Human Electromagnetic Field Sensitivity
by Jerry Emanuelson
I am writing this page because I frequently get questions from individuals who have a problem with electromagnetic field sensitivity. These emails generally take a long time to answer, and are usually followed by follow-up questions which require even more of my time (always unpaid).
On this page, I will write all that I have to say on the matter; and I will not answer email questions about this subject unless you are a qualified scientific researcher doing serious research on this subject. Please read this page very carefully because it contains a lot of information packed into just a few paragraphs.
This topic has been the subject of a very large amount of scientific research. In general, the only clear indication of the effect of electromagnetic fields on any mammals, including humans, is a possible suppression of the natural increase in melatonin production at night. This problem can be overcome simply by taking an adequate dose of a melatonin supplement. There are great variations among individuals in the proper dosage and timing of supplemental melatonin.
I have worked around very high power radio and television transmitters most of my life. I am currently 67 years old, but have suffered no ill effects from these very high levels of electromagnetic radiation. In fact, I am at about the same level of health as when I was 30. (I am a very strong proponent of preventive medicine, so I get far more actual medical testing than most people.) On the other hand, I have also taken a melatonin supplement every night for more than 30 years. I actually started taking supplemental melatonin before it was legally available in the country where I live.
All of that being said, there are differences in everyone's DNA, and there are some rare individuals who seem to actually have a very serious abnormal sensitivity to electromagnetic fields. The exact causes and potential cures for this sensitivity are currently unknown.
Electromagnetic fields at the lower frequencies are often associated with acoustic vibrations. These vibrations are not noticed by most people. They are often outside of the range the conscious hearing of most people. Some people, however, seem to be unusually sensitive to those vibrations. Some of these cases have been analyzed and found to be associated with actual measurable acoustic vibrations, even though less than 2 percent of the population could sense them. Other cases remain a mystery despite affecting many people. The most famous of such cases is the Taos Hum. For anyone suffering from EMF sensitivity, especially near power lines and electrical equipment, I highly recommend starting by reading the Wikipedia article on The Hum, and especially by going to the references given in that article.
After hearing from a lot of individuals with EMF sensitivity, I am convinced that the vast majority of them are actually abnormally sensitive to the acoustical vibrations caused by electrical equipment. Even though many people actually hear something with their ears in cases like the Taos Hum, some individuals may otherwise sense the acoustical vibrations that are just outside of the range of human hearing. Subsonic vibrations may be very difficult to block, and covering the ears may not help at all in the case of such low-frequency vibrations.
There has also been a lot of controversy about cell phones causing brain cancer. The results of research on this are mixed. Some studies have shown frequent cell phone users to have an unusual rate of brain cancer in the vicinity of their ears, but most studies have found no such connection. It is difficult to measure this effect because such brain cancers are fairly rare in any case, and such cancers are known to have occurred at roughly the same rate in individuals prior to 1980. (So where did those people in the 1970s get their cell phones?)
It has been speculated that, if there is a cell phone/brain cancer connection, it is caused by asymmetrical heating of the brain. This asymmetrical heating is so infinitesimally small that I tend to doubt this. Melatonin suppression is a much more likely answer.
If you are worried about a possible cell phone/brain cancer connection, just don't use a cell phone or use one of the many devices that keep the cell phone away from your head.
There are some unfortunate rare individuals who are just born genetically extremely prone to getting cancer because of specific variants in their DNA. For those individuals, any disturbance that upsets accurate DNA replication (including low-level electromagnetic fields) may be the thing that triggers the cancer.
Many of these unfortunate individuals with extremely high cancer susceptibility seem to think that their one-in-a-million case of very back luck necessarily applies to everyone. This makes no more sense than if a person were to win the jackpot after buying their very first lottery ticket, and then would fervently insist that everyone who buys just one lottery ticket will win the jackpot. Some individuals just win the tragic genetic lottery when it comes to cancer. Fortunately, we live in an age when genetic engineering may eventually eliminate this tragic susceptibility to such diseases. For now, however, these very rare individuals just have to avoid anything with a possible cancer link and be especially vigilant in monitoring their health.
When it comes to the possibility of other kinds of cancer being caused by electromagnetic fields, the answer is pretty clear. When the human body is exposed to electromagnetic fields of the intensity that any member of the general public can be exposed to, there is no chance of electromagnetic fields causing cancer (unless you are one of the extremely-rare previously-mentioned individuals with an extremely-high propensity for getting cancer). The one exception to this is the suppression of melatonin release by electromagnetic fields. Melatonin is a potent anti-cancer agent, so anything that suppresses melatonin release will increase your chances of getting cancer (and will cause significant sleep disturbances). This solution here is simple: Take an adequate and individually-timed dose of supplemental melatonin.
In the United States and most other countries, standards exist for electromagnetic radiation exposure. Such standards are very strict and are rigorously enforced. The electromagnetic radiation in restricted fenced-in and marked areas, such as around high-power radio and television transmitters, is legally allowed to be somewhat higher than in areas accessible to the general public. There are generally two standards. One for public areas and a higher limit for restricted fenced-in areas. Actual measurements of total electromagnetic radiation around such areas are required by law to be measured and recorded. In the United States, owners of transmitters can be, and sometimes are, fined if they allow levels to go over the permissible limits. I have often been involved in such testing myself. Often, owners of the land within the fenced-in and restricted areas require that, as a provision of their lease, even in the restricted areas, electromagnetic radiation be within the stricter "public" limits.
One other condition that is often attributed to intermittent electromagnetic radiation by sufferers of the condition are what are called petit mal seizures or absence seizures. Some victims of this condition are convinced that someone from the outside is deliberately attacking them intermittently with electromagnetic radiation. Absence seizures typically last less than 20 seconds each, but can occur several times a day. There are no convulsions with this type of seizure. From the outside, the person experiencing such a seizure simply appears to others to be buried deep in thought. Those experiencing such an absence seizure may momentarily forget where they are or what they were doing. Sometimes during the seizure they experience what can only be described as various kinds of altered states of consciousness. Like all seizures, this is not a psychological condition, but is a physical problem with the brain. Although it is usually medically harmless, it can be extremely disturbing for many of those who suffer from the condition. Absence seizures are sometimes difficult to treat, but absence seizures often respond very well to certain types of common medicines. They often have to be treated by a neurologist (a doctor who specializes in physical disorders of the brain).