Health Effects of EMF Exposure: the Mercury Connection (Govít studies)
In a long term comprehensive electromagnetic fields(EMF) risk assessment study by the California Dept. of Health Services, all reviewers concluded that it is highly likely that EMF causes some forms of cancer, along with chronic neurological conditions like ALS(Lou Gehrigísís disease) and depression. They also found a significant likelihood that EMF causes cardiovascular problems and increased suicide(1). People are commonly exposed to †electromagnetic fields from computer monitors, microwaves, televisions, other appliances, and power lines.
Environmental exposure to high-frequency voltage transients (HFVT), also termed dirty electricity, has been suggested among electro(hyper)sensitive interest groups as an important biological active component of standard electromagnetic pollution. In some studies exposure to HFVT was associated with increased cancer risks, while preferential removal of 4-100 kHz HFVT from 50-60 Hz ELF circuits was linked to a variety of improvements in health (plasma glucose levels in diabetic patients, symptoms of multiple sclerosis, asthma and other respiratory illnesses, and insomnia), well-being (tiredness, frustration, general health, irritation, sense of satisfaction, mood), and student behavior (20). However more studies are needed to verify and clarify the findings.
Actually there is strong evidence in the medical literature already supporting these conclusions and documenting mechanisms by which the effects occur. The evidence is based on the fact that chronic mercury exposure has been documented to cause all of these conditions (12-16), and EMF, microwave, or MRI exposure has been documented to cause significant release of mercury into the body, including the brain and Central Nervous System, from those who have amalgam(2,19). Studies have found persons with chronic exposure to electromagnetic fields (EMF), microwaves, or MRIs to have higher levels of mercury exposure and excretion(2,9,19). Electromagnetic fields are known to induce current in metals and would increase the documented effects of galvanism (9,12-16). Amalgam has also been documented to be the largest source of mercury exposure in most people who have amalgam fillings(12,16).
EMF is also documented in animal and human studies to cause cellular calcium efflux and affect calcium homeostasis(3,4), which may be a factor in the reduction of melatonin levels caused by EMF exposure in animal and human studies(4,5). In studies on chicks this had significant adverse effects on viability of embryos and chicks. Melatonin is known to be protective against mercury and free radical activity and against cell proliferation(cancer)(17), as well as regulating the circadian rhythm cycle and sleep cycle. EMF exposure lowers melatonin production, disrupts the sleep cycle(5,8c), and blocks melatoninís cell antiproliferation effects (17). Another study provides evidence for an association between occupational electromagnetic fields and suicide(10). The authors indicate that a plausible mechanism related to melatonin and depression provides a direction for additional laboratory research as well as epidemiological evaluation.
Occupational exposure to higher levels of EMF have also been found in many studies to result in much higher risk of chronic degenerative neurological conditions such as ALS(6), Alzheimerís Disease(7), Depression(11), as well as Leukemia and Cancer(8,6e). Since EMF, microwaves, MRIs,etc. cause increased mercury exposure in those with amalgam, and mercury is also known to cause these conditions(13-16), again it is not clear the relative importance of the factors since the studies were not controlled for mercury levels or number of amalgam fillings.
(1) California Dept. of Health Services, California EMF Program, Draft of final risk evaluation report,
(2) F.Schmidt et al, "Mercury in urine of employees exposed to magnetic fields", Tidsskr Nor Laegeforen, 1997, 117(2): 199‑202; & Granlund-Lind R, Lans M, Rennerfelt J, "Computers and amalgam are the most common causes of hypersensitivity to electricity according to sufferers' reports", Lškartidningen 2002; 99: 682-683 (Swedish); & Sheppard AR and EisenbudM., Biological Effects of electric and magnetic fields of extremely low frequency. New York university press. 1977; & Ortendahl T W, Hogstedt P, Holland RP, "Mercury vapor release from dental amalgam in vitro caused by magnetic fields generated by CRT's", Swed Dent J 1991 p 31
(3) Aldinucci C; Palmi M; Sgaragli G; Benocci A; Meini A; Pessina F; Pessina GP. The effect of pulsed electromagnetic fields on the physiologic behaviour of a human astrocytoma cell line. Biochim Biophys Acta 2000, 11;1499(1‑2):101‑108; & Fitzsimmons RJ, Ryaby JT, Magee FP, Baylink DJ. Combined magnetic fields increased net calcium flux in bone cells. Calcif Tissue Int 1994 Nov;55(5):376‑80
(4) Pablos MI; Agapito MT; Gutierrez‑Baraja R; Reiter RJ; Recio JM. Effect of calcium on melatonin secretion in chick pineal gland I. Neurosci Lett 1996 Oct18;217(2‑3):161‑4; & Nikaido SS; Takahashi JS. Calcium modulates circadian variation in cAMP‑stimulated melatonin in chick pineal cells. Brain Res 1996 15;716(1‑2):1‑10; & Youbicier‑Simo BJ; Boudard F; Cabaner C; Bastide M. Biological effects of continuous exposure of embryos and young chickens to electromagnetic fields emitted by video display units. Bioelectromagnetics 1997;18(7):514‑23 ;
