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Health & Environment
ElectroMagnetic Fields and Home Power Systems Richard Perez and Bob–O Schultze
The energy that surrounds us is part of our environment. Recently we've been made aware that the electromagnetic fields (EMFs) made by electric power present a potential health hazard. This article begins a series of two articles about electromagnetic fields. This first article discusses the potential health hazards involved. This first article also defines an electromagnetic field, describes how these fields are produced by electricity, and tells how to construct an ac magnetic field meter to measure the magnetic portion of the fields around our homes. The second article, appearing in our next issue (HP#24), details how to reduce man-made electromagnetic fields and our exposure to these fields.
Life in Electromagnetic Fields
The reason we became interested in electromagnetic fields was medical information about their effect on humans. This information suggests that there may be links between prolonged exposure to electromagnetic fields and diseases, specifically cancer, nervous disorders, and birth defects. The medical community is far from agreement about how much EMF exposure constitutes how much of a health hazard. In fact, I've found the medical view of EMFs to be very confusing and contradictory. I have included a bibliography to some of the medical literature about this at the end of this article. Then you can read the literature & become as befuddled as I am about the hazards involved in EMF exposure.
The medical and electric power communities will be disagreeing about the biological effects of electromagnetic fields years from now. However everyone agrees on one point. This point of agreement is: "There is no minimum daily requirement for electromagnetic fields." Regardless of what medical view you may believe, everyone can agree that no exposure to electromagnetic fields will not harm you.
This article is not presented to scare anyone. In fact, home power users live in electrical environments that naturally have very low electromagnetic fields. This is because most of us don't have commercial power lines connected to our homes. On the other hand, we do make 120 vac power with inverters and generators. These devices do indeed produce EMFs, although much lower in intensity than say, living next to a power line. In fact, every living thing on this planet is constantly bathed in electromagnetic fields produced by the Earth itself. These natural fields are mostly DC in nature and life has evolved
in their presence. The Earth's fields present no health hazard because we are used to them. It is the area of human created fields in the 50 to 60 cycle per second range (Hz.) that are potentially hazardous. And this frequency range is where electric power operates.
If no one really knows if EMFs are a health hazard, then why be concerned at all? Because some studies have reached very disturbing conclusions. For example, a survey conducted by Nancy Wirtheimer and Edward Leeper in Denver, Colorado during 1979, published in the American Journal of Epidemiology, linked childhood leukemia deaths to prolonged exposure to EMFs. During the last ten years, twelve studies have been done inside the USA linking increased cancer rates to electromagnetic fields. These studies report a 140% to 320% increase in cancer among people with prolonged or intense exposure to electromagnetic fields. It seems that exposure to EMFs interferes with normal cell development by altering the action of RNA within individual cells. The electromagnetic field affects the operation of the living cell by "jamming" normal electrochemical activity and normal growth. This situation is analogous to power line interference on a radio.
The effect of EMFs on the unborn were studied by Dr. David Savitz, Dr. Esther John and Dr. Robert Klechner and were reported in the May 1990 issue of the American Journal of Epidemiology. They found that the incidence of brain tumors among the children of pregnant women who slept under electric blankets increased two-and-a-half times. They also found a 70% increase in leukemia and a 30% increase in all cancers.
24 Home Power #23 • June / July 1991
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