Electromagnetic fields are packets of energy that do not have any mass, and visible light is what we know best. X-rays are also electromagnetic fields, but they are more energetic than visible light. Our concern is for those electromagnetic fields that are less energetic than visible light, including those that are associated with electricity and those used for communications and in microwave ovens. The fields associated with electricity are commonly called “extremely low frequency” fields (ELF), while those used in communication and microwave ovens are called “radiofrequency” (RF) fields. Studies of people have shown that both ELF and RF exposures result in an increased risk of cancer, and that this occurs at intensities that are too low to cause tissue heating. Unfortunately, all of our exposure standards are based on the false assumption that there are no hazardous effects at intensities that do not cause tissue heating. Based on the existing science, many public health experts believe it is possible we will face an epidemic of cancers in the future resulting from uncontrolled use of cell phones and increased population exposure to WiFi and other wireless devices. Thus it is important that all of us, and especially children, restrict our use of cell phones, limit exposure to background levels of Wi-Fi, and that government and industry discover ways in which to allow use of wireless devices without such elevated risk of serious disease. We need to educate decision-makers that ‘business as usual’ is unacceptable. The importance of this public health issue can not be underestimated.
David Carpenter, MD
Professor, Environmental Health Sciences, and Director, Institute for Health and the Environment, School of Public Health, University of Albany, SUNY Co-Editor, The BioInitiative Report
Too Little, Too Weak, Too Late
Read EMR Stop's position on the 2011 WHO IARC announcement that mobile phone radiation is a "2B potential Carcinogen".
Saunas can provide great health benefits by helping you detoxify. However, many electric saunas, including infrared saunas, can emit very high levels of electromagnetic fields, which can have a harmful effect on your health
You can easily test your sauna (or any other area) by using an inexpensive electrical meter, or a more sophisticated EMF meter like Trifield. Ideally, EMF levels should be below 3 milligauss or so. The newer, safer saunas have a standard of 2.0 milligauss at 30 centimeters
The difference between an infrared sauna and the traditional Finnish-style saunas is that the latter heats you up from the outside in, like an oven. The infrared sauna heats you from the inside out
By Dr. Mercola
Steve Benda is trained in power systems and nuclear engineering. Here, we discuss saunas and the electromagnetic fields (EMF's) they can produce. While sauna bathing can be highly beneficial for your health, EMF's are a distinct health hazard. Benda literally grew up in and around saunas, due to his Finnish and German heritage.
"The saunas were always in my family and they became part of our lives, so I guess I just had an early interest," he says.
The Historical Use of Saunas
Historically, saunas have a longstanding tradition of use. They are common to many Eastern European countries, as well as Asia. In some countries, such as Finland, you can find them in nearly every home.
"Some of the old Finnish saunas were fires under piles of rocks inside a room that was very smoky," Benda explains. "People would come in to those rooms and throw water on that pile of rocks; get the steam heat in the room, and sweat.... It evolved into contained wood stoves, where the woodstove would heat the pile of rocks...
That evolved into electrical saunas, which are more traditional now, where electric heating elements will heat the rocks in a small stove. It's very typically found in basements or little recreation centers in homes and in lots of clinics.
... That has led, in more recent years... to the evolution of the infrared sauna, which is a different kind of heating mechanism that relies on the infrared portion of the electromagnetic spectrum to provide heat and radiation; radiant heat."
The Different Types of Saunas
Today, there are three basic types of saunas:
The wet Finnish sauna, where steam is created by throwing water on hot rocks (the heat can be generated by either wood burning or electricity)
The dry Finnish sauna that uses electrical heating, and therefore does not employ water (these stoves are not made to have water poured on them. Doing so can result in short-circuiting)
The difference between an infrared sauna and the traditional Finnish-style saunas is that the latter heats you up from the outside in, like an oven. The infrared sauna heats you from the inside out. The traditional wet sauna typically uses a small stove with radiant heat elements, i.e. resistive elements that heat up when current flows through them. These elements heat up the rocks piled on top. The temperature is regulated by a thermostat. Initially, the sauna will feel warm and dry, but once you toss some water on the rocks, hot steam is generated.
"At that moment, when it goes from dry to more of a humid environment, thousands of pores are popping [open] at the same time on your body," Benda explains. "It feels really, really nice as your sweat mechanisms turn on. That's a traditional sauna. We throw water on the rocks. We get the steam heat in the room and we experience a lot of sweating... That'd be considered the wet sauna.
... I'll say it's the best recipe to get ready to go to bed. Now when you lay down to go to sleep at night, you're very, very relaxed and cleaned from the sauna... My sauna at home is heated every night — my traditional (sauna) in the basement."
Beware: Saunas Can Generate Very High Levels of Electromagnetic Radiation
While some still favor old-fashioned wood-burning saunas, the more modern electrical versions and the infrared saunas are the most common today. Unfortunately, this has also led to some problems, namely high electromagnetic radiation.
"Electromagnetic fields are all about electrical energy. I call it the force components that come off of electrical energy," Benda says. "The force equations are set up where electrical fields are everywhere around us. If there are energized wires, [then] electrical fields are around us…[T]hey can be mitigated through shielding. The electrical fields are probably one of the areas that we can easily contain.
But the other component that's in the electrical field is the electromagnetic radiation (EMF). ... [B]oth are very bad actors, I would say, because they act on our bodies. Our bodies are filled with charged particles. We're made up of charged particles. An electrical field will act out with a force on those charged particles, depending on its magnitude, and over time may alter the way that our bodies behave cellularly."
Many people don't realize that we are fundamentally electrical beings. The cells in your body communicate with each other electrically, and if you're exposed to an external electrical field, it could interfere with their communication and wreak havoc on your system.
"From the electrical side, I know that if I have an energized source, which is an EMF, an electromotive force – volt... Volts generate or emit electric fields. We measure that by volts per distance; that's what our meter will tell us.
The other part of that force equation would be the electromagnetic part, which is when a charged particle moves in the wire; meaning current (so you have volts and current). This generates a magnetic field around the wire, and that magnetic field will also impart a force on those same charged particles in your body. We have developed technology that can effectively mitigates or eliminates the electric field... [and]... technology that will mitigate or minimize below acceptable standards the electromagnetic [field]..."
Benda's background in nuclear power deals with radiation, power systems, and the control of electrical properties. He was asked to apply some of these theories to the development of a safer, low-EMF infrared sauna, which led to the creation of a whole new generation of shielded saunas.
Is Your Infrared Sauna Emitting High Levels of EMF?
About 15 years ago, when I first started doing saunas, the panels used to create infrared heat were initially made of ceramic. Later, they began using carbon. The problem with this is that while ceramic panels are relatively safe, the later-generation carbon panels actually emit very high EMF levels. You can easily test this by using an inexpensive electrical meter, or a more sophisticated EMF meter like Trifield.
One of the saunas I recently tested measured off the chart—about 120 milligauss. Even outside the sauna the EMF level was high. Normally, it should be below three or so.
Needless to say, the technology Mr. Benda has helped develop can be of great benefit, especially if you're regularly using your sauna. Because while radiation drops off exponentially as you move away from the source, when you're sitting in a small confined space such as a sauna, you don't have the choice to move further away.
"Hotspots would be ranges of 100 to 300 milligauss," Benda explains. "... [A]s you move away from the source, the measured field drops off by one over the distance squared. So it drops off relatively quickly. However, we don't have that luxury when we're sitting in one of these [saunas]... [M]ost likely you'll be leaning against the source...
[W]hen there is an electric field and there's an electric current flow, it will generate electromagnetic radiation (EMR).
Being that electric fields and electromagnetic radiation fields are vectors—meaning they have a direction and a magnitude—any combination of an electric field, plus an electric field, plus other components that add up will end up to be the result of the many, not just one. What happens is, if we don't effectively control all the sources of the electric field, or all the sources of electromagnetic radiation, we aren't really taking care of the problem.
... "[To describe] the electric field, I use a water analogy where you have a garden hose, a water source, and then you saw a pressure gauge. In the pressure gauge, the pressure is volts in the electric analogy. When you turn it on, the flow of the water is the current in the electric analogy. You can't have current flowing without volts in the electric portion. To address only one, and to assume only one exists, is missing half of the equation. If we're truly addressing all aspects of the electromagnetic field, we need to effectively address both.
... So the [patented] technologies we have developed can effectively eliminate all the induced electric fields in the room so that they entire environment is below our acceptable standards. We have also upgraded the technologies to mitigate... the magnetic portion."
Many are using saunas for detoxification, and it would clearly seem counterproductive to employ a device that is aiding one aspect of their health while hurting them in another. In fact, depending on your specific health status, detoxing in a high-EMF environment might actually do you more harm than good. This is why I'm delighted to see that the issue of EMF's is finally being addressed—at least by one sauna company. Clearly, if you're in the market for a new sauna, this is definitely something you'll want to investigate, to make sure your sauna does not encase you in a high-EMF environment...
