The Coastal Post - April, 1998

Not Worrying About EMFs Is A Cause For Concern


Today we are discussing electromagnetism. Those of you who ditched class back in eighth grade science need a short refresher course: wherever electricity coils about wires or a body (which has magnetic properties) in motion, electromagnetic fields (EMFs) result.

These EMFs may be dangerous to your health.

When the power companies, video display terminal (VDT) makers, and personal communication companies read this, they are likely to write to Don Deane to explain: the earth itself has a magnetic field, and we live on the planet, and must not be bothered by EMFs, because we continue to flourish as a species.

Well, don't be fooled. The EMF possessed by the earth is strictly direct current. The EMF given off by powerlines, power stations, VDTs, and household appliances is alternating current, not DC.

As an example, let's examine your microwave oven. According to Louis Slesin, who publishes a magazine called Microwave Times, a microwave's current is 60 HZ, and since this is alternating current, anything magnetic, including the cellular matter of the human brain, is zapped in alternating directions, 60 times a second. Picture all those little furry brain cells of yours, first going one way, then another, 60 times each second, 360 times each hour, 60,480 times a week. This occurs if you are continuously in the close presence of your microwave oven, or too close to power lines, or continually sit too close to your color TV.

Now with your home microwave, you should know that surveys indicate that electromagnetic fields at 60 HZ (not from the microwaves themselves) can be very high. Sensible use dictates that you keep your distance from your microwave when it is on, not just to be safe from microwave energy, but in order to keep safe from EMFs.

Home microwave use offers the appeal of being able to peer into the window to watch food cook. Don't let your children do this. If they do, they are putting their delicate eyes next to a point of greatest possible leakage.

Remember my description of 60 cycle a second energy (60 HZ) going first one way and then another with regards to your own gray matter. Some health researchers fear that something similar yet completely different happens if you have become addicted to your handy-dandy teeny tiny cellular phone. I inserted "completely different" because you cell phone operates at a much higher frequency (in fact the frequency is in the mega-hertz range) than your microwave oven. A cell phone's operating signal is so high that its energy is rated in the microwave spectrum of the frequency charts. If you cell phone is digital, the energy conducting its signals pulses eight times a cycle, in addition to everything else.

No wonder you can't quite think straight. (Maybe you thought it was too much partying or the fact that you're getting along in age.) Now the dimming of the bulb on top of your shoulders might be a good thing, as far as the power companies and cellular antenna company people are concerned. Because as cell phone use increases, the personal communication people don't want or need you to think straight. They don't want you realizing how many cellular antenna are proliferating near your local church, where your kids happen to attend pre-school. And they don't want you to notice all the other cellular gizmos, hanging next to phone transformers, that may be affecting you as well. Along our own Sir Francis Drake, as increasing numbers of devices were strung up over the last few years, at least one electrically sensitive person endured first major headaches and finally the realization that she had to flee the area.

But most of us are not electrically sensitive. So what effects does electro-pollution cause among the less sensitive of us? One critical study done in Sweden, in 1987, by Ahlbom and Feychting, examined a population of 436,000. They looked at the cancer clusters found along the 220,000 and 440,000 high voltage wires strung just several hundred feet behind many Swedish homes. Based on this study, Sweden strictly regulated the amount of EMF emissions permissible to impact its civilians, began a program of re-locating some of the population or burying the voltage lines underground. Clearly, Sweden understood the possible danger to its population and acted prudently.

In this country, although residences are often built away from high voltage wires, our children's schools are often built adjoining these structures. (This is due to the utilities offered sweetheart deals to cities and town decades ago-they sold cities the land for cheap, and in return were granted perpetual easements for their voltage wires.) Unfortunately, in our country, the utilities pretend that negative studies are not conclusive.

They even send utility company reps in to measure the magnetic flux found in the electrically polluted classrooms-and under-report the damage.

For example, Independence School, in Bolingbrook, Illinois, was located near high voltage wires. The findings reported by the local utility were 25% of the actual figure. Some children's classrooms had a high of 18 milligaus (mG), a fact discovered when college students from Illinois Institute of Electrical Engineers came and made measurements. (A milligaus rating of about .5 mG is about as low as you will find in our industrialized nation-3 mG begins to demand concern.) This school's population endured a serious cancer cluster, which included: two teachers with brain cancer, two cervical cancer cases, one with breast cancer, and a teacher who had never smoked had lung cancer. All cancer victims were teachers whose classrooms were on the east side of the school, closely impacted by the high EMF from the voltage lines.

Why am I telling you about this? Well, as mentioned above, the explosion in cell phones means that daily more and more communication companies are "unwiring" America. Wireless communication is not deviceless, however. And the devices produce, yes, you guessed it, attendant electromagnetic fields. And just as the installation of schools near power lines occurred decades ago, nowadays, the location of antennae mounted on cell towers may reflect current day sweetheart deals occurring between the communications companies and your local school district or church (with its attendant preschool). Your pastor just mentioned the lucky break your congregation is getting? Eighteen thousand dollars a year just to allow MCI or Sprint to put in an antenna tower. Odorless, noiseless, and perhaps promoted as not any more unhealthy than a baby monitor. Again, I say, don't be fooled.

Someone who is not fooled is Shirley Linde, a Los Angeles activist who chairs the National Electric and Magnetic Field Advisory Committee, which advises the Secretary of Energy and the National Institutes of Health. Recently, when presented with yet another industry-funded study which dismisses the cancer risk concerns held by some researchers of high voltage tower areas, Linde stated: "We went through this with cigarette smoking for many years and then with asbestos." What does Linde and many others fighting the good fight believe? Well, the jury is still out on exactly what harm may come to us on account of the cell phone industry. But, like the Swedish government of the 1980s, prudence dictates that we act conservatively.

My suggestions for doing so: remind yourself to put ample distance between yourself and appliances that you use. EMFs effect on you is a function of distance, and of time spent within too close a distance. Stay at last three feet away from your microwave oven when it operates. Ditto your computer monitor and color TV. If your computer gets heavy use, investigate "Viewsonic" 7-inch color monitor (for Windows environs) and "Sigma Designs L-View" monitor (for the Mac), which have above average EMF and ELF shielding. Try and limit your own use of your cell phone. Become informed about the technology: one excellent resource group is the Marin Breast Cancer Watch Association.

Future articles will explain the politics of our wireless society. The 1996 Telecommunications Act gives the authority to the federal government (Can we say "corporate-controlled government boys and girls?) rather than to local communities. To change this corporate-entitlement legislation will take the strength and will of many people.

But if our health and the health of generations to come is not worth the struggle, what else is? United we stand, divided we very well may fry, cell by cell.

In a sequel, I will be discussing researched Neil Cherry's work on EMF health effects, and how it explains the cancer occurrences.

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