Book Review: Dirty Electricity
By Dr. Alison Adams, Contributor
Electrification and the Diseases of Civilization by Samuel Milham MD, MPH, iUnverse Inc, 2010
This book is a fairly slim volume of just under 100 pages. In the opening chapters, the author, now in his eighties, charts his early life and the career choices that led him to study both medicine and to do a Master’s degree in public health.
His experiences as a young medic encouraged him to want to seek to identify and treat the causes of illness using epidemiology rather than treating the diseases after-the-fact as a practicing doctor.
He was inspired by the likes of John Snow who successfully identified cholera as being spread by contaminated water supplies. This led to the underlying cause being addressed and this eliminated the twin plagues of cholera and typhoid ultimately affecting the lives of millions of people. More recently, the identifying of the disease pellagra as being niacin and protein deficiency has led to effective prevention and treatment.
He felt as a young doctor and still feels now that good epidemiology could prevent a lot of the ills of our age. A belief strengthened over the years by his work linking the incidence of many illnesses, but especially cancer, to electromagnetic fields (EMFs) using epidemiological techniques.
Occupational health statistics
Dr Milham spent much of his career working for the Washington State Department of Health compiling and analysing data related to the incidence of occupational diseases.
Some of his work on Occupational Mortality Statistics is still available online at https://fortress.wa.gov/doh/occmort/. Click on your gender, occupation and All causes of death or the particular disease you want to investigate and click enter to find out more about the health profile of your occupation.
Once this data was compiled, analysis revealed that pilots died in plane crashes, loggers were crushed by falling trees, roofers fell, power linemen were electrocuted, rock miners died of silicosis, asbestos and insulation workers died of lung cancer and pleural mesothelioma and funeral directors and embalmers of leukaemia. All of which made him confident that the data gathering and analysis processes used were effective.
As he began to tease out the causes of many illnesses using epidemiological statistical analysis, he found that:
Workers handling weapons grade plutonium contracted multiple mesothelioma
Aluminium reactor plant workers got leukaemia and lymphoma
Electrical workers and amateur radio operators died of leukaemia
Secretaries using electrical typewriters had a higher rate of breast cancer and
Marines had elevated levels of male breast cancer.
The unifiying factor in these disparate conditions is that all these workers had been occupationally exposed to unusual levels of electromagnetic radiation in various forms. This started to pique his interest in the effects of electromagnetic (EM) fields on human health and this is addressed in more detail below. First, however, he makes observations about other diseases and speculates as to their cause using the techniques at his disposal.
The cause of multiple sclerosis
Analysis of the data relating to multiple sclerosis (MS) showed that it was more common in indoor workers, suggesting that it might be related to vitamin D deficiency. This theory is supported by the fact that there is a nearly perfect correlation between MS incidence and increasing latitude.
This means that people in increasingly northern or southern countries experience more multiple sclerosis than those living nearer the equator. That is, with the sole exception of those countries with a high oily fish consumption (oily fish contains vitamin D) who have a low MS rate.
Whilst called a vitamin, vitamin D is really a powerful hormone which is almost absent from the diet except in fatty fish and fish oils. Sunlight falling on our skin generates vitamin D, and we have evolved with the sun and ultraviolet radiation and an hour in tropical sun will generate approximately 10,000 IUs of vitamin D.
However, the use of sunscreens recommended to prevent skin cancer and ageing have cut the amount of vitamin D synthesised in the skin dramatically in recent decades.
The recommended dose is now 400 IU a day, which the author feels is woefully short of the more reasonable dose of 3,800 IU a day that he suggests. As a result, Dr Milham thinks that multiple sclerosis may be a vitamin D deficiency disease – just like rickets.
The health profile of fire-fighters
An analysis of the health record of fire-fighters revealed that they have high rates of leukaemia, multiple myeloma, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, male breast cancer, malignant melanoma and cancer.
The conclusion it would be easy to reach is that they are exposed to many different carcinogens in flame retardants and combustion products, but this is not supported by an increase in the pattern of respiratory cancers.
Instead, he suggests that many of the cancers witnessed are caused by radio frequencies emanating from the mobile two-way devices and pagers used and also the radio transmitters in the fire vehicles and the masts often cited on fire stations. If he is right, he feels that much of this disease is preventable.
Adrenal gland tumours and electrification
Different body tissues are vulnerable to specific wavelengths and he concludes that exposure to electromagnetic radiation causes the body to mount an immune response and when this chronic immune stimulation becomes exhausted that cancer and other degenerative illnesses may be the end result.
Rat experiments certainly support this hypothesis and so does the incidence of a benign tumour of the adrenal medulla known as pheochromocytoma. Hospitalisations for this condition in Washington State in the 20 years to 2007 quadrupled, with a near trebling from the year 2000 when the use of cell phones become ubiquitous.
The odd circumstance of radial tires
One day, by mistake, Dr Milham accidentally turned on his magnetic field meter whilst driving and was surprised to find that fields were especially high near his left foot. He eliminated the engine as the cause and found the fields were coming from the spinning radial tires which nearly all contain a mile of steel wire.
