Ethics in Medicine

Is electromagnetic radiation dangerous?

Kristen Sparrow • March 04, 2009

This topic has been an interest of mine for a few years. An electrical engineering colleague of mine, Jim Andrews, and I took EMF readings along the route of the wiring for the new Lucas center in the Presidio. We did this so we would have baseline data to compare to once the Lucas center was at full capacity.
February 10th, 2009. Dr. Thomas Rau, Medical Director of the world renowned Paracelsus Clinic in Lustmühle, Switzerland says he is convinced ‘electromagnetic loads’ lead to cancer, concentration problems, ADD, tinnitus, migraines, insomnia, arrhythmia, Parkinson’s and even back pain. At Paracelsus (, cancer patients are now routinely educated in electromagnetic field remediation strategies and inspectors from the Geopathological Institute of Switzerland are sent to patients’ homes to assess electromagnetic field exposures.
Rau says the removal of dental fillings can be an important early step in reducing electrical sensitivity, allowing some people to live in homes they otherwise could not tolerate.
There are political movements afoot also. Groups for EMF safety are proposing that Congress
1) mandate the FCC lower exposure guidelines to reflect the large body of science showing biological effects at exposures much lower than current standards,
2) repeal Section 704 of the Telecommunications Act of 1996, which rescinded state and local governments right to resist towers on health or environmental grounds
3) stop the roll out of the Wi-Max network until Congress better understands the potential health consequences
4) accommodate citizens unable to function adequately in high EMF environments, including forbidding cell towers on school properties.

Vis a vis these concerns there was a article last week in the concerning demonstrations at the University of California San Diego, campus. One of the literature buildings is being blamed for a cluster of breast cancer cases, raising new questions about the risks of exposure to electromagnetic fields.
Last week, students and professors marched and carried signs to protest what they called a “crisis of safety,” claiming that the university has failed to address worries that the campus literature building is the site of an inordinate number of cancer cases.
At least eight workers in the campus building have been diagnosed with breast cancer since 2000, and a handful of other cancers, including ovarian and salivary gland cancers, have also been reported. The number of breast cancer cases alone is significantly more than would have been expected by chance, according to a June analysis by Cedric Garland, an epidemiologist at the university. In that report, he notes that the risk of invasive breast cancer for employees in the literature building appears to be four to five times higher than that of the general California population.
Building workers and researchers are concerned the source of the problem may be the building’s elevators.

This is a source of illness that is still “under the radar” (pardon the pun) in the U.S. Europe is taking it much more seriously. I think it is significant and helpful that the demonstrations are taking place at UCSD, an institution that prides itself on academic excellence and scientific rigor, and that UCSD’s own epidemiologist authored and signed off on the study.
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