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Occupational EMF Exposure Increases Cancer Risk

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Ionizing radiation such as X-rays and gamma rays are known human carcinogens as they are capable of stripping electrons and breaking chemical bonds. We know that such ionizing radiation must be respected as it is capable of wreaking havoc in our bodies and our environment. On the other hand, non-ionizing EMF radiation such as microwaves, radio waves, television waves, cellular frequencies and power lines do not strip electrons or break chemical bonds in the same way and were thought to be safe. However, more and more information is now surfacing that indicates non-ionizing EMF radiation may also pose significant health risks.

A 2011 announcement from the World Health Organization (WHO), International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) classified radiofrequency EMF as a Group 2B carcinogen. The announcement deems radiofrequency EMF “as possibly carcinogenic to humans” due to “an increased risk for glioma, a malignant type of brain cancer, associated with wireless phone use.” This determination resulted from assessments from a group of 31 scientists from 14 countries who met over several days to evaluate the available studies and literature on radiofrequency electromagnetic fields. 1

In the past two decades, numerous studies have surfaced that show a direct correlation between prolonged exposure to EMF and cancer. Some of these studies focus on the workplace and reveal a higher incidence of cancer in people with occupational exposure to EMF radiation. A 2000 study in Poland found an increased risk of brain cancer and leukemia among electric energy workers with occupational exposure to electromagnetic fields. 2 Another similar study in New Zealand found “a significantly elevated risk of acute leukemia for electrical workers overall, and for the specific occupational categories of welders/flame cutters and telephone line workers.” For the workers studied, a dose-response effect was found, which means “acute leukemia risk was related to historical and current magnetic field exposures”. 3 As such, it is critical to realize that both past and current exposure to EMF contribute to the chances of becoming ill.

Research looking at the mortality rates of workers exposed to EMF also show a correlation between occupational EMF exposure and cancer. A Washington State study that analyzed death records of 486,000 adults over a period of 32 years supports a growing body of evidence “that electric and magnetic fields may be carcinogenic.” Based on the findings, “leukemia and the non-Hodgkin’s lymphomas show increased proportionate mortality ratios (PMRs) in workers employed in occupations with intuitive exposures to electromagnetic fields.” 4 

A 2001 Swiss study of railway employees showed an “increase in leukemia mortality of 0.9% per microT-year of cumulative exposure”, with a microT-year simply being a year of exposure to the amount of one microTesla of radiation. Furthermore, the study found an increase in leukemia mortality of 62% per year for those with ten or more years of exposure. 5 Again, this study shows a dose-response relationship and that the cumulative effects of prolonged exposure to EMF can be devastating to one’s health.

There was a time when young adults chose their careers based on their interests or potential income. The health effects of a career path were not at the forefront of most minds. However, things have changed rapidly in the last few decades. It is clear from these studies that, regardless of the source, EMF exposure can increase the risk of cancer or death. As research on this subject grows, it will become more and more difficult to ignore. The next generation of workers would be well served to consider the EMF exposure implications when choosing their career.

Many of the studies indicate a dose-response effect to EMF. This means that as the total amount of exposure a person has to EMF increases, either due to exposure level or length of time, so does the risk of cancer or mortality. As such, we would all be well served to reduce our total exposure. Those already in a career where they may be exposed to electromagnetic radiation in the workplace may want to consider ways to reduce their overall exposure to EMF radiation.  Wireless phones and other wireless technology have become so pervasive in the work environment that even professions historically not considered as high EMF are now exposing their workers to higher and higher levels of EMF radiation. Although a change in career may not be feasible for everyone, you may be able to reduce your total exposure to EMF by avoiding or mitigating sources in your workplace and especially in your home. Your home is your domain where you can take more drastic steps to reduce your total exposure to EMF.

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About Sara

My passion is helping others. My goal is to uncover the challenges and dangers of modern electronics and wireless technology for those who are ready to see them. In my own life I strive to work, play, eat and live more simply and naturally.

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