“Cell phony” (Electromagnetic radiation hysteria)

BIOPSY2I once lived so close to my Internet provider’s tower that when customer service representatives typed in my address, they told me it looked like I lived inside of it. Less than a year later, I came down with skin cancer and got part of my face sliced off. If there’s a connection, it’s that the Internet going down caused me to go outside, which I did after haphazardly applying sunscreen.

But if that’s too routine, there are plenty of more panicky ideas to choose from. For instance, the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives ran an article that contained these warnings about electromagnetic radiation:

  • “All the cells in your body are aligned North-South, but they can’t work properly if you sleep on a metal coil bed.” More often than not, I rack out on the sectional, so I’m good there.
  • “Energy efficient light bulbs radiate at carcinogenic levels.” Fortunately, I’ve been casual enough about home upkeep of late that three bulbs are still burned out.
  • “This invisible poison wrecks human brains, causes sperm to deteriorate, ovaries to malfunction, and fetuses to die. So there goes the human race.” On the plus side, studies indicate electromagnetic frequencies have no impact on a person’s ability to hyperbolize.

The Centre goes on to ascribe all manner of maladies, such as rashes and cancer, to electromagnetic frequencies. However, the World Health Organization reviewed 25,000 studies published over 30 years and concluded, “Evidence does not confirm the existence of any health consequences from exposure to low-level electromagnetic fields.”

Also, the National Research Council reviewed more than 500 scientific studies and reported there is “no conclusive and consistent evidence that electromagnetic fields harm humans.” A critical distinction must be made here. Electromagnetic radiation can be dangerous if in ionizes (meaning it gains or loses an electron, for those of you who, like me, had a chemistry education that was limited to the Mentos experiment). This is because ionizing radiation will break the bonds that hold molecules together. So no, gamma ray bursts are not safe. And there’s a reason X-Ray technicians stand behind a shield. But low-level electromagnetic radiation from the likes of cell phones, radios, and microwaves, does not ionize, so it poses no threat.

Nevertheless, concerns remain, due to bad science, bad writing, and good post hoc reasoning. For those wishing to escape the electromagnetic hazards, a variety of options are offered. Electroplague.com touts about a dozen wave-free havens for fearful fleeing. However, almost all of them are in various stages of poor-planning, from an idea in someone’s EMF-scorched head, to purchased vacant lots, to those currently operating as a bed and breakfast, presumably without Wi-Fi. The other places listed as possible sanctuaries are locales without population, such as the Australian Outback. The positive, no EMFs. The negative, scorpions and a 98 percent reduction in life expectancy.

Those subjecting themselves to the most drastic upheaval retreated to an electromagnetic-free enclave in France’s Drome Valley. They were reported to have wrapped their living quarters in metal to shield from deadly waves. They also wore metal clothes, perhaps including the original tinfoil hats. All links I could find referencing this place were dead, so there’s no confirmation of how extensive this is or if it still exists. Maybe they’ve managed to so thoroughly zap technology that they’ve even killed any online references to it.

Less intense measures offered by the anti-Electromagnetic forces include chelation therapy, vitamin overload, chiropractic, reflexology, clay baths, and energized crystals. Despite the overwhelming evidence of safety, the fear continues and adapts to the times. Each innovation and new gadget is labeled a potential carcinogen carrier. EMF’s alleged danger is most often associated with cell phones. But given the ubiquitous nature of these devices, the lack of corresponding brain cancer pandemic would suggest this fear is unfounded.

Similarly, there are populations without cell phones or even electricity, and these people would seemingly be the world’s healthiest if EMF dangers were valid. Instead, the Journal of the American Medical Association released a study of 891 adults and found that no increased risk of brain cancer was linked to cell phone use. While EMFs won’t cause unpleasantness, fear of them can. Like the Placebo Effect making a person feel better, excessive worry can make a person feel worse.

Brian Dunning at Skeptoid.com reported that sufferers say they endure skin and light sensitivity, fatigue, high blood pressure, headaches, joint pain, and dizziness. Not coincidentally, these are also stress symptoms. So when a person thinks they are encountering EMFs, they get agitated and the symptoms return. Dunning also related a newspaper article about a cell phone tower being installed, with some persons reporting physical ailments as a result. It turns out this took place before the tower became operational. Maybe EMF-emitting devices are so powerful they do damage even before they’re turned on.  

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