Thursday, February 5, 2009

Electromagnetic Fields and Pregnancy / First Bee’s Now Bat’s / Cell phone use linked to brain tumors - Russian scientist / Quebeckers launch class action

Electromagnetic Fields and Pregnancy

Electromagnetic Radiation and Miscarriage

Electromagnetic radiation is pervasive in industrialized cultures but it can't be detected with the five senses. While there's general agreement among scientists, and even from government agencies, that chronic exposure to high levels of electromagnetic radiation is not good for the health, investigations into its specific effects have been inconsistent. However, respected researchers have linked chronic exposure to strong electromagnetic fields to environmental illness and cancer.

A study out of San Francisco, and published in the journal Epidemiology, is worth paying attention to if you're pregnant. D. K. Li and colleagues asked over 900 women less than 10 weeks into a pregnancy to wear a monitor for 24 hours to measure exposure to electromagnetic radiation.

When they compared exposure to pregnancy outcome, they found that those with higher peak exposures had an 80 percent increase in the risk of miscarriage. The risk was even higher among women with a history of recurrent pregnancy loss and/or infertility.

Why would electromagnetic radiation affect a pregnancy? Every cell in every living organism is surrounded by an electromagnetic field, and various parts of the body (e.g. organ systems, the brain) have their own electromagnetic field. The theory is that these fields play an important role in the incredibly rapid cell division and differentiation going on in a fetus, and that the relatively weak electromagnetic fields found in living organisms can be disrupted by exposure to stronger fields.

Most of us are exposed daily to electromagnetic radiation. Home appliances such as toasters, microwave ovens, TVs and vacuum cleaners give off very strong electromagnetic radiation when they're on. The good news is that these fields drop off very quickly with distance—with most appliances there's no significant electromagnetic field left at four feet away. Thus, one solution is to not stand near an appliance when it's on if you're pregnant (let someone else do the vacuuming!).

Another source of strong fields of electromagnetic radiation is computer screens and hard drives. Again, these drop off very quickly with distance, so the key is not to sit very close to these types of devices (not within two to three feet).

The third major source of electromagnetic radiation is faulty wiring in homes, and this is more pervasive than you might think. The only way to detect these fields is with a gauss meter, a handheld device that measures electromagnetic fields. Because faulty wiring can cause chronic exposure if it occurs near your desk, your favorite chair or your bed, for example, it's smart to check your home for high electromagnetic fields whether or not you're pregnant.

Li DK, et al, "A population-based prospective cohort study of personal exposure to magnetic fields during pregnancy and the risk of miscarriage," Epidemiology 2002;13:9-20.

Shaw GM, "Adverse human reproductive outcomes and electromagnetic fields: a brief summary of the epidemiologic literature," Bioelectromagnetics 2001; suppl 5:S5-18.


First Bee's Now Bat's - Mysterious Bat Killing Syndrome Spreading

A mysterious and deadly bat disorder discovered just two winters ago in a few New York caves has now spread to at least six northeastern states, and scientists are scrambling to find solutions before it spreads across the country.

White-nose syndrome poses no health threat to people, but some scientists say that if bat populations diminish too much, the insects and crop pests they eat could flourish. Researchers recently identified the fungus that creates the syndrome's distinctive white smudges on the noses and wings of hibernating bats, but they don't yet know how to stop the disorder from killing off caves full of the ecologically important animals.

"The cause for concern is that this is going to race across the country faster than we can come up with a solution," said Alan Hicks, a wildlife biologist with New York state's Department of Environmental Conservation.

"Now that is entirely possible."

Bats with white-nose burn through their fat stores before spring, driving some to rouse early from hibernation in a futile search for food. Many die as they hunt fruitlessly for insects.

White-nose syndrome spread fast last winter to dozens of caves in New York and southern New England, within a roughly 150-mile radius of the caves west of Albany, N.Y., where it was first found. Early observations show it has reached farther still this winter, even before cave inspections and bat counts begin in earnest this month.

