back to article Fridge killed my baby? Mag-field radiation from household stuff 'boosts miscarriage risk'

A study of 913 pregnant women in the San Francisco Bay Area, California, found those exposed to high levels of magnetic field (MF) non-ionizing radiation had a 2.72x higher risk of miscarriage than those exposed to low MF levels. The Kaiser Permanente study, "Exposure to Magnetic Field Non-Ionizing Radiation and the Risk of …

  1. Dave 126 Silver badge

    Well, the Amish are healthy - no doubt in part due to their active and sociable lifestyles - despite being subject to greater incidences of some disorders caused by their limited gene pool.

    Their stated reason for eschewing many technologies is that one-upmanship over shiny tat breeds unnecessary social division, but the obvious health benefits of using an axe over a chainsaw (a good workout, no fumes, no horrible noise, fewer unscheduled amputations) are a happy bonus.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Amish and technology. Seems chainsaw is OK.

      http://amishamerica.com/amish-technology-friendliness/

    2. MacroRodent Silver badge

      Sawing

      > but the obvious health benefits of using an axe over a chainsaw (a good workout, no fumes, no horrible noise, fewer unscheduled amputations) are a happy bonus.

      The manual alternative to a chainsaw is usually a bow saw, which is also less dangerous for the user than an axe. But felling trees and sawing logs with it is really hard work, and slow. I have done it occasionally, and most certainly would not be able to make a living that way! It really is very educational, shows what a huge productivity increase even simple power tools enable.

    3. WatAWorld

      To the link providing info on the technological friendliness of modern Amish people, I'll add:

      https://www.quora.com/What-is-the-life-expectancy-of-Amish-people

      1. DougS Silver badge

        If the Amish didn't have such abysmal dental health - most of them have dentures by the time they're in their 30s - they might live even longer.

        1. Scroticus Canis
          Coat

          Clip clop, clip clop.... boom!

          Amish drive by.

        2. Naselus

          "If the Amish didn't have such abysmal dental health - most of them have dentures by the time they're in their 30s - they might live even longer."

          Funnily enough, that's largely a cultural choice rather than a mark of poor dental health - they choose extraction over attempting to repair even minor damage to teeth, as they consider dentures to be much easier to look after. There's even documented exams of teenagers having all their teeth removed for no particular reason beyond giving them dentures for the sake of "convenience".

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Common practice in a lot of rural communities in living memory.

            We have patients who had all their teeth removed in their 20s

            You are going to end up with dentures anyway so why not save yourself 40 years of dental trouble ?

            - the answer by the way is the bone grafts you now need to support the dentures when your skull bones absorb because they aren't being used

    4. Duffy Moon

      "health benefits of using an axe over a chainsaw (a good workout, no fumes, no horrible noise, fewer unscheduled amputations)"

      My chainsaw is electric, so no (local) fumes, not really noisier than a hedge-trimmer and pretty safe when clamped to its pivot on my log horse. Less of a workout than a manual saw, but moving heavy logs around and then splitting the cut bits with an axe afterwards,leaves me pretty exhausted!

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  2. frank ly Silver badge

    MF - EMF

    There is a difference between them. It's the emf (electro-magenetic fields) that the researchers seem to be worried about.

    1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
      Paris Hilton

      Re: MF - EMF

      Actually, I think it's the magnetic fields that the researchers seems worried about.

      1. Daniel von Asmuth Bronze badge
        Boffin

        Re: MF - EMF

        If they worry about magnetic fields on the orders of milligauss, then the 50 gauss of a typical refrigerator magnet should worry you and the 700,000 gauss of a MRI machine should be enough to wipe out humanity.

        Exposure to radio frequency electromagnetic fields has increased the amount of sex, drugs, and especially rock 'n roll.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: MF - EMF

      "It's the emf (electro-magenetic fields) that the researchers seem to be worried about."

      In this particular article? The topic of interest here seems to be magnetic fields. There's a strong hint in the units in which field strength is stated, and in the words in the text.

    3. Wim Ton

      Re: MF - EMF

      According to Wikipedia, the earth magnetic field is between 250 and 650 mG.

      Admitted, rather constant.

    4. Schultz

      MF - EMF - WTFMF

      They measured magnetic field exposure with a 'Emdex lite' device. The data sheet gives a frequency range though, so they are really talking about electromagnetic fields.

