Canaries in the Coal Mine

June 18, 2010
Ann Louise Gittleman, PhD, CNS

Ann Louise Gittleman, PhD, CNS

Award-winning nutritionist and New York Times bestselling author.

100598658Electro-sensitivity may be an early warning of how EMF exposure can harm us all.

“Several years ago, I started having difficulty concentrating in my apartment. But when I went across the street and stayed at a friend’s, I felt fine,” says Camilla Rees, the founder of Since there were no mold and chemical problems in her apartment, she was baffled why she felt bad there but not elsewhere.

As her symptoms expanded to blurred vision, dizziness, eye fluttering, fatigue, heart palpitations, skin rashes, “and a deep urge to move my bed to the far side of the apartment,” Rees contacted an expert in detecting electromagnetic fields (EMFs), who measured her home for microwaves—only to discover, coming through the wall in the new neighbor’s apartment, microwave radiation at a level of extreme concern.

Unfortunately, by the time Rees learned what was causing her symptoms, “I was extremely impaired.” And she’s not alone! Growing numbers of people are starting to develop electro-sensitivity, a hyper-sensitivity caused by the proliferation of cell and cordless phones, other wireless devices, and their base stations and towers.

According to research just presented at the 32nd Annual Bioelectromagnetic Society, the Interphone Study has under-reported the risk of brain cancer from cell phones by at least 25%. No wonder San Francisco has passed a new law requiring radiation warnings on cell phones at the point-of-sale. But scientific studies are discovering various associations between EMFs and health that go far beyond the brain tumors.

Several investigations suggest that mobile phone radiation also damages human sperm, causing oxidative stress and potentially initiating cancer in the male reproductive system. Even low levels of EMFs trigger an inflammatory response in the body, research finds.

A recent Iranian study links cell phone use with changes in the structure and function of human hemoglobin (red blood cells). The more intense and the longer the EMF exposure, the lower the ability of hemoglobin to carry oxygen.

Low-level EMFs appear to rupture delicate cell membranes, by releasing some of the structurally important calcium that normally acts as a kind of glue that helps hold cells together. This weakens them so that they become more inclined to tear and leak, allowing toxins to enter and cellular contents to spill out, says British scientist Andrew Goldsworthy, PhD.

For example, it can let calcium ions pour into the billions of brain cells, all of which use calcium in small doses to make neurotransmitters. This can make them release these chemical messengers too soon, too often, or at the wrong time, which can make the brain overactive, causing stress and loss of concentration. When this happens in the countless sensory cells scattered all over the body, it can create tingling, feelings of heat and pain, and many other symptoms commonly found in people hypersensitive to EMFs.

That’s not all! A new German study measuring EMFs in young people shows that 7% of adolescents and 5% of children have abnormal mental behavior—usually appearing as conduct problems—when exposed to electromagnetic fields far below standard reference levels.

Dr. Ann Louise’s Take:

Over the past decade, I’ve met a number of people who have experienced mysterious and seemingly unrelated symptoms. And I’ve suffered some myself.  In 2005, I had a benign parotid gland tumor removed which I later learned was linked to cell phone radiation on the same side of the head where the phone is held.

Another “canary in the coal mine” is a young engineer who went into convulsions while riding in a car passing next to some power lines. As soon as his wife got the car off the road (and away from the power lines), his grand mal seizure ceased. But then this man found himself ultra-sensitive to cell phones, computers, and all sorts of chemicals, metals, and pollens.

He was lucky to discover the Environmental Health Center of Dallas, where founder William Rea, MD, says that 20% of his patients are electro-sensitive. Dr. Rea’s top treatment? Avoid EMFs. “If you don’t remove the cause,” he says, nothing else is going work. “Clients I work with are constantly amazed how many long-term symptoms can just disappear when the environment is electromagnetically clean,” Rees adds.

