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Health Dangers from Electromagnetic Radiation confirmed in Californian research

An interview with Dr Neil Cherry

Dorothy - 24/12/02

Dr Neil Cherry
Dr Neil Cherry
A major review on the health effects of electromagnetic fields on workers and residents has been produced by the California State Public Health Department and represents nine years of research. It was made public in 2002. This report cost about US$7M. The research team was headed by three epidemiologists from the California Health Department.

A draft review report was sent around the world to independent epidemiologists and industry-connected epidemiologists asking them to assess the level of evidence for each of the health effects they were looking at.

Meetings with staff at the University of Berne
Dr Cherry learnt about the research when in Switzerland last October during interviews with Professor Theo Abelin, one of the world's leading epidemiologists and an independent academic. He has recently retired from the University of Berne where he taught and researched preventative and social medicine. Professor Abelin mentioned to Dr Cherry that he was one of the epidemiologists from around the world working through the report and giving a professional opinion on it.

At the University of Berne Dr Cherry found that researchers there were unaware of the extent of his own research. They asked him, in the context of other discussions, about the number of studies that showed chromosome damage, melatonin reduction or DNA damage, and were amazed at how many studies he had showing those effects that were shown in their own research on sleep around the short wave radio tower in Schwarzenburg.

They had also done a study of brain cancer and leukaemia in electric train drivers and found a significant relationship between the electromagnetic fields in the trains and the drivers with leukaemia or brain cancer. They asked about the biological mechanisms and were very surprised that Dr Cherry had available information about so many studies supporting their results. This is just one example of the way in which he has integrated the knowledge reported by researchers and been able to share it with colleagues around the world.

Some important interconnections omitted from the review from California
This is a major review of the published evidence on the dangers of electromagnetic radiation. Dr Cherry considers that it is very good that on the one hand they have said that there is very strong evidence of an increase in the rates of child leukaemia, adult brain cancer, Lou Gehrig's disease which is motor neurone disease, and miscarriage. On the other hand they do not appreciate and understand that these fields are genotoxic and reduce melatonin and damage DNA, which are the mechanisms behind these accepted effects and dozens of other effects which they dismiss. They do not appreciate the interconnections.

For example the evidence is very strong about cardiac illness and death, because if the heart cells are damaged heart disease results - but this is not accepted in the report. Nor does the review accept the strong evidence for the connection between electromagnetic fields and depression and suicide which are both caused by reduced melatonin. Both have been shown to have increased significantly in electricity workers or people living near power lines in a dose response manner. These two mechanisms also affect the immune system and this has an effect on asthma which was shown to be affected by power lines in Auckland, New Zealand Anxiety, depression and other neurological illnesses were similarly affected. The published paper recording this research is by Ivan Beale et al. 1997. Ivan Beale was Associate Professor Psychology at the University of Auckland and until recently the independent member of the Standards Committee. When he resigned Dr Cherry took his place as an independent academic.

In all the studies the severity of the illness is dose related. In the context of all the other evidence the illnesses are causally related to the exposure to electromagnetic fields.

The American Electric Utility Workers Studies have shown dose-response increases in cardiac death, suicide, leukaemia, and brain cancer.

Having collected so many studies Dr Cherry is more aware than many of the researchers of the integration of the discoveries - how the scientific pattern is explained if the connecting mechanisms are understood. The data is assessed in a more open manner making clear cause and effect to anyone who understands how factors interact.

Dr Cherry believes that his approach is nearer to that of people who study chemicals and will say that some chemicals are carcinogenic and study those needing classification by looking at the known data. If there is evidence that exposed workers get more cancer then they would say "Yes, what they are exposed to is carcinogenic."

Dr Cherry says, "People will say that chemicals are different because you can see and smell and taste them, but I can see in my mind these electromagnetic fields because I am very aware of them as a scientist. I can measure them and I can see the wires that produce them. I can see the DNA damage and the melatonin reduction occurring, and therefore I can see how the heart, the brain, the lungs and the immune system are affected, how the bone marrow is affected producing lymphoma and leukaemia. Thus I have the same approach as the people looking at chemicals because I know the biological mechanisms that produce all these health effects.

"People don't realise that just because there is strong evidence of childhood leukaemia, brain cancer, miscarriage and motor neurone disease which the review from California accepts, these are not separate effects, but linked effects, along with many others."

To read more about Dr Neil Cherry and his work, please visit his website for more information.

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