(5) Juutilainen J; Stevens RG; et al; Nocturnal 6‑hydroxymelatonin sulfate excretion in female workers exposed to magnetic fields. J Pineal Res 2000 ;28(2):97‑104; & Akerstedt T; Arnetz B; Ficca G; Paulsson LE; Kallner A. A 50‑Hz electromagnetic field impairs sleep. J Sleep Res 1999 Mar;8(1):77‑8 & Ronco AL, Halberg F. The pineal gland and cancer. Anticancer Res 1996 Jul‑Aug;16(4A):2033‑9; &
& Zecca L, Mantegazza C, Margonato V, Cerretelli P, Caniatti M, Piva F, Dondi D,
Hagino N. Biological effects of prolonged exposure to ELF electromagnetic
fields in rats: III. 50 Hz electromagnetic fields. Bioelectromagnetics 1998;19(1):57‑66
(6) Savitz DA; Checkoway H; Loomis DP. Magnetic field exposure and neurodegenerative disease mortality among electric utility workers. Epidemiology 1998 Jul;9(4):398‑404; & Savitz DA; Loomis DP; Tse CK. Electrical occupations and neurodegenerative disease: analysis of U.S. mortality data.Arch Environ Health 1998 Jan‑Feb;53(1):71‑4; & Johansen C; Olsen JH. Mortality from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, other chronic disorders, and electric shocks among utility workers.Am J Epidemiol 1998 Aug 15;148(4):362‑8; & Davanipour Z; Sobel E; Bowman JD; Qian Z; Will AD. Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis and occupational exposure to electromagnetic fields. Bioelectromagnetics 1997;18(1):28‑35; & (e)Ahlbom II, Cardis E, Green A, Linet M, Savitz D, Swerdlow A. Review of the Epidemiologic Literature on EMF and Health. Environ Health Perspect 2001 Dec;109 Suppl 6:911-933; &(f)Ahlbom A. Neurodegenerative diseases, suicide and depressive symptoms in relation to EMF. Bioelectromagnetics 2001;Suppl 5:S132‑43
(7) Sobel E; Dunn M; Davanipour Z; Qian Z; Chui HC. Elevated risk of Alzheimer's disease among workers with likely electromagnetic field exposure. Neurology 1996 ;47(6):1477‑81; & Sobel E, Davanipour Z. Electromagnetic field exposure may cause increased production of amyloid beta and eventually lead to Alzheimer's disease. Neurology. 1996 Dec;47(6):1594‑600; & Sobel E; Davanipour Z; Sulkava R; Erkinjuntti T; Wikstrom J et al; Occupations with exposure to electromagnetic fields: a possible risk factor for Alzheimer's disease. Am J Epidemiol 1995 Sep 1;142(5):515‑24; & Hansen NH, Sobel E, Davanipour Z, Gillette LM, Niiranen J, Wilson BW. EMF exposure assessment in the finnish garment industry: evaluation of proposed EMF exposure metrics. Bioelectromagnetics 2000, Jan;21(1):57‑67
(8) London SJ; Bowman JD; Sobel E; Thomas DC; Garabrant DH; Pearce N; Bernstein L; Peters JM. Exposure to magnetic fields among electrical workers in relation to leukemia risk in Los Angeles County. Am J Ind Med 1994 Jul;26(1):47‑60; & Caplan LS; Schoenfeld ER; O'Leary ES; Leske MC. Breast cancer and electromagnetic fields‑‑a review. Ann Epidemiol 2000 Jan;10(1):31‑44; & (c)Stevens RG, Davis S. The melatonin hypothesis: electric power and breast cancer. Environ Health Perspect 1996 Mar;104 Suppl 1:135‑40
(9) Mercury Exposure and Health Effects from Dental Amalgam Galvanism,
(10)van Wijngaarden E, Savatz D, Kleckner R, Cai J, Loomis D. Exposure to electromagnetic fields and suicide among electric utility Workers: a nested case-control study. Occup Environ Med 2000; 57:258-263
(11) Zyss T, Dobrowolski JW, Krawczyk K. Neurotic disturbances, depression and anxiety disorders in the population living in the vicinity of overhead high‑voltage transmission line 400 kV. Epidemiological pilot study Med Pr 1997;48(5):495‑505
(12) Kingman A, Albertini T, Brown LJ, Mercury concentrations in urine and whole blood associated with amalgam exposure in a US military population., J Dent Res 1998 Mar;77(3):461-71
(population of over 1000 Air Force personnel; found each 10 amalgam surfaces increased mercury in urine by approx. 1 microgram per liter); &
(b) Leistevuo J, Pyy L, Osterblad M, Dental amalgam fillings and the amount of organic mercury in human saliva. Caries Res 2001 May‑Jun;35(3):163‑6; &
(c) Bjorkman L, Sandborgh-Englund G, Ekstrand J. "Mercury in Saliva and Feces after Removal of Amalgam Fillings", Toxicology and Applied Pharmacology, 1997, 144(1), p156-62;
(d) Mercury levels from amalgam fillings, DAMS, www.flcv.com/damspr1.html
(13) Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis(ALS): the mercury connection, www.flcv.com/als.html
(14) Alzheimerís Disease: the Mercury Connection, www.flcv.com/alzhg.html
(15) Depression: the Mercury Connection: www.home.earthlink.net/~berniew1/depress.html
(16)Mercury exposure and related health effects from amalgam fillings, www.flcv.com/amalg6.html
(B.Windham(Ed.), over 2000 peer-reviewed medical studies reviewed and referenced),
(17) Drs Masami Ishido and Hiroshi Nitta, Japan's National Institute for Environmental Studies in Tsukuba, ď12 mG EMFs Can Inhibit Melatonin EffectĒ, Microwave News Sept/October 2001
(18) Draper G, Vincent T, Kroll M & Swanson J, Oxford Childhood Cancer Research Group - Childhood cancer and electromagnetic field exposures from powerlines - Department of Health funded 1997-2001, RRX 46
(19) Mercury release from dental amalgam restorations after magnetic resonance imaging and following mobile phone use. Pak J Biol Sci. 2008 Apr 15;11(8): 1142-6, Mortazavi SM, Daiee E, Yazdi A, Khiabani K, Mood MB,et al
(20) "Dirty electricity": what, where, and should we care?; de Vocht F.,†††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† J Expo Sci Environ Epidemiol. 2010 Mar 24.
