How Harmful Is Electric Smog?
By Awake! correspondent in Canada
→ “Microwave or radiowave sickness is recognized as an occupational disease in the Soviet Union.”
→ “Out of a group of 17 men who worked on an experimental EMP [electromagnetic pulse] generating system, beginning in 1967, five developed cancer within the following seven years.”
→ University of Colorado medical researchers found that the death rate for certain cancers, such as leukemia, was higher than average in homes within 130 feet (40 m) of high-current power lines.
DOES such information surprise you? If it does, likely you are among many millions who have always thought of electricity as a clean, nonpolluting source of energy.
We have heard a lot about environmental pollution since the late 1960’s and early 1970’s. To improve matters, some scientists and ecologists recommend that more of our modern power-consuming equipment be changed over from fossil fuels to “clean electricity.” But, in view of accumulating evidence, many researchers are now asking: Really, how “clean” is electricity? They speak of “electric smog.”
From early beginnings in the mid-1700’s, with the invention of an electric generator, electricity has been harnessed for ever-increasing uses. In the past few decades it has been made available in relatively cheap and unlimited amounts. Canada and the United States are among the most electrified nations in the world. In the United States alone there are in the neighborhood of a hundred thousand miles of overhead, high-voltage transmission lines operating. And there are, of course, thousands of miles of lines operating at lower voltages that are needed for distribution purposes.
Undoubtedly, electricity makes for more comfortable living conditions in our homes. With just the flick of a switch our homes are heated, cooled and lighted, and appliances become operational. Housewives rejoice in having an electric stove or oven to cook the family meals. Their innumerable electrical gadgets make for such a clean and tidy kitchen, they feel. Now there is talk of equipping homes with computers and video display terminals so that busy cooks can do their shopping without a trip to the supermarket. Offices are also being equipped with more and more electrical gadgetry. Copying machines, computers and video display terminals are among the latest additions in laborsaving and timesaving devices.
In what way could such clean and efficient electrical devices become pollutants? What is the “electric smog” to which researchers refer?
What Is “Electric Smog”?
It has long been recognized that all electrical appliances give off radiation and create electromagnetic fields. Of course, the most significant of these fields comes from power-generating plants and their transmission systems. But humankind is now enveloped in an extensive variety of man-made fields at diverse energy levels. In this way the environment is polluted with fields of static, alternating electricity and electromagnetism. Even a few examples illustrate how pervasive it is.
A group of people who live near high-voltage power lines in New York State brought fluorescent tubes outdoors one moonless night. As much as 200 feet (61 m) from the lines, these began to glow—just from the electricity in the air!
No doubt you have walked across a room having a synthetic carpet on the floor and then touched a metal doorknob. What happens? Crack! A spark—sometimes a rather painful one—jumps between your fingers and the metal. That is static electricity.
At an airport a magnetic field invisibly frisks you, and your baggage is X-rayed for possible concealed weapons. On leaving a library or department store a detection system sets off an alarm if you haven’t checked out your book properly or have failed to pay for goods in your possession. What makes these detection systems effective? It is the magnetic field you must pass through as you exit the building.
Wherever we go, whatever we do, it appears that we cannot get away from these electromagnetic fields. The question that now concerns us is, Are electromagnetic fields harmful?
Dr. Joseph H. Battocletti, in his book Electromagnetism, Man and the Environment, made the statement: “It has already been established beyond a shadow of a doubt that some sources produce extremely deleterious effects. It is also probably true that some sources produce no effects; . . . there are many sources whose effects are as yet unknown.”
Regarding certain effects that are known to be serious, Dr. Milton M. Zaret of New York University, in Medical Research Engineering (Volume 12, No. 3), stated: “Some general population groupings . . . appear to have been placed in jeopardy.” Illustrating his point, he referred to northern Karelia in Finland. Directly across Lake Ladoga from this region, Russia has installed its high-powered microwave radar early-warning system against possible intercontinental missile attack. As a result, the population here is under a 24-hour-a-day bombardment of both ground waves and scatter radiation. The death rate from sudden heart attack in this area is among the highest in the world. Also, medical findings show a meaningful increase in the cancer rate.
