In 1911, British explorer Robert Scott wrote of similar lights glowing in dark Antarctic winter sky. Polar explorers were entranced by these luminous heavenly displays, rarely seen outside Gaia's frigid crystal ice caps. They resembled nothing ever seen on Earth—only in dreams. In Arctic North, these dancing lights are called Aurora Borealis, from Greek "Dawn of the North." At the South Pole, they're Aurora Australis—"Southern Dawn."
Science was captivated by this new discovery that in sunless dark of polar winters, ghostly lights danced in fantastic fluid tapestries. Theories were made to explain this profound mystery, but each was refuted.
Since 1904, a revolution in science has revealed much about this polar wreath of writhing rainbow glows. Artists and photographers captured these ethereal lights. Satellites now photograph the entire northern hemisphere alight in a halo of auroral display. Surveys mapped Earth's magnetic field, the chemistry of Earth's atmosphere was analyzed and telescopes monitored pulsations of solar energy. Yet, 20th century science remains mystified by these celestial visions.
Aurora are a manifestation of Gaia's magnetism. Earth is wrapped in a magnetic field—a donut-shaped enclosure that extends hundreds of miles out into space; Earth itself is at the donut's hole. Geomagnetism envelopes Earth with circular lines of flux which descend at the North Pole, penetrate through Earth's center to emerge at the South Pole, then loop out through space in vast circles that return to the North.
Geomagnetism forms a protective shield to deflect dangerous radiations away from fragile lifeforms in Gaia's biosphere. Solar winds of high energy particles sweep at our planet and are diverted by the geomagnetic field. Gaia's magnetic cloak also shapes the ionsphere, a thin upper air layer ionized by ultraviolet radiation to form the now well-known ozone layer.
Meanwhile, Sun erupts with flares—gigantic tongues of flaming plasma which shoot thousands of miles into space. These solar plumes emit bursts of charged particles to create shockwaves in the solar wind which bombards our planet. Geomagnetic turblence this generates interferes significantly with radio and satellite communications, as well as powerlines and defense systems.
During solar storms, gusts of charged particles captured in geomagnetism spiral along flux lines to ice capped poles. Only 20 years ago science found that as captive electron beams stream through polar air, they collide with gas molecules to ionize atoms, causing them to glow in momentary energy release. The invisible becomes visible—Gaia's magnetic cloak revealed in luminous glory as solar storms stream energy pulses through Earth's polar vortexes.
Thus Gaia's twin auroral wreaths are children of heaven and earth. Both Gaia's magnetic mantle and Sol's bursts of electric particles are needed to ignite auroral displays. However, this explains the Aurora as effectively as a switch explains the workings of TV.
Only 75 years before Nansen's vision of serpents writhing in arctic heavens, Joseph Henry was teaching natural philosophy in Albany, NY, one block from the NY Capitol. In 1829 Henry built the first electric motor—a revolving machine driven by magnetic induction from electric current. Every dynamo and motor uses Henry's exact design. In 1831 Henry published his Theory of Magnetic Induction, and The Electric Age was born.
By the time Nansen logged his Auroral vision, across the Atlantic Ocean, George Westinghouse was building two 5,000 kilowatt generators to harness Niagara Falls. Civilization was being electrified; with oil and iron, electromagnetism (EM) transformed the world.
Today, America is crisscrossed by spiderwebs supplying electricity to millions of factories and homes with dozens of lights, motors, appliances, and gadgets. At night billions of street lights, stop lights and neon ads drive back the dark. Radio, telephones, TV, and computers revolutionized science, business and communications. Microwaves cook fast food and beam wideband data channels to distant sites via orbiting satellite. Radar tracks movement on earth or in air, including electric cars with cellular phones and CB radios.
In 1982, Robert Becker and Andrew Marino, leading medical researchers in bioelectromagnetics, published Electromagnetism and Life, whose Preface stated: "But the coin has another side. The environment is now thoroughly polluted by man-made EM with frequencies and magnitudes never before present. Man's activities probably changed earth's EM background to a greater degree than any other natural attribute—whether land, water or atmosphere. Evidence indicates abnormal EM environments constitute a health risk. Today, interest in all facets of this is at an unprecedented pitch."
The pitch went up a full octave in June 1989 with publication of Currents of Death by Paul Brodeur in The New Yorker magazine.
