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Science

Electric Shavers Rot Your Brain 709

Posted by michael
from the luddites-right-as-usual dept.
Damek writes "According to UW researchers, prolonged exposure to low-level magnetic fields, similar to those emitted by such common household devices as blow dryers, electric blankets and razors, can damage brain cell DNA. The damage appears to be cumulative, so you'd best get rid of your electric razors & blankets ASAP! The full study is available online now. No word yet for Cell Phone users' brains..."
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Electric Shavers Rot Your Brain

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  • Umm... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by inertia@yahoo.com (156602) * on Friday February 20, 2004 @04:42PM (#8343974) Homepage Journal
    Wouldn't this only be a problem if you use these devices every day directly in contact with your skull? I mean, is the range really that far reaching? If the range really is that far reaching, what about power tools and such? Of course, I can think of a few people [McBride] I'd like to have power tools come in direct contact with their skull, but that's beside the point.
    • Re:Umm... (Score:5, Funny)

      by El (94934) on Friday February 20, 2004 @04:46PM (#8344042)
      Excuse me, but yes, I do shave my whole head everday with an electric razor... and I haven't noticed any... uh, what were we talking about?
    • Re:Umm... (Score:5, Informative)

      by BWJones (18351) * on Friday February 20, 2004 @04:50PM (#8344114) Homepage Journal
      Wouldn't this only be a problem if you use these devices every day directly in contact with your skull?

      Well, you might be surprised as how easily magnetic waves can propagate through materials. How do you think 802.11 works through walls? Or cell phones? etc.... I guess you could think of it as being constantly bathed in electromagnetic radiation of all types and wavelengths.

      • Re:Umm... (Score:5, Informative)

        by default luser (529332) on Friday February 20, 2004 @05:23PM (#8344583) Journal
        Well, you might be surprised as how easily magnetic waves can propagate through materials.

        Don't you mean a magnetic field?

        How do you think 802.11 works through walls? Or cell phones? etc....

        Those are high-frequency electromagnetic (far field) problems. This article refers to low-frequency mahnetic fields. Magnetic fields have much reduced range, so to be in their area of effect you really would have to hold the thing up against your skull.
    • Re:Umm... (Score:5, Informative)

      by Lord Ender (156273) on Friday February 20, 2004 @04:53PM (#8344179) Homepage
      "Wouldn't this only be a problem if you use these devices every day directly in contact with your skull? I mean, is the range really that far reaching?"

      Actually, the magnitude of a magnetic field drops away as the square of the distance from the source. So the answer to your question is, it depends on how strong the field is.
      • by douglips (513461) on Friday February 20, 2004 @05:10PM (#8344438) Homepage Journal
        Because all magnetic fields are dipole fields at best, the field drops with the cube of distance, not the square of distance. So, it is even harder to get that field into your skull.

        This is because there is no such thing as a "magnetic charge" like there is for electric charge.

        (note to pedants: magnetic monopoles are too exotic to comment on, assuming they exist.)
        • Oscillating fields (Score:5, Informative)

          by yet another coward (510) <yacoward@RABBITyahoo.com minus herbivore> on Friday February 20, 2004 @05:44PM (#8344851)
          It is not a static magnetic field. A 60 Hz magnetic field is also a 60 Hz electric field. The radiation field from a dipole drops of with the inverse of distance squared. The intensity drops off with the fourth power.

          It has been a few years since I studied this material. Please let me know if I am in error.
          • by pclminion (145572) on Friday February 20, 2004 @06:05PM (#8345067)
            It is not a static magnetic field. A 60 Hz magnetic field is also a 60 Hz electric field.

            Right, however, imagine a 60 Hz EM source in the form of a closed copper ring (that somehow happens to have a 60 Hz AC current flowing within it). The magnetic field of this ring is varying coaxially with the ring, thus, the direction in which the magnetic field is pointing is precisely the direction that the EM radiation is not going. Remember that EM waves are transverse.

            That doesn't stop the magnetic field from influencing the inside of your skull, however, because the varying B field in your skull will induce an emf, and it is this emf which (presumably) wreaks havok in your skull as it interacts with ions and free radicals.

          • by Ungrounded Lightning (62228) on Friday February 20, 2004 @06:10PM (#8345114) Journal
            It is not a static magnetic field. A 60 Hz magnetic field is also a 60 Hz electric field. The radiation field from a dipole drops of with the inverse of distance squared. The intensity drops off with the fourth power.

            It has been a few years since I studied this material. Please let me know if I am in error.


            I believe you are. It's quadripole fields that fall off with inverse fourth.

            Dipole fields fall off with the inverse cube, as I recall. Inverse square for the individual poles, pluse an extra inverse first-power for the separation between the poles. (Quadripole fields get an extra inverse first-power for the separation for their component dipoles in the other dimension.)

