Persian Gulf War Veterans
and Electromagnetic Fields

Effects of Electromagnetic Radiation

by B. Blake Levitt
Excerpt from her book:  Electromagnetic Fields - A Consumer's Guide to the Issues and How to Protect Ourselves

  The research into the effects and potential effects of electromagnetic radiation on humans, plants, and animals is extensive.  For an excellent overview of the debates, issues, and research on this topic we highly recommend that you read Electromagnetic Fields - A Consumer's Guide to the Issues and How to Protect Ourselves by B. Blake Levitt.  Levitt is an award-winning journalist who has specialized in medical and science writing for more than a decade.   Noted below is an excerpt from her book, followed by a small sampling of the resources she used to write the book.     

Research on electro-stress and related topics is rapidly expanding. 

Excerpt from Electromagnetic Fields by B. Blake Levitt

Chapter 1, Page 5


The human race has never before in its evolutionary history been exposed to such fields on a continuous basis, and there are serious and mounting concerns about the effects not just on individuals but on our entire ecosystem. Since the turn of the century and increasingly since the early 1940s with the development of radar during World War II and the rapid growth of radio and TV broadcasting, we have surrounded ourselves with a veritable sea of artificially produced electromagnetic fields, all with a presumption of safety that many now think should never have been made.

Researchers have found a steady increase in many forms of cancer (independent of cancers with smoking or population growth factors) that some think closely parallels the increase in ambient electromagnetic fields, which includes radio frequencies and microwaves (RF/MW). A few researchers speculate that glandular and central-nervous-system cancers in particular are so related. What's more, although their findings are still largely speculative, some scientists are finding correlations between exposure to electromagnetic radiation and immune-system disorders like chronic fatigue immunodysfunction syndrome, HIV infections, and what some now refer to as electromagnetic sensitivity syndrome-a constellation of symptoms that include an inability to concentrate, mild panic, disorientation, visual disturbances, skin rashes, muscle weakness, and feelings of faintness. Not surprisingly, the syndrome is reported in computer operators, electronics workers, pilots, surgeons, and operating-room personnel more frequently than in other professions-that is, among people who work in continuous, overlapping electromagnetic environments, the effects of which have never been studied.

Consider chronic fatigue immunodysfunction syndrome- cavalierly scorned as the yuppie flu. Over the last ten years, what segment of the population is more likely to have been in a constantly elevated electromagnetic environment than these young urban professionals, with their high discretionary incomes. They are the very people most regularly using computers, cooking in high-tech kitchens, talking on cordless or cellular phones, and relaxing in entertainment rooms featuring multi-VCRs, big- screen TVs, and an assortment of remote-control devices, all of which emit various kinds of EMFs.

Or take the case of veterans of the Persian Gulf War, who were exposed to a barrage of high intensity EMFs unprecedented in military history and are reporting cases of chronic fatigue and immunosuppression in record numbers. The disorders were originally attributed to their exposure to toxic petroleum from the burning oil fields, but some now think that this alone does not explain the debilitating syndrome that afflicts so many of these veterans.


The environmental impact of electromagnetic fields may well be altering our world in ways we do not understand. Some species of dolphins and seals are manifesting immunodeficiency diseases. In addition, whole stands of forests are dying, and frogs are disappearing all over the world at an alarming rate.

An early pioneer in EMF research, Elmer Lund, at the University of Texas, found back in the 1920s that frogs' eggs could be affected by both electric and magnetic fields; and Harold Saxon Burr, at Yale University, hooked up voltmeters to trees and discovered that their fields varied in response to external electrical events like thunderstorms, sunspots, and different phases of the moon, as well as to light and moisture. Today we may be seeing writ large the dire results hinted at by these early studies.

Some European scientists theorize that the devastating deforestation in the German, Austrian, and Swiss mountains is not solely due to acid rain, as was previously thought, but rather to the convergence of complex electromagnetic fields from high-powered communications transmitters for TV, radio, cellular phones, and radar, especially in the microwave bands. EMFs emitted by an abundance of information-gathering devices left over from the cold war, coming both from western Europe and from the former Soviet-bloc countries, converge in this region.