Transforming Public Health
In spring 1974, Dr. Nancy Wertheimer began surveying homes in Denver, Colorado. In 1954, she'd recieved a PhD from Harvard and Radcliffe in experimental psychology. In 1968, the U.S. Department of Health, Education and Welfare awarded her a grant for an epidemiological study of childhood leukemia, but divorce and family forced her to turn the grant down. Six years later she resumed her
study with the idea leukemia might be linked to environmental or infectious factors. Therefore, she searched for any clustering among victims.
Colorado Department of Vital Statistics supplied addresses of every Denver child who died of leukemia from 1950 to 1969. She visited each home to note a few environmental conditions: apartment or house; number of stories; building materials; proximity to highways and factories; etc. Her field survey detected no unusual clustering, but one day she noticed yet another black cylinder hanging on a pole beside a victim's house. Nancy didn't see any import to this until she saw a news photo of a farmboy holding a fluorescent tube under a 345 kilovolt (kv) powerline—the bulb lit by EM from the line.
Plotting leukemia victims on a map of Denver power substations showed only a faint correlation, so she returned to the field to note proximity of powerlines, transformers and substations. This revealed a definite pattern: with notable frequency, victims lived in the first or second house nearest a pole-mounted transformer.
In fall 1974, Nancy took her data to physicist Ed Leeper, who thought this wasn't due to electric fields, which are uniform regardless of distance from a transformer, but maybe magnetic fields, which decrease rapidly with distance. Also, an electric field is easily insulated and shielded, but magnetism penetrates anything, including metal, lead, steel, concrete—and human skin.
In December 1974, using a crude magnetic detector made by Leeper, Nancy determined magnetic fields drop off sharply after the second pole beyond a transformer, not the transformer itself. Ed Leeper reasoned high current in first span of lines generates this strong magnetic field.
In 1975, Nancy compared field measures of magnetism with addresses of childhood leukemia. Results showed disproportionate leukemias in homes near powerlines called secondaries. Later Ed made a gaussmeter to accurately measure 60 hertz (hz) magnetism, and Nancy found some primaries with fields as strong as secondaries.
In 1976, Nancy coded wire configurations near homes to study all childhood cancers in Denver from 1950 to 1973. This analysis upheld her prediction: children near high-current powerlines had twice the cancer death rate of those in low-current homes. Even more persuasive: kids who spent their entire life in high-current homes show the strongest association, and six who lived near power substations all died of cancer.
Not satisfied her findings weren't accidental, she spent 1977-8 reanalyzing her data for co-factors such as pollution or traffic. Only then did she and Leeper publish Electrical Wiring Configurations and Childhood Cancer in the March 1979 Amer. Journal of Epidemiology. It began: "Domestic power lines are taken for granted and assumed harmless. However, this assumption has never been adequately tested. Low-level harmful effects could be missed, yet might be important for the population as a whole, since electric lines are so ubiquitous. [Our] study suggests, in fact, children who develop cancer are unduly often near high current electric lines."
However, medicine and science dismissed their report, since no experimental evidence or known means shows powerline magnetism to alters cell metabolism or causes cancer. In Nancy's own words, "One of four or five families live in what our study characterizes high-current. The very idea electric wiring in every American town and city may be hazardous seemed—well, unbelievable."
Yet, Nancy Wertheimer had stumbled on the tail of the Dragon.
In ELF Defense
The U.S. Navy became interested in Extremely Low Frequency (ELF) in 1958 to communicate with submerged submarines, since ELF will penetrate seawater. In 1968 they buried 28 miles of insulated cable above granite bedrock near Clam Lake, Wisconsin to test an ELF radio antenna. Soon after Navy proposed Project Sanguine—a 22,500 square mile grid of 6,000 miles of cable buried in north Wisconsin and Michigan's Upper Peninsula. This would create a global 76 hz ELF field extending up to the ionosphere to reflect ELF signals into the sea.
People living near the Clam Lake test site reported getting electric shocks from water faucets, telephones and ordinary wire fences. Claiming Navy's ELF antenna generated these stray voltages, residents in the region opposed Project Sanguine.
Navy insisted ELF causes no harmful effects, and is no different than 60 hz powerlines, even though ELF research cast doubt on claims Sanguine's high power ELF was safe. So in 1973 Navy's Bureau of Medicine and Surgery formed a seven man Science Advisory Committee to review research on ELF biological effects. Dr. Robert Becker was appointed to the panel, and on Dec. 6, 1973 he learned:
- Naval Aerospace Medical Research Lab found significant increases in serum triglycerides (stg), a warning of stress, in blood
samples of nine of ten volunteers exposed to low intensity magnetism;.
- abnormally high stg was found in six of eight Sanguine test site workers.