A New Generation of Infrared Saunas
The technology developed by Mr. Benda can effectively shield the bather from dangerous levels of EMF. In the interview, he describes how they determined these safer limits of exposure:
"... The standard we use as our target is one that has developed in Sweden... called the electromagnetic Swedish standard... They have developed a standard where, at 30 or 50 centimeters from [a computer] screen, there would be a certain amount of milligauss reading or maximum electric field. What we have done, based on that study and the credibility of that study, is, we have said, "Okay, let's take that same benchmark, that same standard, and apply that to our saunas." Currently, our standard is 2.0 milligauss at 30 centimeters."
Besides addressing EMF's, Mr. Benda is also working on redefining the infrared signature from the typical 50 percent "on," to one that's about 96 percent "on." Benda explains:
"When an infrared room nears the set point – the thermostat at 150°F setting, let's say – it begins to cycle on and off, based on the controls and the set points. We have done some very interesting high-performance [modifications] that will more effectively keep the infrared signal "on" 96 percent of the time versus only 50 percent.
To the bather that means a lot because he'll feel warm and he'll feel like he's in an experience when the infrared is on. Again, the heat signature is coming from the electrical energization, whereas if the room is turned off their bodies will start to feel cooler almost instantaneously."
Sauna Bathing Can be an Excellent Addition to a Healthy Lifestyle
Everyone today is exposed to heavy metals and toxic chemicals. Particularly for slow metabolizers, using an infrared sauna can be a very good method to detoxify. Its dry, warming energy is highly compatible with the human body. By heating your tissues several inches deep, it helps enhance metabolic processes, and greater cellular energy production facilitates healing. Furthermore, viruses and toxin-laden cells are weaker than normal cells and tolerate heat poorly, so raising your body temperature helps heal infections quicker.
A major organ of elimination, most people's skin is very inactive. Many simply do not sweat enough. Repeated use of the sauna slowly restores skin elimination, allowing toxic chemicals and metals to be removed. It's a daily habit that pays many dividends. To learn more about the health benefits of using saunas, please review the related articles listed below.
However, all of these benefits could be effectively cancelled out if your sauna is emitting very high EMF's, so please, do take the time to evaluate your sauna, and make sure to purchase a low-EMF version if you're buying new.
It's damaging your DNA, causing cancer, and very little's being done to stop it, according to some researchers.
They call it dirty electricity and believe it's the explanation for medical problems killing millions of people. It's a title for electrical pollution.
Some people who research disease say the electricity that powers our everyday conveniences like light bulbs and cell phones is also causing an unintentional side effect.
Dr. Sam Milham says he's spent forty years trying to make people listen. Search dirty electricity in YouTube and it seems they finally are.
Milham says, "If you've got electric in your house, you're getting exposed. Every office every building every house has got this and all the electric junk we're adding to the system is making the dirty electricity worse."
Milham's new book -- "Dirty Electricity -- theorizes electrical pollution is the answer to numerous medical mysteries. He says eating right and exercising are good, but they will not protect you from electrical exposure.
Milham said, "We've heard about lifestyle being responsible for diseases. Don't believe it. It's all caused by EMF." EMF stands for electro magnetic fields.
Milham says they're created by the power running through your home, cell phone, and everyday appliances like computers or wireless internet routers.
Milham believes these invisible forces are causing cancer, diabetes, increases to the suicide rate, and more. "I figured the only way anything's going to happen is to get the public outraged enough to do something about it."
Electrical frequencies should stay between 50 to 60 hertz but they don't. Using a special tool, a YouTube video shows a man finding frequencies exceeding 1000. The dirty electricity theory says: the higher the frequency the more dangerous. But how many people are buying it?
It seems people, like much of the medical world, remain split. Some think it's hysteria over something that's not proven. Milham says, "I'm kind of worried that another epidemic is coming down the pipe."
We asked Milham what steps he takes to minimize his exposure. He says never put a cell phone against your head when talking, or carry it against your body while it's turned on. Don't use a laptop computer on your lap. Plasma TVs produce high levels of dirty electricity, as do variable speed motors for furnaces.
Non-profits & Activism Tags:
* EMR * EMF * dirty electricity * electrosmog * cancer * brain * tumour * tumor * sam milham * laptop * cell phone * mobile phone * plasma * tv * motor * AC * 50Hz * 60Hz
The Story Of Samuel - Transcript PROGRAM TRANSCRIPT: Monday, 8 February , 2010
CAROLINE JONES, PRESENTER: Hello I'm Caroline Jones. Welcome to a new season of Australian Story. Red Symons has achieved a high profile showbiz career as the funny bad guy of radio and television, but that's not the full story. Behind the scenes Red Symons and his family have been on a long hard journey with their eldest son Samuel. It's something they have kept away from the public spotlight until now. Australian Story producer Belinda Hawkins has known the Symons family for some years and with their agreement she started documenting Samuel's experiences two years ago. So here is Samuel Symons' story. (Excerpt of footage of Samuel Symons at a doctor's appointment) DOCTOR: Can I just make sure I've got the right gentleman here, can you tell me your birthday please? SAMUEL SYMONS: Yep, 24th of the 5th in 1991. DOCTOR: Thanks mate. I'll just go through the safety questions again. Do you have a pacemaker? SAMUEL SYMONS: No. DOCTOR: Have you ever had a heart operation? SAMUEL SYMONS: No. DOCTOR: Ever had metal go into your eyes by accident from welding or grinding? SAMUEL SYMONS: No. (End of Excerpt) ELLY SYMONS, MOTHER: Samuel has never asked, "why has this happened to me?" He's never complained. He takes it in his stride, and he's very stoic. (Excerpt continued) DOCTOR: Do you have any hearing aids? SAMUEL SYMONS: No. DOCTOR: Cochlear implants? SAMUEL SYMONS: No. DOCTOR: Do you have any false teeth? SAMUEL SYMONS: No. DOCTOR: No dentures? Nothing you pull out before you go to bed? (End of Excerpt) RED SYMONS, FATHER: When Samuel first got sick, I was at pains to keep it out of the papers. But Samuel's 18 years old now, so it's his story to tell. This is not my story. I'm an incidental cast of characters. (Excerpt continued) DOCTOR: Do you have any artificial knees or elbows, any joint replacement surgery? SAMUEL SYMONS: No. (End of Excerpt) RED SYMONS, FATHER: I did feel that he might well be misrepresented and treated in a rather tabloid way. If you're going to tell this story, it should be told properly. There was, no good could come of him being poor little celebrity weepy boy. SAMUEL SYMONS: To tell you the truth, I'm not fully aware of how my mum and dad met, I believe it was at a nightclub. Dad was in a band called the Skyhooks. They were very big here in Australia. RED SYMONS, FATHER: Elly is very beautiful, she’s smart, she's very determined. These are the qualities I suppose that drew me to her. ELLY SYMONS, MOTHER: Samuel arrived at 7:18pm on Saturday night, just in time for the Red Faces segment, which his father wasn't there to host. RED SYMONS, FATHER: I can remember one of the first things I ever said to him actually. We were up the top of the hospital looking out over the city of Melbourne. And I said "Look Samuel, I'm showing you the world". Turned out to be a somewhat different world than any of us could have expected. ANDREW DEMETRIOU, FRIEND: When Samuel was six weeks old Red and Elly moved house. It was nice home and it was a very quaint and charming home. SAMUEL SYMONS: And this house was next to this small sub power station. There was a thin wall between that and my bedroom. ELLY SYMONS, MOTHER: Samuel's cot and later on his bed, was up against the wall, the common wall of our house to the substation. When Samuel turned one we were so besotted with him that we decided that we should have another child, so nine months later and Raphael came along. Our life was so normal with these two little bouncing healthy boys that not in a million years could I have ever have imagined what our life was going to become. One day when Samuel was four he went off to kindergarten as usual. The phone rang at 4 o'clock, it was the crèche and they said that Samuel wasn't well. RED SYMONS, FATHER: We went and picked him up from the crèche and he was sleepy, you know, lacklustre, listless. ELLY SYMONS, MOTHER: I just knew that it wasn't a small thing. RED SYMONS, FATHER: As always I said, I'm sure it's nothing, he'll be fine. And Elly said "oh we should take him to the doctor." ELLY SYMONS, MOTHER: So we went in the ambulance. By this stage, Samuel's symptoms were really that he just couldn't open his eyes very well. He had what he described was a very, very bad headache. RED SYMONS, FATHER: I suspect it may be the case that if he were to die, that's when it would have happened. ELLY SYMONS, MOTHER: The neurosurgeon told us that Samuel had had a massive brain haemorrhage and that he would probably be a paraplegic. RED SYMONS, FATHER: It was the first most awful moment of my life. I can remember calling my father in tears and saying "He has to have brain surgery, he's four years old", just that. It's still too awful to contemplate, so I don't. ELLY SYMONS, MOTHER: