We are slowly beginning to understand the health risks associated with exposure to non-ionizing Electromagnetic Fields (EMFs), such as those emitted by communication equipment, microwaves and laptops. More concerning is that these health risks can manifest over a much shorter latency period than previously thought.
Research undertaken by scientists from Hebrew University, Israel, have shown that latency periods for developing cancer can be extremely short in workers who perform occupational tasks where they are exposed to intense Electromagnetic Fields (EMFs) or when this exposure continues over a prolonged period. While past studies have described some of the cancer risks associated with high EMF exposure in the workplace, none of these studies looked at the short latency periods associated with high levels of exposure.
Dr Yael Stein, lead author of the study which was published in the European Journal of Oncology, is a researcher based at the Hebrew University’s Braun School of Public Heath, where she is researching and modeling sources of EMF exposure and how EMF penetrates the human body.
Over a twenty year period between 1990–2010 the Unit of Occupational and Environmental Medicine treated 47 cancer patients that had been exposed to EMFs in the workplace. Most of the patients were exposed to EMFs while serving in the military – the duration of exposure ranged between five months to thirty-three years. In fifteen of the patients the latency period was under 5 years, and for 12 of the patients the latency period was 5-10 years.
Occupational EMF Exposure
Workers that are particularly vulnerable include those that are subjected to high EMF exposure while repairing radar equipment; spending long hours in vehicles fitted with electronic tele-communications equipment, radios and antennas; carrying tele-communications equipment such as radios on a backpack or belt on the waist for long periods; or when based in a ‘situation room’ packed with radios and other communication equipment, or even an office that is situated in close proximity to an antenna that transmits powerful radio signals.
The majority of patients were between 20-25 years of age, and exhibited very short latency periods. In the group that developed cancer within 5 years of exposure, 8 cases were haematolymphatic cancers, while 9 patients had solid tumors in either the testis, neck and head (including the brain), and digestive tract. Two of the patients had two primary forms of cancer.
“These young men and women are the nation’s eyes and ears,” stated co-author, Prof. Richter, in a letter to Israel’s attorney general. “Our results state the case for protecting those who are protecting us. This means recognizing their risks now and taking action to protect them from high exposures to Radio Frequency/microwaves.”
Hazards of Non-Ionizing EMF Radiation
According to Lloyd Morgan of the Environmental Health Trust, a U.S. scientific watchdog group, “The importance of this paper cannot be overstated. It suggests that a shift is required towards a new paradigm that non-ionizing radiation could be a universal carcinogen similar to ionizing radiation.”
This research highlights the importance of improving our understanding of EMFs as potent carcinogens so that we can implement improved measures to protect ourselves against them.
Contrary to conventional wisdom, this study shows that people who have prolonged exposure to non-ionizing EMFs can develop various forms of cancer within a relatively short timeframe. However, it is not only military personnel that are at risk of occupational exposure to EMFs. Anyone who uses a laptop, tablet or cellphone – whether at work, home or play – is exposed to EMF radiation at levels that can pose a health risk. Since they are used close to the body on a daily basis, often for long periods at a time, EMF exposure can be significant and dangerous if no protective EMF shield is used.