- UCLA Brain Research Institute found monkeys exposed to ELF had decreased motor response, warning of adverse behavioral effects.
- Naval Air Development Center found ELF exposed rats gain weight less readily.
- One study showed longterm ELF exposure retarded chicken embryo growth.
- Another with AC magnetic fields produced disorientation in gull chicks.
On December 7, the panel strongly recommended "urgent and absolutely necessary" studies of ELF effects, and, "since the immune system is a critical defense mechanism, it behooves Project Sanguine to investigate immune mechanisms during and after ELF exposure." They voted unanimously that the EMR Management Advisory Council (ERMAC) "be apprised of the findings and their possible significance to the large population at risk exposed to 60 hz fields from powerlines." ERMAC was set up in 1968 by the President's Office of Telecommunications to advise on biological hazards of radio-frequency radiation.
Navy compiled these recommendations in a 31 page report marked "For Official Use Only," thus suppressing them. The warning to ERMAC of 60 hz power risks went undelivered.
The Carrington Event
strongest geomagnetic storm
Named for Richard Carrington, British astronomer who saw the instigating solar flare by unaided eye in a solar image projected on a white screen.
Geomagnetic activity triggered by the flare electrified telegraph lines, shocked technicians, set papers on fire. Northern Lights spread south as far as Cuba and Hawaii. Aurora over the Rockies were so bright, the glow woke campers, who prepared breakfast because they thought it was morning.
Carrington Event estimates rank 50+% stronger than the May 1921 superstorm.
Navy stubbed its toe on the Dragon—and chose to cover it up—the moral equivalent of shooting a patient in the spleen to avoid telling him he has cancer.
Becker left Washington DC December 7 for his Adirondack retreat near Lowville, New York. There the newspaper said the Power Authority of the State of New York (PASNY) planned a 765 kv powerline just a few miles from his lodge.
The same year Wertheimer began her study, farmers in New York and Minnesota were fighting construction of a new generation of powerlines. Utilities needed bigger transmission lines for their bigger—often nuclear—power plants, so they proposed lines to carry 765,000 volts. Previously the highest-voltage line was 345 kv. PASNY wanted to build several 150 mile long 765 kv powerlines from the NY-Canada border to central NY to carry power from north Quebec's James Bay hydroelectric project. And Niagara Mohawk (NiMo) and Rochester Gas & Electric (RG&E) proposed a 765 kv line from nuclear plants near Oswego to Rochester 66 miles west.
The lines would pass through prime farmland. Landowners battled against them, concerned for negative health effects the giant lines might have, such as electric shocks and stray ground currents. To dramatize this, they stood under 345 kv lines holding fluorescent lights—bulbs lit from EM generated by the line. One such photo got Wertheimer's eye to spark her interest in powerlines and leukemia.
Fate had it, too, the PASNY line would pass by Becker's Adirondack retreat. After reading of the line on his return from the
Navy ELF panel, Becker did the extraordinary: he wrote New York's Environmental Conservation Commissioner and Public Service Commission (PSC) Chairman that the ELF panel concluded the public may be at risk from exposure to EM "lower than those along the proposed 765 kv line."
Becker, a leading medical researcher of EM effects in living cells, got a medical degree from New York University, and in 1956 was appointed chief of orthopedics at the Syracuse Veterans Administration Hospital. His 1960s work with salamanders revealed limb regeneration involves electric currents associated with nerves. He could increase or retard limb regeneration with external electric fields. In a dramatic study he used electricity to induce a rat to regenerate a severed limb. Becker became concerned if EM increases benign cell growth, it may affect malignancy, too.
Becker induced deep anesthesia in salamanders using strong magnetic fields, then added to discoveries that bone fractures heal with electric stimulation. He explored effects of external magnetic fields, including Earth's, on brainwaves, and in 1963 showed a relation between psychiatric admissions and solar magnetic storms. In 1965, he exposed volunteers to pulsed magnetic fields similar to magnetic storms, and found significant changes in reaction time. Becker became concerned those fields are in the same ELF range as Earth's, to which our human body is attuned by its long evolution. They're also the same range used in electric power distribution.
By 1972 Becker had enough evidence to warn the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers of danger from "continuous exposure to EM able to induce currents or voltages comparable to those now known in biological control systems." He called urgently for study of human exposure to ELF EM. In 1973 he was appointed to the Navy ELF advisory panel.