When we got the biopsy results back, it was called a grade 4 glioma, which is one of the most aggressive tumours with a very poor prognosis. GEOFFREY KLUG, NEUROSURGEON: This type of tumour that Samuel had actually grows from the brain tissue itself, it is part of the brain, it's not a separate entity, so if you're going to remove even a portion of the tumour, you are removing a portion of the brain. Without treatment he would not have lived more than a few weeks in my opinion. RED SYMONS, FATHER: After a month of surgery and chemotherapy, it was still improbable that he should live. ELLY SYMONS, MOTHER: One doctor in particular told us that we should take him home and enjoy him, and um, it was pretty clear what she meant by that. But I um, I didn't believe her. I didn't believe that that was what was going to happen to my son. I was determined that was not going to happen to my son. We decided we really needed to find out more about cancer because that’s what our son had. RED SYMONS, FATHER: We went to see everybody, we went to all the experts. Amongst them, Ian Gawler. DR IAN GAWLER, CANCER EDUCATION SPECIALIST: Red and Elly explained they lived right up against a major suburban substation and this little fellow's sleeping right up against that wall. ELLY SYMONS, MOTHER: And he looked at us in horror and said "You need to get away from that house". DR IAN GAWLER, CANCER EDUCATION SPECIALIST: When you get concentrated areas of electrical activity like with a substation that activity produces electromagnetic radiation and the thought is that because of the nature of that radiation it can interfere with human cells. Now how significant that interference is the big question. ELLY SYMONS, MOTHER: Anecdotally I think there is evidence to show that electromagnetic radiation causes cancers. RED SYMONS, FATHER: You cannot prove, there is no study that will show that that causes cancer and I don’t know that I believe that it causes cancer but we moved the next day because we could. ELLY SYMONS, MOTHER: It’s frightening for me to think we put out child in this situation unknowingly. I really don’t like to think about it because it makes me feel awful. RED SYMONS, FATHER: After surgery, after chemotherapy, the thing hasn’t gone away. It’s actually gotten bigger, gone there, there, there and there. It’s all there on the scan. ELLY SYMONS, MOTHER: So we had to have the radiation. We didn’t have any time to wait. RED SYMONS, FATHER: They don't like doing radiation treatment under the age of six. DR GREG WHEELER, PAEDIATRIC RADIATION ONCOLOGIST: The area that gets treated really stops growing and developing. The amount of growth and development that occurs is much less than normal and that’s both in terms of height, in terms of bone development but also in terms of brain development. GEOFFREY KLUG, NEUROSURGEON: Because of the effect of the radiation, I would have thought perhaps as far as mental functions concerned, Samuel would have been able to go to primary school, he may have been able to start a secondary school, but I would have thought his chances of completing secondary school would be remote. He could possibly be employable in a semiskilled or unskilled situation. But I would have expected that overall potential in both the areas of education, future employability, would be substantially lessened. RED SYMONS, FATHER: I contemplated the notion that perhaps we should "let him go", was the expression. I guess I sort of meant we should "let go", as much as let him go. Just, maybe he will survive this, maybe he will die, maybe that is a better option than performing this treatment. Wouldn't have acted on it, didn't act on it, but I wondered. ELLY SYMONS, MOTHER: The effects of the radiation treatment were pretty ghastly - on the inside of the brain it's frying brain cells and damaging them. On the surface of the skin he was burnt. His ears were so burnt they were swollen. RED SYMONS, FATHER: About that time, here's the paradox - I'm doing a comedy show, and I'm the brutal guy. There was a young guy came on, six, seven, nine whatever, and he did his act for Red Faces and by proxy he became my child for a moment and I can remember doing something completely out of character and telling him how good he was and wishing him a long life, or something. It was not easy to do a comedy show when your child is at death's door. WILBUR WILDE, FRIEND: Samuel’s 5th birthday was incredible because Elly spoke and once again explained why it was so special that he made the birthday of five. He shouldn’t be in that position. Kids shouldn’t be in that position. Nobody ever takes Samuel’s birthday for granted. (On Screen Text: When Samuel Symons was eight, a regular scan identified another brain tumour) ELLY SYMONS, MOTHER: Joel was born when Samuel was seven. So when he had that tumour, the second tumour that just blew us all away, I had a nine month old on my hip when we were back there again. I thought "no, no, no, we've got a new baby now, this is, three children, we’re having this life now, I'm not going back there to that. You're not telling me, we’re not doing tumours anymore". That was hard. DR GREG WHEELER, RADIATION ONCOLOGIST: We think it's caused by the radiation and we do know that once people have had one meningioma, they're at increased risk of getting another one. ELLY SYMONS, MOTHER: The oncologist wasn’t positive. They decided to take it out and it was a benign meningioma quite unrelated to the first tumour. We were told to just get back to our normal life so Samuel went back to school. SAMUEL SYMONS: Lots of the kids at primary school didn't actually know that I had a brain tumour. They would have known that I was missing school because I just wasn't there. (On Screen Text: When Samuel Symons was in Grade 6 a hospital scan detected thyroid cancer. Three months passed before his specialists and family were informed.) ELLY SYMONS, MOTHER: Here we were at the hospital and unbeknownst to us he had thyroid cancer that one part of the hospital knew about but didn’t bother to tell the treating doctors or the patient. It's not like it's a medical mistake where they misread the scan or they didn't diagnose something properly. It’s clearly visible on the scan and reporter on and diagnosed and written into a report. And then - and this is why I'm absolutely flabbergasted - and then it was put into a filing cabinet and closed. GEOFFREY KLUG, NEUROSURGEON: I don't think that really is acceptable. I think that it would reflect some failure in the system. (On Screen Text: Samuel Symons’ thyroid was removed but the cancer had spread. Five more neck operations failed to eradicate it.) ELLY SYMONS, MOTHER: The end of Year 10 he was due to have another MRI scan on his brain, there was another brain tumour, it was detected and reported on but it wasn’t actually communicated to the doctors or to us for six months. It was found inadvertently by a different doctor who was looking at results for different tests. I was asked if I’d known about that brain tumour and I said "it was news to me" and I was in complete shock. As it turns out because it was a benign and small tumour, but if it was more serious tumour the consequences could have been absolutely horrendous. Because this was the second time, I completely lost confidence so the next day I rang the hospital and I told them that we were taking Samuel, who was by this stage was 16 and a half, we were talking him to an adult hospital. (On Screen Text: Melbourne’s Royal Children’s Hospital says ‘the system let the patient and family down’. The Hospital adds that it is introducing improved lines of communication.) (Excerpt of footage from Bollywood Brainwave Fundraiser, August 2007) RED SYMONS, FATHER: Do you know what table we're sitting at? SAMUEL SYMONS: Nineteen I think. RED SYMONS, FATHER: Nineteen. FUNDRAISER HOST: Samuel has a very powerful story to tell and I'll let him do so. (End of Excerpt) RED SYMONS, FATHER: It's funny seeing Samuel on those rare occasions when he has publicly spoken about what he's been through, because in an odd sort of a way it's a revelation to me too. I'm not sure what he thinks about at all, or whether it's something he doesn't think about, but rather he has simply lived through and feels. (Excerpt continued) SAMUEL SYMONS: You can't change what's happening inside you with cancer. You can't fix that, so what you need to do is try and fix everything else around you. Like for instance, make sure you have a good bed, good food, all the right drugs, you know, morphine. You know, top of the range. (Laughter) (End of Excerpt) RED SYMONS, FATHER: I'm as fascinated as anybody else. In a way we don't talk about it because that's not what we're doing. We're not talking about death, we're living. (Excerpt continued) SAMUEL SYMONS: I have had about 80 MRI scans. I know it sounds funny, but I just focus on anything I can see, even if it's a made in China logo, I can make that last for an hour and a half. (Laughter and applause) (End of Excerpt) (Excerpt of footage of ELLY SYMONS, MOTHER watching Samuel undergo an MRI scan) ELLY SYMONS, MOTHER: I couldn't cope with this at all. It just astounds me that he manages these confined spaces like that. (End of Excerpt) RED SYMONS, FATHER: Elly is very much the sort of person given half a chance she'd don the gown and be passing scalpels. (Excerpt continued) ELLY SYMONS, MOTHER: Are you doing your homework in your head? SAMUEL SYMONS: I don't have any homework. (End of Excerpt) RED SYMONS, FATHER: That’s her need. I don’t have the same need to be in control of the situation. SAMUEL SYMONS: I personally haven't seen my mum upset about me, because she obviously does it when I'm either in surgery, or when I'm not with her. I think she's really scared if I see her like that, that I'll cry too, or I'll become emotional about it. But I find that I don’t necessarily have that much of an emotional attachment to it, because I sort of try to detach myself from it because I want to not let it interfere with my actual life. ELLY SYMONS, MOTHER: I just wish I could trade places with him so he doesn't have to go through it all the time, a swap. DR GREG WHEELER, RADIATION ONCOLOGIST: My impression of Elly all the way through is that by refusing to accept that he was definitely going to be damaged she’s kept the doors open for him to achieve. (On Screen Text: Year 12, last year - Samuel Symons playing chess with school mates) DR GREG WHEELER, RADIATION ONCOLOGIST: Elly’s done a really terrific job in pushing him to use his brain. Obviously to be chess captain clearly his brain will run rings round mine playing chess. That means he’s got the ability to strategize and to plan and a memory of what’s happened before so clearly his brain is working very well. RED SYMONS, FATHER: Samuel and Joel, the closeness of their relationship is a combination of Samuel's nurturing instincts, maybe that comes out of his illness, a compassion, and also a chance for Samuel to escape what has turned out to be a very serious life. JOEL SYMONS, BROTHER: When Samuel’s a bit older, he’s going to not have cancer anymore or brain tumours. They’ll probably find a cure in the future. I do know that cancer is not contagious and that helps a lot. That makes me not scared. RAPHAEL SYMONS, BROTHER: Samuel is not even a bit angry, nothing. He’s just, he's happy. He’s always got a smile on his face. Cancer is going to be hounding him all his life. It's a burden for him, but he can handle that. SAMUEL SYMONS: I’ve gotten to the stage now where I think there’s been something wrong with every part of my body. I haven’t broken an arm yet, so I'm working on that, but I’m getting there. RED SYMONS, FATHER: When Samuel has an operation it’s like getting the car serviced. We have determined some more than a decade ago that Samuel is not going to die. We just keep going. ANDREW DEMETRIOU, FRIEND: As Samuel finishes Year 12 it’s hard not to reflect on what a fantastic achievement that is. SAMUEL SYMONS: For me Year 12 wasn’t as daunting as it loomed for lots of other people. I was much more relaxed about it. RED SYMONS, FATHER: I guess he’s a got a kind of perspective that very few people have. Which is, "what? You’ve got exams. I’ve got cancer." SAMUEL SYMONS: Even at this stage in Year 12 I still have thyroid cancer and I still have a brain tumour in my head which you know, is a little bit off putting. It’s like one of those circular novels where you think you’re getting to the end of a chapter or then end of a book and it’s still as inconclusive and as circular as it was at the start of the book. I used to think you know, what would it have been like if I hadn't had any of these surgeries or any of the cancer or anything, but then what’s the point of thinking about the past when you can just think about now. SAMUEL SYMONS: My parents are very different really. Dad’s a sort of more eccentric person who sort of, just does what he feels like really. Mum’s this very organized person who likes everything to be so and so and I thank her for that. (On Screen Text: October last year - day before Year 12 exams) (Excerpt of footage from Symons family home) ELLY SYMONS, MOTHER: Today’s the day before the English exam. It’s pretty exciting. We’ve waited a long time for this. RED SYMONS, FATHER: I'm going about it by being detached because it’s his life that he has to lead. If he were to ask me a question of course I would tell him what I knew. But it’s very much that point in one’s life where you have to sort it out yourself I figure. SAMUEL SYMONS: Mum suggested at the start of the week I start making a plan for every day and try to get in 10 hours minimum, which I said was quite barbaric. ELLY SYMONS, MOTHER: Sometimes when I close my eyes and imagine I am in that room and he’s four years old and I’m being told that A he would not live and B if he did he would be severely brain damaged and that was it, that was what to expect. So to be here now ready to sit these exams is a dream come true. (End of Excerpt) (Excerpt of sound from RED SYMONS, FATHER' radio program) RED SYMONS, FATHER: My eldest son is doing VCE, this is his first exam, so I am a first time VCE parent, I'm relaxed - what's the worst thing that could happen? My wife is a little more twitchy than I am. (End of Excerpt) ELLY SYMONS, MOTHER: I'm not nervous about the situation but Samuel does suffer from fatigue, chronic fatigue due to the radiation. So to concentrate for any length of time is just a very exhausting thing. DR GREG WHEELER, RADIATION ONCOLOGIST: Samuel’s progress through school has been remarkable seeing how he's been able to keep up and in fact be ahead of his class. To look at him, to meet him, you would never know that he'd had this treatment. (On Screen Text: Later that morning) ELLY SYMONS, MOTHER: How was it? SAMUEL SYMONS: Fine, see you just gotta be confident and do it. ELLY SYMONS, MOTHER: And you didn't get tired? SAMUEL SYMONS: No, not at all. ELLY SYMONS, MOTHER: Did you take your tablets? SAMUEL SYMONS: Yes I did. ELLY SYMONS, MOTHER: And did you raise your hand and have your rest breaks? SAMUEL SYMONS: You don't raise your hand, you've got to stand up. ELLY SYMONS, MOTHER: You've got to stand up? SAMUEL SYMONS: Yep, and wait there while everyone looks at you 'cause they're all laughing. ELLY SYMONS, MOTHER: Oh far out, they're all laughing at you. (Laughs) (End of Excerpt) SAMUEL SYMONS: Cancer itself has given me the determination to do things in life and understand other people. GEOFFREY KLUG, NEUROSURGEON: I find it hard to believe, but I've gratified that he's achieved so much. What I thought was the outlook so many years ago, I've been proven wrong. I'm happy that I've been proven wrong. WILBUR WILDE: When most kids were going on school holidays he would undergo another procedure. I think Samuel understands the wonderful fact of existence. (Excerpt of footage from home video - Samuel Symons' 18th Birthday) (Crowd singing Happy Birthday) RED SYMONS, FATHER: Somebody said to me last night "You've done a really good job with Samuel", and I thought " It never occurred to me for a minute that it was a job", bringing up a child seems to me as simple as loving them, and you don't really have a choice about that, you're either that sort of person who does that sort of thing. I suspect because you were loved yourself. And there hasn't been a day when I haven't loved Samuel. Not a day goes by when I don't kiss him or hug him. I'll even go the odd grope at school pick up. SAMUEL SYMONS: I want to thank everyone for coming here today to support my 18th birthday. I've had lots of fun being with my friends, that's all of you, and I really like just living, because I really find it's just much more fun in life as you go through it, just be happy, 'cause if you're just not happy, you're just not going to live. (End of Excerpt) SAMUEL SYMONS: I think after being so close to death that I could give it a little peck on the cheek, even then I don’t tend to think about it or never have really thought about it because I was too busy trying to stay alive and keep living. That I really just didn't care about death, and never have and never will. END CAPTIONS: Samuel Symons is recovering from two more operations for his thyroid cancer. He leaves home later this month to start university.
Customers, consultant, and consumer groups fault PG&E for ignoring growing concerns
Josh Hart and his Stop Smart Meters! group protests outside a recent California Public Utilities Commission meeting.
PHOTO COURTESY OF STOP SMART METERS!
Smart meters seemed like a good idea at first glance — a little wireless device that, unlike it's dumb analogous predecessor, would track precise readings of household energy usage in real time, identifying wasteful activities and helping consumers make informed choices about conservation and consumption.
Considered a crucial first step in enabling a smart grid that would modernize the existing power grid for the information age, the technology was touted as offering potential benefits such as cheaper service, fewer new power plants and transmission lines, cleaner air, and more reliable services.
But Pacific Gas & Electric Co.'s $2.2 billion program for installing smart meters has now become the subject of caustic criticism by thousands of customers and activists as the culprit for skyrocketing rates, adverse health effects, and threats to privacy.
Since deployment began in California in 2009, consumers have mobilized to halt the spread of the devices, demanding further studies of the technology and options for those who don't want to join the rush toward a wireless world. Thirty-three local governments have called for moratoriums on the installation of the devices.
The California Public Utilities Commission, which in 2006 authorized the state's investor-owned utility companies to install more than 10 million meters in California, has done little to quell the storm of protests and concerns. But that began to change March 10 when CPUC President Michael Peevey announced that the agency would require PG&E to develop an opt-out proposal for consumers within two weeks.
Prefacing the decision with an observation that almost every speaker against smart meters the CPUC heard from was a PG&E customer, Peevey called out Northern California residents as the main opponents to the program.
"I am directing PG&E to prepare a proposal for our consideration that will allow some form of opt-out for customers who object to these devices, at a reasonable cost to be paid by the customers who choose to opt-out," Peevey said at the hearing. "Obviously I cannot prejudge how this commission will evaluate any such proposal by PG&E, nor can I predict what PG&E itself will propose. But I think it's clear the time has come for some kind of movement in the direction of customer opt-outs."
But the announcement did little to quell the opposition by the scores of customers, local governments, health professionals, and advocacy groups that claim it undercuts the true concerns while simultaneously opening another avenue the utility behemoth could profit from.
