In Rhythm with the Earth:
Electromagnetic Fields and Your Health
By Michael R. Neuert, MA, BSME
Originally published in…
Common Ground Magazine, 1993
"The human species has changed its electromagnetic background more than any other aspect of the environment. For example, the density of radio waves around us is now 100 million or 200 million times the natural level reaching us from the sun. Nor is there an end in sight."
(Dr. Robert O. Becker in "The Body Electric" 1985)
Take a moment to sit back and recall your own experience of an unexpected power outage. How did your body feel? Did you notice a sense of relief, calmness, or a release of tension? Think back to a time when you were away from electrical power for several days, like during a backpacking trip. How did you feel?
My own awareness of electro-pollution began many years ago, when a major storm cut off all power in my area. Suddenly, no TV, no lights, no music from the neighbor’s stereo. Even the refrigerator ceased its rumble. In an instant, my shoulders dropped, my body relaxed, my breathing deepened. Somehow, I became more "at ease." The environment seemed to become calmer, more peaceful.
What changed? What was the "irritation" I experienced when the power was on? Why did I feel better when the electricity went off?
Our Natural Electromagnetic Environment
Certain types of electromagnetic radiation are natural to our environment. For example, the sun bathes us in sunlight, energy from the "visible" portion of the electromagnetic spectrum. The earth itself is a huge magnet, with its own electromagnetic field. Influenced by the sun, moon and cosmos, the earth’s geomagnetic field fluctuates in regular rhythms – daily, monthly and yearly.
The surface of the earth and the ionosphere form a huge resonating chamber, in which the magnetic field of the planet vibrates or pulses. These pulses range in frequency from about 0.1 to 30 cycles per second. They are most concentrated at around 10 cycles per second. Let’s call these natural magnetic pulsations "the rhythm of the earth."
For millions of years, life on earth has existed and evolved within this relatively simple electromagnetic environment. Our eyes have evolved to "see" the visible electromagnetic radiation of the sun. Our biological cycles became tuned to the rhythms of the earth’s geomagnetic field. For example, female menstruation corresponds to the field’s lunar cycle.
In fact, scientists have recently discovered that our pineal gland can somehow sense the cyclic changes of the earth’s magnetic field, and use this information to regulate important biological functions. The pineal gland is the master gland of the body, secreting chemicals to regulate the brain and all the other glands. For example, the pineal gland controls the secretion of melatonin – a very important hormone which affects our moods, wake/sleep patterns, and is related to the immune system.
Interestingly, when scientists measure the electromagnetic wave patterns of the human brain, they find a spectrum of frequencies nearly identical to the pulsations of the earth’s magnetic field! In fact, the dominant brain wave frequency for humans and all animals on earth is 10 cycles per second – the rhythm of the earth! A mere coincidence?
Brain waves at 10 cycles per second correspond to a calm, relaxed state of mind (called alpha waves). During sleep, the brain’s waves become slower (delta and theta waves). The fastest waves occur when the mind is most actively engaged, ranging up to about 20 to 30 cycles per second (beta waves).
In the United States, electric power lines, transformers, building wiring, lights, clocks, appliances, motors, TVs, stereos, computers – almost everything electrical or electronic in our modern world – all emit artificial electromagnetic fields at a frequency of 60 cycles per second or higher. Military, communication, and other electronic systems emit EMFs over an immense range of frequencies greater than 60 cycles per second, rarely encountered on earth before the 1900s.
Now, if the 10 cycles per second pulsations of our natural electromagnetic environment correspond to a calm and relaxed state of mind – and if 20 to 30 cycles correspond to the highest frequencies for a very busy mind – how might we experience an environment filled with artificial fields vibrating at 60 cycles and more? Would we find it harder to relax? Would our bodies experience more tension and stress? Would our biological functions be altered? Would our ability to resist "dis-ease" be affected?
Known Bio-Effects of EMFs
Studies on mice, rats, monkeys, swine and other animals link EMFs to changes in blood chemistry, cell growth, brain function, and hormone production, as well as increased biological stress, tumor production, miscarriage and birth defects.