In July 1974, a PSC lawyer asked Becker and his associate Andrew Marino to testify at hearings. This meant they must prepare written reports and submit to cross-exams without compensation. Hearings dragged, and in February 1976, PSC bowed to NY Governor Carey and authorized construction of the PASNY line. That left how wide to make the right-of-way (ROW), and whether to approve the Oswego line. Finally, in June 1976, hearings began. Becker was the only medical doctor to appear as a witness. Experts for PASNY, NiMo and RG&E testified that EM presents no biological hazards.
Marino filed a brief urging PSC to protect not only against EM from proposed 765 kv powerlines, but also existing 345 kv lines. Research showed 1500 volts per meter (vpm) affects exposed animals, while electric fields at the edge of the 150 foot ROW of 345 kv lines is 1600 vpm. Marino felt a chronic human exposure limit should be 100 vpm—much lower—and warned strong pulsating magnetic fields of power lines are "totally new and unique with respect to evolution on earth."
In January 1978, judges decided "continuous long-term, repeated exposure to electric fields exceeding 2500 vpm might result in biological effects that might be harmful." They set electric exposure limit at 1000 vpm at one meter above ground. Thus a 765 kv ROW would be 350 feet wide rather than the 250 feet proposed by utilities. They set no standard for magnetic fields.
PSC staff were critical, pointing to 32 studies cited by Marino—nine are "a solid body of evidence powerline electric fields cause biological effects in humans." PSC staff urged a 400 vpm limit, required notice of risk to residents adjacent to a ROW, and purchase or relocation of any house within 275 feet of a ROW centerline.
In June 1978, PSC's 74 page decision affirmed powerline EM creates "unrefuted inferences of possible risk we can't ignore. Effects can't be presumed harmless." PSC criticized utilities for failing to replicate Marino's experiments, but instead waging "vigorous efforts to discredit him more suitable to slander than science."
PSC's dilemma was an exposure level for 765 kv lines calls into question the ROW for existing 345 kv lines. Rather than challenge this, PSC set an electric field limit for 765 kv lines same as 345 kv lines—1,600 vpm—reasoning this "assures risks, if any, of exposure to 765 kv lines will not be greater than those widely accepted of 345 kv lines." A dubious rationale and bad compromise. Nonetheless, for the first time a regulatory agency questioned powerline effects on humans. But once again, no standard was set for magnetic exposure.
However, PSC noted the poor understanding of ELF biological effects, and called for utilities to fund research by independent scientists. PASNY sued, claiming PSC had no authority to require research as part of approving a powerline. In 1979 NY's Supreme Court upheld PASNY, but in 1980 the utilities agreed to provide $5 million for a five year NYS Powerlines Project. In 1981 a ten member scientific advisory board was selected to oversee the Project.
Utilities became entangled in the Dragon's invisible coils. Unwilling to face the deeper implications of these warnings, they struck out at the messengers who bore the bad news.
Navy wasn't the only military agency suppressing EM data. In May 1978, the Air Force had commissioned the National Academy of Sciences to evaluate PAVE PAWS radar to predict how much people living near radar would be irradiated. Two committees were formed: an engineering panel to evaluate radiation predictions, and another to evaluate biological effects.
Low-level EM studies showed changes in brain bio-electricity and chemistry, and immune systems at levels far below those able to heat tissue. One 1962 study found mice irradiated with microwave radar developed leukemia 3.5 times as often as controls. FDA's Bureau of Radiological Health called this "the most discomfiting finding in available literature." People living near radar were guinea pigs in an in vivo experiment.
In Jan. 1980 Dr. Ross Adey of UCLA's Brain Research Institute spoke on biological effects of microwaves at the Amer. Assoc. for the Advancement of Science's annual meeting. Studies showed magnetism pulsed at 15 or 72 hz altered parathroid hormone action to trigger adenylate cyclase, a cell membrane enzyme crucial to forming new bone. External EM is too weak to alter cell chemistry, so cell membranes must sense weak EM to trigger changes in cell behavior. Adey pointed out this EM is similar to radar, and blasted the Air Force for failure to honestly assess its EM emission risks.
By 1982 Adey showed how 450 MHz radar modulated at 60 hz greatly reduced T-lymphocyte activity to kill cultured cancer cells. Adey's associate Daniel Lyle replicated the study using powerline 60 hz, and found major declines in T-lymphocyte activity. A 1983 report noted smaller effects occur at 40, 16 and three hz. This had serious implications for millions of people living near powerlines.
