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Electrosmog and our health

People may not realize the amount of ’electrosmog’ – various forms of wireless technology – that surrounds us every day. While we watch for reports on the effects of cell phone use on our health, we should also be thinking about cordless phones, smart meters, and possibly even our cars. Health Impacts of Exposure to Wireless Radiation was the topic of a recent symposium held at Lakehead University in Thunder Bay, Ontario, which highlighted a number of concerns.

Henry Lai: Radiation from wireless signals and cell phones is harmful

Dr. Henry Lai, whose research is noted as part of the report on the Interphone Study, reported that he has changed his mind about whether radiation from wireless signals and cell phones was harmful. He has found that, while using a cell phone, 80 per cent of the high intensity radiation is absorbed into the hand and head. Also, transmissions from wireless routers or broadcast towers expose people to low intensity and long-term radiation.

“It’s involuntary,” Lai said of the radiation being transmitted through the open environment. “No matter where you go you’re exposed.”

Lai said new research is showing that exposure to frequencies emitted by these technologies leads to enhanced free radical activity in the body’s cells which leads to cell damage and even cell death. DNA strands break when exposed to radiation. And when DNA reforms, it can make “mistakes” which lead to mutations.
Lai’s research has also shown that the effects of radiation on health depend largely on where the funding for research comes from (see also Follow the Money in our report on Incineration). He feels that governments should increase their funding into wireless technologies and its biological effects. Currently Canada is funding very little research while the United States has funded virtually no studies on wireless technology.

Magda Havas: Electrosmog induces electrohypersensitivity

Trent University’s Dr. Magda Havas – well known to readers of An Ounce – has been studying the biological effects of electromagnetic pollution or “electrosmog” in the environment caused by everything from cordless phones to televisions in the home. She strongly recommends removing cordless phones from our home, since these can emit as much radiation as a cell phone tower.
She estimates over one million Canadians have some form of electrohypersensitivity caused by “dirty electricity” in the environment. She cites physical symptoms people may experience following long-term exposure to EMF, including dizziness, headaches, nausea, rashes, shortness of breath, heart palpitations, fluctuations in blood sugar and, in severe cases, seizure and stroke.

Lakehead refuses wireless technology

Lakehead University has refused to install wireless technology on campus, citing health concerns. This has, not surprisingly, become a hot-topic issue, garnering international attention, and angering some students and staff who want the convenience of wireless access.

Most of the bad news about the dark side to the techno-magic of wireless devices that depend on electromagnetic (EM) microwave radiation to function comes from major labs and research institutions in Europe. What they’re reporting is that using cell phones and Wi-Fi transmitters — which operate using similar frequencies — can have biological effects on the brain and body.

Chilling possibilities

The scientific debate remains heated and far from resolved, but the research to date suggests a number of chilling possibilities as to what EM radiation may be doing to us.

For example, in 2008, neuroscientists at Swinburne University of Technology in Australia strapped Nokia phones to subjects’ heads, then turned the phones on and off. On — the brain’s alpha waves spiked. Off — the brain settled. The researchers speculated that the effect was the result of the brain “concentrating to overcome the electrical interference in brain circuits caused by the pulsed microwave radiation.”

Swedish neuro-oncologist Leif Salford, chairman of the department of neurosurgery at Lund University, has found that cell phone radiation kills brain cells in rats, especially those cells associated with memory and learning. The damage occurred after an exposure of just two hours. In duplicating earlier research, Salford also found that cell phone microwaves produce holes in the barrier between the circulatory system and the brain in rats. One potential outcome, according to Salford, is dementia.

Meanwhile, Austrian researchers reported in 2004 that cell phone radiation can induce double-strand breaks in DNA, one of the undisputed causes of cancer.

More locally, collectif SEMO (Sauvons nos Enfants des Micro-Ondes) is calling attention to the need to protect children from electromagnetic radiation. They are circulating a petition and asking for a report from Quebec public health authorities on relay towers and their effects on children’s health.

So why isn’t this a bigger issue?

Partly because there are countervailing studies and other scientists telling us not to be worried, that the risks are low or that we just don’t know enough to say that the risks are real.

We’ll continue to keep you posted on this issue – it’s a big one and only likely to get bigger.

For more information:

Interphone study reports on mobile phone use and brain cancer risk, International Agency for Research on Cancer, Press Release 200, May 10, 2010
Electrosmog can be bad for health by Doug Diaczuk 02/23/2010
Wireless concerns by Jamie Smith
Lab rats with cellphones? By Christopher Ketcham, February 23, 2010
Sauvons nos Enfants des Micro-Ondes (SEMO), 23 février 2010
Could electronics be what’s causing runaway cars? By Jayne O’Donnell
Video DECT phone affects the heart by Magda Havas
W.E.E.P. (The Canadian initiative to stop Wireless Electrical and Electromagnetic Pollution)
Children and Cell Phones: Time to Start Talking Sense, by Louis Slesin, May 3, 2010, Microwave News,
Cellphones and Cancer: The Real Story by Devra Lee Davis, June 4, 2010, The Huffington Post,

Also in this issue on An Ounce …