Electromagnetic Fields (EMF)

Have you ever had the feeling that your body, mind and spirit were in three separate places, and that you needed the better part of the day to call them to a serious get-together? How about the nondescript notion that something is amiss, but you can’t quite put your finger on it, and it’s not sufficiently debilitating to see the doctor? You might be living with—or through—electromagnetic sensitivity (ES). What makes this hard to understand is that some scientists and physicians recognize this state as a legitimate concern, while others treat it disdainfully. (Genuis. 2011) Often it is connected to multiple chemical sensitivity (MCS), which is also a controversial diagnosis, despite being recognized by the Social Security Administration and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development as a disabling condition. Too many medical professionals have tried to convince patients that their incapacitation is “in their heads,” or is the manifestation of a “poor attitude.” The sufferers of ES / MCS can conclude that their physicians’ training and education stopped at the medical school portals…narrow door, narrow mind. What worked for medicos a decade ago may not be part of today’s tool kit.

ES is an environmentally-triggered illness that produces symptoms in those exposed to common levels of electromagnetic fields (EMF) from electrical sources in the environment: power lines, motors, computers, trains, stereos, kitchen appliances, electric blankets, cell phones, and more, including the microwave oven. The nervous system is the primary site affected by electromagnetic fields, and those with nervous system damage from prior insult seem predisposed to ES. (Rea. 1991) Persons with chronic fatigue and mercury toxicity (from dental amalgams) are among the more susceptible. Although possibly begotten from other causes, symptoms include fatigue, nausea, headaches, loss of memory and concentration, buzzing ears (tinnitus), skin problems, insomnia, seizures, dizziness, and vague feelings of illness. Because the etiology is evasive, patients may be dismissed as psychosomatic.

One’s exposure to electromagnetic fields (EMF) varies according to occupation, venue, and routine. The general population is likely to see EMF as more invasive than those in occupations that employ electromagnetism regularly, such as radiographers or certain security personnel who work around metal detectors. (van Dongen. 2011) This attitude may be a matter of education, or what some may term selective indoctrination (brainwashing). Perceived health risks, therefore, are subjective. For people suffering ES, a trip to the doctor is akin to jumping from the pan into the fire, since the office is loaded with EMF’s from computers and their monitors, fluorescent lights, and testing equipment. It’s even worse in a hospital. MRI machines and ultrasound sources are especially bothersome. Regular cell phone use, and even wearing one, can contribute to misery. No medicine is available to bring relief…only avoidance, which is practically impossible.

Studies on the effects of EMF on pregnant women have returned mixed results. Group sizes have been too small to be significant; the combined expertise in EMF physics, engineering and reproductive biology has been absent; and the properties of the electromagnetic waves themselves are listed as confounding factors. To some scientists, this sounds more like excuses than truth. But it’s been determined that exposure to “normal” levels of EMF are not harmful to the developing fetus. (Brent. 1993) (Brent. 1999) In this context, “normal” levels of exposure relate to video display terminals. All common EMF sources were reviewed in Italian research, where video display terminals again were exculpated. However, electric blankets, power lines, heated waterbeds, and other sources that directly contact the body or that emit high intensity pulses have been weakly associated with congenital defects and growth retardation. (Luchini. 1992)

Microwave exposure, regardless of source, has been seen to reduce levels of glutathione in the human (and lab animal) body. Glutathione occurs widely in plant and animal tissue, where it plays a role in cellular respiration and serves as a cofactor for several enzymes. It’s best known as the prime protector against oxidative stress where, for example, it protects red blood cells against the toxic hydrogen peroxide that results from certain metabolic activities. Furthermore, such exposure leads to the overproduction of reactive oxygen species and the inhibition of protective enzymes and hormones (Kesari. December, 2011), such as melatonin, the hormone that regulates sleep, mood, and even ovarian cycles, and may be protective against cancer. (Kesari. November, 2011) These studies focused on 2.45 GHz microwave radiation, that which comes from microwave ovens, radio-controlled toys, and some phone systems. The EMF’s found in parts of the house where FM radios, blue tooth and television sets are common are often very low, sometimes not measurable. (Breckenkamp. 2011)

There are no objective tests to diagnose ES, but there have been enough subjective reports to warrant a closer look. Some people are bothered only when devices are put through on-off cycles; others all the time, reporting constant headaches, muscle twitches and even skipped heartbeats. (McCarthy. 2011) As luck would have it, it’s hard to duplicate most symptoms in a blinded laboratory setting, leading investigators to question biophysical hypersensitivy without completely denying its existence. (Rubin. 2005) One symptom that appears often is tinnitus—ringing in the ears. More than half the subjects with self-reported EMS experience this, adding that it disrupts sleep and work. Individual use of a cell phone has been excused from tinnitus causation in at least one report. (Landgrebe. 2009)

But that does not excuse cell phones from all purported debilitations. Memory function was impaired in laboratory animals exposed to cell phone radiation for as little as two hours a week for almost a year. But these creatures are considerably smaller than an adult human, so interpretation of the results calls for a light touch. (Nittby. 2008) Pulsed EMF, which results from storage and sudden release of energy, may have adverse effects on neuronal function, as determined by German studies on subjects whose auditory discrimination tasks suffered following exposure. The ensuing recommendation of these investigators is to remove cell phones from children, the elderly, and the sick. (Maier. 2004)

As research gains momentum and relates EMF’s to a multitude of ills, including Alzheimer’s disease, impaired red blood cell flow and conditions of lesser chronicity, we may come to realize that progress has more take than give. People react to some frequencies more than to others, but not all people respond the same way. Altering an environment to accommodate all comers is neither feasible nor likely. That means taking matters into one’s own hands. There is little room to get into the physics of EMF, but suffice it to say that 2.5 mG (milligauss) is close to the tolerable limit of exposure, though no RDA has been set. Most states in the U.S. have adopted a 3.0 mG cutoff, though some researchers prefer 1.0. The EPA says 1.0 mG, which agrees with Sweden. The Russians view .001 mG as enough. Protecting yourself is as simple as turning off the electric blanket before getting into bed, shutting off the TV and computer monitor when not using them, stepping away from the microwave while it’s on, eschewing fluorescent lamps where possible, testing appliances with a handheld meter before purchasing, and fighting the power company that wants to put high tension wires in your neighborhood. If you own a gauss meter, look for a level of 0.5 mG in your home. That’s where you put your pillow. Of course, you may not be a victim of electromagnetic sensitivity. You might be interested in http://cetf.us/2010/02/16/david-carpenter-high-voltage-power-lines-pose-health-risks/, where Dr. David Carpenter, noted EMF researcher, looks at high-voltage power lines.

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*These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA. These products are not intended to treat, diagnose, cure, or prevent any disease.