radio, microwave,hazards,Alzheimer's, Alzheimers, Lou Gehrig's, Lou Gehrigs, non-ionizing, radiation

The World's Largest Experiment - Part Three

The World's Largest Experiment - Part Three

© 2007 Health by Design

As I continue to study sources of radio frequency microwave radiation (RF/MW) and the effects of RF/MW on the human body I am struck with the realization that I am just seeing the tip of the iceberg.  What little concern is present about the hazards of RF/MW exposure centers around the use of cellular telephones, but other applications of RF/MW technology are appearing at an astounding rate. 

RF/MW radiation is ubiquitous in our environment, meaning that it is present everywhere.  Radio, television, & cellular telephone towers are visible evidence that waves are being beamed toward us, but we are also being radiated by satellite radio beams, satellite television waves, WI-FI in an increasing number of public and private establishments, WI-MAX is, or soon will be providing city wide microwave exposure, and an increasing number of retail items are being labeled with radiofrequency identification (RFID) transponders that are capable of transmitting their signals toward the bodies of consumers who are completely unaware of their presence.

RFID Ink, that can be applied as either a visible or invisible tattoo is now in use in animals and is being considered for application to military personnel.  Can promotion of its use to the civilian population be far behind?  After all, a driver’s license can be forged and credit cards stolen, but a tattoo is forever.

People who express a concern about cellular telephone towers or power lines often fail to recognize threats that are closer to home.  Cordless telephones with base units, cordless headsets, remote control devices, and in home or office wireless computer networks all radiate RF/MW energy.

We have become so accustomed to these devices that the level of energy they transmit is taken for granted.  I gained a sense of their impact when I read a statement by an astronomer.  Had Neil Armstrong taken a cell phone to the moon, he suggested, it would have been recognized as the third most powerful source of electromagnetic radiation in the universe, behind only the sun and the Milky Way.

Last month I reported studies that demonstrate a link between RF/MW radiation and cancer.  I also explained what is known about the mechanisms by which such radiation triggers tumor growth.  In this issue I will discuss the effects of RF/MW on the neuromuscular system. 

Diseases of the nervous system are on the rise, as are diseases involving the muscles.  The incidence of Alzheimer’s disease in Los Angeles County has been reported to have increased by 250 percent in the past decade.  Fibromyalgia, virtually unknown in the early 1970s is now commonplace.  The same is true of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. 

A 2003 review of the medical literature found that in 9 of 10 published studies the risk of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (Lou Gehrig’s disease) was increased in men who had occupational exposure to electromagnetic fields.  Swedish studies showing that men with occupational exposure to electromagnetic fields are 2.3 times more likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease and 1.5 times more likely to present with Parkinson’s disease strongly suggest that RF/MW exposure is playing a role in the increasing incidence of degenerative nervous system diseases.

That RF/MW radiation affects brain and nervous system function has been demonstrated in numerous studies.  Many have reported on changes in brain wave patterns (EEG) with exposure to RF/MW.  This is not surprising, as brain waves represent electrical activity within the brain.  No one questions the fact that cellular telephones interfere with the normal operation of electronic appliances.   Airplane passengers are not allowed to use their cell phones from the time the plane is ready for departure to when it has safely landed and is taxiing to the gate.  Cellular phone usage is discouraged or banned in hospital intensive care units because of interference with pacemakers, defibrillators, and other electronic devices. 

If RF/MW radiation interferes with the normal operation of aircraft guidance systems and other electronic devices it is logical that it would also interfere with the normal electrical systems within the human body.  Evidence now exists that suggests the body is designed to use its own microwaves for intercellular communication.  The extremely low strength of the body’s signals can easily be disrupted or overridden by today’s RF/MW devices.  The changes observed following exposure to RF/MW have been found to occur more quickly and be more pronounced in children.

An interesting finding in RF/MW-EEG studies is that the effects are variable.  Some individuals are much more sensitive to RF/MW exposure than others.  It also appears that individual sensitivity may vary, with a significant effect appearing at some times and not others.  This means that when the average reactivity of a group is reported, the actual effect of RF/MW can appear to be much lower than it actually is.  (The lack of effect in non-sensitive individuals will dilute the significance of the effect seen in sensitive subjects.)

At least three RF/MW effects provide plausible explanations for how exposure could increase the risk of and accelerate the progression of neuromuscular diseases.  The first is the adverse effect of RF/MW radiation on what is known as the blood-brain barrier.

The blood-brain barrier is a wonderful example of how intricately the human body is designed.  The tiniest blood vessels in the body are called capillaries.  Most capillaries are so small that their diameter is just slightly larger than that of a red blood cell.  This facilitates the exchange of oxygen between the red blood cells and the tissues through which the blood is flowing.  It is also at the capillary level that exchange of nutrients takes place.