"Admitting to the problem is the first step to resolving it," says Joshua Hart, executive director of grassroots organization Stop Smart Meters!, which has been at the forefront of the rebellion. "But we obviously think a ton of things were left out of this."
The makeup of the meter haters spans interests and ideals, from Tea Party conservatives to liberal environmentalists. Their unifying trenchant criticism of Peevey, who was president of Edison International and Southern California Edison Company until 1995, has only increased with each meter installed. PG&E has already replaced 74 percent of its analog electrical meters and 83 percent of its gas meters.
Resolutions critical of PG&E's smart meter deployment have been passed by many Bay Area cities and the counties of Santa Cruz and San Luis Obispo. Assemblymember Jared Huffman (D-San Rafael) introduced a bill in December 2010 that would create a statewide system for opting out.
Although PG&E officials didn't return repeated Guardian calls about the controversy, they have told other media outlets that the meters are completely safe and installation is continuing as scheduled, despite the growing furor.
A total of 670,000 meters are planned for San Francisco, and installation has already begun in the Marina and Richmond districts, much to the dismay of many residents. During a series of public meetings at the CPUC since 2010, dozens of people regularly line up to ask for alternative options and conclusive, third-party studies on the technology.
Speakers mainly consist of those claiming to suffer from exposure to electromagnetic fields, a condition known as electrohypersensitivity (EHS) that causes headaches, nausea, fatigue, and ringing in the ears. Sufferers liken themselves to canaries in coal mines and say smart meters are just one aspect of larger problem: understudied, overhyped wireless technology.
"The bottom line is it's a debacle that been rolled out without any public input, without any long-term study," Hart said. "This is the wireless technology industry being too greedy and going too far."
Smart meters emit less powerful electromagnetic fields than many smart phones, but activists worry about the effects, both cumulative and on those with EHS, a condition recognized by the Swedish government. But here in the United States, few experts outside of holistic and alternative health circles take it seriously as a health threat.
Hart pointed to the recent publication of a study by the National Institutes of Health finding cell phone emissions affect brain activity, calling it the "smoking gun." But most scientists found the report inconclusive about how that stimulation affects the brain.
Yet the activists have held regular protests lambasting PG&E for endangering their health and invading their privacy. "This is forced installation of untested devices on an unwilling public," Carol Page of Marin County told us at a large Feb. 24 protest outside the CPUC meeting in San Francisco. "It's time this commission stopped enabling and started regulating."
CPUC officials have said there was no need for additional analysis of the program, arguing that the meters are safe and that installation is a routine procedure allowed under existing utility contracts.
But the venerable consumer watchdog The Utility Reform Network (TURN) has long-opposed the program, focusing primarily on its cost and privacy threats from the data that is being transmitted. Hundreds of customers have contacted TURN to complain about the meters, and the group says Peevey's policy change misses the mark.
"It's certainly a step in the right direction, but the devil is going to be in the details," TURN spokesperson Mindy Spatt told us. "We would review any proposal to charge customers very carefully. We don't want to see them have pay again."
She said PG&E's consumer outreach efforts have been "abysmal," and TURN supports a moratorium on smart meter installation.
"We are not hearing from any people who are benefiting from it," Spatt said. "We are hearing from people who are upset about it, and we remain unconvinced that these meters offer any benefits commensurate with their costs."
TURN's website offers a flyer that reads "Do Not Install," which customers can print and place on their analog meter. Wellington Energy, the company performing installations, has respected the signs, Spatt said.
"The flyer is still getting tons and tons of play," Spatt said. "PG&E has done nothing to address customers who say that the smart meter is unwanted and unwelcome. We are very anxious to see what sort of an opt-out they can offer."
Although the flyer conveyed a direct message to utilities, some chose the more radical route of blocking installation physically. In January, two women, one a grandmother, were arrested in Rohnert Park for blocking a Wellington truck carrying a load of smart meters.
Sandi Maurer, founder of the EMF Safety Network, believes the movement from the CPUC falls short of taking real action addressing the threat of harmful electromagnetic frequencies to the environment and human health.
"We really need a moratorium while we study the health impacts and have evidentiary hearings where we could determine whether they are safe," she said. In December 2010, the EMF Safety Network's request for the CPUC to open an investigation into smart meters was denied.
One smart meter claim the CPUC did investigate was the allegation that the new meters weren't accurate, following up on more than 600 complaints from customers that their energy bills shot up after the new meters were installed.
The Structure Group, a Houston-based consulting company, tested 750 smart meters and 147 electromechanical meters and concluded that they worked fine. But the study also found that PG&E didn't properly handle the complaints.
"PG&E's process did not address the customer concerns associated with the new equipment and usage changes," the report said. "Some customers interviewed during this assessment did not consider their complaint resolved, despite indications from PG&E and the CPUC that the customer agreed with the resolution."
As a demonstration of how the program could have been rolled out differently, one needs only to look up the road to Sacramento. The publicly owned Sacramento Municipal Utilities District has installed 184,000 meters and encountered little opposition.
"I've seen what's happening in the Bay Area and we haven't seen anything like that whatsoever," SMUD spokesperson Chris Capra said. "I'm amazed at the difference in our customers compared with customers around the country. "
Capra credits the relative embrace of the meters to the method SMUD used to mobilize them. Before installing any meters, SMUD build its wireless network. Then SMUD installed 78,000 trial meters in two separate areas — one in close-quartered downtown and one in suburban areas — to see how the meters behaved under topographical and proximity challenges. Then it led the meters through automated trials doubled with traditional manual reads and found that they were 99 percent accurate.
"We wanted to be certain before we began with full deployment," Capra said. "We had estimated reads, manual reads, and made sure everything is functional. "
But some problems go beyond customer service. Along with health and safety concerns, critics remain unconvinced that the smart meters live up to their purported benefits to consumers, even though they're the ones paying for the program.
"If I wanted to monitor my usage, I could go buy an in-home electricity monitor myself and just plug it in," Maurer said. "For utilities to say we absolutely need this technology to reduce energy costs is false."
Privacy advocates warn the meters could erode the privacy of daily life unless regulators limit data collection and disclosure. In a joint filing in March 2010, the Center for Democracy and Technology and the Electronic Frontier Foundation urged the CPUC to adopt rules to protect consumer's energy usage information.
"Smart meters generate more information in formats easier to share and analyze, which is part of the future of energy utilization," said Jim Dempsey, vice president of public policy at CDT. "That being said, some significant questions remain."
Smart meters collect 750 to 3,000 data points a month per household. This detailed energy usage data can indicate whether someone is at home or out, how many people are in the house, and if they are using particular appliances. In effort to stave off data mining by marketers or hackers, CDT and EFF urged the CPUC to adopt comprehensive privacy standards for the collection, retention, use and disclosure of consumers' household energy data.
Smart meters represent a worst case scenario in terms of security, Dempsey warned. Not only do they lack sufficient power to execute strong security software, they are easily accessible and installed in numbers large enough that a few may not be missed if they are stolen. The safest way to protect cyber security is to assume from the outset that they will be attacked.
"You are not going to stop technology and the benefits," said Dempsey. "It's hard to say we should not take advantage of something that gives us more information, but you need corresponding security. It's not too late to adopt the privacy rules, and we certainly hope that the commission will do that soon."
CDT and EFF say that utilities collecting the data from smart meters must set rules specifying in advance how data will be used. Disclosing information to marketers and government agencies should be restricted.
"Smart meters really do penetrate into the ways we live in ways that no other technology is doing now," said Lee Tien, senior staff attorney at EFF. "It's a special circumstance because there isn't anything else like this that is in everyone's home."
As opposition increased along with the installations, further requests for investigation into the program were filed. In July 2010, Huffman asked the California Center for Science and Technology to analyze whether the federal safety standards were sufficiently protective of public health, a move that was supported by fellow Assemblymember Bill Monning (D-Carmel) and the City of Mill Valley.
In December, Huffman also introduced Assembly Bill 37, directing the CPUC to offer an opt out alternative to customers who did not want smart meters and to disclose important information to the public. However, like the ordinances passed throughout the state, the move was largely symbolic and wouldn't be implemented until the time most installations would have been completed in 2012.
The report released by the CCST in January analyzed the threat posed by smart meters, concluding that additional research was needed to accurately gauge the potential threat and had found "no clear evidence that additional standards were needed to protect the public from smart meters or other common household devices."
The report has since served as a reference point for both PG&E and the CPUC as evidence of safety of the meters. Nevertheless, consumer groups dispute the findings.
"We need investigations from a truly independent third party, not an industry-promoting group hired by PG&E," Maurer said. "We need evidentiary hearings on the health impacts of microwave facilities. Every time someone buys a new wireless router on a cell phone, it's a drop in the bucket of more wireless technology. But [with smart meters] we're talking about a massive increase of the density of these wireless emissions."