(21) Dirty Power: a factor in an unusual cancer cluster at La Quinta Middle School in southern California, Milham S, Morgan L, †American Journal of Industrial Medicine, 2009.
Pablos MI; Agapito MT; Gutierrez‑Baraja R; Reiter RJ; Recio JM. Effect
of calcium on melatonin secretion in chick pineal gland I. Neurosci Lett
1996 Oct18;217(2‑3):161‑4; & Nikaido SS; Takahashi JS. Calcium modulates circadian variation in cAMP‑stimulated melatonin in chick pineal cells. Brain Res 1996 Apr
15;716(1‑2):1‑10; & Youbicier‑Simo BJ; Boudard F; Cabaner C; Bastide M. Biological effects of continuous exposure of embryos and young chickens to electromagnetic fields emitted by video display units. Bioelectromagnetics 1997;18(7):514‑23
(lower melatonin & adverse effects on embryos & young chicks)
calcium input from extracellular medium and output from intracellular
calcium reserves are primary mechanisms in the
activation of melatonin synthesis in the chick pineal gland
causes cell calcium efflux and affects calcium homeostatis
Aldinucci C; Palmi M; Sgaragli G; Benocci A; Meini A; Pessina F; Pessina GP. The effect of pulsed electromagnetic fields on the physiologic behaviour of a
human astrocytoma cell line. Biochim Biophys Acta 2000 Dec 11;1499(1‑2):101‑108
EMF exposed workers consistently produced less melatonin
Juutilainen J; Stevens RG; et al; Nocturnal 6‑hydroxymelatonin sulfate excretion in female workers exposed to magnetic fields. J Pineal Res 2000 ;28(2):97‑104; & Akerstedt T; Arnetz B; Ficca G; Paulsson LE; Kallner A. A 50‑Hz electromagnetic field impairs sleep. J Sleep Res 1999 Mar;8(1):77‑81
(impairs sleep quan. & qual.)
Savitz DA; Checkoway H; Loomis DP. Magnetic field exposure and
neurodegenerative disease mortality among electric utility workers.
Epidemiology 1998 Jul;9(4):398‑404. (higher risk in occupations
with exposure, and inc with time)
Savitz DA; Loomis DP; Tse CK. Electrical occupations and
neurodegenerative disease: analysis of U.S. mortality data.Arch Environ
Health 1998 Jan‑Feb;53(1):71‑4.
(5 times higher risk for power plant operators‑ALS) higher for Alz
Johansen C; Olsen JH. Mortality from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis,
other chronic disorders, and electric shocks among utility workers.Am J
Epidemiol 1998 Aug 15;148(4):362‑8. higher risk of ALS with
Davanipour Z; Sobel E; Bowman JD; Qian Z; Will AD. Amyotrophic lateral
sclerosis and occupational exposure to electromagnetic fields.
Bioelectromagnetics 1997;18(1):28‑35. Occup. with higher exposure to
EMF had higher risk of ALS
Savitz DA; Checkoway H; Loomis DP. Magnetic field exposure and
neurodegenerative disease mortality among electric utility workers.
Epidemiology 1998 Jul;9(4):398‑404; & Savitz DA; Loomis DP; Tse CK. Electrical occupations and neurodegenerative disease: analysis of U.S. mortality data.Arch Environ
Health 1998 Jan‑Feb;53(1):71‑4; & Johansen C; Olsen JH. Mortality from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, other chronic disorders, and electric shocks among utility workers.Am J
Epidemiol 1998 Aug 15;148(4):362‑8; & Davanipour Z; Sobel E; Bowman JD; Qian Z; Will AD. Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis and occupational exposure to electromagnetic fields.
Sobel E; Dunn M; Davanipour Z; Qian Z; Chui HC. Elevated risk of
Alzheimer's disease among workers with likely electromagnetic field
exposure. Neurology 1996 Dec;47(6):1477‑81.
Workers in occup. with more EMF exp. had 4 times higher risk of Alz
Sobel E, Davanipour Z. Electromagnetic field exposure may cause increased
production of amyloid beta and eventually lead to Alzheimer's disease.
Neurology. 1996 Dec;47(6):1594‑600.
Sobel E; Davanipour Z; Sulkava R; Erkinjuntti T; Wikstrom J;
Henderson VW; Buckwalter G; Bowman JD; Lee PJ.
Occupations with exposure to electromagnetic fields: a possible risk
factor for Alzheimer's disease. Am J Epidemiol 1995 Sep 1;142(5):515‑24.
(Occup with more exp. to EMF‑semstress
have 3 times higher risk of Alz)
Sobel E; Dunn M; Davanipour Z; Qian Z; Chui HC. Elevated risk of Alzheimer's disease among workers with likely electromagnetic field exposure. Neurology 1996 ;47(6):1477‑81;
& Sobel E, Davanipour Z. Electromagnetic field exposure may cause increased
production of amyloid beta and eventually lead to Alzheimer's disease. Neurology. 1996 Dec;47(6):1594‑600; & Sobel E; Davanipour Z; Sulkava R; Erkinjuntti T; Wikstrom J et al;
Occupations with exposure to electromagnetic fields: a possible risk factor for Alzheimer's disease. Am J Epidemiol 1995 Sep 1;142(5):515‑24.
London SJ; Bowman JD; Sobel E; Thomas DC; Garabrant DH; Pearce
N; Bernstein L; Peters JM. Exposure to magnetic fields among electrical
workers in relation to leukemia risk in Los Angeles County. Am J Ind Med
(Higher risk of leukemia & mylenoid leukemia in occup. With more emf)
Caplan LS; Schoenfeld ER; O'Leary ES; Leske MC. Breast cancer and
electromagnetic fields‑‑a review. Ann Epidemiol 2000 Jan;10(1):31‑44
Lots of studies that find higher breast cancer in occup. exposed to
EMF(men & women)
Aldinucci C; Palmi M; Sgaragli G; Benocci A; Meini A; Pessina F; Pessina GP. The effect of pulsed electromagnetic fields on the physiologic behaviour of a
human astrocytoma cell line. Biochim Biophys Acta 2000 Dec 11;1499(1‑2):101‑108.
