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The Biological Effects of Weak Electromagnetic Fields - Problems and solutions
Dr Andrew Goldsworthy is a retired lecturer from Imperial College London, which is among
the top three UK universities after Oxford and Cambridge and is renowned for its expertise in electrical engineering and health matters. Dr Goldsworthy spent many years studying
calcium metabolism in living cells and also how cells, tissues and organisms are affected by electrical and electromagnetic fields. You may find much of what he says both surprising and worrying.
In this article, he explains how weak electromagnetic fields from cell phones, cordless
phones and WiFi can have serious effects on our health. These include damage to glands
resulting in obesity and related disorders, chronic fatigue, autism, increases in allergies and multiple chemical sensitivities, early dementia, DNA damage, loss of fertility and cancer.
All this happens at levels of radiation that our governments and the cell phone companies
tell us are safe because the radiation is too weak to cause significant heating. This is the
only criterion that they use to assess safety. In fact, the direct electrical effect on our
cells, organs and tissues do far more damage to us at energy levels that may be hundreds
or thousands of times lower than those that cause significant heating. These are termed
non-thermal effects and our governments are doing nothing to protect us from them.
Many of the reported biological effects of non-ionising electromagnetic fields occur at levels too low to cause significant heating; i.e. they are non thermal. Most of them can be
accounted for by electrical effects on living cells and their membranes. The alternating fields generate alternating electric currents that flow through cells and tissues and remove
structurally-important calcium ions from cell membranes, which then makes them leak.
Electromagnetically treated water (as generated by electronic water conditioners used to
remove lime scale from plumbing) has similar effects, implying that the effects of the fields
can also be carried in the bloodstream. Virtually all of the non-thermal effects of
electromagnetic radiation can be accounted for by the leakage of cell membranes.
Most of them involve the inward leakage of free calcium ions down an enormous
electrochemical gradient to affect calcium-sensitive enzyme systems. This is the normal
mechanism by which cells sense mechanical membrane damage. They normally respond by triggering mechanisms that stimulate growth and repair, including the MAP-kinase cascades, which amplify the signal.
If the damage is not too severe or prolonged, we see a stimulation of growth and the effect
seems beneficial, but if the exposure is prolonged, these mechanisms are overcome and the result is ultimately harmful. This phenomenon occurs with both ionising and non-ionising radiation and is called radiation hormesis. Gland cells are a good example of this, since 2 short term exposures stimulate their activity but long term exposures cause visible damage and a loss of function. Damage to the thyroid gland from living within 100 metres of a cell phone base station caused hypothyroidism and may be partially responsible for our current outbreak of obesity and chronic fatigue.
Secondary effects of obesity include diabetes, gangrene, cardiac problems, renal failure and cancer. Cell phone base station radiation also affects the adrenal glands and stimulates the production of adrenalin and cortisol. Excess adrenalin causes headaches, cardiac arrhythmia, high blood pressure, tremors and an inability to sleep, all of which have been reported by people living close to base stations. The production of cortisol weakens the immune system and could make people living near base stations more susceptible to disease and cancer.
Inward calcium leakage in the neurons of the brain stimulates hyperactivity and makes it less able to concentrate on tasks, resulting in attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). When this happens in the brains of unborn babies and young children, it reduces their ability to concentrate on learning social skills and can cause autism. Leakage of the cells of the peripheral nervous system in adults makes them send false signals to the brain, which results in the symptoms of electromagnetic intolerance (aka electromagnetic
hypersensitivity). Some forms of electromagnetic intolerance may be due to cell phone
damage to the parathyroid gland, which controls the calcium level in the blood and makes
cell membranes more inclined to leak. Further exposure could then tip them over the edge
into full symptoms of electromagnetic intolerance.
Cell phone radiation damages DNA indirectly, either by the leakage of digestive enzymes
from lysosomes or the production of reactive oxygen species (ROS) from damaged
mitochondrial and plasma membranes. The results are similar to those from exposure to
gamma rays from a radioactive isotope.
Effects of DNA damage include an increased risk of cancer and a loss of fertility, both of
which have been found in epidemiological studies. The effects of cell phone and WiFi
radiation have also been determined experimentally using ejaculated semen. The results
showed the production of ROS, and a loss of sperm quality and, in some cases, DNA
The inward leakage of calcium ions from electromagnetic fields also opens the various tight junction barriers in our bodies that normally protect us from allergens and toxins in the environment and prevent toxic materials in the bloodstream from entering sensitive parts of the body such as the brain. The opening of the blood-brain barrier has been shown to cause the death of neurons and can be expected to result in early dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. The opening of the barrier in our respiratory epithelia by electromagnetic fields has been shown to increase the risk of asthma in children and the opening of the blood-liver barrier may be partially responsible for the current outbreak of liver disease. The opening of other barriers, such as the gut barrier allows foreign materials from the gut to enter the bloodstream, which may also promote allergies and has been linked autoimmune diseases.
Cell membranes also act as electrical insulators for the natural DC electric currents that they use to transmit power. Mitochondrial membranes use the flow of hydrogen ions to couple the oxidation of food to the production of ATP. The outer cell membrane uses the flow of sodium ions to couple the ATP produced to the uptake of nutrients. If either of these leak, or are permanently damaged, both of these processes will be compromised leading to a loss of available energy, which some people believe to be a contributory factor to chronic fatigue syndrome.
The mechanism underlying electromagnetically-induced membrane leakage is that weak
ELF currents flowing through tissues preferentially remove structurally important calcium
ions, but they have been shown to do so only within certain amplitude windows, above and below which there is little or no effect. This means that there is no simple dose-response curve, which many people find confusing, but a plausible theoretical model is described. The mechanism also explains why certain frequencies especially 16Hz is particularly effective.
Living cells have evolved defence mechanisms against non-ionising radiation. These include pumping out surplus calcium that has leaked into the cytosol, the closure of gap junctions to isolate the damaged cell, the production of ornithine decarboxylase to stabilize DNA and the production of heat-shock proteins, which act as chaperones to protect important enzymes. However, this is expensive in energy and resources and leads to a loss of cellular efficiency. If the exposure to the radiation is prolonged or frequently repeated, any stimulation of growth caused by the initial ingress of calcium runs out of resources and growth and repair becomes inhibited. If the repairs fail, the cell may die or become permanently damaged.
To some degree, we can make our own electromagnetic environment safer by avoiding ELF electrical and magnetic fields and radio waves that have been pulsed or amplitude
modulated at ELF frequencies. The ELF frequencies that give damaging biological effects,
as measured by calcium release from brain slices and ornithine decarboxylase production in tissue cultures, lie between 6Hz and 600Hz. It is unfortunate that virtually all digital mobile telecommunications systems use pulses within this range. The Industry clearly did not do its homework before letting these technologies loose on the general public and this omission may already have cost many lives.
Even now, it may be possible reverse their effects by burying the pulses in random magnetic noise, as proposed by Litovitz in the 1990s or by cancelling out the pulses using balanced signal technology but, at present, the Industry does not seem to be interested in either of these.
Until the mobile telecommunications industry makes its products more biologically friendly,
we have little alternative but to reduce our personal exposure as far as possible by using cell phones only in emergencies, avoiding DECT cordless phones and substituting WiFi with Ethernet . The only DECT phones that are even remotely acceptable are those that
automatically switch off the base station between calls; e.g. the Siemens Gigaset C595
operating in Eco Plus mode. If you are highly electromagnetically intolerant, you may need to screen your home or at the very least your bed from incoming microwave radiation and sleep as far away as possible from known sources of ELF.
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