Bats with white-nose syndrome were found recently in northern New Jersey's Morris County and in an old iron mine in Shindle, Pa., more than 200 miles away from the outbreak's epicenter. In addition, the Pennsylvania Game Commission on Tuesday said that hundreds of little brown bats, a species devastated by white-nose syndrome, were found dead from the disorder outside two mines in the northeastern part of the state.

The syndrome may have spread as far as 450 miles from the epicenter, to the John Guilday Caves Nature Preserve in West Virginia. The National Speleological Society has temporarily shut down the preserve as a possible white-nose sighting is investigated.

So far, there are 40 confirmed white-nose sites in the Northeast, said Jeremy Coleman, who is tracking the disorder for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service office in Cortland, N.Y.

Death tolls for the tiny creatures are hard to pinpoint, but some estimates run into the hundreds of thousands.

The news was grim on a recent day when more than a dozen researchers lowered themselves by rope into a sprawling old limestone mine in New York's Hudson Valley, about 80 miles north of New York City.

Bat counter Ryan von Linden's headlamp swept across isolated clusters of the mammals hanging off the rock ceiling. A chorus of squeaks echoed in the blackness.

"There are not as many as there are supposed to be," von Linden whispered. "Not even close."

With a precise total pending, Hicks estimated the cave's count of Indiana bats, an endangered species, was down 15 to 35 percent from last year's roughly 19,000. Researchers said the number of little brown bats also appeared to be down, although they didn't have enough specifics from prior years to measure the drop exactly.

Hoping to glean more information on the syndrome, the researchers plucked 14 groggy little brown bats from the rock, weighed them, measured them, snipped a bit of their hair and stuck tiny radio transmitters to them to track their activity levels.

Bats' nocturnal habits and some species' ability to carry rabies can give the flying mammals a fearsome image. But they can pollinate plants and play an important role in checking the populations of mosquitoes and insects that can damage wheat, apples and dozens of other crops.

Researchers at the U.S. Geological Survey's Wildlife Health Center this fall established that the sugary smudges on infected bats are a previously undescribed fungus that thrives in the refrigerator-like cold of winter caves. The center is still working to determine whether the fungus causes the disorder, but biologists are already focusing on potential ways to combat the fungus.

Since the fungus grows in the cold and damp, they could try to lower humidity levels in at least some crucial caves, though that could create other problems for those ecosystems.

Researchers also are looking at the possibility of a fungicide or even fungus-killing bacteria that could spread from bat to bat. Ward Stone, New York state's wildlife pathologist, said he has been able to culture bacteria that live on big brown bats and kill the white-nose fungus in a lab.

Tests need to be performed to see whether any of the options are realistic. And time is "our biggest enemy," said David Blehert, head of microbiology at the USGS center in Madison, Wis.

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------Cell phone use linked to brain tumors - Russian scientist

MOSCOW, February 5 (RIA Novosti) - A leading Russian scientist said on Thursday, citing a Swedish study, that the use of cell phones from an early age could lead to brain tumors.

"We have a very cautious attitude as regards children, our future generation. There is data suggesting that brain tumors could develop," Yury Grigoryev, a leading scientist at the Burnazyan medical biophysical center, told a RIA Novosti press conference.

Grigoryev cited Swedish research data, which he said showed that if a child uses a cell phone from 8 to 12, then the risk of developing a brain tumor by the age of 21 increases fivefold.

He also said that every person in Russia is subject to electromagnetic radiation from cellular base stations. He said people use mobile phones too often, which means the dose of radiation they get is comparable to that received by workers whose profession involves dealing with radiolocation equipment and transmitters.

Grigoryev said there is as yet no reliable Russian research proving cell phones are harmful to health. However, he said that according to the World Health Organization, Alzheimer's disease, depression and a greater risk of epileptic reactions could be the possible consequences of mobile phone usage.