We evaluated the effects of 50 Hz pulsed electromagnetic fields (EMFs) with a
peak magnetic field of 3 mT on human astrocytoma cells. Our results clearly
demonstrate that, after the cells were exposed to EMFs for 24 h, the basal
[Ca(2+)](i) levels increased significantly from 124+/‑51 nM to 200+/‑79 nM.
Pretreatment of the cells with 1.2 microM substance P increased the
[Ca(2+)](i) to 555+/‑278 nM, while EMF exposure caused a significant drop in
[Ca(2+)](i) to 327+/‑146 nM. The overall effect of EMFs probably depends on
the prevailing Ca(2+) conditions of the cells. After exposure, the proliferative
responses of both normal and substance P‑pretreated cells increased slightly
from 1.03 to 1.07 and 1.04 to 1.06, respectively. U‑373 MG cells spontaneously
released about 10 pg/ml of interleukin‑6 which was significantly increased after
the addition of substance P. Moreover, immediately after EMF exposure and
24 h thereafter, the interleukin‑6 levels were more elevated (about 40%) than
in controls. On the whole, our data suggest that, by changing the properties of
cell membranes, EMFs can influence Ca(2+) transport processes and hence
Ca(2+) homeostasis. The increased levels of interleukin‑6 after 24 h of EMF
exposure may confirm the complex connection between Ca(2+) levels,
substance P and the cytokine networ
Nevertheless, as your question suggests, there are several studies from a number of countries showing that suicide rates among
medical practitioners are higher than those in the general population or in some other professions (Lindeman et al, Psychological
Medicine, Sept. 1997 pp. 1219‑22; Lindeman et al, British Journal of Psychiatry March 1996, ppl 274‑79).
EMFs Increase Suicide Rates
This study examined mortality from suicide in relation to
estimated exposure to extremely low‑frequency
electromagnetic fields (EMFs) and found a significant increase
in the risk of suicide.
Researchers studied 138,905 male electric utility workers.
They found a more than doubled risk with electricians and
an almost 60% increase in line workers.
Even stronger associations, up to a 3.5‑fold increase, were
found in men younger than 50.
The authors state that "These data provide evidence for an
association between occupational electromagnetic fields and
suicide that warrants further evaluation." They hypothesize
that this link has something to do with disturbing melatonin
secretion or metabolism.
Western Jounal of Medicine August 2000;173:94‑100
COMMENT: There is no question that EMF exposure should
be avoided as much as possible. The practical issue is to
determine how to avoid it. I have recently located some
relatively inexpensive gauss meters which only cost $40
(800‑497‑9516). I have absolutely no connection with this
firm and if anyone has a better and less expensive device I
would be glad to post that information. Generally, one
should try to keep exposures as low as possible. Ideally,
your sleeping environment and regular sitting places should
be less than 0.3 milligauss.
ELECTROMAGNETIC FIELDS EXERT
EFFECTS ON AND THROUGH
Several years ago, Cindy Sage hired an electrician to install a
new light in her daughter's bedroom. After he left, Sage swept
the room with a gaussmeter to measure the magnetic fields
present. In some 98 percent of U.S. homes, the average
strength of magnetic fields ranges from 0.5 to 0.9 milligauss
(mG). Until the electrician's visit, the field in Sage's daughter's
room also fell within that range. Afterward, it was 3 mG.
Although that reading is somewhat higher than normal, it falls
well below the federally permitted 1,000‑mG limit for U.S.
workplaces. However, this didn't reassure Sage, a Montecito,
Calif based consultant specializing in electromagnetic field
(EMF) issues. The workplace limit "is based on the faulty
assumption that only thermal, or heat, effects are important as
a potential biological hazard," she says.
Sage called the electrician back to find out what he'd done. It
turns out that he hadn't wired the light according to the
electrical code. When he rewired the room, its average field
dropped to 0.2 mG. Electromagnetic fields are invisible lines of
force that surround all electric devices and wiring. Concern
about the potential health effects of these fields was catalyzed
in the late 1970s by studies suggesting an association between
childhood leukemia and proximity to certain types of power
lines or equipment, such as utility transformers.
Several studies suggest "a doubling of childhood leukemia
incidence between 1 and 2 mG" and up to a sixfold increase for
exposures between 4 and 5 mG, says Sage. There have even
been hints of a breast cancer risk in adults exposed to high
fields More recently, several other sources have been added:
large currents on the job, poorly grounded wiring, and
appliances. Magnetic fields do not necessarily correlate with
the size, power, or noisiness of a device. Moreover, there can
be a tremendous difference between models of an appliance.
Because it's difficult to shield oneself from magnetic fields, the
only practical way to limit exposures is to put distance between
oneself and the source.
Sage conducts sweeps of magnetic fields in her clients' homes,
offices, schools, and hospitals. She deploys electricians to fix
any fields that run dramatically above the national norm.
