We live in a high tech world, and especially in more developed countries, we are surrounded by power lines, cell phones and radiowaves. There is a lot of concern for our environment in terms of clean air and water, growing organic foods and keeping pesticides, heavy metals and industrial organic chemicals out of our systems. But now there is a new pollutant to worry about – invisible and ubiquitous. It is found in our homes, schools, even our hospitals. The culprit is dirty electricity.
Dirty electricity (DE) consists of surges of high frequency voltage or electromagnetic radiation that contaminate our otherwise safe 60 Hz-frequency lines in our homes and buildings. These surges of contamination can come from radio waves, ground currents or high frequency spikes and harmonics coming from appliances, computer and entertainment electronics and other electrical sources. Dimmer switches and energy efficient electronic devices are significant contributers.
Links have been discovered between the incidence of DE and numerous illnesses including asthma, chronic fatigue syndrome, diabetes, ADD, autism and a number of neurological disorders. While the biotechnology/ biomedical world may be looking for physiological causes and remedies for these disorders, for some, the culprit may be technology itself.
What kind of evidence is there that the president of Lakehead University (Thunder Bay, Ontario, Canada), Dr. F. Gilbert, a biologist himself, would apply the precautionary principle and subject himself to extensive critiscm for his ban on campus-wide wireless technology? In an interview with Dr. Magda Havas, a leading researcher in the area of DE, from Trent University (Peterborough, Ontario), I found some answers.
Q: When and how did you start studying DE?
A: In 2003 I was doing research on the health hazards associated with electromagnetic fields and was involved in a study in Toronto (Ontario, Canada) that had made the news in the Toronto Star. I was soon contacted by a woman whose daughter suffered from electrical sensitivity, and had benefited from placement of filters in their home. The woman had obtained permission to place the filters in the child’s school and asked me if I would like to participate in a study of the impact of the filters on the health of students and teachers.
Q: Did you know about the risks of excessive exposure to DE before that?
A: The link had been there for a number of years, much like research on the impact of other parts of the spectrum. What I didn’t know was that there was more to it than the health effects we knew about from standard 60 Hz frequencies, but that other higher frequencies were very biologically active.
This brought to my attention a whole new area to study that had not received a lot of attention yet. We knew about the effects of extremely low frequencies (ELF) from magnetic fields such as powerlines and transformers, and occupational risks of cancer from exposures to ELF. We also knew about the risks from radiofrequencies such as cell phones. DE frequencies fall somewhere in between the two.
Q: Do you find a lot of resistance/ skepticism from peers?
A: There is some skepticism on the part of others. I believe this comes primarily from physicists with little or no biological background and who haven’t kept up with the current literature. They insist that non-ionizing radiation is not a threat except for concerns due to thermal effects. I believe the government is influenced by these groups and telecommunications groups who still argue these now dated beliefs.
Q: You have documented numerous case studies and in-house studies. Is there molecular data to support these findings?
A: First of all, the work I have done is unique in that the studies are ethical, rather than add a stressor, I remove the stressor and document improvements to the subject’s health. It is unique in that rather than just pinpointing the cause of stress or effects of stress, we have the technology to clean it up or remove the stressor.
We have observed MS symptoms rapidly decreasing once the environment is cleaned using the DE filters. Also, the blood sugar of diabetics has been observed going up and down in a dramatic response to movement toward or away from, a source of DE. Other molecular evidence is found in rats and mice whose stress (heat shock) protein levels are elevated upon exposure, individuals whose calcium metabolism and regulation is affected, in that Ca movement between cells increases upon exposure, and melatonin production which decreases at night in exposed animals and people. Normally melatonin increases at night and decreases during the day. Disruptions to that pattern have been linked to poor quality of sleep and increased risk of cancers such as breast cancer. In other studies, increased permeability of the blood-brain barrier due to exposure to DE frequencies has been exploited for therapeutic purposes to aid drug delivery to the brain.
Q: What is the next direction you would like to take with your research?
A: We have considerable evidence that the symptoms of some neurological illnesses in children, such as ADD and autism, can be exasperated by DE and that behaviour improves considerably in clean environments. These disorders are becoming more common among children and doctors agree there is likely an environmental component to that. While food additives may play a part, they don’t explain it all. I would like to do more work with children in these areas.
I would also like to investigate other neurological disorders such as Parkinson’s, ALS and Altzheimer’s diseases. This problem is recognized worldwide by those in medical professions and associated organizations that are rallying their governments to do something. These are people who generally remain neutral and don’t get involved, an indication that the data is convincing enough and something should be done.