SCIENCE MATTERS: PERSPECTIVES ON “PERSONAL” POLLUTION

By Siru Rose Zhu
Staff Writer

“Under the Dome,” a recently released “TED-like documentary” focusing on the “air pollution crisis” in China has gone viral with more than 100 million viewers within 24 hours after the release. According to the New York Times, “Before it was taken down from Internet sites, more than 200 million Chinese had viewed it (out of approximately 600 million with Internet access),” not including the viewers overseas. It seems like the documentary “found a ready audience in China,” and the topic of pollution also found audiences worldwide. “Pollution, after all, has become personal;” it is true that people are becoming more aware of the pollutions that we can see, feel or touch–global warming, smog, chemical-filled water, pesticides, etc., but there are problems that are easily overlooked which are even more personal than those.

In early March this year, a court case, Firstenberg v. Monribot, has once again reminded the public about the ongoing discussion about artificial Electromagnetic Field (EMF) pollution. Arthur Firstenberg sued his neighbor Raphaela Monribot for causing him suffering such as “dizziness, nausea, amnesia, insomnia, tremors, heart arrhythmia, acute and chronic pain,” by insisting on using “her cell phone, computers and other ordinary electronic equipment,” on top of her “dimmer switches and compact fluorescent bulbs,” which “emitted their own painful rays.” Mr. Firstenberg also argued that sharing the same electric utility connection between the two houses “intensified the effect.”

However, this was not the first time Mr. Firstenberg filed a case regarding the damages done to him due to his “electromagnetic hypersensitivity.” He once attempted and failed to “block the installation of Wi-Fi in the city library and other public places” in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

What is this “electromagnetic hypersensitivity (EHS)?”
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), “EHS is characterized by a variety of non-specific symptoms, which afflicted individuals attribute to exposure to EMF. The symptoms most commonly experienced include dermatological symptoms (redness, tingling, and burning sensations) as well as neurasthenic and vegetative symptoms (fatigue, tiredness, concentration difficulties, dizziness, nausea, heart palpitation and digestive disturbances).” The WHO report claimed that many well-conducted studies have shown no correlation between EHS symptoms and EMF exposure, and concluded that EHS “has no clear diagnostic criteria” and no scientific basis to show the link between the two.

However, many of these “well-conducted” studies are deemed as problematic and invalid by many people who claimed to suffer from EMF exposure. One of these studies is titled “Hypersensitivity Symptoms Associated with Electromagnetic Field Exposure” conducted by Professor Elaine Fox from the Department of Psychology at the University of Essex. The study used double-blind tests to expose two groups of people (one EMF-sensitive group, and one EMF-nonsensitive group) to the Global System for Mobile Communications (GSM) signal and the Universal Mobile Telecommunications System (UMTS) signal respectively, and observed the participants. The study concluded that GSM signal has no effects [on the participants], and [participants’] level of arousal increased during UMTS condition but “the number and severity of symptoms experienced did not increase,” “cognitive functioning [of the participants] was not affected” by exposure to either signal, and “physiological measures did not differ” across the three conditions.

Brian Stein, an electrosensitivity sufferer in the United Kingdom, claimed this study by Professor Fox was problematic because they turned the signal mask in the lab on for 10 minutes and off for 10 minutes to see if people reacted to the switch. Stein said that electrosensitivity does not work like that. It usually takes much longer time for the symptoms to appear and also sometimes even longer for the symptoms to disappear. Graham Lamburn from Powerwatch, an independent EMF and health risks research organization, also pointed out that there are EHS patients who are sensitive to different things. Some people may be sensitive to 3G mobile phones, while some people may be more sensitive to wi-fi signals,etc. None of this kind of differentiation was done in the study. It is problematic to expose participants to only one or two kinds of signals. Most importantly, this study carried out in 2004-2006 was funded by Mobile Telecommunications and Health Research (MTHR) – a company that is organized by the mobile communications industry.