Usually, they trace to code violations that prove easy and
inexpensive to fix. A 1996 report issued by the National
Academy of Sciences concluded that while EMFs appear capable
of affecting biological tissues, their link to cancer remains
unproven. However, Sage argues that until or unless EMFs are
exonerated, avoidance of them is a reasonable policy
Richard G. Stevens of the Department of Energy's Pacific
Northwest National Laboratory in Richland, Wash., emphatically
disagrees, arguing that it's premature to sweep homes or even
to advocate prudent avoidance. That's not because he believes
EMFs are necessarily benign. Indeed, he is the father of the
10‑year‑old "melatonin hypothesis", a theory that exposure to
certain EMFs may trigger cancer, especially in the breast, by
perturbing the body's natural concentrations of this brain
He says that many questions remain about what types of fields
and features of exposure‑such as timing‑underlie any risks. The
problem with prudent avoidance is that it may make people
less willing to act if the risks are later proved more
circumscribed. Stevens doesn't challenge the idea that fields
can bring about potentially disturbing biological changes.
Indeed, new studies describing such effects were presented 7
weeks ago at a U.S. Public Health Service conference he helped
organize in Washington, D.C. The studies demonstrated a
hitherto unrecognized responsiveness of cells, tissues, and
animals ‑ even humans.
Melatonin, a hormone produced by the brain during periods of
darkness, is an important natural suppressor of breast cancer
cell growth, both in test tubes and in animals. Stevens'
melatonin hypothesis holds that because EMFs can depress or
shut down melatonin secretion in animals, they may play a role
in fostering the growth of malignancies in people.
To test this hypothesis, toxicologist Wolfgang Loescher of the
School of Veterinary Medicine in Hanover, Germany, has
exposed groups of up to 120 female rats to
melatonin‑suppressing EMFs of between 100 and 1,000 mG. An
equal number of rats received a negligible background exposure
of roughly 1 mG; these rats produced melatonin normally.
Loescher injected into each rat a chemical that causes
mammary cancer, then observed the rats for 3 months.
Compared to the unexposed rats, those in the 100‑mG field
developed about 10 percent more tumors, animals exposed to
500 mG got 25 percent more, and rats receiving 1,000 mG
developed 50 percent more. Tumors also grew as much as twice
the size under the influence of EMFs. To understand why,
Loescher has focused on the immune system's T cells, a class
of white blood cells whose role is to attack and destroy tumors
and foreign substances. T cells from animals raised for 3
months in 500‑ or 1,000‑mG fields proved only half as likely as
those from unexposed rats to proliferate when exposed to a
foreign substance. "This indicates that EMFs indeed suppress
the immune system's response to ongoing processes such as
tumor growth," Loescher says.
He has also analyzed rats' production of the enzyme ornithine
decarboxylase. This enzyme has to be present in large amounts
for any cells to proliferate. "If the melatonin hypothesis were
true, then when one exposes rats to EMFs, there should be an
increase of this enzyme but only in the breast," he says. That
is exactly what he's found in EMF studies that he has replicated
several times. "To me," he told SCIENCE NEWS, "this is the
most convincing data that the melatonin hypothesis may be
At the Lawrence Berkeley (Calif.) National Laboratory, Robert P.
Liburdy has been probing the underpinnings of EMFs' apparent
cancer fostering effects in test‑tube studies of malignant cells.
He has found that 12‑mG EMFs can suppress the ability of both
melatonin and the hormone‑emulating drug tamoxifen to shut
down the growth of cancer cells. In a follow‑up study that he
described in July at a meeting in Bologna, Italy, the activity of
another drug proved even more negatively affected by 12‑mG
fields. Both tamoxifen and this second drug, which goes by the
unwieldy moniker ICI‑182780, are synthetic estrogens. They
have been designed to dock at a cell's estrogen receptor and
block it. In the breast, this can starve most cancer cells of the
estrogen that normally spurs their growth. Unlike the ICI drug,
which interacts only with the estrogen receptor, tamoxifen can
alter the activity of other proteins. Magnetic fields proved more
effective against the ICI drug, implying that they interfere with
its binding to the estrogen receptor, Liburdy says. If they do,
then the body's natural estrogen should be affected similarly.
Tests of that possibility are now under way. Liburdy's studies
suggest that "a new melatonin hypothesis is emerging," argues
Charles Graham, an experimental physiologist at the Midwest
Research Institute (MRI) in Kansas City, Mo. The old
hypothesis, Graham notes, focused on how much melatonin the
body produced and circulated. While reasonable, it downplayed
any relevance for humans because "we saw no decrease in
melatonin" among people exposed to EMFs. If magnetic fields
can make cells less sensitive to melatonin, as studies by
Liburdy and others now indicate, then EMFs may yet pose a
melatonin‑mediated cancer threat, he says.
Graham's own research indicates that magnetic fields can alter
two other hormones that affect cancer risk‑‑estrogen and
testosterone. Compared to measurements taken in the
presence of negligible background fields, overnight exposure of
women to 200‑mG EMFs in the laboratory significantly elevated
estrogen; other studies have shown that elevated exposure to
estrogen over many years can increase a woman's breast
cancer risk. In men, the EMFs reduced testosterone‑a hormone
drop that has been linked to testicular and prostate cancers,
Graham's most intriguing data come from experiments with
what he terms intermittent EMFs. He and Mary R. Cook, also at
MRI, began delivering pulsed exposures that cycle on for an
hour and then off for an hour throughout the night. During each
"on" cycle, the field switches on and off every 15 seconds. Not
only do preliminary studies indicate that intermittent fields
"really have an effect," Graham observes, but they emulate
real‑world exposures, which can vary from second to second in
frequency, intensity, and waveform, depending on their source
and an individual's distance from it.
In a 3‑night study of 24 healthy young men, roughly one‑third
got steady 200 mG exposures on any given night. Another third
received 200‑mG fields intermittently, and the remainder slept
in the presence of negligible background fields. At the Energy
Department's annual EMF Research Review Meeting in San
Diego last November, Graham and Cook reported that the
intermittent fields and only those fields‑disturbed 6 of 10
measures of sleep quality. They not only contributed to broken
sleep and shorter periods of deep, dream‑stage sleep, they
also led to more reports of feeling unrested in the morning.