German scientists had long suspected that an unknown cofactor was involved in the deforestation. Recent studies hypothesize that the configuration of pine needles and the leaf veins of deciduous trees make them perfect antenna receivers, with their hydrogen molecules acting as an electrical conductor for EMFs at different frequencies. Also, it is thought that microwave frequencies may cause the cell membranes of trees to resonate and thereby interrupt the tree's water circulation.

Microwaves are also thought to act on soil, plant life, and water in much the same way as microwave ovens act on food, only slower. Minute electrical currents travel down a tree trunk, flow into the ground in the form of electrical current, enter the soil, and create a type of acidification by means of an electrolytic process that effectively kills all living microorganisms there, leaving the soil unable to sustain new growth.

In the United States, tree damage can readily be observed along ridge lines, where it is common for radio transmitters to bounce their signals. Farmers have also observed for many years that grass often doesn't grow under an electric fence. But U.S. scientists have not yet taken as much interest in the subject as the Europeans have, and EMFs are not an important part of the American environmental dialogue, beyond their impact on the human body.

This may soon change, due in part to scientific curiosity about the disappearance of many species of frogs all over the world within the last three to five years. Whole aquatic communities have disappeared in pristine areas in the course of one mating season, even where the water has been found to have a normal Ph balance and to be free of toxins. It is a genuine enigma that does not bode well for the planet. Some speculate that the mysterious disappearance may be due to increased ultraviolet radiation as a consequence of the shrinking ozone layer. But it would be interesting to investigate the relationship of electromagnetic fields a little lower on the spectrum than the ultraviolet band, given Dr. Lund's findings of so many years ago.


To say that we have put the cart before the horse would be a mild statement regarding the subject of artificially created electromagnetic fields and the human anatomy.

The cutting edge of research in Western medicine is only now coming to recognize the human body as a fundamentally coherent electrical system, although Asian medicine has never considered it anything but that. Everything, from the basic heartbeat, to the more complex micropulsations through which smell triggers an emotional response, to bone regeneration, to the mind's interaction with the immune system, as well as the individual cell's ability to replicate, is increasingly understood to have an initiating electrical component and complex interconnecting pathways.

We are very slowly-some would say too slowly-beginning to undergo a paradigm shift in Western medical thinking from a chemical-mechanistic model of the human body to a more finely tuned electrical-system model. Such a shift will revolutionize our notions of disease states and treatments. In the new framework, ancient healing systems like acupuncture are no longer lightly dismissed by mainstream doctors, more and more of whom offer it in their practices. Also, the use of magnets in treating a wide variety of ailments resistant to other therapies is currently being investigated at a handful of mainstream medical centers, often bringing results-especially for arthritis sufferers-that astound researchers. Such results are not supposed to occur, according to what we thought we knew about human anatomy.

Yet anything with the ability to heal also has the ability to harm, especially when its underlying biodynamics are imperfectly understood. The human body, when viewed as a sensitive electromagnetic organism with the potential to receive, transmit, and conduct minute signals, becomes capable of both healthy responses and pathological overload-much like a radio station affected by too much static in the atmosphere.

New so-called safe technologies like diagnostic magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) may be in the field prematurely. Short- term memory damage and other disturbing reactions are beginning to be reported. Approximately 20 percent of those receiving MRIs, for instance, experience severe panic, which has usually been attributed to claustrophobia. But claustrophobia does not afflict 20 percent of the general population; this wastebasket explanation does not suffice for the many patients with no previous claustrophobic episodes who panic inside MRI chambers. More likely explanations are that some people are extremely sensitive to electromagnetic fields or that the human body reacts badly to such fields. Questions of safety should play a more prominent part in risk/benefit considerations regarding all such high-tech equipment. 

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