            Let's assume for now that the leakage from the motor is mostly a dipole field. (CAN'T be a monopole. B-) ) For a DC field, or the "near field" of an AC field, the dipole field dominates - and it falls off inverse cube. Get two inches from the shaver and the field is 1/8th what it was at one inch. Four inches makes it 1/64th, and so on. Falls off REALLY fast with distance.

            As you get farther out the changing magnetic field creates a changing electric field that in turn supports the changing magnetic field (as long as they're both propagating at lightspeed). Then you have an electromagnetic wave, detached from its launcher. This falls off with inverse square.

            Under a quarter wavelength the near-field is so dominant you can pretty much ignore the far-field. Over a wavelenghth or so away the situation is reversed (unless your driving element is large compared to a quarter wavelength).

            So what's the wavelength of 60 HZ? About three thousand miles.

            I don't think we need to worry about the far field. B-)

            So figure inverse cube falloff - or faster if the motor's magnetic leakage has more than two poles.

            (This is why you need to get REALLY CLOSE to a magnet to erase your credit cards.)
      • Re:Umm... (Score:5, Funny)

        by number11 (129686) on Friday February 20, 2004 @05:18PM (#8344532)
        Actually, the magnitude of a magnetic field drops away as the square of the distance from the source.

        For a point source, it does. For a line source, it drops proportional to the distance. For a (relative to you) large plane, it doesn't drop at all. Granted, a point source probably approximates an electric razor, except at close range. (How far away do you hold your electric razor?) Old electric blankets had a large loop, not very good. Newer ones have the wire in pairs, so the field cancels out better (twisted pairs would be better yet, but probably lumpy). My house was wired sometime around when they invented electricity, before they had multiconductor cable, and sometimes the hot and neutral wires go by completely different routes (at least two circuits share the same neutral, too). So it's like living inside of an electric razor, I guess. Maybe I should connect a ground wire to my tinfoil hat.
    • Re:Umm... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by tessaiga (697968) on Friday February 20, 2004 @04:54PM (#8344202)
      Wouldn't this only be a problem if you use these devices every day directly in contact with your skull?
      Both my blow drier and my razor actually come pretty close to my skull when I use them :)

      I agree that the news release seems pretty sensationalized, though. If you read carefully, you'll note that in the study they subjected the rats to a 60Hz field for 24 hours continuously, not a few minutes at a time:

      In the study, the researchers discovered that rats exposed to a 60-hertz field for 24 hours showed significant DNA damage, and rats exposed for 48 hours showed even more breaks in brain cell DNA strands.
      I don't consider this enough evidence to support their conclusion that the damage is cumulative, since to prove that they'd need to expose the rates to 24 hours of radiation a few minutes at a time, with long breaks in between, in a manner that would more closely mimic the use of the electronic devices they refer to.

      A loose analogy would be that I can hold my breath for ten seconds 30 times over the course of a day without any danger, but if I tried to do it all at once the results would probably be pretty harmful.

      • Re:Umm... (Score:5, Informative)

        by LehiNephi (695428) on Friday February 20, 2004 @05:02PM (#8344323) Journal
        There's another factor to keep in mind--hair driers and electric razors have a 60hz signal going through with a fair amount of current. Therefore, there's an appreciable amount of power being put into the air. Cell phones, on the other hand, operate at much higher frequencies and at much much lower power levels.
      • Re:Umm... (Score:5, Funny)

        by Trillan (597339) on Friday February 20, 2004 @05:05PM (#8344366) Homepage Journal
        Personally, I'd expect to catch fire before getting brain damage if exposed to a hair dryer for 48 hours straight...
      • Re:Umm... (Score:5, Funny)

        by inertia@yahoo.com (156602) * on Friday February 20, 2004 @05:09PM (#8344421) Homepage Journal
        A loose analogy would be that I can hold my breath for ten seconds 30 times over the course of a day without any danger, but if I tried to do it all at once the results would probably be pretty harmful.

        Pirate #3: Got any skills?
        Guybrush Threepwood: Well, I can hold my breath for 10 minutes.
      • Re:Umm... (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Dr. Mojura (584120) on Friday February 20, 2004 @05:16PM (#8344506)
        Exactly. This doesn't seem to take into account the possible self-repair that the brain performs. It could very well be that any damage inflicted on the brain via magnetic fields would be repaired during sleep.

        It's been reported [sciamdigital.com] that sleep repairs the normal daily damage done on the brain from free radicals (different stages of sleep repairing different parts of the brain), and I can't see why this wouldn't carry over to magnetic damage. Is there a neurosurgeon in the house?
        • by Anonymous Coward on Friday February 20, 2004 @06:51PM (#8345491)
          That's good news! All I need to do now is shave _before_ I go to bed!
      • Re:Umm... (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward
        And what is the difference in thickness between rat and human skull?

        Brain research is hard because skull and skin filters almost all magnetic fields. You need to use superconductive magnets placed near the brain to detect magnetic fields emitted by the brain.

        If you want to stimulate the brain, you need to create magnetic field which changes at the rate of several kiloTeslas per seconds. Needless to say, you need huge amount of current for this.