In an upcoming report in BIOELECTROMAGNETICS, Graham's
team links those same intermittent fields to decreased heart
rate variability in 77 college‑age men. In healthy people, heart
rate tends to vary somewhat from second to second in
response to the body's need to maintain blood pressure,
temperature, and so on. Often, individuals with heart disease
exhibit a more stable heart rate‑‑‑an indication, Graham says,
"that their heart is no longer as well connected to the nervous
While the young men that Graham studied exhibited normal
heart rate variability during the nights they were exposed to
background fields or constant EMFs, that variability diminished
substantially on the night each was exposed to intermittent
fields. Graham is planning follow‑up studies to probe the
long‑term health implications of this provocative finding.
"What concerns me," Graham says, is that the public "tends to
get so worried about the magnitude of a field. The bigger it is,
the worse it's supposed to be." In fact, Loescher has found that
very high fields, as well as those below a certain strength,
have little impact on tumor growth. Only those across a
relatively narrow range consistently foster tumors and other
negative health effects.
"We've seen the same thing in our studies," Graham told
SCIENCE NEWS. Moreover, he says, it's beginning to appear
that a field's magnitude matters less than its intermittency or
other features, such as power surges called electrical
transients. These surges can pack a big burst of energy into a
short period of time. They occur whenever lights or other
electric devices turn on, when motors or compressors (such as
those in refrigerators and air conditioners) cycle on, or when
dimmer switches operate. "Being transient doesn't mean
they're rare, just quick," Graham notes. Transients are hard to
avoid because they may stem from surges elsewhere‑in a
neighbor's house or even power lines up the street.
Little research has been conducted to untangle the potential
health impacts of EMF characteristics other than field strength,
Graham notes, and money for such EMF studies is all but drying
up. The two major federal programs dedicated to financing
research on EMF effects on health are slated to shut down in
October. A program funded by electric utilities through the
Electric Power Research Institute will also end this year.
One should expect that "research on EMFs in the United States
will take a big nose‑dive," says Graham. One ray of hope,
Liburdy notes, comes from the recent proliferation of
government funds for endocrine‑disrupting pollutants. While
magnetic fields are a type of radiation, they functionally
resemble many environmental pollutants that mimic hormones.
In fact, he observes, EMFs may actually fit the definition of an
endocrine disrupter better than these chemicals do. That's
because magnetic fields appear to elicit their effects by acting
on and through hormones, rather than as hormones.
Are EMFs Hazardous to Our Health?
Can electromagnetic fields (EMF) from power lines, home
wiring, airport and military radar, substations, transformers,
computers and appliances cause brain tumors, leukemia, birth
defects, miscarriages, chronic fatigue, headaches, cataracts,
heart problems, stress. nausea, chest pain, forgetfulness,
cancer and other health problems? Numerous studies have
produced contradictory results, yet some experts are convinced
that the threat is real.
Dr. David Carpenter, Dean at the School of Public Health, State
University of New York believes it is likely that up to 30% of all
childhood cancers come from exposure to EMFs. The
Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) warns "There is reason
for concern" and advises prudent avoidance". Martin Halper, the
EPA's Director of Analysis and Support says "I have never seen
a set of epidemiological studies that remotely approached the
weight of evidence that we're seeing with EMFs. Clearly there is
Concern over EMFs exploded after Paul Brodeur wrote a series
of articles in the New Yorker Magazine in June 1989. Because
of Paul Brodeur's reputation. his articles had a catalytic effect
on scientists, reporters and concerned people throughout the
world. In November 1989, the Department of Energy reported
that "It has now become generally accepted that there are,
indeed, biological effects due to field exposure." The EMF issue
gained more publicity in 1990 when alarming reports appeared
in Time, the Wall Street Journal, Business Week and popular
computer publications. ABC's Ted Koppel and CBS's Dan Rather
both aired special segments on EMFs.
In addition to the long‑term health concerns, buying a house
with high fields will be an economic disaster. In a few years,
when power line radiation is as well known as asbestos and
radon, a house with high fields will be practically impossible to
sell. Already there are hundreds of lawsuits regarding EMFs and
EPA Says the Threat Is Real
By 1990, over one hundred studies had been conducted
worldwide. Of these, at least two dozen epidemiological
studies on humans indicated a link between EMFs and serious
health problems. In response to public pressure, the
Environmental Protection Agency IEPA) began reviewing and
evaluating the available literature. In a draft report issued in
March 1990, the EPA recommended that EMFs be classified as a
Class B carcinogen‑‑‑a "probable human carcinogen and joined
the ranks of formaldehyde, DDT, dioxins and PCBs.
After the EPA draft report was released, utility, military and
computer lobbyists came down hard on the EPA. The EPA's final
revision did NOT classify EMFs as a Class B carcinogen Rather,
the following explanation was added:"At this time such a
characterization regarding the link between cancer and
exposure to EMFs is not appropriate because the basic nature
of the interaction between EMFs and biological processes
leading to cancer is not understood " Curiously, this rather
unusual logic appears on the same page as the following: "In
conclusion, several studies showing leukemia, Iymphoma and
cancer of the nervous system in children exposed to supported
by similar findings in adults in several/ occupational studies
also involving electrical power frequency exposures, show a
consistent pattern of response that suggest a causal link. "
When questioned about the contradictory nature of these
statements, the EPA responded that it was "not appropriate" to
use the probable carcinogen label until it could demonstrate
how EMFs caused cancer and exactly how much EMF is harmful.
This explanation does not satisfy many critics who claim that
the EPAs upper management was influenced by political and
economic considerations exerted by utility, computer and
How Do I Measure EMFs?