Mysterious Symptoms?
If you (or someone you know) have baffling symptoms, hypersensitivity to EMFs could be a possible cause. Here are some signs:

• blood sugar imbalances
• blurry vision, feeling like you have grit in your eyes
• dizziness
• frequent headaches
• heart irregularities
• hormonal disruption
• lethargy that cannot be explained by overwork or anxiety, particularly waking up exhausted
• insomnia
• numbness and tingling in various parts of the body
• memory problems or trouble concentrating
• unexplained muscle pain
• pain in the jaw or teeth (metal in the mouth—oral galvanism—can exacerbate symptoms)
• chronic anger, anxiety, depression, irritability, or rapid mood swings
• ringing in the ears (tinnitus) or earaches
• nausea or chronic flu-like symptoms
• frequent skin irritation (burning sensations, dry, red, or itching skin)

Sadly, only one country—Sweden—recognizes electro-sensitivity as a functional impairment. That makes obtaining an accurate diagnosis and treatment difficult—much the way identifying chronic fatigue once was. To find a specialist in environmental medicine near you, visit the American Academy of Environmental Medicine’s website. Or go to Dr. Rea’s website,, to learn more about his work with EMF and other environmental sensitivity.

Prevention’s the Best Medicine
I would have to agree with EMF expert Camilla Rees who is a firm believer that “the more types of exposure, and the more frequent and chronic exposures to electromagnetic fields, the more it seems people of all ages are having difficulties.” But don’t wait to become electro-sensitive before reducing your exposure. Eliminating wireless routers and cordless phones is good advice for anyone.

Never carry a cell phone in a pocket or anywhere on your body! Use the speaker mode on your phone, and text rather than talk whenever possible. And don’t overlook the potential impact of magnetic fields from electronic equipment and an improperly wired building.  To learn how to remediate health hazards that invade today’s buildings, go to

Because most of us aren’t going “cold turkey”—completely giving up all our electronic and wireless devices—I recommend increasing your intake of essential minerals that the “stealth” stress of EMFs rapidly uses up. Take 1 teaspoon 3 times daily of Trace-Lyte Minerals, a homeopathic form of organic minerals that raises the osmotic pressure of the cell walls, re-strengthening them so that pathogens and toxins can’t get in.

Personal communication: Andrew Goldsworthy, PhD, 6/14/10; Camilla Rees, 6/4/10

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Ann Louise Gittleman, PhD, CNS, is an award-winning New York Times bestselling author of more than thirty books including The Fat Flush Plan series and her latest book, Radical Metabolism. She’s been rewriting the rules of nutrition for more than 40 years and is internationally recognized as a pioneer in the field of diet, detox and women’s health issues. 

For a FREE daily dose of tips and strategies for maintaining healthy weight, conquering insomnia, and much more…check out my Radical Health Tips.

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  1. Annie

    Thanks for this important warning! The telecommunications industry is like the tobacco industry in the ’50s and ’60s., and there are way too many “canaries” already.
    Our tiny, rural town of 1600 people is facing an assault from AT&T, who want to put not one —but three —cell towers here, even though most of us already have cell phone coverage and a number of studies have shown significant cancer risks for people who live near these towers. When I tried to present material on the potential health risks, the Planning Board head told me I couldn’t (and since it was not a public hearing but an informational meeting, I had no legal access).
    Since then I’ve learned that the industry pushed through legislation (Section 704) of the Telecommunications Act PROHIBITING communities from opposing towers on the grounds of health issues. If I’d even mentioned my health concerns, our town could have been sued! Now all we have to use to fight these radiation emitters are property values.
    One thing we all can do—whether our community is already wired or in the process—is sign the petition at, asking our government agencies to look into the health issues and begin to take them seriously.
    Prevention means protecting ourselves BEFORE we get sick, not spending our hard-earned dollars trying to remedy long-term radiation damage years later!

  2. viola dias

    shldnt we have a “save the earthlings” like they have save the earth
    we can get together like green peace


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