Around your home there are countless gadgets whose electrical fields,
scientists now warn, are linked to depression, miscarriage and cancer
Invisible "smog", created by the electricity that powers
our civilization, is giving children cancer, causing miscarriages and suicides
and making some people allergic to modern life, new scientific evidence reveals.
The evidence - which is being taken seriously by national and international
bodies and authorities - suggests that almost everyone is being exposed to a
new form of pollution with countless sources in daily use in every home.
Two official Department of Health reports on the smog are to be presented to
ministers next month, and the Health Protection Agency (HPA) has recently held
the first meeting of an expert group charged with developing advice to the public
on the threat.
The UN's World Health Organisation (WHO) calls the electronic smog "one
of the most common and fastest growing environmental influences" and stresses
that it "takes seriously" concerns about the health effects. It adds
that "everyone in the world" is exposed to it and that "levels
will continue to increase as technology advances".
Wiring creates electrical fields, one component of the smog, even when nothing
is turned on. And all electrical equipment - from TVs to toasters - give off
another one, magnetic fields. The fields rapidly decrease with distance but
appliances such as hair dryers and electric shavers, used close to the head,
can give high exposures. Electric blankets and clock radios near to beds produce
even higher doses because people are exposed to them for many hours while sleeping.
Radio frequency fields - yet another component - are emitted by microwave ovens,
TV and radio transmitters, mobile phone masts and phones themselves, also used
close to the head.
The WHO says that the smog could interfere with the tiny natural electrical
currents that help to drive the human body. Nerves relay signals by transmitting
electric impulses, for example, while the use of electrocardiograms testify
to the electrical activity of the heart.
Campaigners have long been worried about exposure to fields from lines carried
by electric pylons but, until recently, their concerns were dismissed, even
ridiculed, by the authorities.
But last year a study by the official National Radiological Protection Board
concluded that children living close to the lines are more likely to get leukaemia,
and ministers are considering whether to stop any more homes being built near
them. The discovery is causing a large-scale reappraisal of the hazards of the
The International Agency for Research on Cancer - part of the WHO and the leading
international organisation on the disease - classes the smog as a "possible
human carcinogen". And Professor David Carpenter, dean of the School of
Public Health at the State University of New York, told The Independent on Sunday
last week that it was likely to cause up to 30 per cent of all childhood cancers.
A report by the California Health Department concludes that it is also likely
to cause adult leukaemia, brain cancers and possibly breast cancer and could
be responsible for a 10th of all miscarriages.
Professor Denis Henshaw, professor of human radiation effects at Bristol University,
says that "a huge and substantive body of evidence indicates a range of
adverse health effects". He estimates that the smog causes some 9,000 cases
Perhaps strangest of all, there is increasing evidence that the smog causes
some people to become allergic to electricity, leading to nausea, pain, dizziness,
depression and difficulties in sleeping and concentrating when they use electrical
appliances or go near mobile phone masts. Some are so badly affected that they
have to change their lifestyles.
While not yet certain how it is caused, both the WHO and the HPA accept that
the condition exists, and the UN body estimates that up to three in every 100
people are affected by it.
Case History: 'I felt I was going into meltdown'
Until a year ago, Sarah Dacre reckoned she had a "blessed life".
Running her own company, and living in an expensive north London home, the high-earning
divorcee described herself as "fab, fit and 40s". Then suddenly the
sight in her right eye failed: she first noticed it when she was unable to read
an A-Z map. Soon she was getting pains and numbness in her joints. She could
not sleep and spent nights "pacing about like a caged lion". Her short-term
memory failed and if she took notes to remind her, she would forget she had
The symptoms got worse whenever she was exposed to electricity. She could not
use a computer for more than five minutes without becoming nauseous. Even using
a telephone landline gave her a buzzing in the ear and made her feel she was
"going into meltdown".