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BLOG: February 2009
Is power field pollution making you sick?
It was all fine while we were only using animals and steam to do the work for us. Then combustion engines came along, using coal and gas, opening the era of power pollution - that is, contaminating our environment with by-products of power production: smoke, particulate matter, harmful chemicals and gasses.
Then we learned how to use electromagnetic fields (EMF).
For a while, it was thought that this latest form of power source -the most common form of which is electricity - is a step ahead of messy combustion. Clean and safe, except for its high-energy end (i.e. ionizing radiation, from UV and X-rays to nuclear energy), it seemed to be just what doctor ordered.
Well - what do we ever know? For decades, officials were downplaying steadily growing, mainly scientific evidence, indicating that this new, clean form of power may not be safe, even at the common levels of exposure. At this point, the evidence of its ability to cause multitude of adverse health effects is all but impossible to ignore.
Can something that we can't sense in any way hurt us? Officially, it can't; for a long time now, the government maintains that the only EMF health danger comes from radiation strong enough to significantly raise body temperature, or to cause direct neuromuscular disturbance by inducing currents strong enough to affect neural function.
All safety standards for electromagnetic field (EMF)
The real world, as usual, doesn't fit into simplistic schemes. One simple truth we all learned is that no thing is only good. There is always the negative, no matter how small. Should we expect the electromagnetic power to be an exception? Electricity and electronics that we have surrounded ourselves with have made our lives much easier, more comfortable and enjoyable. What is the negative here, besides it costing us money?
It is becoming all but certain that we are also paying for what we're getting with our health. Some people more than the others, but no one is really spared. The culprit is the enormous level of electromagnetic energy use in developed countries, and its invisible companion - the EMF pollution.
These days, we are living in the environment filled with electromagnetic radiation of various frequencies and intensities, with no place to hide. Power lines, electrical wiring, appliances, tools and equipment, radios, telephone, cars, stereo, television, fluorescent lighting, computers, office equipment, medical imaging, cell phones, PDAs and other forms of wireless technology, as well as countless other electronic companions of modern lifestyle, have saturated our living environment with various forms of tissue-penetrating energy fields,
to which our bodies haven't been exposed never before.
The question is, how this new environmental pollutant affects health? We already know that high-energy ionizing radiation, such as UV light, X-ray, or radioactivity, can be damaging to health. Until now, it was believed that low-energy, non-ionizing radiation, from visible light and infrared to radiofrequencies, does not present health danger at the commonly encountered exposure levels.
However, first indications that this assumption could be wrong are now three decades old. Back in 1979, Wertheimer and Leeper became aware of a link between exposure to power-frequency fields around power lines and the rate of incidence of childhood leukemia. Ever since, the evidence was mounting that the exposure to this form of EMF radiation
can also present serious health hazard,
particularly to the children, sensitive individuals and those with chronic illnesses.
As mentioned, the official medical/governmental safety standards recognize two mechanisms through which non-ionizing radiation can adversely affect the body. One, for mid and higher radio-frequencies, is raising tissue temperature by heating the water molecules.
The other, for the lowest frequencies, too weak to produce appreciable heating, is causing acute behavioral and neurological symptoms as a result of EMF induced electrical currents. Either requires levels of exposure much higher than those that we commonly encounter.
Officially contested but with too many scientific confirmations to be ignored, are immediate and long-term adverse health effects of much weaker fields resulting from their
interference with bioelectricity,
a very low-power, low-frequency electrical currents and potentials within the body, vital to the flow of life.
Do the low-level energy fields, such as those typical of our common-level non-ionized radiation exposure, have the capability to interfere with these tiny electrical currents?
Do they affect resting potential of cellular membranes, or generating action potentials needed for signaling and communication, or pace and efficacy of the electron transport chain?
Can they disturb highly sensitive process of creation and use of free radicals (ions, electrons) by the body, increase uncontrolled leaks of these potentially harmful particles and cause increased rate of cellular damage?
If low-level energy fields do interfere with bioelectricity, they also interfere with basic biological processes at the cellular level, including gene expression. Do these fields have enough energy to affect bioelectricity? Let's take a look at the common electricity.