The real concern felt by medical men regarding the adverse effects of radar microwaves is well summarized by Dr. Felix Gad Sulman of Hadassah University Medical Center in Jerusalem: “We must now accept the fact that radar is detrimental to the human body. The following organs seem to be specially sensitive: the central nervous system, the endocrine system including the gonads [the reproductive organs], the blood system, the eye, the ear and the genes.”
What about the power-transmission lines of generating plants? A field study was conducted in the United States in the greater Denver, Colorado, area as to the effect high-current power-line configurations might have on the incidence of cancer (especially leukemia) among the population. According to their findings, homes of children who developed cancer were frequently near high-voltage lines. On the other hand, a similar study conducted in Rhode Island said that “no relationship was found between leukemia and electric power line configurations.” Yet, numerous studies have shown that growth rates of rats and mice have been affected by these electromagnetic fields. In one study, under high-voltage transmission lines, bees had problems in honey production, became aggressive and had a very low survival rate in winter. In some cases they even sealed off their hives.
It has been demonstrated that artificial electromagnetic fields can interfere with the way our internal clocks are synchronized. Consequently, our normal biological rhythms tend to adapt to the artificial pulse of electric smog rather than the natural magnetic field of the earth. The result is stress on the human body, bringing with it a breakdown of our general resistance to various diseases.
Some U.S. Navy technicians who underwent prolonged exposure to radiation from extremely low-frequency transmitters experienced unusually high levels of serum triglycerides, a sign associated with coronary trouble and strokes. The ability of some of these men to perform simple addition deteriorated. Even the buried antennae of some transmitters emitted enough radiation to disorient waterfowl flying overhead.
Home electrical appliances also give off radiation, though in lesser amounts. Some may have little or no adverse effect, but others do. The ultraviolet suntanning lamp is considered to be the most dangerous source of radiation in the home. Also, warnings have been issued regarding hair dryers and even electric blankets. These three items, because of their prolonged use, are considered to have possibly the most injurious effects, though some people may use them for years with no discernible negative results.
As Awake! has shown in the past, exposure to radiation from household accessories such as microwave ovens can also have a definite effect on a person’s health.* A 1977 workshop at the University of Maryland, cosponsored by the Office of Naval Research, reported that low-intensity microwave exposure has observable adverse influence on the body’s bloodmaking process and could bring changes in the immunological system of the human body.
Why the Conflicting Reports?
Why are there still reports of experiments indicating no harm resulting to humans or other creatures? It may be as one researcher stated: “Unfortunately, almost all of the research work that is currently in progress, as well as most of the surveys of existing literature, is directly or indirectly financed by the electric industry. It would be unrealistic to expect that results emerging from this industry-funded research would present an unequivocal case against the big transmission lines.” She then drew a comparison with the tobacco industry’s funding research to prove that cigarette smoking isn’t harmful, even though scientific medical research has produced abundant evidence to the contrary.
Interestingly, Environment magazine of November 1978 lists a summary of 45 scientific researches done by various universities and research institutes. All, without exception, demonstrate adverse effects of power-line radiation on animals as well as humans.
What’s the Answer?
Laws are being considered for stricter controls on all forms of electrical radiation. Funds are being requested for greater research into the problem. It is suggested that utility companies put their high-voltage power lines underground, regardless of cost. At best, these things would be a mere stopgap.
All this information naturally gives food for thought, though there is no need for alarm. The possible dangers and risks of electric smog need to be established and then cautiously weighed against the many benefits all of us get through the present use of electric power. Without doubt, under the present imperfect circumstances of our earth and the activities of men upon it, there are many things that pose certain dangers. Nevertheless, we cannot leave the earth and neither can we entirely avoid undesirable side effects of our environment as mankind has made it.
What is needed is administration of mankind’s affairs by rulers who thoroughly understand the effects of all the environmental influences and who safeguard the well-being of everyone impartially. Only Jehovah God, the Creator, can provide such a government, and he has promised that by means of his Kingdom he will cleanse the earth of all ruinous pollution, “making all things new.”—Revelation 11:18; 21:1-5.
[Blurb on page 16]
“We must now accept the fact that radar is detrimental to the human body.”—Dr. Felix Gad Sulman, Hadassah University Medical Center, Jerusalem