs on man-made electricity, and we live in proximity to power sources and office machines and appliances that generate a wide range of electromagnetic radiation almost 24 hours a day. But the electromagnetic fields, or EMFs, created by modern society are very different from the static magnetic field in which life has evolved.
Health concerns Unease about the health effects of electromagnetic fields can be traced back to a 1979 study conducted by epidemiologist Nancy Wertheimer and physicist Ed Leeper. The Wertheimer-Leeper study found that children living close to high-current power lines were two to three times more likely to develop cancer than children who did not. In the 23 years since, dozens of studies have corroborated the Wertheimer-Leeper findings, and hundreds of other studies have associated exposure to EMFs with increased incidence of childhood and adult cancers, including leukemia, lymphoma, brain cancer and male breast cancer, as well as increased risk of miscarriage, depression and suicide. And while some studies have found either no risk or very low risk of electromagnetic fields for cancer, a preponderance of the evidence suggests that EMFs are a serious threat to human health.
In his 1985 book The Body Electric: Electromagnetism and the Foundation of Life, Robert O. Becker, M.D., noted, “The human species has changed its electromagnetic background more than any other aspect of the environment.” According to Becker, “The greatest polluting element in the Earth’s environment is the proliferation of electromagnetic fields.” Everyone recognizes the health hazards of chemical pollutants in our air, land and water. But ask someone about the dangers of EMFs and you’ll most likely get a blank stare. Putting the spin on science In July 1997, addressing the First World Conference on Breast Cancer, environmental consultant and policy researcher Cindy Sage declared that decision-making on public health issues is hampered “when there is a large industry presence [that] may suffer Þnancial consequences with the admission of liability for a carcinogenic product.” Such a situation, she added, “creates a difficult climate for funding, evaluating and acting on new scientific information.
The state of the science becomes a battleground, where scientific uncertainty is argued as reason to defer action or take trivial or meaningless action.” This is exactly what has happened with EMF research. Due to strong industry pressure to ignore possible health risks, studies showing positive EMF-cancer associations have been discredited, while other studies have disguised or buried the association altogether.
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