Running a compass over the tread of the tire the needle span and he concluded that the steel belted radial rotating tires acted as the spinning magnet required to generate electromagnetic fields.
Some specialist meters are calibrated to detect frequencies in the fairly narrow bandwidth currently known to be detrimental to human health around 60 KHz. However, these meters will routinely miss fields below 30 KHz and above 300 KHz, which his cheaper meter detected in this circumstance.
He found that the rotating tyre generated about 10 Hz magnetic field and that a child sitting in the back seat of a car for an hour would therefore be exposed to higher EM radiation levels than during a typical 24 hour period at home.
The expert witness business
Dr Milham also relates his experiences of working as an expert witness – usually for the ‘little guy’ – and of the other highly paid expert witnesses on the circuit. As he points out, these witnesses were often engaged by the utility companies using their customer’s money to defend the company from their customers, which he felt was unfair.
He claims that this line of work is very lucrative, with some expert witnesses pocketing up to a quarter of a million dollars a year in addition to secure academic salaries. In particular, he was baffled as to how one particular expert witness he was often pitted against could say the things that he did until after his death when he discovered that he had been in the employ of a large pharmaceutical company.
Investigating ‘cancer schools’
Hearing of Dr Milham’s interest in the effects of electromagnetic radiation, one of the teachers at La Quinta Middle School, California invited him to investigate an unusual cluster of 16 teachers affected by cancer and 3 deaths from cancer out of a total of 137 teachers.
The school had already conducted an EMF survey that it considered adequate and whilst initially cooperative, when Dr Milham’s findings uncovered an issue with ‘dirty’ electricity – or contamination of the electricity supply – the school management became decidedly hostile.
Having taken standard EMF and dirty electricity meter readings in each classroom, he then analysed the rota and worked out which rooms the affected teachers had spent the most time in. One classroom in particular showed very high dirty electricity meter readings which were approximately seven times the normal average. Roughly a third of the classrooms had high levels of dirty electricity and he speculates that this may have been from a substation a mile away.
He found that the general cancer risk at the school was three times that expected, and that the risk of malignant melanoma, thyroid cancer and uterine cancer were all in excess of nine times the levels that could be expected. Furthermore, that two-thirds of the cancer risk could be attributable to the dirty electricity exposure and that a single year of employment in the room with the highest dirty electricity meter reading increased cancer risk by 26%.
As has happened many times subsequently, the school either were not interested in his findings or were afraid of the implications with regards to employee liability and he met with a defensive wall. As a consequence of the school’s intransigence, many of the staff have now left and the new staff are unaware of the issue.
Hearing of his involvement at La Quinta Middle School, staff from another school which had 12 out of 75 members of staff suffering with cancer, Vista del Monte Elementary School, Palm Springs, contacted him. Dr Milham found dirty electricity meter readings roughly twice those of La Quinta Middle School.
This school actually had a cell phone tower in the grounds and he found the readings were highest in the rooms closest to the tower and decreased in direct proportion to the distance from the tower.
One member of staff who had poorly controlled type II diabetes which required regular insulin injections and oral medication took early retirement after requiring a leg amputation. Interestingly, his blood sugar levels rapidly stabilised when he was no longer working at the school.
Research by Dr Magda Havas had shown that radiation from Digital Enhanced Cordless Telecommunication (DECT) phones causes instant changes in heart rate and rhythm in some individuals. She has also shown that dirty electricity causes raised blood glucose levels and insulin requirements in diabetics and it may be this mechanism that ultimately takes its toll on the heart and accounts for the increase in cardiovascular disease observed.
Cell tower transmitters operate on direct current, but because the electrical current supplied is alternating current the supply needs to be switched using an inverter. These devices interrupt the alternating current and may be the source of the dirty electricity at the school closer to the tower. On a more domestic scale, your cell phone charger, all computers, copy machines and television sets also have an inverter.
What is dirty electricity?
Dirty electricity is a form of electrical pollution or contamination of the electricity supply and has frequencies between 2 and 100 KHz. It can only be detected using special meters, but may cause a number of symptoms including headaches, ringing in the ears and trouble focussing, in addition to being the unseen cause of a number of chronic and degenerative illnesses.
In the US, when the grid system was constructed, electricity returned to the substation in neutral transmission lines. However, over time this system was overwhelmed and so now currents are returned to the substation using the earth with every other pole in some areas having a wire connecting it to the ground. This practice increases dirty electricity in ground currents.
This means that dirty electricity generated outside of a building can enter on the electrical wiring and through the ground rods used to earth conductive plumbing. It can also be created by electrical appliances and equipment, arcing, sparking and bad connections. Dirty electricity is distributed throughout the entire building via the electrical wiring.
There is also a capacitive coupling of the ambient fields with the body which means that EM fields generate exogenous field currents within the body.
