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Are there demonstrated effects to humans from exposure to electromagnetic fields (EMFs)?

(Excerpts from Electromagnetic Fields: A Consumer’s Guide to the Issues and How to Protect Ourselves by B. Blake Levitt, Harcourt Brace, 1995. Used by permission of author.)

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It has been known all along that RF/MW radiation excites the water molecules in human tissue and causes heating, and most attempts at setting safety standards have been based solely on that aspect. But the nonthermal effects are the more important and biologically fascinating ones.

In humans, EMFs in various frequencies have been found to adversely affect calcium binding at the cell surface, DNA synthesis, and cell division; to alter circadian rhythms, affect or alter some important enzyme activities, and affect specific glands like the pineal and the hypothalamus area of the brain as well as the production of certain neurotransmitters, like seratonin and dopamine production; to increase the permeability of the blood-brain barrier; to create artificial stress responses; to overstimulate the immune system initially, then suppress is and decrease T-lymphocyte production; and to promote malignant tumor growth with particular concentrations in the central nervous system, in the blood and skeletal systems, and in glandular tissue. The eyes, the brain, and the testes seem to be especially prone to abnormal effects from the RF frequencies. The eye serves to amplify some RF/MW frequencies, which is probably why increases in posterior cataracts have been observed in some microwave workers. (Microwaves are also known to increase drug sensitivity in people taking glaucoma medication). The testes are very close to the body’s surface, which is probably why increases in testicular cancer have been reported in law-enforcement officers who have rested functioning radar guns in their laps. In addition, it appears that the human anatomy has specific windows of sensitivity at which certain bioeffects have been repeatedly observed, but not at other frequencies.

The Soviet Union did some interesting RF/MW research on behavioral aberrations that is unparalleled in the United States. It has been known for many years that low-intensity EMFs produce adverse effects on the autonomic and central nervous systems of humans and animals in strengths far too low to cause tissue heating. For years U.S. researchers dismissed much of the Soviet research, partly for political reasons but also because they could not replicate many of the studies because the Soviets (for security reasons of their own) left out important details. With the end of the Cold War, some of these gaps have been filled and American researchers have been able to replicate some Soviet work.

Radio-wave sickness is the term the Soviet researchers used to describe a clinical syndrome in those occupationally exposed to EMFs, particularly RFs/MWs. It included functional disturbances of the central nervous system such as headaches, increased susceptibility to fatigue, increased irritability, dizziness, sleepiness, sweating, concentration difficulties, memory loss, depression, emotional instability, mild limb tremors, cardiac arrhythmias, increases in blood pressure, and appetite loss. Thyroid enlargement, benign adrenal-gland tumors, and rashes were also observed. Less common but also reported were hallucinations, insomnia, fainting, and internal organ or intestinal difficulties. Also, auditory channels were stimulated when the head was exposed to low-power, pulse-modulated RF.

Of additional interest with regard to long-term, low-level exposures was research done with Polish career military personnel in the late 1980s by Stanislaw Szmigielski and co-workers, at the Center for Radiobiology and Radioprotection in Warsaw. The military personnel, whose major exposures were from the radar/microwave frequencies, but with some 50-hertz exposures also involved, were found to have a six times higher cancer incidence than nonmilitary test subjects. Most of the malignancies were lymphomas and leukemias. Szmigielski is also known for work on EMFs and immune suppression that suggested a biphasic reaction of initial stimulation followed by overall suppression.

Some results from studies of populations in the vicinity of broadcast towers include:
· Honolulu, Hawaii: In 1984, the EPA measured RF levels at twenty-one sites near broadcast towers and found that at two sties the levels exceeded the ANSI standard. Nearby residents had complained of RF-associated shocks and burns, as well as interference with electronic equipment. EPA also found that the incidence for all cancers in both men and women was significantly higher in those living near broadcasting towers than in those not living near such facilities.

· Schwarzenburg, Switzerland: A study of residents living near a radio broadcast tower documented sleeping disorders, lowered concentration, high blood pressure, and anxiety.

· Sutton Coldfield, Great Britain: An epidemiology study found elevated levels of adult leukemia in residential areas near broadcast towers.

· Australia: Increase in childhood leukemia and mortality from leukemia in residential areas near broadcast towers.

· Pescara, Italy: Effects on the immune systems of women who did not work outside of the home and who lived in the vicinity of broadcast towers with various television and radio transmitters.

See also: Johnson Liakouris, Ana, “Radiofrequency (RF) Sickness in the Lilienfeld Study: An Effect of Modulated Microwaves?”, Archives of Environmental Health: volume 53 No. 3, 1998, pp.236-283.The author reviews statistically significant health effects noted in the Lilienfeld Study of U.S. Embassy personnel in Moscow (Johns Hopkins Foreign Service Health Status Study). Johnson Liakouris found that “the disregarded health conditions match the cluster attributed to the radiofrequency sickness syndrome, thus establishing a possible correlation between health effects and chronic exposure to low-intensity, modulated microwave radiation.”

See also: Hyland, G.J., “Physics and biology of mobile telephony,” The Lancet, volume 356, November 25, 2000, pp. 1833-1836. Hyland writes that, “Not withstanding uncertainty about whether the non-thermal influences reported do adversely affect health, there are consistencies between some of these effects and the neurological problems reported by some mobile-telephone users and people who are exposed longterm to base station radiation.

One international body that is considering further study of RF/MW adverse bioeffects is the European Parliament. In 2000, the European Parliament’s Directorate General for Research, Division Industry, Research, Energy, Environment and Scientific and Technological Options Assessment (STOA) also sought Dr. Gerard Hyland’s input on the possible adverse health effects of non-ionizing electromagnetic radiation. See Dr. Hyland’s report at:

See also: Santini, Roger, Arguments in Favor of Applying the Precautionary Principle to Counter the Effects of Mobile Phone Base Stations, Testimony presented to the French Senate Parliamentary Office for Evaluation of Scientific and Technological Alternatives, March 6, 2002.

See also: Sage, Cindy, “Microwave And Radiofrequency Radiation Exposure: A Growing Environmental Health Crisis? San Francisco Medicine, March 2001.

See also: Catania Resolution
16 scientists participating at the International Conference, "State of the Research on Electromagnetic Fields: Scientific and Legal Issues”, which was organized by ISPESL, the University of Vienna, and the City of Catania, held in Catania (Italy) on September 13th -14th, 2002, have published this resolution. These scientists have also agreed to “establish an international scientific commission to promote research for the protection of public health from EMFs and to develop the scientific basis and strategies for assessment, prevention, management and communication of risk, based on the precautionary principle.”

See Also: Freiburger Appeal
22 medical doctors of the Interdisciplinary Association for Environmental Medicine (Interdisziplilnare Gesellschaft fur Umweltmedizin e. V. IGUMED) met in Germany in order to discuss the increasing burdens brought on by high-frequency-radiation (radiofrequency/microwave radiation) and to talk about possible remedies. A result of this meeting is the October 9, 2002, "Freiburger Appeal.” (See excerpts below.)

Out of great concern for the health of our fellow human beings do we as established physicians of all fields, especially that of environmental medicine, turn to the medical establishment and those in public health and political domains, as well as to the public. . . .

Since the living environment and lifestyles of our patients are familiar to us, we can see - especially after carefully directed inquiry - a clear temporal and spatial correlation between the appearance of disease and exposure to pulsed high-frequency microwave radiation (HFMR), such as:
· Installation of a mobile telephone sending station in the near vicinity
· Intensive mobile telephone use
· Installation of a digital cordless (DECT) telephone at home or in the neighbourhood

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