      I browsed the paper and, boy, do they have a lot off caveats on how they split up the exposure groups, and how they ascertained that the single measurement day was 'typical'. I am almost willing to bet that the effect will vanish in the upcoming Big study where someone will look at a large population (for better statistical significance). There is also always the possibility that certain lifestyles lead to higher exposure and higher stress -- and therefore crate correlation without causation.

      I have worked in labs next to Serious magnets. We considered that running the NMR was one of the safest things a pregnant synthetic chemist could do. Let's see if that changes. I guess we all know that EM radiation can cause skin cancer if you forget to put on the sunscreen. Let's see where this one goes, it's a big Nature paper, so it'll be properly scrutinized.

      1. Corporate Scum

        Re: MF - EMF - WTFMF

        THANK YOU.

        No one reads the actual studies anymore. This story has been spreading for a couple days now and I am a little depressed this made it onto the R as a straight piece. This study hasn't been replicated, and does not suggest any causal mechanism for harm. Placing a sensor on someone for 0.2% of a year doesn't overturn 200 years of contrary observations, including multiple long term studies that have been replicated, and yield consistent results, showing any increase in harm is so far down in the noise floor as to be inconclusive.

        Thanks to the other posters as well that pointed out the magnetic and electromagnetic effects of the earth and sun are actually much larger than most peoples environmental exposure, and people have been working near powerful magnetic fields and radio broadcasts for decades without a solid pattern or causal mechanism harm being found.

        Still, every couple of years someone thinks they see a blip in their data and put out a press release making a huge claim that gets the tinfoil hats stirred up. People ignore the results of dozens of long term human and animal studies, and rush to decry high voltage transmission lines, or cell phones, or electric blankets, or whatever fill in the blank Mad Lib study has framed as this weeks Very Bad Thing. It then gets spread around the blog-o-sphere, and the author ends up on the talk show circuit telling Dr Oz how very worried we should be. Why is it that particle physics requires 7 sigma confidence, while life science is allowed to operate on unverified results?

    5. breakfast

      Re: MF - EMF

      EMF??? Unbelievable.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: MF - EMF

        Have an upvote, fellow Gen-Xer!

    6. Alan Brown Silver badge

      Re: MF - EMF

      "emf (electro-magenetic fields) that the researchers seem to be worried about."

      I'm glad you specified that. For a moment I thought you were warning about a certain band from Epsom.

  3. graeme leggett

    study highlights major issue

    Basically that it all hangs on decent measurement of the exposure. A large part of the discussion is about the limitations of previous measurement. That said they would have had a better measure of true exposure by a week's measurement to rule out possibility of large exposures on atypical days. ( hypothetical example - subject wears meter for one workday commute of two Stops on subway but every weekend rides 50 miles on subways to visit various relatives)

    Suspect that it comes down to having insufficient meters available to measure all participants for more than 24 hours.

    Another element lacking is a consideration of the statistical power of the experiment. Which would show how likely the study was to detect a real effect.

    1. Michael H.F. Wilkinson Silver badge

      Re: study highlights major issue

      Very good points. I find the fact that they find a threshold effect very curious. That is not what I would expect from simple physics. I am also always deeply suspicious of binning data into groups (<2.5mG; 2.5–3.6mG; 3.7–6.2mG; and ≥6.3mG). Why these groups? The ranges are not evenly distributed, which makes me wonder if they were chosen to have the same number of subjects in each group. Did this lead to one group differing fro the others? Were there other life-style differences between the groups? Why not do regression analysis?

      I am not saying there is no effect, but I do wonder about the way the analysis has been done. I have had many run-ins with medics about their tendency to classify things into distinct groups, when in reality there is a continuous spectrum. It took me a while to convince dermatologists I was working with that hand eczema should not be classified into 6 distinct classes ranging from 0 (clean) to 5 (very severe), but that it is a continuous scale, so I should not design a classifier for them, but do regression analysis instead (which might indeed say the severity was 4.5).

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: study highlights major issue

        If it had been me, and easier in hindsight to suggest, I would have looked more at the effect of moving the bins around.

        I also note that "Scientific Reports" from Nature is open publishing model, now bigger than PlosOne.

        1. Uffish
          Paris Hilton

          Re: effect of moving the bins

          Only one bin needed for this paper.

