The source of material for this review of Magnetic Fields Biological Effects is Microwave News, with past issues available free on-line, www.microwavenews.com. Sign up for their occasional notification of new research results, mainly now on cell phones and WIFI.
- This literature review addresses just AC magnetic fields, which started out as power line issues. AC magnetic fields are also associated with motors, transformers, heat coils, wiring errors, grounding issues, and proximity to other sources of electrical current flow.
- AC magnetic fields emanate from sources in concentric circles and pass through just about anything in their path. They are measured with a gaussmeter (available on-line and from www.lessemf.com). Because AC magnetic fields from neighborhood distribution lines (power lines) cannot be shielded, measuring a prospective home with a gaussmeter prior to signing a contract is strongly advised. The most conservative scientists look for levels of 1 mG or lower for prolonged exposure. PPlease see the tab on using a gaussmeter to screen a potential home.
A Review of Selected Studies on Magnetic Fields Biological Effects, compiled in 1999
In 1998, a National Institute on Environmental Health and Safety (NIEHS) panel classified electromagnetic fields (EMFs) as a “possible” human carcinogen in the same class as chloroform, lead, carbon tetrachloride, and DDT.
- 1996 Drs. Eugene Sobel and Zoreh Davanipour of the University of Southern California School of Medicine, Los Angeles. Medium-to-high occupational exposures result in a four-fold increase in the rate of Alzheimer’s.
- 1996 Dr. Maria Feychting of the Karolinska Institute, Stockholm, Sweden. Five-times increased rate of Alzheimer’s is reported with occupational exposures.
- 1996 An occupational study by the National Institute of Occupational Health and Safety and Johns Hopkins University finds higher death rates from Alzheimer’s with medium-to high occupational exposures (2 mG and higher).
- 1987 Dr. Richard Stevens, Battelle Pacific Northwest Labs, Richland, WA. EMFs reduce levels of the cancer-fighting hormone, melatonin. Lower levels are associated with breast cancer.
- 1989-1992 Epidemiological studies show an increase in male breast cancer among exposed workers, especially for those under 30 years of age. Drs. Genevieve Matanoski of Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, MD, Paul Demers of the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, Seattle, WA, and Tore Tynes and Aage Andersen of the Cancer Registry of Norway, Oslo.
- 1992 Dr. Sabine John of the Technical University of Munich, Germany. EMFs increase the rate of breast cancer mitochondrial activity.
- 1992 Dr. Robert Liburdy of the Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory, Berkeley, CA. Low levels of EMFs decrease the amount of melatonin.
- 1993 Dr. Wolfgang Loscher of the School of Veterinary Medicine, Hannover, Germany. EMFs increase the number of mammary tumors in laboratory animals in a dose-response relationship.
- 1993 Drs. Dana Loomis and David Savitz of the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. Female electrical workers have twice the expected number of deaths from breast cancer.
- 1996 – 1998 The Stevens and Liburdy melatonin studies are replicated. For the first time, a mechanism is demonstrated linking EMFs and cancer, i.e., that EMFs reduce the amount of the cancer-fighting hormone, melatonin. Dr. Carl Blackman of the Environmental Protection Agency, Dr. Richard Luben of the University of California, Riverside, CA, Dr. Larry Anderson of Battelle Pacific Northwest Laboratory, Richland, WA, and Drs. Scott Davis of Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, Seattle, WA and Dr. Richard Stevens of the Battelle Pacific Northwest Labs in Richland, WA.
- 1996 Dr. Patricia Coogan of Boston University School of Public Health, Boston, MA. Another occupational study links female breast cancer and EMFs.
- 1997 Dr. Maria Feychting of Karolinska Institute, Stockholm, Sweden. Women who are under 50 exposed to EMFs above 2 mG have 80% increased incidence of breast cancer. When limited to estrogen-receptor-positive women, the incidence is 7.4 times the risk of breast cancer above 1 mG.
CANCER, ADULT – OTHER THAN BREAST CANCER
- 1989 Drs. Genevieve Matanoski, Patrick Breysse, and Elizabeth Elliott, Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, MD. An occupational study shows increased rates of prostate, colon and lung cancers, leukemia and lymphoma.
- 1992 Dr. Birgitta Floderus of the National Institute of Occupational Health, Solna, Sweden. Men exposed to 3 mG at work have three times the expected rate of chronic lymphocytic leukemia.
- 1992 Dr. Richard Lovely of the Battelle Pacific Northwest Lab, Richland, WA. Men using electric razors have twice the rate of leukemia.
- 1994 Dr. Gilles Theriault of McGill University, Montreal. Hydro-Quebec workers exposed to magnetic fields have more brain tumors and leukemia. A second study shows that workers exposed to transients (intense pulses of high frequency radiation) have ten times the incidence of lung cancer compared to 1.6 increase for those exposed to magnetic fields alone.
