By Dr. Magda Havas–
I’m an associate professor of environmental and resource studies at Trent University in Peterborough, Ontario. For the past 25 years I have been teaching university students about the biological effects of electromagnetic fields and electromagnetic radiation, collectively referred to as electrosmog.
Since 2000, I have been invited to give more than 300 lectures at medical conferences, at universities, to congressional and Senate staff in the United States, and to community groups. I have presented to the Canadian Medical Association, the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons, and the Parliament of Canada’s Standing Committee on Health, about the harmful effects of electrosmog and the need for public protection.
I began my career as an environmental toxicologist in the mid-1970s. I was one of the scientists who studied the damage acid rain did to forests and lakes. My peer-reviewed, published research and that of other scientists helped bring in clean air legislation, referred to as the acid rain accord, signed into international law by Prime Minister Mulroney and President Bush in 1991.
At that time, industry scientists repeatedly claimed acid rain did not exist or was not responsible for the loss of fish and the death of trees. This denial of a problem is common in health and environmental issues that have financial consequences for those generating the pollution. We have seen it with asbestos, DDT, lead, cigarettes, and now electrosmog.
Today, we have industry scientists who claim electromagnetic pollution does not cause cancer or adverse effects on health. These wireless industries are able to hide behind Health Canada’s Safety Code 6, which affords more protection to them than to the public.
Schools that have installed Wi-Fi, the telecommunications industry that installs antennas on hospitals and in residential communities, and provincial and municipal governments that do not have expertise in this area, all hide behind Health Canada’s Safety Code 6. What they don’t realize is that this guideline was designed to protect military personnel from the heating of tissue averaged over a six-minute period. It was not intended to protect the infant in the crib lying next to a wireless baby monitor that emits microwave radiation for 12 hours a day.
In the 1940s, US Navy labs documented illness among radar equipment operators. Back then it was called microwave illness. Today it is called electrohypersensitivity (EHS). Radar operators were made sick by the same frequencies later used for the microwave oven, which originally was called the radar range. The same frequencies are now used in Wi-Fi devices. We wouldn’t want to live near a radar installation, yet we generate radar frequencies in our home with our wireless technology.
Symptoms of electrohypersensitivity include headaches, chronic pain, chronic fatigue, sleeping problems, difficulty concentrating, poor short-term memory, mood disorders including depression and anxiety, dizziness, nausea, and tinnitus. As many as 3% of the population, one million Canadians, have EHS symptoms that are so severe they are unable to function in our modern world.
Another 10 million Canadians have mild to moderate symptoms. These symptoms resemble aging. I refer to electrohypersensitivity as “rapid aging syndrome.”
My research shows that radio frequency radiation from a cordless phone at levels well below 1% of Safety Code 6 causes an irregular or rapid heart rate in those who are sensitive. This is called tachycardia. In a few individuals, their heart rate increases from 60 beats per minute to 100 beats per minute while they’re lying down on a bed without knowing whether the device is turned on or off. The feeling is that they are experiencing a heart attack.
In the early studies with radar operators, doctors recommended workers be screened for heart irregularities before working with microwave radiation. Perhaps students should be screened before attending Wi-Fi-equipped schools.
As part of my research, I am trying to find biomarkers for electrohypersensitivity so that doctors can be better equipped to diagnose this environmental illness. So far we have found several—heart rate, heart rate variability, blood viscosity, sugar among diabetics, and muscular co-ordination problems with people who have multiple sclerosis. More biomarkers are needed. Unlike epidemiological studies that document an association between an agent and an outcome, our studies demonstrate a cause and effect relationship.
We now recognize that our cells and organs communicate with each other using electromagnetic impulses rather than just chemical messengers. Any signal that interferes with this communication may adversely affect the health of individuals. The effects are a function of not only the intensity, but also the frequency modulation of the waveform.
Doctors are not taught in medical schools about electrosmog, as it is a relatively recent problem, nor are they taught how to diagnose electrohypersensitivity. When doctors can’t identify an illness they often assume it is psychological. Psychiatrists tell me that they are regularly sent patients who have physiological problems and not psychological ones. Some of these patients are electrically hypersensitive.
Industry scientists often refer to studies that report subjects who claim to have EHS are unable to subjectively determine whether a device is on or off. They falsely conclude that this means the person is not electrically hypersensitive. The flawed assumption here is that perception is necessary for a physiological action to occur and that reactions occur immediately.
Neither is true.
We can be outside on a sunny day when the sun is not visible or hot and still get a sunburn. We do not perceive ultraviolet radiation. The sunburn develops over time. Sensitivity to the sun varies among individuals, as does electrohypersensitivity.
If you look at the 20 years it took to address acid rain and the 50 years it took for tobacco, the outlook for wireless technology is bleak. That’s because many things in our environment generate electrosmog. The levels of human-made microwave radiation are currently well above natural background levels and continue to increase as more wireless devices are brought to market. These levels, despite being below Safety Code 6, are adversely affecting human health. We can wait, or we can take steps in the right direction to reduce our exposure.