    2. Charlie Clark Silver badge

      Re: study highlights major issue

      Hasn't humanity been awash in manmade EMF since we invented electricity? Talking about fridges sounds like correlation as much as anything else. TVs used to be great generators of EMF…

      The miscarriage rate correlates reasonably to the age of the woman and delaying pregnancy is a key aspect of modern civlisation, especially for women with a degree.

    3. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      Re: study highlights major issue

      It all hangs on getting comparable cohorts that differ only in EMF exposure.

      Otherwise it's one of those classic papers comparing air-traffic controllers and Bhuddist monks and concluding that exposure to CRTs causes stress

  4. andyp-random-number

    Screening out other issues?

    How do they screen out poor diet, 2nd hand smoke, vehicle emissions, alcohol and everything else that all of them will be exposed to during the previous 20 years of their life etc?

    1. Detective Emil
      Boffin

      Re: Screening out other issues?

      Well, reading the paper, the authors simply cite three other papers which they say established that magnetic field exposure was not much affected by a variety of other factors. Given that these may be among the studies that produced unclear results because of the non-availability of adequate measuring equipment, it's not clear to me that this issue has been adequately addressed. OTOH, sloppy work does not (usually) get taken up by Nature.

  5. WatAWorld

    Let's not have an irresponsible attack on science and scientists

    "Yet NIOSH offers an out, as if to immunize airlines from lawsuits: "If you are exposed to cosmic ionizing radiation and have these health problems, we can’t tell if it was caused by your work conditions or something else.""

    As if Trump wasn't bad enough, someone else's scientific literacy is in serious doubt.

    NIOSH is simply acting responsibly in a scientifically literate manner. Specifically, correlation does not equal causation.

    Everyone who has studied even basic introductory statistics knows that correlation does not equal causation. You need additional studies.

    The cosmic electromagnetic radiation flight crews are exposed to goes up with hours flown. But so does the exposure to aircraft-base electromagnetic radiation. And so does exposure to carbon monoxide and other cabin fumes. And by traveling more, so does crew geographic exposure to strange foods, strange water, strange bacteria and viruses. More traveling means more time on a flight attendants feet, which can affect pregnancy.

    Let us not attack NIOSH for simply stating scientific fact. Dozens of other factors tend to go up when hours flow, distance flown and average flight-time increase. Without further scientific investigation, nobody can simply pick out one and say it is responsible for the effect seen, not Donald Trump, not members of the news media.

    1. Alan Brown Silver badge

      Re: Let's not have an irresponsible attack on science and scientists

      "as if to immunize airlines from lawsuits: "If you are exposed to cosmic ionizing radiation and have these health problems, we can’t tell if it was caused by your work conditions or something else."

      Given:

      1: The sheer number of aircrew

      2: Their exposure over a career

      3: 55 years of high altitude civilian travel

      The fact that they're not dropping like flies (and in fact seem to have cancer rates no higher than any other occupation) should tell you a lot about the reality of the dangers of exposure to ionising radiation below undefined "threshold" levels (hint: Life on this planet evolved in the presence of much higher rad levels than we consider normal today)

      I'll also point you at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TRL7o2kPqw0 - the people who DO get the highest radiation exposure might surprise you

  6. Pete 47

    Is that absolute or relative risk?

    I'm guessing it's relative risk (like most of these "Twitter gives you cancer"* stories) coz it sounds scarier.

    Eg 1 in a million to 2 in a million is twice as likely or a 100% increase in risk in scary tabloid headline (relative risk) stylee but still (absolutely) quite unlikely.

    Of course if the absolute risk is 1:2 then you probably don't want to double it.

    *It really does by at least 100%

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Is that absolute or relative risk?

      Twitter is a Cancer

      especially when POTUS rants.

    2. jmch Silver badge

      Re: Is that absolute or relative risk?

      Miscarriages are much more common than generally thought. About 1 in 3 women have a miscarriage after knowing they are pregnant. And I believe* that about half of miscarriages happen in the first couple of weeks so the woman never even knows about it as it seems like part of the usual monthly cycle.

      So probably more like 1 in 10 then 1 in a million, and 900 subjects should be quite enough to have statistical significance

      * I seem to remember reading, but can't rmember where, so please correct me if I'm wrong

      1. Alan Brown Silver badge

        Re: Is that absolute or relative risk?