- 1995 Drs. David Savitz and Dana Loomis of the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. Utility workers with the highest EMF exposures have more than twice the expected rate of brain cancer than the least exposed workers.
- 1995 Dr. Birgitta Floderus of the National Institute for Working Life, Solna, Sweden. Individuals exposed to EMFs on the job are found to have a small, but significant, elevation in risk for many types of cancer.
- 1995 Dr. Nancy Wertheimer, Dr. David Savitz of the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, and Ed Leeper find quadrupled rates of leukemia in houses where ground currents at the plumbing are present.
- 1997 Drs. Carin Stenlund and Birgitta Floderus, Karolinska Institute, Stockholm, Sweden. Rates of testicular cancer are doubled for the 25% of male workers with the highest EMF exposures
- 1997 Drs. Ching-Yi Li of Fu-Jen Catholic University in Taipei, Taiwan, Gilles Theriault of McGill University in Montreal, Canada, and Ruey Lin of National Taiwan University in Taipei. A 40% greater risk of leukemia and a 70% higher risk of ALL (acute lymphocytic leukemia) are found when the exposure is 2 mG or greater. A dose-response relationship is noted.
- 1996 Dr. Anthony Miller of the University of Toronto, Canada The leukemia risk is 11 times as high for workers exposed to both electric and magnetic fields compared to 1.6 times for workers exposed to magnetic fields alone.
- Dr. Ross Adey, formerly of the Veterans Administration Hospital, Loma Linda, CA. EMFs disrupt communication between healthy adjacent cells, with potential implication for Alzheimer’s. Similar findings were reported by Drs. Carl Blackman of the Environmental Protection Agency, Robert Liburdy of Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory, Berkeley, CA, Ewa Lindstrom of the University of Umea, Sweden and the National Institute of Occupational Health in Umea, Sweden.
- 1987 Drs. Craig Byus of the University of California, Riverside, and Ross Adey, formerly of the Veterans Administration Hospital, Loma Linda, CA. Weak EMFs increase the action of an enzyme linked to cell growth in tumors.
- 1995 Drs. Reba Goodman of Columbia University and Ann Henderson of Hunter College, New York City. Magnetic fields induce changes in gene expression.
- 1998 Dr. Faith Uckun of Wayne Hughes Institute, St. Paul, MN. EMFs alter the activity of protein kinases, enzymes involved in both normal cell function and cancer promotion.
- 1997-1998 Four laboratories report increased DNA breaks from power frequency EMFs, with implications for cancer. The hypothesis is that EMF-induced free radicals may lead to an increase in DNA breaks or to a disruption of an enzyme repair mechanism. Drs. Henry Lai and Narendra Singh of the University of Washington, Seattle, Jerry Phillips of the Veterans Administration Medical Center, Loma Linda, CA, Yog Raj Ahuga of Mahavir Medical Research Center, Hyderabad, India and Britt-Marie Svendenstal of Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Uppsala, Sweden.
CHEMICAL CARCINOGENS PROMOTED BY AC MAGNETIC FIELDS
- 1991 Dr. Chris Cain of the Veterans Administration Hospital, Loma Linda, CA. EMFs act with a known chemical carcinogen to promote tumor development.
- 1992 The incidence of breast tumors increases from both static and AC magnetic fields interacting with a known chemical carcinogen in Russian animal studies.
- 1995 Dr. Craig Byus of the University of California, Riverside. Laboratory animals treated with a chemical carcinogen develop more tumors in the presence of elevated EMFs.
CHILDHOOD CANCER STUDIES
- 1979 Dr. Nancy Wertheimer and Ed Leeper. For the first time, an increase in childhood cancer is linked with power line EMFs. This study is replicated in 1986 by Dr. David Savitz of the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill.
- 1990 The Environmental Protection Agency drafts a report concluding that EMFs are a possible potential carcinogen.
- 1991 Drs. Stephanie London and John Peters of the University of Southern California, Los Angeles. An increased risk of childhood leukemia is found with use of electric hair dryers.
- 1992 Drs. Anders Ahlbom and Maria Feychting of the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, Sweden. Children exposed to 3 mG magnetic fields in their homes have three times the expected rate of leukemia.
- 1994 Dr. Allen Kraut of the University of Manitoba, Winnipeg. A direct correlation is found in an epidemiology study comparing electricity usage in the provinces with the rates of childhood leukemia and brain cancers.
- 1996 Combined studies by Drs. Anders Ahlbom and Maria Feychting of the Karolinska Institute, Stockholm and Dr. Jorgen Olsen of the Danish Cancer Society, Copenhagen, show two times the rate of leukemia at exposures of 2 mG or more and five times the rate for exposures of 5 mG or higher.
