EMF Pollution: Man-Made EMF, Dirty Power, and AC magnetic fields
The primary man-made EMFs that have been identified are AC (alternating current) ELF (extra low frequency) electric/magnetic fields associated with power distribution, ‘dirty power’ (a negative by-product of our switch to ‘energy-efficient’ appliances, which produces ‘transients’ – electrical ‘spikes’ and ‘sags’) associated with high frequency noise induced in the power grid, and wireless RF (radio frequency) signals originating from a host communication systems – both commercial and military.
Every year volumes of studies are published by researchers attempting to quantify the health risks associated with these man-made EMFs. After several decades of concerted study (and much money), the general public perception remains that little of substance has been proven linking EMF exposure with serious negative health consequences. A good part of the responsibility for this lies with the news media and their lack of motivation to inform the public of what these studies really show. Instead, the media plays a role more akin to concealing the truth and delivering lies – the kind we, collectively, prefer to hear.
But there is a complicating factor that detracts from many of these studies. Suppose you are studying the health impacts of cell phone use. You find a cohort/control group consisting of people that have never had or used a cell phone (a tough job in itself these days). You are going to base the results of your study on the health of this cell-free group. But what if some members of this group are exposed to strong dirty power EMF in their home or work environment? The negative health consequences of one kind of EMF exposure (dirty power in this example) dilute the study results of another (cell phone use), making it very difficult to isolate and quantify effects. Throw in more unknowns associated with diet, lifestyle and toxin exposure, and we can see that the control and study groups may have to be very large in order to even detect an EMF signal in the data – let alone quantify the risk. So, in many of these studies, large uncertainties are built-in from the very start.
For these reasons, Dr Samuel Milham decided to take a closer look at data from the turn of the twentieth century to 1960 to see whether or not gradual electrification of the US showed a link to rising deaths from chronic diseases. His results were published in Medical Hypotheses2. He says this about the sources of his data:
“US vital statistics tabulations and census records for 1920 – 1960, and historical US vital statistics documents were examined. Residential electrification data was available in the US census of population for 1930, 1940 and 1950. Crude urban and rural death rates were calculated, and death rates by state were correlated with electrification rates by state for urban and rural areas for 1940 white resident deaths.”
He gives a snapshot of US electrification progress by 1940:
“Thomas Edison began electrifying New York City in 1880, but by 1920, only 34.7% of all US dwelling units and 1.6% of farms had electric service. By 1940, 78% of all dwelling units and 32% of farms had electric service. This means that in 1940 about three quarters of the US population lived in electrified residences and one quarter did not. By 1940, the US vital registration system was essentially complete, in that all the 48 contiguous United States were included. Most large US cities were electrified by the turn of the century, and by 1940, over 90% of all the residences in the northeastern states and California were electrified. In 1940 almost all urban residents in the US were exposed to electromagnetic fields (EMFs) in their residences and at work, while rural residents were exposed to varying levels of EMFs, depending on the progress of rural electrification in their states.”
Milham states his hypothesis as follows:
“The diseases of civilization or lifestyle diseases include cardiovascular disease, cancer and diabetes and are thought to be caused by changes in diet, exercise habits, and lifestyle which occur as countries industrialize. I think the critical variable which causes the radical changes in mortality accompanying industrialization is electrification. … I suggest that from the time that Thomas Edison started his direct current electrical distribution system in the 1880s in New York City until now, when most of the world is electrified, the electricity carried high frequency voltage transients which caused and continue to cause what are considered to be the normal diseases of civilization. Even today, many of these diseases are absent or have very low incidence in places without electricity.”
That is a strong statement, but his data supports it. I have extracted some data from his paper and present it here in slightly different form in order to better summarize his results for this article. Figure 4 shows both the US cancer rate and percent electrification of residences from 1900 to 1960. The blue diamonds are the cancer rate in 5 year increments in deaths per 100,000 population, and the red squares show the corresponding percent electrification of all residences at the time.