        "I believe* that about half of miscarriages happen in the first couple of weeks "

        I've seen estimates pointing to it possibly being more than 3/4

        A "late period" or "early period" is quite likely to be a miscarriage.

        1. Scroticus Canis

          Re: Is that absolute or relative risk?

          Failure of a blastocyst to implant isn't a miscarriage. It should only be called a miscarriage if there is a recognisable foetus.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    They say they studied 900+ women, but they effectively ignored half of them for the study entirely. Is a statistical manipulation on par with the worst pseudoscience, designed to teach an a priori conclusion.

  8. Nick Kew Silver badge

    Correlation vs Causation

    That headline suggests a causative link. The opening paragraph and the article suggest the opposite: a correlation that hasn't taken account of other differences - like what background and lifestyle factors might correlate with different levels of exposure.

    This opens the possibility that the study is like the Washington DC study that essentially kicked off advocacy for bicycle helmets when it found they were correlated with an (from memory) 89% fewer head injuries. Not publicised by the helmet advocates was a similar reduction also in leg injuries in the same study. Or the fact that the two samples were black kids in the ghetto vs white kids in a quiet suburb.

    1. Thoguht Silver badge

      Re: Correlation vs Causation

      This study reminds me of one I heard of many years ago (1970's?) that discovered that there was a significant correlation between malignant melanoma, which was then on the increase, and spending long periods in areas illuminated by fluorescent lighting. Initially, the UV output of fluorescent lamps was suspected of being responsible, despite the obvious fact that the melanomas were typically occurring on parts of the body not normally exposed to the fluorescent lighting.

      We now know of course that the real culprit was sunlight, and the link to fluorescent lighting was that people who worked in large offices, which typically had fluorescent lighting, were generally paid more than other types of worker, and so they could afford to go and irreparably damage their skin by over-exposing it to the sun on foreign beaches.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    One study means very little

    One study means very little and after similar scares from poor quality studies in the 80's very extensive studies found no link at all between exposure to EM fields and health.

    I have only read the summary is that the confounding factors analysed, and in theory compensated for, does not include income/socio-economic class. Thsi is a very significnat issue and known to have a major impact on outcomes. The dose response table shows that the supposed risk actually decreases with higher dose which is deeply implausible if the effect is real.

    I would treat this with extreme scepticism.

    1. TechnicalBen Silver badge

      Re: One study means very little

      There may be very small effects. Some warming from some sorts of em radiation... but by that point of power output, the device it's self is probably burning you to the touch! :P

      The other problem is correlation to *other* things linked to the em radiation. Such as "going outside in the sun", gives more radiation, but it's the soot from the city powerplant, not the radiation that is the cause. So correlation is not the whole picture.

  10. Steve Button

    "at a distance of one-inch, a clothes iron emits..."

    perhaps. But you don't walk around with an iron strapped to your body for most of the day, and have it on a stand next to your bed at night. Surely it's a sensible precaution to keep your phone in another room*, don't keep your phone in your pocket all day and switch off wifi at certain times of the day (switch off wifi? Is this guy nuts!? Goes into palpitations)

    * even just so the sodding thing doesn't keep you awake. With constant dinging, buzzing and too much blue light at night.

    1. PerlyKing
      Boffin

      "Surely it's a sensible precaution..."

      "[...] just so the sodding thing doesn't keep you awake. With constant dinging, buzzing and too much blue light at night."

      Precaution, yes, sensible is debatable.

      I don't know about iPhones, but recent Androids have ways to set quiet periods, either as part of the OS (Do Not Disturb) or OEM "bloat" apps which are certainly provided by at least Sony and Motorola. Then there are apps like Tasker which give more control, and the ever-popular "Airplane mode" which will turn off all the radios, blocking all incoming calls and messages.

      To eliminate the blue light you can choose from a bewildering array of night filter apps, night clocks, or, and stop me if I'm being too technical, turn the screen off.

      1. andyp-random-number

        Re: "Surely it's a sensible precaution..."

        "..., or, and stop me if I'm being too technical, turn the screen off."

        ... yes, those sensible, really simple, cost absolutely nothing things that can be done, but have hundreds of different, complicated, costly, difficult alternatives that everyone seems to go for and prefer....proves just how powerful advertising and PR really is. It's on the same level as eat less to lose weight but every one goes on a special diet and joins expensive clubs and takes the professional advice of a bikini clad blond instead.