- 1996 Dr. Daniel Wartenberg for the National Academy of Sciences finds consistency in eleven childhood cancer studies showing elevated risk of cancer for children living near power lines.
- 1997 Drs. Tore Tynes and Tor Haldorsen of the Institute of Epidemiological Cancer Research at the Cancer Registry of Norway, Oslo. Children exposed to magnetic fields 0.5 mG or higher for three or more years during the first four years of life have an increased risk of leukemia.
- 1997 The National Cancer Institute childhood leukemia study finds a 72% increased risk of leukemia for children exposed to 3 mG or higher.
- 1997 Drs. Jorg Michaelis and Joanchim Schuz of the University of Mainz, Germany. Children living in magnetic fields above 2 mG have twice the risk of leukemia. Children under 4 years old have a seven times increased risk.
- 1998 Dr. Chung-Yi Li of the College of Medicine at the Pu-Jen Catholic University, Taipei, and Drs. Wei-Chin Lee and Ruey Shiung Lin of National Taiwan University, Taipei. A 2.7 times risk of childhood leukemia is found near power lines in fields 2 mG or higher.
- 1998 The National Cancer Institute studies appliance use by children and finds increased childhood leukemia rates with all 25 appliances. Appliances include video games, curling irons, microwave ovens, sound systems with headsets, electric blankets, hair dryers and TVs (sitting closer than 6 feet), There was no increased risk for use of stereos without headphones.
- 1998 Dr. Antonio Sastre, Midwest Research Institute (MRI), Kansas City, MO. EMFs reduce the extent of heart-rate variability (HRV) and are linked to increased risk of death from arrhythmia and heart attacks among utility workers.
- 1999 Dr. David Savitz publishes “Magnetic Field Exposure and Cardiovascular Disease Mortality Among Electric Utility Workers,” in the American Journal of Epidemiology, 149, pp.135-142, January 15, 1999.
LOU GEHRIG’S DISEASE (ALS – amyotrophic lateral sclerosis)
- 1997 Drs. Zoreh Davanipour and Eugene Sobel of the University of Southern California School of Medicine, Los Angeles. The most exposed workers have seven times the risk for ALS as those least exposed.
- 1997 Dr. David Savitz of the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. An occupational study finds two to three times the risk for ALS.
- 1998 Drs. Christoffer Johansen and Jorgen Olsen of the Danish Cancer Society. A Danish study finds two times the rate of ALS among utility workers.
NERVOUS AND IMMUNE SYSTEM ILLS
- 1998 Dr. Laurence Bonhomme-Faivre of Paul Brousse Hospital, Paris. EMF occupational exposure is linked to fatigue, depression, irritability, and diminished libido, as well as a significant reduction in white blood cells.
- 1998 Short-term memory effects are seen with power frequency exposure. A.W. Preece, K.A. Wesnes and G.R. Iwi. “The Effect of a 50 Hz Magnetic Field on Cognitive Function in Humans,” International Journal of Radiation Biology, 74, pp.463-470, 1998.
- 1999 Dr. Ross Adey is to receive the 1999 Hans Selye Award from the American Institute of Stress for his work on biological effects of weak EMFs.
- 1988 Epidemiologists at Kaiser Permanente, Oakland, CA. Women using VDTs for twenty or more hours weekly during the early months of during pregnancy have more than double the rate of miscarriage.
- 1990 Dr. David Savitz of the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. Prenatal exposures to electric blankets results in higher risk for leukemia, brain tumors and other cancers.
- 1992 Dr. Maila Hietanen of the Institute of Occupational Health, Helsinki, Finland. Women exposed to 3 mG magnetic fields from VDTs have close to three and a half times the expected rate of miscarriage.
- 1992 Dr. Jukka Juutilainen, University of Kuopio, Finland. Women in residences where magnetic fields at the front door are 6.3 mG or greater have a five fold increase in the rate of miscarriage.
- 1995 Dr. Claire Infante-Rivard, McGill University, Montreal, Canada. Children whose mothers used sewing machines during pregnancy have up to a sevenfold increase in rates of leukemia.
- 1995 Dr. De-Kun Li of Kaiser Permanente, Oakland, CA, and Drs. Harvey Checkoway and Beth Mueller of the University of Washington, Seattle. Electric blanket usage is associated in low-fertility women with four times the rate of congenital urinary tract anomalies in their newborns.
- 1995 Dr. Jean Harry of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences. In neonates, EMFs are associated with an increase in gene expression and subtle changes in the neural network of the brain.