The head of the medical center's radiobiology and non-ionizing radiation hygiene lab, Oleg Grigoryev, said in turn that in line with Russian sanitary norms, the use of cell phones is not recommended for minors.

"The brand or price of a cell phone doesn't matter. The dose of radiation is defined by the network operation mode and phone use intensity," he said.

Oleg Grigoryev also said that a wire or wireless headset would make the distance from a person's head to the phone over 0.5 meters, a distance believed to be safe. He also advised cutting down on calls.


Quebeckers launch class action over cancer cluster near military base

From Saturday's Globe and Mail

QUEBEC — Marie-Paule Spieser lost her best friend to a rare form of liver cancer in September of 2000. As an experienced nurse in her mid-40s, Ms. Spieser knew something had to be wrong.

Her friend's husband had also been diagnosed with cancer and it seemed nearly every household in the neighbourhood where she lived was stricken with some form of the disease.

Then a few weeks later, just before Christmas, Ms. Spieser along with the 4,000 other residents of Shannon, a small town located just outside the Valcartier military base near Quebec City, learned that their water supply had been contaminated for years with the chemical solvent trichloroethylene, or TCE, a probable carcinogen.

Eight years later, Ms. Spieser, who has also suffered health problems allegedly caused by high levels of TCE found in her home's drinking water, is now the leading plaintiff in a huge class-action suit that includes 243 current residents with cancer allegedly linked to TCE. The lawsuit has ballooned to more than 1,300 people, including many with other illnesses allegedly linked to TCE and relatives of deceased persons who once resided in Shannon. According to lawyers, the number could eventually reach as many as 2,000.

"I still live in Shannon and I can't wait to leave," Ms. Spieser said Friday. "It is scandalous. In a news report yesterday we learned that the federal government knew about the contamination as far back as 1978, yet they did nothing to warn people. What were they doing?"

As word spreads across the country to the hundreds of military families and former residents who lived in Shannon between 1953 and 2003, the case may turn into the biggest class-action suit of its kind in North America.

"A lot of people on that military base got cancer. … So it's bigger than just a lawsuit. It's really a deep wound to the heart of small-town Canada," said Stephen Clarke, one of the group's lawyers.

Recent Canadian toxicology studies paid for by the class-action group assert that TCE is at the core of the community's health problems. For instance, the odds of three unrelated people in the same household getting colon cancer are estimated to be one in 3.6 billion. Yet that is exactly what happened to three people who had lived in one of the Shannon homes. Michel Lemoine, 70, and his wife Aline Perron Lemoine, 69, were recently diagnosed with colon cancer and then learned that the woman from whom they had bought the house in the mid-1980s, Monique Dumont, now 69, was diagnosed with the same type of cancer.

Other test results recently conducted at a specialized laboratory in Pittsburgh, also paid for by the Shannon contingent, said the cancer incidence in Shannon was directly linked to the TCE contamination. "I have no doubt that the toxicology reports have determined the direct link between the cancer incidents and the trichloroethylene in the water," said toxicology expert Michel Charbonneau, who worked with the Pittsburgh group.

In one instance, 30 cancer cases of residents living in the 55 homes located in what is called the heavily contaminated "red triangle" zone were all said to be linked to TCE.

There was also mounting evidence to suggest that the contamination was far greater than expected. In a sworn affidavit by a former employee of SNC Technologies, Marcel Paquet, who died last year, testimony showed that up to a dozen 45-gallon drums of the contaminant were dumped daily over many years in large manufactured lagoons that eventually contaminated the nearby soil and underground water supply.

The federal Department of Defence, as well as the current owners of SNC Technologies, are among those named in the class-action suit.

Defence officials did not return a request for comment. Federal Intergovernmental Affairs Minister Josée Verner and provincial Health Minister Yves Bolduc said Friday they are closely monitoring the case.

The suit is scheduled to be heard in Quebec Superior Court next October.


From John Weigel, Ireland

Of possible interest.  Lots of detailed information on proposed 
wireless in Oregon.  Please forward to those interested.