        ...good advice mate, but it just fails everytime :)

    2. Mark #255
      Coat

      Re: "at a distance of one-inch, a clothes iron emits..."

      I think the most sensible precaution is to never iron your clothes again.

      My coat's the crumpled one...

      1. Z80
        Coat

        Re: "at a distance of one-inch, a clothes iron emits..."

        "I think the most sensible precaution is to never iron your clothes again."

        Well if Dr. Li reckons distance is your friend when it comes to this MF exposure, I'm at least going to take my clothes off in future before ironing them.

  11. Potemkine! Silver badge

    Correlation is not causality

    I guess that exposure level is not random , so what are the factors which influence this level?

  12. Lysenko

    ...and lack of Pirates causes global warming.

    This is a human study in California so exposure to high MF/EMF levels may directly correlate with exposure to known carcinogens and other noxious chemical compounds from internal combustion engines and other industrial processes. You can't just wave your hands and declare that "we've controlled for those factors". It isn't possible to control for that just by slapping a dosimeter on volunteers and then plotting exposure against outcome.

    To move beyond "Daily Mail Headline" they need to map exposure to all the other environmental factors and then devise some means of excluding any potential effects their effects. As it stands they're essentially asserting that close exposure of the nose to naked flames elevates the risk of lung cancer.

  13. Herby Silver badge
    Joke

    Danger...

    Will Robinson...

    Watch out inside your computer are ONE MILLION ohms. With that many, it is overloading, and quite dangerous.

    1. Justin Case

      Re: Danger...

      I've just opened up my computer and tipped out all the ohms.

      They are now homeless. Homeless ohms.

      Sounds like a case for the great electrical detective, Sherlock Ohms.

      Sorry.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Danger...

        Resistance is futile.

        1. Chris G Silver badge

          Re: Danger...

          Ohm my God, I don't know Watt to do!

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Coat

            Re: Danger...

            Damn, Reg commentards always have capacitor for puns. A whole battery of them doing the circuit. It's just how we conduct ourselves once the spark is lit.

            1. Sean o' bhaile na gleann

              Re: Danger...

              An incident from waaayy back when I was just a lad:

              Dad - a 'sparker' in the RAF was trying to introduce me to some of things he had to deal with at work.

              Him: "Ohms, lad. What do you think ohms are?"

              Me: "On Her Majesty's Service?"

              Rapid end of lesson....

  14. DougS Silver badge

    Business opportunity

    For a line of maternity clothing made with metallic mesh surrounding the bump.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Business opportunity

      Farraday Fashions.

      1. This post has been deleted by its author

  15. John Smith 19 Gold badge
    Unhappy

    So who is Kaiser Permanente and what is "Scientific Reports" ?

    Turns out they are a company that runs private hospitals, originally founded by a Henry Kaiser, who I'm guessing is the Kaiser in Kaiser Aluminum.

    BTW Does anyone recall the studies about increased miscarriage rates of VDU operators in the 80's and 90's?

    Apparently it lead to the fitting of Faraday screens in front of the CRT's to block this radiation..

    Except it turns out the key stroke recording systems were timing the operators and if you weren't fast, couldn't stay fast or were fast but inaccurate you could be fired, which (surprise surprise) the operators found quite stressful.

    So potentially serious if real but as others have noted correlation != causation.

    1. TechnicalBen Silver badge

      Re: Just like my Dr then...

      "Hi Dr, I feel ill"...

      "Ah, are you stressed, it may be your stress causing..."

      "Yes, I'm stressed, because I was ill first and now you are trying to fob me off!!!"

      1. This post has been deleted by its author

    2. Dog11

      Re: So who is Kaiser Permanente and what is "Scientific Reports" ?

      Does anyone recall the studies about increased miscarriage rates of VDU operators in the 80's and 90's?...

      ...it turns out the key stroke recording systems were timing the operators and if you weren't fast, couldn't stay fast or were fast but inaccurate you could be fired, which (surprise surprise) the operators found quite stressful.

      I dunno, but in the early 90s I troubleshot an office with a number of IBM Displaywriters (1 MHz 8086 with a CRT). One secretary complained hers made her break out in a rash on her arms. My theory was that it was maybe the electrostatic field on the CRT faceplate (if you held your arm near it, you could feel the hairs stand up) or maybe the dust that it attracted. A screen filter (glass with a metalized coating that was grounded) solved her problem. Psychosomatic? No way to know, and since she stopped complaining we didn't care.

