While the National Research Council said in 1997 that there is not sufficient evidence of a link between electric and magnetic fields (EMFs) and health problems, dozens of reports, like those published by the National Health Institute and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, warn caution. Among concerning EMFs are low-frequency EMFs, those produced by power lines and transformers. Low-frequency EMFs may produce any of the negative health effects explained below.
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One of the links between low-frequency EMFs and health that is studied most widely is that of childhood leukaemia rates. Since a 1979 study called "Electrical Wiring Configurations and Childhood Cancer," conducted by researchers Nancy Wertheimer and Ed Leeper for the American Journal of Epidemiology, first introduced scientific evidence that childhood leukaemia increases with time spent in low-frequency EMFs, there have been a number of reports on the subject. One 2002 report by the U.S. National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences concludes that "there is no evidence" of health effects from low-frequency EMFs. However, the British Medical Journal's June 2004 issue reports a 69 per cent rise in leukaemia for children living within 200 meters of power lines.
There may be enough evidence for most scientists to conclude that there is a link between low-frequency EMFs and childhood leukaemia. However, a strong school, including the World Health Organization, the National Academy of Sciences and energy companies like Energex, claim that the linkage does not indicate that the low-frequency EMFs actually caused the leukaemia. These groups state that the cancer could be caused by other aspects of poverty found disproportionally in the homes near power lines and transformers.
Other Cancers and Diseases
There is similar inconclusive evidence on the linkage of low-frequency EMFs with brain cancer, breast cancer and other cancers, as well as Alzheimer's disease. A pamphlet put out by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services asserts that according to a 1985 report called "Coupling of Living Organisms to ELF [low frequency] Electric and Magnetic Fields," five out of six studies found "significantly higher cancer rates for men with average workday exposures above 4 milligauss." However, because the studies found different types of cancer--the experiment did not come out the same each time--the results are considered inconclusive until further studies, including animal experimentation, give stronger evidence. Other factors are pointed to as plausible causes of disease among the workers in the study, but it is still possible that low-frequency EMFs compound a person's susceptibility to disease.
According to a 2000 report called "The Effects of Low Frequency Electromagnetic Fields on the Melatonin Synthesis in Man," put out by researchers at Dortmund University in Germany, low-frequency EMFs affect our circadian rhythm by emitting a radiation interpreted by our bodies as daylight--and daylight is usually a signal to our body not to produce the melatonin that is essential for a good night's sleep. The only way to prevent this is to remove and turn off as many electrical devices as we can at night, and, of course, not to sleep under power lines or transformers.
Although not officially considered a disease yet, an allergy to all EMFs, also known as electromagnetic hypersensitivity, has been reported by sufferers as causing headaches, fatigue, memory loss, ringing in the ears, an irregular heartbeat and skin sensitivity. It can be reduced by moving away from power lines and transformers and by not using electronic devices.
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