Average residential exposure to
electricity) field - which is a very low intensity field - is around 40 V/m,
official safety limit for these frequencies being 10,000 V/m. In
comparison, average resting membrane potential is in the range
4,000 times, or
more, lower than the average
Even considering that EMF quickly weakens as it penetrates the body, there is still more than enough of field energy left to be sensed - and reacted to - by energy field-sensitive components in and around body cells.
It is no different with respect to stray voltage and high-frequency transient currents leaking from electrical lines and wiring in and aroun our homes. All human bio-electricity is of very low voltage and frequency. It is so low that galvanic currents created between different dental metals placed in your mouth - for instance, gold crowns and silver/mercury fillings - are capable of aggravating or even producing epileptic symptoms, or causing heart arrhythmia.
Why would we assume that weak currents and fields produced by electricity - as well as stronger fields produced by sources using higher EMF frequencies - will not disturb proper body function, make you feel unwell, and ultimately cause or contribute to a full blown disease?
In fact, all these questions are rhetorical. The evidence of low intensity non-ionizing EMF, often
many times below current official safety standards,
interfering with cellular processes, altering cellular function, or being linked to adverse health effects and diseases, has been piling up for decades, and more is added by newer, more sophisticated studies every year.
Some studies, on the other hand, have not confirmed these findings.
Nevertheless, a small but growing segment of population doesn't need any proof: they are convinced that EMF exposure, such as that to the EMFs created by power lines, appliances, home wiring, and other sources, as well as stray currents originating from power lines and wiring, negatively affect their health and wellbeing.
The variety of symptoms related to this new form of environmental illness is known as electromagnetic hypersensitivity. Its actual mechanism is still unknown, but it is officially acknowledged as "real" by the World Health organization (WHO, International Workshop on EFM hypersensitivity, Prague, 2004).
That the effect of weak non-ionizing radiation on biological tissue is real is also supported by most in-vitro (test tube) studies. At present, Sweden is unique in that it, in fact, recognizes the common-level EMF exposure as a
legitimate cause of debilitating diseases.
In fact, it is well known - and utilized - for decades that weak electromagnetic fields can have profound bio-effect. Since as far back as 1970s, pulsating electromagnetic field has been successfully used to heal thousands of non-union fractures, when standard treatment and surgery failed; it is also effective for treatment of tennis elbow, pain of various origins, tendinitis (elbow, heel, rotator cuff), osteoarthritic knees, osteoporosis of the hips and spine, accelerating wound healing or healing resistant skin ulcers, osteonecrosis of the femoral artery (head), multiple sclerosis, even significant recovery of damaged nerves or easing Parkinson's10. Known as Quantum Resonance System (QRS), originally German technology, it works by
constructively altering bioelectricity at the cellular level -
restoring healthy cellular membrane potential, beneficial flow of mineral ions, increasing cellular energy production, DNA/RNA and protein synthesis.
All this is accomplished by brief exposures to a very weak (0.3-40μT standard), very low frequency (3-1000Hz) magnetic field. For comparison, the range of residential exposure to the power-frequency (50/60Hz) field in the U.S. is 0.01-0.95μT home, and up to 1.35μT workplace (Zaffanella, 1998). The only difference is that your residential exposure is constant (24-hour exposure for 99% of the population is in the 0.02-0.62μT range), and that power-frequency field is continuous-wave, not intermittent ("pulsed"), as with QRS.
Despite all that, major international health organizations, such as WHO (World Health Organization) and most governments around the globe still maintain that there is "no sufficient evidence" proving that low energy EMF can have significant bio-effect, or that there is a direct link between exposure to low-energy electromagnetic fields and symptoms of compromised health. Consequently, they don't see the need to lower the official safe exposure limit to power-frequency fields, set at 100μT.
Maybe we should turn it around, and look for "sufficient evidence" proving that it does not negatively affect health? Just assuming that this new form of environmental pollution is not silently contributing to the epidemic of diseases plaguing developed countries appears to be very risky proposition. Also, a proposition that is contrary to the most of existing scientific evidence.
In the following series of articles, we'll explore:
∙ what is electromagnetic radiation
∙ the most widespread EFM pollutant, electricity
∙ the basis and (in)adequacy of the official EMF safety standards
∙ powerful interests supporting the status quo, and
∙ how to protect yourself from potentially harmful EMF exposure