Are cell phones, grid the next cigarettes?
Wednesday, November 18, 2009
Cell phones have become ubiquitous in society, especially in California, where 30 percent of the population relies exclusively on cell phones for communication, double the national average. California teenagers are notoriously hooked on them, using them to talk, type, take photos, record videos and listen to music. Like cigarettes, unfortunately, there may be a dark side to cell phones.
As many as 9 million people in the United States – 3 percent of the population – may have severe reactions to electromagnetic fields (EMF), an invisible force that some scientists claim will greatly shorten life spans.
Consider these startling recent findings: Young people who start using cell phones before they turn 20 years of age could have a fivefold increase in brain cancer risk and could exhibit symptoms usually associated with aging – dementia and Alzheimer’s disease – by the age of 30, according to Canadian researcher Magda Havas.
As much as a third of the total population – 100 million people – may suffer from “electrical hypersensitivity,” enduring moderate to severe health consequences from EMF exposures. And just like second-hand smoke, you or your kids may be at risk, even if you don’t rely on wireless devices.
With the Obama administration sinking billions into “smart grids,” the EMF levels will only increase due to its reliance on the same kinds of wireless signals and systems that enable cell phone technology.
Smart grids – which will make our power supply interactive like the Internet – may help boost reliability and reduce pollution, but they could increase cancer rates if precautions are not taken.
Before the wireless revolution is programmed into all of our lives with phones and power systems for decades to come, a sustained independent research program, overseen by an independent expert advisory panel, should be established by the Obama administration. Lawmakers in the United Kingdom, France, Israel, India, Russia, Finland, Sweden and Thailand are already seeking to limit use of cell phones by children and teens until all of the science is sorted out.
The good news is that much can be done to reduce a person’s exposure if they are aware of what is generating EMF frequencies. This is where public education is critical to ensure public health. A major public health education program on safer cell phone practices – and how to detect and avoid EMF hazards in general – should be initiated by our public health agencies.
The challenge associated with the smart grid is more complex. Still, Europe isn’t doing its smart grid upgrades on the cheap, like the United States, but is instead deploying filters that minimize the amount of EMF emanating from inverters and other components necessary for solar and wind power conversions into electricity. Yet most European nations have also yet to adopt lower exposure EMF standards as Switzerland, Italy, Russia, Belgium and Liechtenstein have all done. The sooner we get a better handle on the risks of EMF exposure, the better.
Peter Asmus is author of “Introduction to Energy in California,” (University of California Press, 2009). www.peterasmus.com.
This article appeared on page A – 10 of the San Francisco Chronicle