Health Effects of EMF Exposure: The Mercury Connection

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In a long-term comprehensive electromagnetic fields (EMF) risk assessment study by the California Department 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 Gehrig’s disease) and depression. They also found a significant likelihood that EMF causes cardiovascular problems and increased suicide. 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, and mood), and student behavior. 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; EMF, microwave, and MRI exposure have been documented to cause significant release of mercury into the body, including the brain and central nervous system, from those who have amalgam. Studies have found persons with chronic exposure to electromagnetic fields (EMF), microwaves, or MRIs to have higher levels of mercury exposure and excretion. Electromagnetic fields are known to induce current in metals and would increase the documented effects of galvanism. Amalgam has also been documented to be the largest source of mercury exposure in most people who have amalgam fillings.

EMF is also documented in animal and human studies to cause cellular calcium efflux and to affect calcium homeostasis, which may be a factor in the reduction of melatonin levels caused by EMF exposure in animal and human studies. In studies on chickens, 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), as well as regulating the circadian rhythm cycle and sleep cycle. EMF exposure lowers melatonin production, disrupts the sleep cycle, and blocks melatonin’s cell anti-proliferation effects. Another study provides evidence for an association between occupational electromagnetic fields and suicide. 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, Alzheimer’s Disease, Depression, as well as Leukemia and Cancer. Since EMF, microwaves, MRIs, etc. cause increased mercury exposure in those with amalgam, and mercury is also known to cause these conditions, 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.

Abstracts

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 network.

Nevertheless, 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.

EMFs Increase Suicide Rates

One 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.

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 Hormones

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, California 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 catalyze 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 six fold increase for exposures between 4 and 5 mG, states 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 are traced 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.

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 seven weeks ago at a U.S. Public Health Service conference 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 a chemical that causes mammary cancer into each rat and 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 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 true.”

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 comes 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 also 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 a 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 system.”

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 something here.”

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 property devaluation.

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 (EPA) 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 military lobbyists.

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, combine the three readings in a mathematical equation to calculate the combined field strength. Obviously, it’s far easier and more accurate to use a 3 axis meter. Triple axis Gauss meters are quite accurate, but they are also more expensive.

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 matter 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.

Power Lines

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 electricity.

Substations

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 Magazine.

Transformers

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.

Home Wiring

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

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. Also, 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

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 power line. 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

Fluorescent lights produce much more EMFs than incandescent bulbs. A typical fluorescent lamp of an office ceiling has 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, particularly 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.

Prudent Avoidance

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. It is not advisable for a person to sleep under an electric blanket, 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 are off.
  • 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 switches.
  • 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. 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.
  • 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 a 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.

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