The CPUC's Division of Ratepayer Advocates was also unconvinced by the CCST's conclusion. It noticed that the report did not fully explore issues related to cumulative exposure or from multiple co-located meters, as would be the case on apartment buildings and close quarters typical in San Francisco.
A California Senate bill imposing restrictions and revisions on utilities regarding their handling of smart meter information passed in February 2010, and in June the CPUC announced it had adopted a framework requiring utilities to modernize security standards, but details on upgrades have not appeared.
For now, protesters remain focused on pressuring regulators to stop the installation and they plan to keep up the fight for as long as needed.
"It is shock and awe to get the meters installed before people figure out that they are being scammed," Hart said. "Until there is a moratorium called, we are urging people to resist. Stopping smart meters is just one part of the battle against the telecommunications companies."
This Transcript is a little rough in spots, but it gets the message across...
Reporter: Nicole Price
AIRLIE WARD, PRESENTER: A diagnosis of cancer is devastating for anyone. But staff at a school for children with severe disabilities in Hobart fear there have been too many among them. The Director of Public Health met concerned staff last night, the first step in a likely investigation into a possible cluster. Staff are concerned their illnesses may be link radiation from a nearby transmission tower and electricity substation in the school basement.
And as Nicole Price reports, experts are concerned Australian standards for radiation exposure are severely inadequate.
NICOLE PRICE, REPORTER: In the past two decades, there have been numerous cases of cancer and related illnesses amongst students and staff at Hazelwood School's senior campus near Hobart. Nearly half of those diagnosed have died.
The actions of a concerned staff member, who investigated the extent of the sickness, forced authorities to carry out tests. A further Health Department investigation is likely, but the Director of Health warns it will be a complicated process.
ROSCOE TAYLOR, DIRECTOR OF PUBLIC HEALTH: First of all, it's necessary to find if there is a problem and to do that you have to to ask a whole series of questions about the health effects of interest and see whether in fact they're measurable.
After we've decided what it is that staff and community might be most concerned about, we need to discuss whether or not it's actually possible to record those health effects in a manner that is statistically robust, and to do that you actually need to know who has been in the school, for how long they might have worked there or been there as a child if that's is the group of interest.
NICOLE PRICE: Affected staff members want their stories told but they've been warned by the Education Department that if they speak to the media they might lose their jobs. One staff member wrote to Stateline about her ordeal. She said:
I have had days where I've been unable to get out of bed because of aching bones and muscles. No energy, weight loss due to nausea and loss of taste, sleepless nights, and I haven't wanted to go out because of self-consciousness.
LEANNE WRIGHT, EDUCATION UNION: It would be terrible to think that people had gone off to work each day and had been made sick as a result of that.
NICOLE PRICE: Staff became suspicious as the number of cancer cases grew and in 2005 one started making a list of how many of them had fallen ill. It took two years to compile. It found that since 1984, 17 teachers and support staff at the small school had contracted cancer and related illnesses. Eight had died.
There have been eight cases of breast cancer, five diagnosed in the last three years. Two suffered bowel cancer, three non-Hodgkins lymphoma, one cervical cancer, and unknown cancer, another leukaemia and a motor neurone disease. The staff member who wrote to Stateline said:
I can't say that my cancer is linked to the school. But I can't say it isn't. Due of the disproportionate number of staff, past and present, who have been diagnosed with cancer, it's definitely fair to question whether these diagnoses are linked to the site. I feel there has been too many to be simply a coincidence.
The staff survey also identified 13 student deaths, some of which were as a result of cancer. A leading epidemiologist in the United States, Dr Sam Milham, says the number of cases at Hazelwood are off the scale.
PROFESSOR SAM MILHAM, EPIDEMIOLOGIST: It's obvious to me that that cancer rate in that place is high.
NICOLE PRICE: In your opinion, is it a cluster?
SAM MILHAM: Yes, it is. Absolutely.
NICOLE PRICE: The school is on a busy highway with a high voltage transmission tower the backyard and an electrical substation in the basement. In light of the growing concerns, the Education Department commissioned tests in mid-2006 into electromagnetic radiation and environmental hazards. Power company Aurora found the radiation levels to be safe.
But after receiving the staff survey detailing 17 cancer cases at Hazelwood, the Education Department commissioned the Director of Public Health, Roscoe Taylor, to re-examine written the school's radiation levels.
ROSCOE TAYLOR (10 August): Our conclusion there was really no evidence for a previous or an ongoing public health hazard within the school facility.
NICOLE PRICE: In response to media coverage on the issue, the Department met staff last month to quell their concerns.
LEANNE WRIGHT: It was actually a very powerful experience for me when I was at that meeting at Hazelwood and someone went around the room pointing out all the people who had cancer. At that point, I thought there is no way you could just ignore this, regardless of what those test results showed.
NICOLE PRICE: Radiation is measured in milligauss. The Australian standard states people should not be exposed to more than 1,000 milligauss. Consultant and radiation expert Don Maisch has in the past recommended buildings be abandoned even though levels were considered officially safe.
DON MAISCH, RADIATION EXPERT: You can probably be sitting next to a major transmission substation and not get anywhere near that. The average levels in a home would vary between 0.5 to two. In the UK an expert committee over there called four milligauss as extremely heavy exposure.
NICOLE PRICE: The second round of tests done by the Office of Public Health returned levels between 0.1 and 88 milligauss.
SAM MILHAM: 0.5 is okay, 1 is okay. I mean, I wouldn't want to be above two on a chronic basis. 88 is certainly unhealthy.
NICOLE PRICE: Experts including Tasmanian cancer researcher Professor Ray Lowenthal have published reports of an increased risk of childhood leukaemia from prolonged exposures to powerlines.
DON MAISCH: It's a bit like having a standard for asbestos exposure that will only assure you that as long as you are under that limit you won't have immediate lung damage. It doesn't address that, well what happens, prolonged exposure?
NICOLE PRICE: Other illnesses linked to prolonged exposure include asthma, chronic fatigue syndrome, and elevated blood glucose.
SAM MILHAM: They basically accept the old standards to keep you from being cooked by fields, you know, like micro waves cook you. There is all sorts of good stuff and literature showing that weak magnetic fields have had powerful effects on your body especially if they're pulsed. Weak fields slow your pulse, change your brain waves so they're certainly biologically active.
NICOLE PRICE: Fears were increased last year when two people received shocks in the school's hydrotherapy pool. The pool was shut and has never been reopened. The Education Department called in contractors to replace an underground cable next to the pool. Six months later more work was done. This work was done prior to the second round of radiation tests.
Don Maisch believes as a result those tests were not a true indication of the environment staff were working in. Mr Maisch says the school probably suffers from dirty power.
DON MAISCH: It's a term they use in America quite often. Over in Australia it's more known as transient on powerline, which they're high voltage spikes of very brief, bam! Like that, that ride on the power frequency, these high voltage spikes come from elevators switching on and off, motors, anything like that. They come from electrical substation, they come from transmission lines.
ROSCOE TAYLOR: There is reasonably good evidence now that we have from the World Health Organisation Review that EMR, electro magnetic radiation, is very unlikely to cause some cancers and that put breast cancer in that group.
NICOLE PRICE: The risks from dirty power are becoming more of a concern in Australia. One Queensland woman worried about a substation being build in her street took electricity giant Energex to court and won.
In a world first, the court ruled the substation could only be built if radiation emitted from the site it did not exceed four milligauss. 996 milligauss less than the accepted standard.
Donna Fisher wrote a book about her experience.
DONNA FISHER, AUTHOR: We are striving for public awareness but also to stop the electricity plague. We're striving for clean electricity for Australia by 2020.
DON MAISCH: I think of what we know now, it is no longer justifiable from a public health perspective to just quote standards. And I think it's also important when standards are quoted just to say exactly what they provide protection against.
NICOLE PRICE: Since the Hazelwood story broke, the Australian Education Union has been contacted by other schools concerned about their close proximity to towers and powerlines.
LEANNE WRIGHT: We don't want to create a major panic where every school that's near large powerlines starts to question their safety. But I suppose it has made some people think, "Well, what is the situation for us?"
NICOLE PRICE: As for Hazelwood, there's light at end of the tunnel. The school is being relocated to a bigger site on Hobart's eastern shore at the end of next year. In the meantime, the Education Department has asked the Director of Public Health to conduct further investigations to determine whether there is a cancer cluster at the school.
ROSCOE TAYLOR: If you take 100 groups of 100 people, you're going to find some of them are officially cancer clusters just by chance alone. And I think there comes a time when people say "Well, that's must have been what had happened, you know, cancer clusters." 499 out of 500 don't ever turn up any kind of cause.
NICOLE PRICE: For those already sick, it's cold comfort.
CONCERNED STAFF MEMBER (letter): I am too frightened to hope or look too far into the future for myself and my family. At this stage I am taking one day at a time and I am very thankful for every new day.
