Monday, September 8, 2008

Electromagnetic fields at home

For once, this post is not going to be a quotation, but I am going to relate an experiment which I have done tonight, and which left me baffled !
I am reading in parallel to other books the book by B. Blake Levitt, Electromanetic fields, a consumer's guide to the issues and how to protect ourselves. After a first part on the fundamentals of electromagnetism and standards historic, a second part on the medical issues potentially related to electromagnetic fields (EMFs), I have finally reached the last part on how to measure our exposure and how to mitigate it. Levitt proposes a simple experiment, which I recommend everybody to perform : take a portable radio, tune it in between radio stations so as to listen to the background noise (the results are more spectacular on the AM band than on the FM band, and I chose the lowest AM frequency on my radio, around 500 KHz). Then get the radio close to any electric appliance in your home or office, and listen how the noise increases next to them. The strongest noise came from my laptop, desktop, TV, and microwave oven. Even when these devices were turned off, they still emitted strong EM noise. Only when I unplugged them from the wall socket did the noise disappear. So, simply by laziness to unplug our electrical devices when we don't use them, we waste energy and expose ourselves to potentially harmful EMFs ! To remedy the laziness issue, one solution is to buy power strips with switches, and plug your applicances on them, so that you only need to push the switch off to "unplug" everything.
About the harmfulness of EMFs, there are thousands of studies that show statistically significant relationships between various illnesses, including cancers, and high exposure to EMFs in lab animals as well as in humans. There are also hypotheses being refined to explain such relationships. For example, a possible link would be through the secretion of melatonin by the pineal gland, located in the middle of the brain. Melatonin destroys free radicals in the body and has anticancer properties, among other things. Melatonin production is elevated at night, but has been found to be suppressed by EMFs "at frequencies not far above those of earth's natural magnetic background and within the scope of the common household ranges of 50 to 60 Hz. If melatonin's production is suppressed at night, due to particular EMF exposures from electric blankets, waterbed heaters, or ambiant background exposures, health repercussions may be especially severe." (Chapter "The body's electrical system").

So after this experiment, I barely dare sitting in front of my laptop (well, I am sitting in front of it right now, writing this post, and during most of the day, 5-7 days a week !). What can I do about that ? This is my main work tool !...
But for sure now I am going to unplug most of my electric appliances before going to bed. I'll save energy, and perhaps some years of life before getting cancers or Alzheimer's or God knows what...

3 comments:

Davy said...

Unplug anything not in use. I do not subscribe to the theories that try to create an artificial (I guess) link between EMF and cancer, but I also think that we should avoid EMF that we do not need.
And it includes electric shaver, ions producer, dryers (hair, hands & clothes), etc.
Back to good old working technology.
I am also trying to optimize computers (no need to have the processor running full speed at all time)

Cedric said...

From what I read in this book, the link between EMFs exposure and cancers is still speculative, but the possibility seems reasonable to me. I don't know what studies have been conducted on that since the book was written (1995)...

How do you optimize the processor speed on your computer ?

Davy said...

for laptops you often have settings for processor speed, fan speed, screen brightness, etc.
Try to lower the default values and see if it affects your computing experience.
If not, save these settings as default.
There are many other ways to decrease unneeded performances to save energy, but they are more advanced one (decrease the FSB of the processor, activate some specific parameters in the BIOS, decrase the hard drive max speed, etc.)