Sources of dirty electricity include:
Power saving fluorescent light bulbs
Most equipment manufactured since mid-1980s that use switching or switch mode power supplies (nearly all)
Older fluorescent lighting systems
Cell phone chargers
The latter half of the 20th century has seen the introduction of all these devices and this has been matched by a steep rise in the incidence of many of the modern ills of chronic disease, heart disease and cancer.
Dr Magda Havas is a Professor of Trent University, Ontario, Canada with a particular interest in the effects of electromagnetic fields on mental and physical health. She has documented dramatic improvements in student behaviour after a Toronto school was filtered for dirty electricity.
However, because of transmission of dirty electricity through the earth in ground currents, a whole area can be affected. In one example, after fitting dirty electricity filters at one school, a dairy farmer a quarter of a mile away observed an increase in milk yield.
Detecting and treating dirty electricity
One simple and cheap way to assess dirty electricity involves using an AM radio as these are sensitive to interference by dirty electricity. If you tune an AM radio to the white noise between stations, any place within the house or office that causes interference may be an area affected by dirty electricity.
A more sophisticated method of detection involves using a Graham-Stetzer meter which measures transients in electrical wires. This device was jointly created by Dr Martin Graham, an emeritus professor of electrical engineering from the University College of Berkeley, California and Dave Stetzer, a power quality electrician from Wisconsin.
Both originally had an interest in the effects of electrical pollution on farm animals and milk yields before they realised the implications for human health. They have also produced a plug-in capacitor for reducing dirty electricity.
After a study published by Wertheimer and Leeper in 1979, the focus of concern when it came to the adverse effects of EM fields on human health became the 50-60 KHz part of the electromagnetic spectrum. However, higher frequency waves have a proportionately shorter wavelength and the energy delivered by EMF is directly related to the frequency of the wave.
Current safety standards have been based upon concerns about the heating effect of pulsed modulated frequencies which appear to be more biologically active. Critics of Dr Milham’s theories claim that the fields he is talking about are too weak to have any biological effect. But, by the same token they accept the beneficial biological effects of pulsed frequencies used to promote bone healing and other EM treatment modalities.
It is also worth noting that the Russians and Eastern Europeans who are at forefront of research into the health effects of electromagnetic fields (EMF) impose much stricter regulations than in the US and western Europe.
Diseases of civilisation
Diseases of civilisation include:
Type II diabetes
The incidence of all these diseases has increased dramatically throughout the 20th century and the causes cited are usually diet, leading sedentary lives, over-crowding and urban living, increased consumption of alcohol and changes in family and societal structures. However, alongside these undeniable changes came electrification. From the 1920s to the 1960s electrification went from 35% to 100% of households in the US.
Over the same period, whilst there has been a drop in the overall death rate, the number of deaths from cardiovascular disease increased from 350 to 520 deaths per 100,000 people and there has been more than a doubling in the incidence of type II diabetes from 65 to 150 deaths per 100,000.
When the incidence of diseases are compared in rural and urban locations, the excess death rate in the urban location over that found in the rural location is 49% for cancer, 33% for cardiovascular disease, 66% for diabetes and 30% for suicide. And, prior to wholesale electrification in 1930 the urban cancer rate was 59% higher than that found in rural areas.
This also explains why melanoma rates are higher in office workers, why melanomas occur on parts of the body that have not been exposed to the sun and also why melanoma rates have increased while the amount of sunshine reaching the planet has remained stable.
As Dr Milham points out, when it comes to being able to demonstrate these facts using epidemiology, we are rapidly losing our control population for comparison since we are all exposed.
The data that can be examined relates to the disease incidence that can be tracked with the electrification of rural areas that occurred relatively recently and for which documentation still exists. However, many authorities have become defensive about the subject when they realised why he wanted the data and have denied him access.
A useful control group for the US population is the Amish, who have refused electrification and whose rates of disease compare to those prior to establishing of the grid. The Amish type II diabetes rate is half that of the general US population, in spite of their weight being comparable. Their cancer, cardiovascular disease and suicide rates are all lower and other modern illnesses such as Alzheimer’s disease, attention deficit disorder and childhood obesity are also unheard of in the Amish community.
Of course, in some parts of the world the electrification programme is still being rolled out and statistics comparing urban and rural Chadna, India in the 1980s show that cardiovascular disease is 3 times more common in the urban environment.
EMF and other disease
Dr Milham also suggests further links he considers are worth further investigation including:
That Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS or Lou Gehrig’s disease) is more common in those that have had electric shock treatment and also in elite athletes who have been treated using diathermy and TENS
That the most dramatic leukaemia cluster ever reported (which occurred in Nevada) may have been due to radio frequency transmissions from the ground-based antennae of a local naval air station during a wet weather period which may have made the ground more conductive
Birth and fertility rates have been shown to be inversely correlated to residential electrification and this finding is also borne out with work on farm and other animals.
We have seen the advent of and explosive growth in the use of Wi-fi and Wi-max systems, fluorescent lighting and mobile devices and there is always a latency period between exposure and the first signs of an epidemic. Dr Milham fears that by the time the real risks posed by electromagnetic radiation become undeniable, it will be too late for many – and possibly for humanity.