Under pressure, Air Force gave $4 million to study long-term effects of low-level microwaves. Profs. Guy and Chou, engineers at Univ. of Washington Bioelectromagnetics Lab, exposed 100 rats to continuous low level microwaves for two years to examine effects on blood chemistry, body weight and behavior. Results released in Aug. 1984 were shocking: 16 malignant tumors in exposed rats versus only four in controls; seven in exposed rats were endocrine, one in controls.
In 1983 Craig Byrus, biomedicine professor at U. of California at Riverside, exposed human tonsil lymphcytes to low level 450 MHz modulated at ELF from three to 100 hz for up to 60 minutes. He found protein-kinase enzymes became inacive at specific frequencies between 16 and 60 hz; protein-kinase C is a receptor for cancer-promoting substances. Printed in 1984 in Bioelectromagnetics, this raised disturbing questions about effects of ELF and microwaves on the human immune system, our first line of defense against cancer. Our national defense's EM sensing technology was now implicated in damage to our personal biological defenses.
Decade of Denial
New insight into the effects of high current magnetism provoked hefty undercurrents. Utilities, military and government reacted with harsh vindictiveness against evidence of ELF effects, and also scientists whose testimony shone light on this invisible enigma. Like the three monkeys, they could see, hear and speak no evil. Becker and Marino learned magnetism isn't the only invisible force in our political society. In 1982 they wrote in Electromagnetics and Life, "This earned us the opposition of an impressive array of individuals and organizations who tried, like ancient King Canute, to command the tide of experimental studies to turn." It was high tide; a trickle of research in the 70s became a flood in the 80s.
In 1980, Wertheimer applied for a National Institutes of Health grant to study adult cancer and high current magnetism. It was rejected, but on her own Nancy collected 1,179 cancer cases from 1967-75 in Boulder, Longmont, Denver, and suburbs. For two summers she visited each home to classify by a refined wire configuration code. As she plodded along, a host of others emerged.
In June 1982, Swedish medical officer Dr. Lennart Tomenius reported on 716 child cancers in Stockholm, where most power is delivered at 50 hz in 200 kv buried cables. He measured AC magnetism at each home's door to find an average of 2.2 milligauss (mgs). Twice as many children with cancer lived near 200 kv lines, and where magnetism is over 3 mgs, cancer is twice as frequent. This was published in 1986 in Bioelectromagnetics.
July 1982, New England Journal of Medicine printed a letter from Dr. Milham, physician and epidemiologist in the Washington Dept. of Social & Health Services. He reviewed 430,000 deaths from 1950-79 to find leukemia more prevalent in occupations with EM exposure. Of 11 occupations with higher than normal leukemia, ten were linked to EM exposure.
In November 1982, respected British medical journal The Lancet reported a U. of So. California School of Medicine study found acute leukemia and acute myeloid leukemia is significantly higher among power and telephone linemen in Los Angeles.
In January 1983, The Lancet published a study of English and Welsh electrical workers by Michael MacDowell, epidemiologist in London's Office of Population Census and Surveys, which found consistently higher death from acute myeloid leukemia among electrical occupations. The Lancet editorial, noting this supported findings by USC, Milham and Wertheimer, said, "All of us are exposed to low level EM. It's important to know what risks, if any, are entailed."
Spin the Tale on the Dragon
reviews the 1980s' accelerating revelations into unforseen hazards of EM technologies. Also revealed were astonishing discoveries of magnetism's hitherto unknown role in biology, ecology and psychology. But Part 2 is also a spinning reflection through the looking glass of Science into a waveform world to bring us face-to-phase with the true nature of our dilemma.
A 1984 Maryland brain tumor study from 1969-82 found greater occurence in electrical occupations. Other studies found excess leukemia in electric workers in New Zealand, Canada and southeast England, and U.S. coal miners. A 1988 brain cancer study in East Texas men from 1969-78 found much greater risk in communications and utilities; risk for utility workers was 13 times greater.
By 1986, when Wertheimer and Leeper published "Adult Cancer Related to Electric Wires Near Homes" in the International Journal of Epidemiology, 15 of 17 studies showed associations between cancer and EM exposure. Cancer of the nervous system, uterus, breast, lymphoma, and leukemia occur more frequently among people living near high current lines. Nancy wrote, "Homes of cancer patients outnumber controls most clearly in the very-high-current category. The association is clear and highly significant for cancer in adults before age 55. [Data] suggests a dose relationship may exist between alternating magnetic exposures and cancer."
Clearly something was happening. Here was repeated, credible evidence of public health hazards associated with EM exposure, but the effect had an unknown cause. Fingers of evidence in this mystery pointed at magnetism, but no one could explain how low-level magnetism causes cell disorder or disease.