Most capillaries of the body allow a relatively free exchange of substances between the blood and the tissues on the other side of the capillary wall.  Capillaries in the brain, however, are much more selective.  These vessels contain a specialized system of cells lining their walls that protect the brain from potentially harmful substances in the bloodstream while allowing the passage of nutrients required for proper brain function.  This system, which involves both physical (tight seams between the cells) and chemical (enzyme) safeguards, is referred to as the blood-brain barrier (BBB).

Studies have demonstrated that RF/MW radiation breaks down the blood-brain barrier.  This destroys the body’s ability to protect the sensitive tissues of the brain from harmful substances.  BBB dysfunction is considered a key component in the process that leads to diseases of the central nervous system, including diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease.

A team in the Department of Neurology at Lund University in Lund, Sweden, has done pioneering research in the area of RF/MW damage to the BBB.  They first demonstrated that exposure to RF/MW caused the leakage of albumen (a protein) from the bloodstream into the brain.  They continued their investigations and subsequently found that the leakage of albumen led to nerve cell damage in multiple areas of the brain (the cortex, the hippocampus, and the basal ganglia).

The lead researcher of the Lund University team is Dr. Leif Salford, a neurosurgeon.  He is the individual who first referred to the use of handheld cellular telephones as “the largest human biological experiment ever.”  He believes that today’s generation of cell-phone-using teenagers may suffer from mental deficits or Alzheimer’s disease by the time they reach middle age.
The effect of RF/MW radiation on the blood brain barrier provides one possible explanation for the appearance of what is referred to as “Gulf War Syndrome”.  Following Operation Desert Storm many war veterans began to complain of a cluster of symptoms were not consistent with any known disease.  The symptoms included aching muscles, irritability, thick saliva, weight loss, skin rashes, memory loss, chronic fevers, labored breathing, and headaches.  Skeptics were quick to suggest that the symptoms were due to a form of mass hysteria, a stress reaction, or were due to any number of diseases that would have occurred in the men and women had they not served in Kuwait.  At this point, however, over 10,000 Gulf War veterans have requested examinations because they believe that they are suffering from the syndrome.  Their symptoms should not be casually dismissed as imaginary or coincidental.

Many soldiers were exposed to intense RF/MW radiation during the war.  This came from various high-tech instruments, thousands of radio communication devices, and widespread radar use.  Pesticides, including DDT, malathion, fenitrorthion, propuxur, deltamethrin, and permethrin, were reportedly used extensively during the war.  Destruction of Iraqi weapons stores is known to have released nerve agents including sarin and cyclosarin into the environment.

While the connection cannot be proven at this late date, what is now known about the effect of RF/MW on the blood-brain barrier suggests that the risk of exposure to toxic chemicals would have been much greater than normally expected.  The level of toxins leaking into the central nervous systems of soldiers would have been significantly higher than from exposures to the chemicals outside of a high RF/MW environment. The effects of such exposure would likewise exceed those predicted based upon exposures in low RF/MW settings.

A frightening aspect of the research into the breakdown of the BBB by RF/MW is that some scientists believe that the loss of the BBB is irreversible.  I am cautiously optimistic that is not the case, but unless the association between RF/MW exposure and increased toxicity from exposure to chemicals is disproved, it would be wise for individuals to use maximum precautions such as protective gloves and masks when working with chemicals in yards, gardens, and around the home. 
The second way in which RF/MW can adversely affect neuromuscular function is by causing damage to proteins.  Researchers in Helsinki, Finland have shown that proteins are altered by RF/MW exposure and how those changes in protein expression can adversely impact cell function.   Italian scientists have demonstrated that RF/MW radiation damages myoglobin, the chief oxygen-carrying protein in muscle tissue.  Loss of myoglobin functionality would be expected to result in a decreased efficiency of muscle activity.

Free radical damage is believed to be one of the leading causes of aging and disease development.  One of the avenues of treatment for Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease is the use of drugs to slow oxidative damage in the brain.  RF/MW radiation has also been shown to increase oxidative damage in tissues. 
Interestingly, extracts of ginkgo biloba, a tree that is resistant to damage from short wave radiation (nuclear radiation), have been shown to reduce mobile phone-induced oxidative stress in the brain.  This implies that RF/MW can cause adverse chemical activity (increased oxidative damage), substances that protect against oxidative damage from chemical agents can also protect against oxidative damage from electromagnetic stress.