- 1998 Dr. Kathleen Belanger of Yale University, New Haven, CT. A 5-year study shows twice the miscarriage rate for women using electric blankets.
- 1998 Dr. Jukka Juutilainen of the University of Kuopio, Finland. This study designed to detect early fetal loss shows five times the miscarriage rate for women using electric blankets.
- 1998 The National Cancer Institute’s childhood leukemia study shows elevated rates of leukemia in children whose mothers use electric blankets, heating pads, or humidifiers during pregnancy.
“The only thing that stands in the way of general acceptance [of EMF cancer connection] is for someone to demonstrate a plausible biological mechanism, because everything else is there. And this is not a requirement for the standard methods of epidemiology. In fact, we still don’t have a biological mechanism for asbestos.” Dr. David Ozonoff, Chair of the Department of Environmental Health at Boston University’s School of Public Health. Microwave News, Vol. XVI No. 1, January/February 1996, p.5.
Dr. Russel Reiter of the University of Texas, San Antonio. “The wide variety of tumors represented [in the Floderus data] suggests the mechanism is a basic one – for example, involving free radicals and melatonin.” Microwave News, Vol. XV No. 5, September/October 1995, p.8.
Dr. Gilles Theriault, McGill University: “We keep seeing smoke, but we have not identified the fire. And there is a fire out there. One day we will put our finger on it.” Microwave News Vol. XV No. 1, January/February 1995, p.8.
“The significance of the epidemiological studies is not that they point to a cancer epidemic. But they raise the question: If EMFs can cause even a small change in cancer rates, what other biological effects could they have?” Commentary, Microwave News, Vol. XV No. 4, July/August 1995, p. 9.
Michael Herz of Pacific Gas & Electric, San Francisco, CA: “It’s incredibly important to follow up and to answer the questions [relating to EMFs and heart rhythms] that have been raised.” Microwave News, Vol. XVIII No. 5, September/October 1998, p.4.
Dr. Imre Gyuk of the Department of Energy in Washington: “It’s getting harder and harder for skeptics to deny low-level effects.” Microwave News, Vol. XVIII No. 4, July/August 1998, p.3.
“...we need to look at the combined risk of EMFs with both chemicals and ionizing radiation,” Dr. Genevieve Matanoski, Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, MD. Microwave News, Vol. XII No. 4, July/August 1992, p. 8.
“The NAS-NRC report may mislead the public into a false sense of security – for a while. But the real link between power lines and cancer must still be addressed, as must the evidence that points to EMFs.” Commentary, Microwave News, Vol. XVI No. 6, November/December 1996, p.8.
The National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences panel finds that EMFs are “possible” human carcinogens. “Now the public will know what the members of the EMF research community have known for years,” said Dr. Michael Marron of the Office of Naval Research in Arlington, VA. Microwave News, Vol. XVIII No. 4, July/August 1998, p.5.
Dr. Nancy Wertheimer: “The most important aspect of our paper was that in looking at ground currents, we identified a type of EMF measurement that is significantly associated with the incidence of both childhood and adult cancer.” Microwave News, Vol. XV No. 5, September/October 1995, p. 2.
Dr. Robert McGaughy of the Environmental Protection Agency: “If this were a chemical and we had some mechanistic data, there is no doubt that we would have classified EMFs as a B1 carcinogen – a probable human carcinogen.” Microwave News, Vol. XVIII No. 5, September/October 1998, p.2.
In a draft under review, the National Council on Radiation Protection reviewed the scientific literature and concluded that 2 mG would be a prudent limit not to be exceeded for prolonged exposure. Microwave News, Vol. XV No. 4, July/August 1995, p.12.
Dr. David Carpenter, dean of the School of Public Health at the NYS Department of Health in Albany, said in a talk to the New York City Bar Association on March 14th: “’In my judgment, we are 90-95% certain that there is a link between EMFs and cancer….’ Setting standards can be a contentious process, but the ‘logical number is 1 mG.’” Microwave News, Vol. XIV No. 2, March/April 1994, p.2.1995
Dr. Indira Nair of Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, PA: “Inaction is not an option.” She “would err on the side of caution …because children are implicated.” Microwave News, Vol. XVIII No. 5, September/October 1998, p.2.
Shirley Linde of the National EMF Advisory Committee: “It is reprehensible that research is stopping in the U.S. at a time when the NIEHS panel has pointed to a possible cancer risk. “ “How can we walk away when children are at risk?” Microwave News, Vol. XVIII No. 5, September/October 1998, p.3.
Barbara Balaban, West Islip Breast Cancer Coalition: “If EMFs may present a risk, then what is the harm in educating people about those measures they can take to avoid unnecessary exposure?” Microwave News, Vol. XVIII No. 5, September/October 1998, p.2.
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