NICOLE PRICE: The Australian Radiation, Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency is reviewing the current radiation guidelines. It's expected to be finished by the end of the year.
Bruce Hocking, Ian R Gordon, Heather L Grain and Gifford E Hatfield
MJA 1996; 165: 601 For editorial comment, see Cartwright
Readers may print a single copy for personal use. No further reproduction or distribution of the articles in whole or in part should proceed without the permission of the publisher. For copyright permission, contact the Australasian Medical Publishing Company Journalists are welcome to write news stories based on what they read here, but should acknowledge their source as "an article published on the Internet by The Medical Journal of Australia <http://www.mja.com.au/>".
Objective: To determine whether there is an increased cancer incidence and mortality in populations exposed to radiofrequency radiations from TV towers. Design: An ecological study comparing cancer incidence and mortality, 1972-1990, in nine municipalities, three of which surround the TV towers and six of which are further away from the towers. (TV radiofrequency radiation decreases with the square of the distance from the source.) Cancer incidence and mortality data were obtained from the then Commonwealth Department of Human Services and Health. Data on frequency, power, and period of broadcasting for the three TV towers were obtained from the Commonwealth Department of Communications and the Arts. The calculated power density of the radiofrequency radiation in the exposed area ranged from 8.0 µW/cm 2 near the towers to 0.2 µW/cm 2 at a radius of 4 km and 0.02 µW/cm 2 at 12 km. Setting: Northern Sydney, where three TV towers have been broadcasting since 1956. Outcome measures: Rate ratios for leukaemia and brain tumour incidence and mortality, comparing the inner with the outer areas. Results: For all ages, the rate ratio for total leukaemia incidence was 1.24 (95% confidence interval [CI], 1.09-1.40). Among children, the rate ratio for leukaemia incidence was 1.58 (95% CI, 1.07-2.34) and for mortality it was 2.32 (95% CI, 1.35-4.01). The rate ratio for childhood lymphatic leukaemia (the most common type) was 1.55 (95% CI, 1.00-2.41) for incidence and 2.74 (95% CI, 1.42-5.27) for mortality. Brain cancer incidence and mortality were not increased. Conclusion: We found an association between increased childhood leukaemia incidence and mortality and proximity to TV towers.
MJA 1996; 165: 601-605
The biological effects of low level electromagnetic fields and any relation to cancer causation are controversial. There have been several epidemiological studies of possible effects of extremely low frequency (50 Hz) fields, 1 but few have looked at radiofrequency radiations (RFR) (i.e., frequencies of 300 kHz to 300 GHz). Goldsmith, 2 in a recent review, concluded that there may be an association between RFRs and cancer; however, a World Health Organization review concluded that there is no clear evidence of detrimental health effects in humans exposed to RFR. 3
An opportunity for studying the effect of RFR presents itself in northern Sydney, New South Wales, where three TV towers are sited in a triangle close to each other (Figure 1). The towers have been used to broadcast three TV services since 1956 and four since 1965. The channel frequencies range from 63 to 215 MHz; the wavelengths (ranging from 5 m to 1 m) are close to body reson ances and hence are maximally absorbed. 3
We compared cancer incidence and cancer mortality for the three municipalities (Lane Cove, Willoughby and North Sydney -- population, 135 000) which immediately surround the TV towers (inner area) with data for six adjacent municipalities (Ryde, Ku-ring-gai, Warringah, Manly, Mosman and Hunters Hill -- population, 450 000) (outer area) (Figure 1), on the basis that the RFR becomes progressively weaker with the square of the distance from the towers across these municipalities. The control municipalities were selected because of the similar distance from the towers to their nearest borders, their resi dents having a similar upper-middleclass socioeconomic status, 4 and their areas being large enough for there to be a decrease in power density. Cancers of interest were leukaemia and brain tumour, especially in childhood, given findings from community studies of extremely low frequency (50 Hz) electro magnetic fields. 1 We had no prior knowledge of, nor had concerns been raised about, clusters of leukaemia cases in the areas close to the towers.
Radiofrequency radiation Data for frequency and power of the RFR sources on the towers for the period 1956-1990 were obtained from the Commonwealth Department of Communications and the Arts 5 and are shown in Box 1.1. The TV signals are composed of 100 kW video amplitude modulated (AM) and 10 kW audio frequency modulated (FM) signals, on carrier frequencies which range from 63 to 215 MHz. The combined field strengths at increasing distances were calculated by the method of the United States National Council on Radiation Protection and Measurement 6 (Box 1). There were no TV repeater stations in the inner or outer areas during the survey period.
Cancer data The NSW Cancer Registry maintains a comprehensive database allowing distinction between incidence and mortality, and giving residence at the time of report. 4 Data from the registry for 1972 to 1990 are available from HealthWiz 7 and were extracted by municipality, and for sex and age bands 0-14 years, 15-69 years and 70 years and over. The data are available only for the three-digit code categories identified by the International classification of diseases, injuries and causes of death , ninth revision (ICD-9). More refined data are not available for reasons of privacy. Cancer data from before 1972 are not available.
Statistical analysis The data were analysed using a Poisson regression model, 8 in which the number of cases or deaths were regarded as Poisson random variables, whose mean is a product of the person-years (i.e., the sum of appropriate mid-year populations) pertaining to the observation and the functions of the explanatory variables. These models give rate ratio estimates for comparisons of interest, adjusted for the other variables. Interactions were examined, and the model tested for goodness-of-fit. We made adjustment for extra-Poisson variation, when necessary, using the "quasi-likelihood" method of McCullagh and Nelder. 9
The explanatory variables fitted in these models were: age in years (0-14, 15-69, 70 and over), sex, calendar period (1972-1978, 1979-1984 and 1985-1990), and area ("inner" [close to the TV towers] and "outer" [more distant]) (Figure 1). For comparisons between the areas of interest and the whole of New South Wales, standardised incidence ratios (SIRs) and standardised mortality ratios (SMRs) were calculated. For these analyses the stratification was by calendar-year (19 separate years), age and sex. Confidence intervals were calculated by the "exact" method.10
This ecological study found an association between residential proximity to TV towers and increased incidence of childhood leukaemia.
Study biases Studies of this type are prone to biases.
1. Comparison of the inner and outer areas: Socioeconomic class has been associated with leukaemia, with a positive association with higher socio economic status. However, all muni cipalities considered in the inner and outer areas are ranked in the top two socioeconomic quintiles; further, two out of three of the inner municipalities are in the top quintile, and four out of six of the outer municipalities are in the top quintile. 4 Moreover, for New South Wales as a whole there is no evidence of a socioeconomic gradient for leukaemia. 4
There are small pockets of light industry in the surveyed municipalities, but they are mainly residential. The area closer to the TV towers is subject to much higher traffic density than the outer area, and exhaust fumes contain small traces of benzene, a proven leukaemogen. 11 However, a causal relationship between exhaust fumes and childhood leukaemia has not been established; 11 in occupational studies benzene exposure is related predominantly to acute myeloid leukaemia, 12 but we found an increased incidence/mortality of lymph atic leukaemia in the inner areas.
2. Confounding variables affecting individuals can not be adjusted for. The few recognised causes of leukaemia include ionising radiation, cytotoxic drugs and some uncommon genetic conditions. 13 The only known potential community exposure to ionising radiation in the study area is a factory in Hunters Hill that used radium until the 1970s. There are no high voltage power lines traversing the inner area, but one traverses the outer area and runs along the border between Lane Cove and Ryde in a national park.
Individual (household) exposure cannot be determined, and therefore local enhancements and attenuations of RFR , which might influence dose-response calculations, cannot be allowed for. Usually, exposures in flats and houses will be lower than those for free space, such as gardens, parks and schoolyards.
3. Population movement cannot be adjusted for. Thus, miscalculations arise if people move out of, or into, particular areas for selective reasons (e.g., treatment of cancer is offered at Royal North Shore Hospital, which is in the inner area). This would not influence incidence, but could influence mortality data if patients with cancer came to live closer to the hospital for ease of access. However, it appears most childhood leukaemia cases attend children's hospitals not in the study area. A linkage study of cases could resolve this. On the other hand, social mobility would tend to obscure effects that have long latency periods. Duration of residence would need to be determined in a more detailed study.
Migration to new towns has been suggested as a confounding factor in childhood leukaemia clusters, 14 with viral spread to susceptible persons, but the areas surveyed in this study are long established. Greaves, 15 using a similar argument, postulated that fewer infectious stimuli in early postnatal life, with later infection at a critical period, may play a major role in precipitating acute lymphoblastic leukaemia. According to this theory, less dense populations mean less exposure to infections early in life and higher rates of leukaemia. However, of the areas surveyed the inner area is the more densely populated (2818 per km 2 , compared with 1378 per km 2 ). 16
Effects of radiofrequency radiation The calculated exposure levels of 8.0 to 0.2 µW/cm 2 in the inner area are very low compared with the Australian Standard 17 public exposure level of 0.2 mW/cm 2 . The mechanism whereby such low energies could cause biological effects is a matter of intense research. A recent report by the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) concluded that reliance on thresholds for heat build-up in setting the Australian safety standard may be insufficient. 18 The TV frequencies considered, because of their wavelengths in relation to body heights, are close to body resonance, 3 leading to maximum absorption by both adults (including pregnant women 19 ) and children.