      Heating is not the only possible effect.

  16. This post has been deleted by its author

  17. Halcin

    Really?

    For example, airline crew members get an estimated annual average dose of cosmic ionizing radiation – ionizing radiation from space – that's three times higher (3.07 mSv) than the general public

    I have check various sources and they all say that the natural background radiation for the general public is 3mSv. So how can 3.07mSv be three times higher?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Really?

      It's got 3 more digits + there's a "." which means it must be a scientific fact

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Really?

      'I have check various sources and they all say that the natural background radiation for the general public is 3mSv. So how can 3.07mSv be three times higher?'

      The dose received by teh general public varies enormously depedning on where you live. The average is around 2.5 mSv but living in cornwall gets you nearly 7 mSv. I think a long haul flight gets you around 0.1 mSv depending on flight duration so flight crew could have many times the UK average but it will also vary enormously. Low levels of radiation are in fact far safer than the standard linear model and calculated risks are discredditted as huge over estimates but they can't be changed for what is basically political reasons.

      Weak Magnetic fields as a risk is almost certainly complete nonsense.

  18. Mage Silver badge

    Sample size too small

    Other issues too. My scepticism meter broke with the overload.

  19. AKemwave

    Much of this article fails to acknowledge the difference between radio waves, electro-magnetic waves (EM), and magnetic fields such as what you get from being near a power line. Cell phone signals are EM of far higher frequency, classified as UHF or higher (800 MHz to 3 GHz). Motion of electrons, in other words current flow, creates a magnetic field. Magnetic fields are created by power lines, and any electricity conductor that is exposed to EM waves. Yes, radio waves induce a current in any conductor. That is how an antenna works. Your body is a conductor and therefore can act as an antenna.

    Any current, thus any magnetic EM created magnetic field will penetrate your body to some extent. The question is, how deep? There is an effect called Skin Effect. As the frequency goes up, current flow will more and more be on the surface of the conductor. In other words, a cellular signal does not create a magnetic field deep into your body. At the upper range of cellular, most of the current flow will be in the surface one millimetre. http://chemandy.com/calculators/skin-effect-calculator.htm The power grid works at 50-60 Hz. The low frequency was chosen in part to reduce skin effect.

    The meter used in this study, an EMDEX Lite is unable to measure any frequency above 1 KHz.

    Big fail! http://www.enertech.net/html/EMDEXLiteSpecs.html

    So I'm calling this article, and the study prompting your article deeply flawed. Look at the comments following this study.

    Animal studies? That will be interesting... I will look for that.

  20. TechnicalBen Silver badge

    Correlation =/= causation.

    Could it be that the particular source of magnetic "radiation" was also from say... constant microwaving low quality meals low in vitamins? Or those who worked at locations with large electronics... factory over working pregnant staff?

    Without a mechanism, this is just correlation!

    1. Muscleguy Silver badge

      Re: Correlation =/= causation.

      Or living in thin walled homes which don't shield against the fields from wires in the walls, electricity distribution boards, aircon motors, fridges etc. Being poor can expose you to more EMFs as well as poor diet but I agree confounders do need to be measured and ruled out.

      Think about it, are high tension overhead power lines seen over and beside rich or poor suburbs? Where are major substations sited in those respective areas? Here in the well off part of Dundee our substation is in the corner of a field. There is a really big one for HT lines smack bang in the middle of a poorer area. They put some of the lines underground as they ran down the middle of a carriageway. But not because of the poor area but so that large loads from imported wind turbine blades landed at the docks could pass up that road.

      The houses beside that road are metal framed. You cannot get a mortgage to buy them and they are only worth around £5k to £10k as there is no way to check the structural integrity of the metal. But Faraday cages they are not, antennas more like. Built quick after WWII. A warning about the risks of putting up houses too fast. I read that Bovis is going to slow down its rate of housebuilding after a litany of substandard new homes. Such as NO expansion joints fitted and ALL the air bricks buried.

  21. Muscleguy Silver badge
    Boffin

    Mixed picture

    There was a big study here in the UK into EMF's and cancer risk, my wife was involved in the admin side of the study. It measured EMF exposures in the environment, not in real time but an exposure measure was made. No associated was found wrt cancer.