A Gauss is a common unit of measurement of magnetic field
strength. A Gauss meter is an instrument which measures the
strength of magnetic fields. Inside a Gauss meter there is a
coil of thin wire, typically with hundreds of turns. As a magnetic
field radiates through the coil, it induces a current, which is
amplified by the circuitry inside the Gauss meter.
Gauss meters may vary in the strength of the magnetic field
they are capable of measuring. A meter used for measuring
EMFs from power lines, transformers, substations and
appliances around the home, for example, should be able to
measure as low as .1 mg.
Gauss meters vary widely in price and accuracy. Meters have
either a single axis coil or a triple axis coil. Single axis meters
are much simpler than triple axis meters to manufacture and
thus, are less expensive. To use a single axis meter you must
point the meter's one sensor in three directions‑‑‑the x, y and z
axis. Then, you combine the three readings in a mathematical
equation to calculate the combined field strength. Obviously,
its far easier and more accurate to use a 3‑axis meter. Triple
axis Gauss meters are quite accurate, but they are also more
Another thing to watch out for when purchasing or renting a
Gauss meter is whether or not it is frequency weighted. Most
meters will read the same EMF strength no mater what the
frequency. As the human body appears to be sensitive to both
the field strength AND the frequency, Gauss meters used for
biological purposes should be "frequency weighted". This
means that if the field is different than 60 Hz the meter will
consider the frequency and use it in calculating and displaying
the EMF's strength. This feature is why frequency weighted
meters will show a higher EMF reading than those meters
typically used by electricians and engineers.
An enormous amount of electricity is created at power
generating stations and sent across the country through wires
that carry high voltages. All power lines radiate
electromagnetic fields. The question is: how much are the
power lines near YOUR home radiating? The amount of EMFs
coming from a power line depends on its particular
configuration. Power companies know which power line
configurations are best for reducing EMFs but most don't feel
the evidence supports costly changes in the way they deliver
A substation is an assemblage of circuit breakers,
disconnecting switches and transformers designed to
substations have been blamed for causing cancer clusters
among nearby residents. Paul Brodeur wrote about several such
cancer clusters in the July 9, 1990 issue of the New Yorker
A key component of a utility's electrical distribution network
depends upon numerous, small transformers mounted on power
poles. A transformer looks like a small metal trash can, usually
cylindrical. Even when the electrical service is underground, you
will often see a metal box (usually square} located on the
ground near the street. Many people don't realize that when
they see a transformer, the power line feeding the transformer
is 4000 to 13,800 volts. The transformer then reduces the
voltage to the 120/240 volts needed by nearby homes. Since
these transformers can be seen in almost every neighborhood,
they are a source of concern.
EMFs near a transformer can be quite high, but due to its small
structure, the field strength diminishes rapidly with distance,
as it does from any point source. For this reason, having a
transformer located near your home is usually not a major
source of concern, although just to make sure, everyone should
measure the field strength around it.
If your home has high EMF readings, it is important to
determine the sources of the EMF so that remedial action can
be taken, if possible. Many times a particular room will have a
higher EMF reading. Check to see if the electricity is coming
into the house on the wall outside that room. When this is the
case, it is usually a good idea to block off that room and only
use it for storage purposes.
Sometimes, the source of a high magnetic field is incorrect
wiring. If you suspect that your home is wired improperly,
obtain the services of a licensed electrician. Warning: Do not
touch electric wires, even if you think the current is turned off.
If you need to disconnect electrical circuits to determine the
source of magnetic fields, you should call a licensed electrician.
Computers are a complicated subject. Know this: EMFs radiate
from all sides of the computer. Thus, you must not only be
concerned with sitting in front of the monitor but also if you are
sitting near a computer or if a computer is operating in a
nearby room. The Swedish safety standard, effective 711/90,
specifies a maximum of 0.25 mG at 50 cm from the display.
Many US manufactured computers have EMFs of 5 ‑ 100 mG at
this distance. And know this too: the screens placed over
monitors do NOT block EMFs. Not even a lead screen will block
ELF and VLF magnetic fields.
Space does not permit a more thorough discussion of
computers. If you use a computer, it is important that you
measure your EMF exposure with a Gauss meter and review the
literature concerning the health impacts of computer use.
Electric Blankets and Waterbeds
Electric blankets create a magnetic field that penetrates about
6‑7 inches into the body. Thus it is not surprising that an
epidemiological study has linked electric blankets with
miscarriages and childhood leukemia. This pioneering work was
performed by Dr. Nancy Wertheimer and Ed Leeper, who
originally discovered that magnetic fields were linked to
childhood leukemia. Similar health effects have been noted
with users of many electric blankets and waterbed heaters will
emit EMFs even when turned off. The devices must be
unplugged to delete the EMF exposure Additionally, there is the
issue regarding the vibrations that are generated by sleeping
on standing water. There is less hard data in this area but
some experts are concerned about the consequences.
Electric clocks have a very high magnetic field, as much as 5 to
10 mG up to three feet away. If you are using a bedside clock,
you are probably sleeping in an EMF equivalent to that of a
powerline Studies have linked high rates of brain tumors with
chronic exposure to magnetic fields, so it is wise to place all
clocks and other electrical devices (such as telephones and
answering devices) at least 6 feet from your bed.
Fluorescent lights produce much more EMFs than incandescent
bulbs. A typical fluorescent lamp of a office
ceiling have readings of 160 to 200 mg 1 inch away.
Microwave Ovens and Radar
Microwave ovens and radar from military installations and
airports emit two types of radiation‑‑microwave and ELF.
Microwaves are measured in milliwatt per centimeter squared
(mW/cm2) As of 1/1/93, the U.S. safety limit for microwave
exposure is 1 mW/cm2, down from a previous 10 mW/cm2. The
Russian safety limit is .01 mW/cm2. As all microwave ovens
leak and exceed the Russian safety limit, microwave ovens
have been outlawed in Russia. In addition, recent Russian
studies have shown that normal microwave cooking coverts
food protein molecules into carcinogenic substances.