However, in considering any biological effects, regard must be given to the modulations (50 Hz to 5 MHz) as much as to the carrier wave. The key video modulation frequencies are pulsed at 50 Hz and 15.6 kHz. Many and conflicting reports have been published about possible biological effects at low energy levels with low frequency amplitude modulations. 3,18,20,21 Stuchly et al. found that 60 Hz low-level fields may act as promoters of cancer. 22 It has been suggested that the biological effects may be on the cell membrane rather than the genetic material, 23 and that low energy signals are detected through non-linear mechanisms, such as stochastic resonance. 24
The disparity between our calculations and the measured power densities could result from various mechanisms, including absorption of the signal and cancellation due to reflections, especially as the minimum of one signal is unlikely to coincide with the minimum of another, even being different for the audio and vision signals of one channel. An extensive measurement program is needed to develop detailed contour maps to better define dose-response relationships. Techniques such as isotonic regression could be used; this enables effects of a point source on a surrounding community to be analysed. 25
The new services since 1980 will have increased the power density due to Tower 1 by four times, most of this being due to ultra high frequency (UHF) TV (526-533 MHz) and FM radio. A number of other services, such as mobile phone and paging services, may have also been established in the surveyed areas. However, these are of much lower power and/or use different carrier frequencies and/or modulations to the TV broadcast services.
Radiofrequency radiation and cancer? An association between RFR and childhood leukaemia has not been reported previously. None of the previous studies of RFR has looked at exposure of such a large population (including children) for so long a time to frequencies of maximal body absorption.
A study of people working on TV towers did not find evidence of chromosome damage, 26 and among 32 cases of neoplasms of the blood in Telecom Australia employees (retiring for medical reasons or dying) there was no excess in radiocommunication occupations (Hocking, unpublished data). A small study from Honolulu (Hawaii), where broadcast towers are also situated in populated areas, compared census tracts with towers with those without towers and found a non-significant standarised incidence ratio of 1.5 for all types of leukaemia. 27 A preliminary report of a small area study of leukaemia near 20 TV/FM transmission sites in the United Kingdom found a decline in incidence of adult leukaemia with distance, but concluded that "the results give, at most, no more than weak support for an association between residence near transmitters and leukaemia risk". 28 However, that study was restricted to adult leukaemia and incidence, whereas our most significant results were for childhood leukaemia incidence and mortality.
The time trend for childhood leukaemia incidence has remained fairly stable, consistent with a constant exposure, and the reduction noted in the childhood leukaemia mortality rate most likely reflects improvements in treatment. If RFR exposure is a relevant (causal) factor, classification of population into inner and outer areas is a proxy for the appropriate exposure variable, which would tend to bias the rate ratios towards the null (i.e., towards no effect) due to non-differential misclassification. This is relevant to the irregular natural boundaries of the municipalities (Figure 1). Analysis by postcode or census collector units would yield more refined data in relation to distance from the towers. Finally, our observation of a more marked association between proximity to TV towers and leukaemia mortality than incidence (Box 4) could be of biological interest if a putative exposure not merely caused the disease but influenced its progression.
The calculated levels of RFR in the areas with increased childhood leukaemia incidence and mortality are substantially below the current Australian public safety standard. More detailed studies (e.g., relating cases to power density contours) are required to replicate any association and to look for dose-response relationships before any conclusions can be drawn.
Bruce Hocking and Associates, 9 Tyrone Street, Melbourne, VIC. Bruce Hocking , FAFOM, FAFPHM, Consultant in Occupational Medicine. Statistical Consulting Centre, University of Melbourne, Melbourne, VIC. Ian R Gordon , PhD, Director. System Innovations in Health, PO Box 125, Melbourne, VIC. Heather L Grain , ADipMRA, GDipDP, Consultant. Broadcast & Radiation Safety Consulting, Melbourne, VIC. Gifford E Hatfield , MSEE, Managing Director. No reprints will be available. Correspondence: Dr B Hocking, 9 Tyrone Street, Camberwell, VIC 3124.
A major review on the health effects of electromagnetic fields on workers and residents has been produced by the California State Public Health Department and represents nine years of research. It was made public in 2002. This report cost about US$7M. The research team was headed by three epidemiologists from the California Health Department.
A draft review report was sent around the world to independent epidemiologists and industry-connected epidemiologists asking them to assess the level of evidence for each of the health effects they were looking at.
Meetings with staff at the University of Berne Dr Cherry learnt about the research when in Switzerland last October during interviews with Professor Theo Abelin, one of the world's leading epidemiologists and an independent academic. He has recently retired from the University of Berne where he taught and researched preventative and social medicine. Professor Abelin mentioned to Dr Cherry that he was one of the epidemiologists from around the world working through the report and giving a professional opinion on it.
At the University of Berne Dr Cherry found that researchers there were unaware of the extent of his own research. They asked him, in the context of other discussions, about the number of studies that showed chromosome damage, melatonin reduction or DNA damage, and were amazed at how many studies he had showing those effects that were shown in their own research on sleep around the short wave radio tower in Schwarzenburg.
They had also done a study of brain cancer and leukaemia in electric train drivers and found a significant relationship between the electromagnetic fields in the trains and the drivers with leukaemia or brain cancer. They asked about the biological mechanisms and were very surprised that Dr Cherry had available information about so many studies supporting their results. This is just one example of the way in which he has integrated the knowledge reported by researchers and been able to share it with colleagues around the world.
Some important interconnections omitted from the review from California This is a major review of the published evidence on the dangers of electromagnetic radiation. Dr Cherry considers that it is very good that on the one hand they have said that there is very strong evidence of an increase in the rates of child leukaemia, adult brain cancer, Lou Gehrig's disease which is motor neurone disease, and miscarriage. On the other hand they do not appreciate and understand that these fields are genotoxic and reduce melatonin and damage DNA, which are the mechanisms behind these accepted effects and dozens of other effects which they dismiss. They do not appreciate the interconnections.
For example the evidence is very strong about cardiac illness and death, because if the heart cells are damaged heart disease results - but this is not accepted in the report. Nor does the review accept the strong evidence for the connection between electromagnetic fields and depression and suicide which are both caused by reduced melatonin. Both have been shown to have increased significantly in electricity workers or people living near power lines in a dose response manner. These two mechanisms also affect the immune system and this has an effect on asthma which was shown to be affected by power lines in Auckland, New Zealand Anxiety, depression and other neurological illnesses were similarly affected. The published paper recording this research is by Ivan Beale et al. 1997. Ivan Beale was Associate Professor Psychology at the University of Auckland and until recently the independent member of the Standards Committee. When he resigned Dr Cherry took his place as an independent academic.
In all the studies the severity of the illness is dose related. In the context of all the other evidence the illnesses are causally related to the exposure to electromagnetic fields.
The American Electric Utility Workers Studies have shown dose-response increases in cardiac death, suicide, leukaemia, and brain cancer.
Having collected so many studies Dr Cherry is more aware than many of the researchers of the integration of the discoveries - how the scientific pattern is explained if the connecting mechanisms are understood. The data is assessed in a more open manner making clear cause and effect to anyone who understands how factors interact.
Dr Cherry believes that his approach is nearer to that of people who study chemicals and will say that some chemicals are carcinogenic and study those needing classification by looking at the known data. If there is evidence that exposed workers get more cancer then they would say "Yes, what they are exposed to is carcinogenic."
Dr Cherry says, "People will say that chemicals are different because you can see and smell and taste them, but I can see in my mind these electromagnetic fields because I am very aware of them as a scientist. I can measure them and I can see the wires that produce them. I can see the DNA damage and the melatonin reduction occurring, and therefore I can see how the heart, the brain, the lungs and the immune system are affected, how the bone marrow is affected producing lymphoma and leukaemia. Thus I have the same approach as the people looking at chemicals because I know the biological mechanisms that produce all these health effects.
"People don't realise that just because there is strong evidence of childhood leukaemia, brain cancer, miscarriage and motor neurone disease which the review from California accepts, these are not separate effects, but linked effects, along with many others."
Bellinda Kontominas Medical Reporter SMH August 22, 2007
PEOPLE who live close to high-voltage powerlines during childhood are up to five times more likely to develop cancer, according to Australian research.
The Tasmanian study of more than 850 patients adds weight to the link between electromagnetic fields and cancers such as leukaemia, lymphoma and multiple myeloma. It is still not known whether there is a cause and effect relationship.