High Tension; October 1995; Scientific American Magazine; by Schneider; 3 Page(s)
In the nearly two decades since the link between exposure to lowfrequency electromagnetic fields (EMFs) and childhood leukemia was first proposed, people have puzzled over whether this ubiquitous form of radiation could affect human health. Over the years scientists investigating the possibility have produced a vast body of literature and an intense debate, but no consensus has emerged. On one side are physicists who point out that effects of low-frequency fields from power lines, home electrical wiring and appliances should be negligible compared with the thermal energy in living tissue. On the other are epidemiologists who have found troubling statistical correlations and biologists who have occasionally observed changes in cells exposed to weak electromagnetic fields.
Straddling the divide, a group from the California Institute of Technology and Oregon State University recently proposed that the presence of tiny magnetic particles could explain how cells can be affected by such weak fields. But instead of being embraced for presenting an idea that might reconcile laboratory observations with sound physical theory, the team is receiving attacks from both sides.