You cannot see it, taste it or smell it, but it is one of the most pervasive environmental exposures in industrialized countries today. Electromagnetic radiation (EMR) or electromagnetic fields (EMFs) are the terms that broadly describe exposures created by the vast array of wired and wireless technologies that have altered the landscape of our lives in countless beneficial ways.
However, these technologies were designed to maximize energy efficiency and convenience; not with biological effects on people in mind. Based on new studies, there is growing evidence among scientists and the public about possible health risks associated with these technologies.
Today’s public exposure limits for telecommunications are based on the presumption that heating of tissue (for RF) or induced electric currents in the body (for ELF) are the only concerns when living organisms are exposed to RF. [But] It appears it is the INFORMATION conveyed by electromagnetic radiation (rather than heat) that causes biological changes – some of these biological changes may lead to loss of wellbeing, disease and even death.
section 1-II SUMMARY OF THE SCIENCE
The evidence that power lines and other sources of ELF are consistently associated with higher rates of childhood leukemia has resulted in the International Agency for Cancer Research (an arm of the World Health Organization) to classify ELF as a Possible Human Carcinogen (in the Group 2B carcinogen list).
Radio frequency radiation from cell phone and cordless phone exposure has been linked in more than one dozen studies to increased risk for brain tumors and/or acoustic neuromas (a tumor in the brain on a nerve related to our hearing).
Exposure to electromagnetic fields has been studied in connection with Alzheimer’s disease, motor neuron disease and Parkinson’s disease. These diseases all involve the death of specific neurons and may be classified as neurodegenerative diseases. There is evidence that high levels of amyloid beta are a risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease, and exposure to ELF can increase this substance in the brain. There is considerable evidence that melatonin can protect the brain against damage leading to Alzheimer’s disease, and also strong evidence that exposure to ELF can reduce melatonin levels. Thus it is hypothesized that one of the body’s main protections against developing Alzheimer’s disease (melatonin) is less available to the body when people are exposed to ELF.
Prolonged exposure to ELF fields could alter calcium (Ca2+) levels in neurons and induce oxidative stress. It is also possible that prolonged exposure to ELF fields may stimulate neurons (particularly large motor neurons) into synchronous firing, leading to damage by the buildup of toxins.
Cancer risk is related to DNA damage, which alters the genetic blueprint for growth and development. If DNA is damaged (the genes are damaged) there is a risk that these damaged cells will not die. Instead they will continue to reproduce themselves with damaged DNA, and this is one necessary pre-condition for cancer. Reduced DNA repair may also be an important part of this story. When the rate of damage to DNA exceeds the rate at which DNA can be repaired, there is the possibility of retaining mutations and initiating cancer. Studies on how ELF and RF may affect genes and DNA is important, because of the possible link to cancer.
Both ELF and RF exposures can be considered genotoxic (will damage DNA) under certain conditions of exposure, including exposure levels that are lower than existing safety limits.
The immune system is another defense we have against invading organisms (viruses, bacteria, and other foreign molecules). It protects us against illness, infectious diseases, and tumor cells. There are many different kinds of immune cells; each type of cell has a particular purpose, and is launched to defend the body against different kinds of exposures that the body determines might be harmful.
There is substantial evidence that ELF and RF can cause inflammatory reactions, allergy reactions and change normal immune function at levels allowed by current public safety standards.
There is reason to believe that children may be more susceptible to the effects of EMF exposure since they are growing, their rate of cellular activity and division is more rapid, and they may be more at risk for DNA damage and subsequent cancers. Growth and development of the central nervous system is still occurring well into the teenage years so that neurological changes may be of great importance to normal development, cognition, learning, and behavior. Prenatal exposure to EMF have been identified as possible risk factor for childhood leukemia. Children are largely unable to remove themselves from exposures to harmful substances in their environments. Their exposure is involuntary.
Like second-hand smoke, EMF is a complex mixture, where different frequencies, intensities, durations of exposure(s), modulation, waveform and other factors is known to produce variable effects. Many years of scientific study has produced substantial evidence that EMF may be considered to be both carcinogenic and neurotoxic.
The deployment of new technologies is running ahead of any reasonable estimation of possible health impacts and estimates of probabilities, let alone a solid assessment of risk. However what has been missing with regard to EMF has been an acknowledgement of the risk that is demonstrated by the scientific studies. As discussed in earlier sections, in this case there is clear evidence of risk, although the magnitude of the risk is uncertain, and the magnitude of doing nothing on the health effects cost to society is similarly uncertain. This situation is very similar to our history of dealing with the hazards of smoking decades ago, where the power of the industry to influence governments and even conflicts of interest within the public health community delayed action for more than a generation, with consequent loss of life and enormous extra health care costs to society.”