    However there are reasons to be careful wrt embryonic development. Embryos create electrical fields that flow down the length of the embryo and out along the limbs. Porous barriers which block EMFs but not other materials perturb development. If you take a dish of single celled muscle cells and expose them to a directional EMF then take them out and allow them to differentiate into muscle fibres those fibres will align along where the EMF field WAS.

    My Father in Law worked at the Tiwai Point aluminium smelter in Southern NZ. When he took me round we left my pregnant wife behind for fear of the very strong EMFs on the potline.

  22. Mystic Megabyte Silver badge
    Stop

    Noooooo!

    For example, at a distance of one-inch, a clothes iron emits 80-300mG of MF radiation, and an electric blanket emits 3-50mG.

    You can keep my clothes iron but you'd have to prise my electric blanket out of my cold dead hands.

  23. TonyWilk

    Natural Selection

    If there is a real effect here, what are we (un)naturally evolving into ?

  24. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    #ThemToo

    For example, airline crew members get an estimated annual average dose of cosmic ionizing radiation – ionizing radiation from space – that's three times higher (3.07 mSv) than the general public, according to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health.

    Yes. This is why logs of accumulated dosage are kept by airlines.

    It's not like we need another groundless lawsuit. The risks are known.

  25. Chris G Silver badge

    If

    If these studies are ratified and it turns out that EMF or MF (still not clear on that) is bad for you, then you can say goodbye to the futher develpoment of the 'Smart Home'™.

    Add to that the need to surround your appliances with superconductors to block the MF emanating from them, the outside of your fridge could be much colder than the inside and it's gonna make ironing a shirt a bit of a bugger.

    1. Brewster's Angle Grinder Silver badge

      Re: If

      "EMF or MF (still not clear on that) "

      It depends what you mean by EMF. If you're using it to mean Electromotive Force (i.e. the "voltage"), you're confused.

      And if you're using it to mean "electromagnetic field", then there's no such thing. There are electric (force) fields and there are magnetic (force) fields, but there is no combined single electromagnetic force; all behaviours are either electrically or magnetically motivated. Yes, there is a deep relationship between the two which means that changes in one field cause changes in the other, and energy can flow freely between the two. Indeed how we see that energy apportioned depends on our speed of travel. But there are always two distinct fields, never one combined field; just as we only ever experience spacetime in space-like and time-like ways.

      TL;DR electromagnetic field is shorthand for "the electric and magnetic fields".

  26. AndrueC Silver badge
    Meh

    Hmm I question how the study as described could be sure it was excluding other risk factors. I shared my house with a budgerigar for nearly ten years. I have a lot of electrical equipment including a WAP downstairs that he spent almost his entire life within four metres of. He used to like perching on an ornament near my TV and hifi stack(*)

    So he spent almost his entire life surrounded by various forms of non-ionising radiation yet still made it to a pretty respectable 10 years old. Of course he was a dozy idiot but I think that's pretty normal :)

    (*)I consider one of my greatest lifetime achievements to be training him not to sit on the TV. His toilet habits were not the best and budgie poo is a bad thing whether it falls on the screen or through the vents.

    1. The Mole

      But did he give birth? No in which case obviously your anecdote proves that he must have been having miscarriages and that the study is accurate.

      Or perhaps he would have lived even longer without ionising radiation or been able to be trained to poo where you wanted him to.. we just don't know.

  27. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Interesting reading

    My brother is retarded, and we have a fridge. That must be the cause! Who do i sue?

  28. Tigra 07 Silver badge
    Facepalm

    What if you wear a tinfoil hat when opening the fridge?

  29. Jason Bloomberg Silver badge

    Radiation shielding does the opposite

    the agency advises against using products that purport to block radio frequency energy because such products "may actually increase your exposure."

    That's interesting because I may have observed the same a couple of weeks ago. Testing a Wi Fi link on the bench I was checking RSSI was working. Having wrapped one unit in cooking foil I expected signal strength to go down. Instead it increased.

    I would guess because the foil wasn't grounded, wasn't a true Faraday cage, power had been boosted to compensate for the obstruction.