The fourth way in which RF/MW radiation may cause neuromuscular disease is by diminishing the ability of a chemical, acetylcholine, to transmit messages from cell to cell.  Scientists at the University of Rome have shown that exposure to RF/MW decreases the ability of acetylcholine to transmit signals.  Several drugs that are designed to increase acetylcholine activity in the brain have been introduced in recent years for the treatment of degenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s.
Other studies have focused not on the mechanisms by which RF/MW can adversely affect muscles and nerves, but upon the actual effects of RF/MW observed in exposed individuals.  I discussed the challenges involved in observational studies at length in the first article of this series.  The primary challenge is that at this point in time everyone is exposed to high level RF/MW radiation, making studies comparing an exposed group to an unexposed group impossible.  The only thing that can be compared is temporary intensity of exposure, which often yields highly variable results.  A second difficulty is that effects of exposure may not appear for a decade or more, making short-term studies relatively meaningless.  Finally, the bias of industry-funded studies makes an honest analysis of the effects of RF/MW radiation difficult, if not impossible.

Nevertheless, a few studies are worthy of mention.  In 1989, medical researchers at Zhejiang Medical University in the People’s Republic of China, which did not have as extensive coverage of RF/MW towers as the United States and Europe, found that people who lived or worked near radio towers or radar installations had slower reaction times and poorer short term memory than those not living or working in close proximity to RF/MW systems. 

In 1996 the Latvian Academy of Sciences reported that school children living in the area of the Skrunda Radio Location Station in Latvia had less developed memory and attention, slower reaction times, and diminished neuromuscular endurance.  I believe the experiment was able to show a difference because Latvia did not have the number of wave-generating towers found in Western Europe.

Apart from the effects documented in scientific studies, a syndrome has emerged.  It is called by various names including electromagnetic sensitivity syndrome, microwave sickness, radio wave sickness or RF syndrome.  Commonly reported symptoms include insomnia, dizziness, nausea, headaches, fatigue, memory loss, inability to concentrate, depression, chest discomfort, and ringing in the ears.  While the existence of the phenomenon is questioned by skeptics, studies have shown that some individuals are, indeed, hypersensitive to electromagnetic radiation.

While the syndrome is presenting in ever-increasing numbers of people it is not new.  Dr. Arthur Firstenberg, a leading expert in RF/MW induced disease reports that it first appeared among employees who worked with radar equipment in the 1950s and 1960s.  It was also reported by operators of industrial microwave heaters and sealers.  With the expansion of RF/MW technologies what was once an occupational disease from which individuals could find relief by changing jobs has become a universal challenge from which there is no escape.  Dr. Firstenberg estimates that as much as a third of the population is already affected to some degree.

French researchers with the National Institute of Applied Sciences surveyed 530 people, half of whom lived within 300 meters (slightly more that the length of 3 football fields) of a cellular telephone tower.  They found a significant increase in tiredness, headache, sleep disturbance, irritability, depression, loss of memory, dizziness, and loss of sex drive, nausea, loss of appetite, and visual disturbances.  Those symptoms correlate strongly with those reported by individuals who suffer from RF syndrome. 

Subsequently, a similar survey was carried out in Murcia, Spain.  The investigators measured the microwave power density in the homes of those surveyed and found a significant correlation between the severity of the symptoms reported and the strength of the microwave radiation within the home.  The severity of the symptoms reported increased as the level of exposure increased.

Individuals who experience microwave sickness typically find that their complaints fall upon deaf ears.  The highest profile individual to report electromagnetic sensitivity is Gro Harlem Brundtland who, in 2002, while head of the World Health Organization, told a Norwegian journalist that cell phones were banned from her office in Geneva because she personally becomes ill if she comes within four meters (approximately 13 feet) of one.  Mrs. Brundtland is also a former Prime Minister of Norway and is a medical doctor.  She was publicly ridiculed for making the statement.  She stepped down from her position after just one term.

It is time that individuals who are experiencing microwave sickness be taken seriously.  The person who today arrogantly refers to the disease as “psychosomatic” or an exaggerated response to stress just may be on the other side of the fence tomorrow.  Our ability as a society to ignore the relentless march of RF/MW related illness reminds me of the words of Martin Niemoeller, a Christian who resisted Adolph Hitler’s takeover of the church in Germany and, as a result, spent many years in a concentration camp:

First they came for the communists, and I did not speak out--
    because I was not a communist;
Then they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out--
    because I was not a socialist;
Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out--
    because I was not a trade unionist;
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out--
    because I was not a Jew;
Then they came for me--
    and there was no one left to speak out for me.

Who will be left to speak out when the rate of cancer is two per person and Alzheimer’s disease affects a majority of those who should be in the prime of their life?  Will it matter?

Some of the RF/MW protections that are currently available