Scientific studies

Below is a tiny sample of studies on the effects of man-made EMF on biological systems; I’ll be adding more to this page in the coming days & weeks.  Please keep in mind that reading a few abstracts does not provide a complete understanding; to truly understand a subject it’s best to read an entire technical paper, analyze the methods used, look at the data found, and see if the conclusions follow from the data and if the study was designed properly.  And then do the same with all other studies published in the same field, while comparing the methods and the conclusions of all of them, and keeping in mind that the “official conclusions” may be worded in such a way as to please the organizations that funded the research.1 2  We recommend that you also skim our brief F.A.Q. on science and superstition and look at our more info page.

Dirty electricity

It’s often difficult for epidemiologists to be given access to data in order to study potential health hazards, because the organizations that could provide the data are often concerned about possible liability and litigation – why open a can of worms, they might ask themselves, if there’s no benefit to them or their owners / managers.  Fortunately, here is a partial abstract of an interesting study that did manage to get done, comparing “dirty electricity” dose to cancer incidence, showing a positive correlation between the two with about a 1 in 100,000,000 chance of being due to random coincidence.  The study suggests thyroid cancer is 13 times more likely if you’re exposed to enough dirty electricity, with a 1 in 100 chance of being a due to random error.  I’ve read the eight-page study and it seems to be well-designed.

The American Journal Industrial MedicineThe “La Quinta study” by Samuel Milham, MD, MPH, and L. Lloyd Morgan, BS
“Background: In 2003 the teachers at La Quinta, California middle school complained that they had more cancers than would be expected. A consultant for the school district denied that there was a problem.
“Method: We conducted a retrospective study of cancer incidence in the teachers’ cohort in relationship to the school’s electrical environment.
“Results: Sixteen school teachers in a cohort of 137 teachers… were diagnosed with 18 cancers. The observed to expected (O/E) risk ratio for all cancers was 2.78 (P=0.000098), while the O/E risk ratio for malignant melanoma was 9.8 (P = 0.0008). Thyroid cancer had a risk ratio of 13.3 (P = 0.0098), and uterine cancer had a risk ratio of 9.2 (P = 0.019)… A new exposure metric, high frequency voltage transients, did show a positive correlation to cancer incidence. A cohort cancer incidence analysis of the teacher population showed a positive trend (P=7.1 x 10-10) of increasing cancer risk with increasing cumulative exposure to high frequency voltage transients on the classroom’s electrical wiring measured with a Graham/Stetzer (G/S) meter…
“Conclusion: The cancer incidence in the teachers at this school is unusually high and is strongly associated with high frequency voltage transients, which may be a universal carcinogen, similar to ionizing radiation.”
(as published in the American Journal of Industrial Medicine, August 2008)


Power-frequency magnetic fields

The following study from 1979 stirred up a lot of fuss because it suggested to many people for the first time that very weak magnetic fields (3 milligauss) from power-frequency (60Hz) sources could cause illness – specifically in this study they looked at childhood cancers such as leukemia.  (Three milligauss is not uncommon in ordinary homes – it’s half as strong as the field was in my childhood bedroom.)  This study upset many people because it disturbed existing theories about EMF & health, and because there was no scientific model people could point to at the time to explain the findings.

American Journal of EpidemiologyWertheimer N, Leeper E.:  Electrical wiring configurations and childhood cancer.  (From the American Journal of Epidemiology, March 1979.)

“An excess of electrical wiring configurations suggestive of high current-flow was noted in Colorado in 1976–1977 near the homes of children who developed cancer, as compared to the homes of control children. The finding was strongest for children who had spent their entire lives at the same address, and it appeared to be dose-related. It did not seem to be an artifact of neighborhood, street congestion, social class, or family structure. The reason for the correlation is uncertain; possible effects of current in the water pipes or of AC magnetic fields are suggested.”

This study was followed up by another study headed by Dr. David Savitz which may have been intended to disprove the earlier one by Wertheimer.  I can’t seem to locate the original publication, but I’m told that after five years and almost a half-million dollar expenditure, this team reported its results:

Savitz [while working for the New York State Power-Lines Project in the 1980s] obtained the same results as Wertheimer.  He reported that 20% of childhood cancers appeared to be produced by exposure to 3-milligauss power-frequency magnetic fields… as well as other evidence that power-frequency fields had significant behavioral and central-nervous-system effects…”3


Pulsed microwave radiation

In a June 2011 announcement, the World Health Organization classified mobile devices as “possibly carcinogenic”.

I’ll be adding references to specific scientific studies here in the coming days.

  1. It’s my understanding that scientists have to sign or initial each page of their lab booklets, and therefore are in some sense legally liable for recording their observations accurately, and the convention seems to be that this is always done, so far as I know.  But mistakes can be made, studies can be designed poorly, and the official conclusions reported in a technical study do not have to be logical – this is why it’s not enough to read the conclusions; it’s best to also read about the methods used and data observed.
  2. Please also keep in mind that ultimately science is not an “exact science” – it’s a tentative belief system; we tentatively believe the theories that best fit the observed data.  But tomorrow’s new evidence can always contradict today’s theories and inspire us to develop new ones.
  3. As reported by Dr. Robert O. Becker, MD, in his publication “Cross Currents” (Los Angeles:  Jeremy P. Tarcher, Inc, 1990), p.205.