Studies show that EMFs can suppress the pineal gland’s secretion of melatonin. Melatonin plays a critical cancer role by increasing the effectiveness of the body’s natural killer lymphocytes, thus inhibiting tumor growth. Suppression of pineal gland function has been implicated in the etiology of breast, ovarian, prostate and melanoma cancers. Depressed melatonin levels are also associated with depression, mood changes and psychiatric disorders.
EMFs also cause important changes at the cellular level. Studies show that EMFs can alter the flow of calcium ions across the cell membrane. This affects the proper regulation of cell growth, leading to changes in cell reproduction similar to tumor growth. In laboratory tests, human cancer cells have grown up to 16 times faster, and become more malignant, when exposed to EMFs.
Repeated studies have found that children living in homes with high EMFs from power lines die of leukemia, lymph node cancer and/or nervous system tumors at twice, triple, and sometimes four times the normal rate. For adults, over 30 epidemiological studies have linked high EMF occupations to increased leukemia, lymphoma, melanoma, and/or central nervous system cancers.
A study of 1600 pregnancies by Kaiser Permanente found that women who worked more than 20 hours per week at a computer VDT (Video Display Terminal) had 73% more miscarriages than similar women who did not. Increased cancer, miscarriage and/or birth defects have been linked to the use of electric blankets, waterbeds, hair dryers, black & white televisions, and computers.
So, what should you do? Throw out your electrical appliances? Disconnect your home from the local electric utility. Move to a more remote location?
Fortunately, there is much that you can do to reduce your exposure. Since it is difficult to predict exposure levels, EMFs must be measured directly with appropriate instruments. To begin, obtain a gaussmeter (or hire a professional tester) to measure the actual EMF levels in your home, your office, your school, around TVs and computers, and in any other locations where you and your family spend significant amounts of time.
Relocate beds, desks, tables, sofas, play areas and bedrooms to the safest locations. Avoid areas with the highest readings. Be aware that magnetic fields are not stopped by walls and partitions, and distance yourself as much as possible from any obvious electrical sources. Don’t stand mesmerized in front of the microwave oven.
Move cords, clocks and radios away from where you sleep at night. Use an electric blanket only to pre-heat the bed, and then unplug it. If you sleep on a water bed, use a low-EMF type heater, located as far from your body as possible. Better yet, insulate the water bag and unplug the heater at night.
Computers and televisions are a special concern. Not only do they emit EMFs similar to power lines, the fields are more irregular and mixed with other radiations (including VLF magnetic and electric fields, radio waves, microwaves, infrared waves, ultraviolet radiation, and possibly X-rays.) I recommend that computers and TVs be tested periodically for ELF magnetic fields, VLF magnetic fields, electric fields, and soft X-rays. Certain shields and screens can be installed in and around your monitor to reduce the EMFs. The best way to minimize computer radiation is to sit as far back as possible, and use a specially designed low-radiation monitor.
Repeated studies have found significant increases in childhood cancer for chronic exposures of 3.0 to 4.0 milligauss, and recently as low as 2.0 milligauss. To provide a margin of safety, we generally try to reduce long-term exposures to 0.5 milligauss or less. However, there is no guarantee that 0.5 milligauss – or any level – is completely safe. Therefore it may be wise to reduce any exposures as much as reasonably possible.
If you find that large areas of your home or office measure above 0.5 milligauss, you may want to get professional help to locate and perhaps correct the sources of these exposures. High EMF conditions can be caused by a variety of electrical wiring, grounding, plumbing and appliance conditions, many of which are corrected easily. In some cases, even power line exposures can be reduced.
Perhaps most important, you can test for EMFs before you purchase a new home, or rent an apartment. Also, if you plan ahead, you can incorporate special low-EMF electrical wiring techniques and materials into your new or remodel construction project, at little additional cost.
By minimizing the electromagnetic pollution you experience daily, you can promote the natural health and well-being of your body, and live more… in rhythm with the earth!