When measuring microwaves from military and airport radar
sources, 100% accurate readings can only be found
with extremely expensive digital peak‑hold meters. Why?
Because analog devices begin to drop their reading
immediately after the radar sweep passes. Thus, while an
analog meter can show whether or not you are being exposed
to radar EMFs, analog meters can't show your true exposure.
Although thousands of dollars to purchase, digital‑hold meters
capable of accurately detecting radar EMFs can be rented for
several hundred to over a thousand dollars per month.
Telephones and Answering Machines
Telephones can emit surprisingly strong EMFs, especially from
the handset. This is a problem because we hold the telephone
so close to our head. Place the Gauss meter right against the
ear piece and the mouth piece before buying a phone. Some
brands emit no measurable fields and others emit strong fields
that travel several inches....right into your brain. Answering
machines, particular those with adapter plugs
(mini‑transformers), give off high levels of EMFs.
Electric Razors and Hair Dryers
Electric razors and hair dryers emit EMFs as high as 200 to 400
mG. This seems alarming, but we don't know if this is worse (or
better) than a chronic exposure to a 2‑3 mG field. Some EMF
consultants recommend that hair dryers not be used on children
as the high fields are held close to their rapidly developing
brain and nervous system.
Electricity is an inseparable part of our modern day society.
This means that EMFs will continue to be all around us. But as
Discover Magazine postulated, aside from making our life
easier, is electricity also making our lives shorter?
Most experts agree that limited, non‑chronic exposure to EMFs
is not a threat. For example, it is probably acceptable for a
person to be near a toaster in the morning. BUT, it is not
advisable for a person to sleep under an electric blanket, up
close, live near a powerline/substation, and sleep in a room
where the power enters the home. This person is under an
extreme case of chronic exposure. This condition,
unfortunately, applies to millions of Americans.
If you wish to follows the EPA's advice and practice "prudent
avoidance" then the following advice is offered:
Measure your home, work and school environments with a
Gauss meter Measure EMFs both inside and outside your home.
Don't let your children play near power lines, transformers,
radar domes and microwave towers. Avoid areas where the field
is above 1 mG. Measure the EMFs from appliances both when
they are operating and when they are turned off. Some
appliances (like TVs) are still drawing current even when they
Don't sleep under an electric blanket or on a waterbed. If you
insist on using these, unplug them before going to bed (don't
just turn it off). Even though there is no magnetic field when
they are turned off, there may still be a high electric field.
Don't sit too close to your TV set. Distance yourself at least 6
feet away. Use a Gauss meter to help you decide where it is
safe to sit.
Rearrange your office and home area so that you are not
exposed to EMFs from the sides/backs of electric appliances
and computers. In the home, it is best that all major electrical
appliances, such as computers, TVs, refrigerators etc, be placed
up against outside walls. That way you are not creating an EMF
field in the adjoining room.
Don't sit too close to your computer. Computer monitors vary
greatly in the strength of their EMFs, so you should check yours
with a meter. Don't stand close to your microwave oven. Move
all electrical appliances at least 6 feet from your bed. Eliminate
wires running under your bed. Eliminate dimmers and 3‑way
Be wary of cordless appliances such as electric toothbrushes
and razors. You may choose not to wear a quartz‑analog watch
because it radiates pulsating EMFs along your acupuncture
meridians. An older mechanical windup watch would be an
acceptable alternative. It is also recommended to wear as little
jewelry as possible and to take it off at night. Many people
have metal sensitivity which can be aggravated by placing it
right on the skin. Measure with a gauss meter to be sure. And
last, but not least, always always always remember that EMFs
pass right through walls. The EMF you are reading on your
Gauss meter could be radiating from the next room...or from
outside your home.
Additional Radiation Info:
Eyeglass frames should ideally be made from plastic with no
wires in them, otherwise they can serve as an antenna to focus
the radio and cellular phone waves directly into your brain.
What EMF Level Is Safe?
There's a heated debate as to what electromagnetic field (EMF)
level is considered safe. Since the experts have not come to an
consensus, you'll have to decide for yourself... Many
government and utility documents report the usual ambient
level of 60‑Hz magnetic field to be 0.5 mG. Thus, any reading
higher than 0.5 mG is above the "usual" ambient exposure.
Many experts and public officials, as well as the few
governments that have made an effort to offer public
protection, have adopted the 3 mG cutoff point. The EPA has
proposed a safety standard of 1 mG. Sweden has set a
maximum safety limit of 1 mG.
Dr. Robert Becker, an MD who has been studying the effects of
EMFs for 20 years, states a lmG safety limit in his book Cross
Currents. When electricians try to solve a magnetic field
problem they do their best to drop the level to 1 mG or below.
Dr. Nancy Wertheimer, a Ph.D. epidemiologist who has been
studying EMFs for 20 years, has been looking at the
epidemiological data in a different way‑‑she is trying to
associate EMF levels with
health rather than disease. The level she is coming up with is a
cut off of 1 mG. Russian researchers claim that 1/1000ths of a
mG should be the standard.
The BioElectric Body believes that there are several stages of
health between "optimum wellness", "degenerative disease"
and "Cancer". Thus, we maintain our own living and sleeping
quarters at 0.5mG and below.
Cross Currents The Perils of Electropollution. The Promise of
Electromedicine Robert 0. Becker, M.D. Jeremy P. Tarcher, Inc.,
Currents of Death The Attempt to Cover Up the Threat to Your
Health Paul Brodeur Simon and Schuster, 1989
Electromagnetic Man Health & Hazard in the Electrical
Environment Cyril W. Smith & Simon Best St. Martin's Press.