The disputes among scholars regarding the health risks of electromagnetic radiation are ongoing. George Johnson, a New York Times columnist, argues that “the radiation emitted and received by wireless devices is far too low in frequency to shake apart the molecules in living cells.” They said that only in the extreme intense exposures such as inside of a microwave oven, the radiation waves are harmful because the generation of heat. On the other hand, other experiments pointed out that the magnetic part of the electromagnetic radiation changes “some functioning in cells and altered the action of neurotransmitters,” and the oscillation of the radiation (60 hertz) “increased the number of abnormal embryos in chicken eggs.” A study published in 1989 in the The New York Times Science section suggested the possibility that “this ubiquitous background radiation might cause cancer.” An epidemiological study compared children in Denver who died of cancer from 1950 to 1973 and found that the children “who lived near electrical distribution lines were twice as likely to develop the disease as those who did not,” and a subsequent study which set up to eliminate the flaws in the previous study “had nearly identical conclusions.”

Regardless of what scholars have said, there exists relevant information qualified by extensive research.

Hans Berger, known as the inventor of the Electroencephalography (EEG) brain electrical activity machine, discovered “Alpha brain waves” in 1929, which are the first recorded electrical frequencies transmitted by the human brain. Alpha waves are “most present in a wakeful state that is characterized by a relaxed and effortless alertness,” and alpha states “have been described variously as sublime, flying, floating, lightness, peace, and tranquility.” Alpha waves also control our creativity, performance, stress and anxiety levels, and immune system.

Almost 25 years after the discovery of alpha waves, Professor W. O. Schumann of the University of Munich confirmed through scientific tests that the resonant oscillation of the Earth Ionosphere resonates exactly at 7.83 Hertz, which was eventually named “Schumann Resonance.” After the publication of the discovery of Schumann Resonances, a physician named Dr. Ankermueller found out that the vibrational pulse of the Earth Ionosphere – Schumann Resonance, is exactly identical to the Alpha spectrum of human brain waves.

Is it just a coincidence that one of the most important brain waves of our relaxed state is tuned in with the pulse of the Planet Earth? A German scientist Rütger Wever from the Max Planck Institute, who studied the effects of light and frequency on human’s circadian rhythms, carried out an experiment in a specially-built underground bunker that was completely shielded from the natural frequency of the Earth. The study lasted over a 30-year period. In each experiment, the student volunteers “agreed to live in the bunker for up to four weeks.” The study discovered that when the Schumann resonance was filtered out of the bunker, mental and physical health of the students sufferred. The students felt sick, had headaches and upset circadian rhythms. Interestingly, every time Wever secretly introduced Schumann resonance through a man-made magnetic pulse generator, the ill effects suffered by the volunteers disappeared or decreased. The reduced level of stress, headaches and emotional distress, and the restored sense of well-being were also observed by the experimenters. Wever’s bunker experiment has shown the importance of natural resonant frequency to the mental and physical well-being of humans.

Dr. Wolfgang Ludwig, a leading physicist and researcher on earth/mind connection, said that “measuring Schumann resonance in or around a city has become absolutely impossible. Electromagnetic pollution from cell phones has forced us to make our measurements at sea.” Meanwhile, Ludwig discovered that “the Earth’s vibration could be clearly measured in nature and on the ocean,” because the artificial electromagnetic signals in the cities interfere with and block out the natural Schumann resonance. Louis Slesin, a Manhattan industry watchdog who has been reporting on electromagnetic radiation for three decades, said, “you have four billion people using cellphones and we’re living next to towers, and as more than one person has said, this is the world’s largest biological experiment. You are an electrical being. You wouldn’t have a thought in your head or move your fingers without an electrical impulse. The idea that any of these external fields have no influence on you seems to me preposterous.”

The EMF “pollution” is so personal that we are exposed to it 24/7 almost inescapably. Scientists are still debating the health risks of all the invisible electromagnetic radiation. Regardless what the official conclusion might be, we can at least educate ourselves on the “pollution,” research the correct information, connect the dots, make better decisions and voice our solutions.

Photo by Patrick Emerson

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