    1. Brewster's Angle Grinder Silver badge

      Re: Radiation shielding does the opposite

      A 2.4GHz signal has a wavelength of 12.5cm so a few mm of foil ain't going to block it. The ~5GHz signals are 5-6mm so they might be more attenuated.

      Also, how did you take the readings? Did the device record them while completely sealed in or did you have a hole for a cable of a screen? Because cavities can be fun (think parabolic reflector).

  30. steelpillow Silver badge
    Devil

    What "measurement"?

    Magnetic fields decay sharply with distance from the source, far more sharply than say radio or electrostatic fields. In a domestic environment handling small tools like irons, levels of exposure will vary widely over the body. Putting the meter near a metal object will massively and arbitrarily affect the near field. These magic meters, what the fsck were they actually measuring?

    "The researchers did not find the miscarriage risk increased with doses above 2.5mG, leading them to theorize that 2.5mG represents a threshold level for health effects."

    A more probable theory would be that exposure to magnet-y gadgets correlates with exposure to carcinogenic chemicals percolating out of the gadget, an effect well known in the power transformer industry.

    Another more probable theory would be that exposure to magnet-y gadgets correlates with poor eating habits.

    Another more probable theory would be that the measurement error bounds are so huge that the study is end-to-end garbage. EM test engineers tie everything down with miles of gaffer tape and even then the error bounds are pretty horrendous. ("Come here a moment, Madam..." >rip!< >slap!< >"mmfle!"< ).

    Another....

  31. Steve 114

    Say after me: "Correlation is not causation". (PS - go easy on Kaiser, they're among the most respectable in a disgraceful marketplace).

  32. fruitoftheloon
    FAIL

    BS....

    Call that a representative sample size...

    ...brought to your by your sponsors

  33. Eddy Ito Silver badge
    Coat

    No, no, no. They're doing it all wrong! Magnets are good for you. Why I just finished this article on Goop and it says magnets are good for treating things like Lyme disease. Here's a quote from the article:

    So, biogmagnetic therapy uses pairs of magnets of opposite charges to depolarize areas in the body that may be unbalanced due to pathogens or other factors that resonate energetically and vibrationally.

    See! All it takes is "pairs of magnets of opposite charges"! It's so clear to me now that I swear I heard a bell go off as my head snapped suddenly to the side while reading that. The problem is that society isn't using oppositely charged magnets! Presumably we just need some of those E-W magnets which I have no doubt will be appearing somewhere online very soon.

    The one with E-W magnets in the pocket.

  34. Unicornpiss Silver badge
    Meh

    Much more likely to die of other natural causes..

    As an IT worker for almost 2 decades and a technophile since I was a small child, I'm sure I've had much more exposure than most will ever get. One time when imaging about a half dozen laptops in a small room I had to leave the room as the fumes from electronics that had gotten hot for possibly the first time actually drove me out. (added bonus chemical risk!)

    But I'm sure I'm much more likely to die of some other 'natural' cause, such as cirrhosis, a random wreck, having a pallet of toilet paper fall on me at Wal-Mart, or some other random dumb luck, not counting the Alzheimer's that runs in my family and the possibility of Armageddon.

    So while I won't go to bed with two cell phones strapped to my head (the Li-ion batteries are more likely to explode and roast me than the EM risk anyway), or stick my face in an operating microwave oven, I think I'm safe comfortably ignoring this. If I had a pregnant wife, I might feel a bit different.

    1. Esme

      Re: Much more likely to die of other natural causes..

      A pregnant wife counts as a helath hazard? Or do you mean if you had a pregant wife then you would go to sleep with a couple of mobile phones strapped to your head? 8-}

  35. GrapeBunch Bronze badge

    Peanuts are harmless to most, but deadly for others. Allergies in general can have a sensitization process--and even sometimes a desensitization process. My father loved oysters, but was violently allergic to them. After a couple of decades of abstinence (desensitization), he tried again, and no problem.

    Anyway, I think EM reactions may be like that. A double-blind test on an EM sensitive person (or a selection of them), with the person reporting back every 10 minutes on their reactions, would confirm or refute the hypothesis put to me that many EM-sensitive persons react quickly to these stimuli. The ethical question: if the hypothesis is true, then you are torturing the subject--may be a thorny one, but to their mind, life in civilization is torturing them every day.

    If the result is negative, then it's time to test whether EM works like slow environmental toxins, such as lead in the paint or arsenic in the wallpaper.

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