At the heart of the matter is a relatively simple and well-understood physical phenomenon: When an electric current passes through a wire, it generates an electromagnetic field that exerts forces on surrounding objects. Electric fields arise from the strength of an electric charge; magnetic fields, from the charge’s motion.
Unlike ionizing radiations such as x-rays — which pack sufficient wallop to knock electrons out of the molecules that make up the human body — EMFs do not produce charged particles, so experts always believed they posed no danger. Therefore, the Federal government has never regulated EMFs, and the electric industry was allowed to set its own standards.
But other recent experimental studies have shown that even weak magnetic fields can change the chemistry of the brain, impair the immune system, and inhibit the synthesis of melatonin, a hormone known to suppress several types of tumors and to be present in reduced amounts in men as well as women who develop breast cancer.
Some lab tests have confirmed that EMFs affect living cells in a variety of ways, most of them harmful. (Scientists are intrigued, however, by their ability to speed slow-healing fractures, enhancing bone formation).
What’s confusing is that the studies have produced widely divergent and often contradictory results. On the one hand, many scientists are convinced the study of electromagnetic fields is a massive waste of time and money — costing an estimated one billion dollars a year. After years of extensive study, Dr. Garry Boorman says, “We’re not sure what part of the field, if any, is toxic or important, or could be hazardous to your health.”
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