        This title is seriously misleading.
      • Re:Umm... (Score:4, Interesting)

        by AvitarX (172628) <me@@@brandywinehundred...org> on Friday February 20, 2004 @06:44PM (#8345432) Journal
        I don't know this physics stuff very well, but is this unique to AC?

        because my razor has a battery in it (as do most I think) so it is not 60hz AC.

        Also I see no mention of new fangled toothbrushs. I use one of them inside my scull everymorning.

        I am too stupid to figure out how to read more then the blurb. Maybe it is the toothbrush's fault.

    • Re:Umm... (Score:5, Interesting)

      by jejones (115979) on Friday February 20, 2004 @04:56PM (#8344223) Journal
      Wouldn't this only be a problem if you use these devices every day directly in contact with your skull?

      Hmmm...I use headphones, don't you?
    • Re:Umm... (Score:5, Informative)

      by bexmex (663081) on Friday February 20, 2004 @06:29PM (#8345294) Homepage

      ok... its important to remember our history... Lai and Singh are the same two MORONS who made similar claims about magnetic fields almost ten years ago:

      http://www.electric-words.com/cell/research/laisin gh/memory1.html [electric-words.com]

      and NOBODY was able to duplicate their results. Although the two made $10,000 a pop being 'expert witnesses' for people who brough lawsuits against Motorola et. al. claiming their cell phones gave them tumors. It looks like they must have ran out of money.

      This is the WORST kind of junk science imaginable.


      • Yes, but you will have to admint that it is the very BEST of the worst kind of junk science!

        Basically, it has not been proven that small magnetic fields can influence chemical reactions. The energy of heat at room temperature is far, far more than the energy of a small magnetic field.

        Magnetic fields have an effect on electrons. They have an effect on the nucleus. But the electrons are moving energetically already, due to room temperature heat, and no low-energy influence on the nucleus affects chemical activity.

        Check out these conclusions: "The outcome of oxidative damage induced by magnetic fields will, thus, depend on various factors, including the oxidative status of the cell, capability of endogenous antioxidation enzymes and processes to counteract free radical build up, availability of exogenous antioxidants, iron homeostasis (a balance of iron influx, storage, and usage), the parameters of exposure (e.g., intensity and duration of exposure and possibly the waveform of the magnetic field), and whether the oxidative damage is cumulative."

        There are many statements like this that are not supported by the experiment that was done.
  • No sweat. (Score:5, Funny)

    by grub (11606) <slashdot@grub.net> on Friday February 20, 2004 @04:42PM (#8343977) Homepage Journal

    Personally I'm not concerned, my tinfoil hat doubles as a Faraday cage.
  • Minor nit to pick... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by American AC in Paris (230456) * on Friday February 20, 2004 @04:42PM (#8343979) Homepage
    Exposure also resulted in a marked increase in brain cell apoptosis, or "cell suicide," a process in which a cell self-destructs because it can't repair itself.

    I'd say that apoptosis is better characterized as "natural cell death". It's a natural and essential part of the cell's life cycle, and certainly isn't as alarming as the article's tone suggests.

    In fact, we have a word for cells that don't undergo apoptosis: Cancer.

    • by krilli (303497) on Friday February 20, 2004 @04:51PM (#8344155) Journal
      I think the key words are "a marked increase".

      Apoptosis is a system that terminates cells that are in risk of becoming cancer cells. A marked increase of cells that are activating this system does not bode good, IMO.
      • Actually (Score:4, Informative)

        by The Tyro (247333) on Friday February 20, 2004 @05:12PM (#8344458)
        you are partially right, some cancer cells undergo apoptosis... while other cancer cells have mutations that fight actively against it.

        Apoptosis is also characterized as "programmed cell death," something common during development. Apoptosis of some tissues is absolutely required, particularly vestigial structures that form during your early embryology (this happen in many species, not just humans).

        It should be noted that apoptosis is not simply rampant cell-suicide... it's actually a well-described and orderly process. Rampant cell membrane destruction, particularly in the brain (we see this with larger strokes) leads to the release of all kinds of inflammatory mediators... leading to swelling, damage to surrounding cells... all bad things. Nice, orderly apoptosis prevents much of this.
    • Neurons (Score:5, Informative)

      by The Tyro (247333) on Friday February 20, 2004 @04:56PM (#8344227)
      are not that mitotically active in the adult brain anyway. The Glial cells continue to divide, etc... but the neurons themselves are largely established by childhood, and their numbers steadily go downhill over the course of your life.

      That's not to say that neurons don't develop new connections and synapses... they do (otherwise learning could not take place)... they just don't divide much. The implication here is that since they don't divide, they are unlikely to become neoplastic, or pass on their damaged DNA.

      Apart from the apoptosis angle, I'm not sure how much clinical relevance this research actually has.
    • by Ironica (124657) <pixel.boondock@org> on Friday February 20, 2004 @05:09PM (#8344424) Journal
      I'd say that apoptosis is better characterized as "natural cell death". It's a natural and essential part of the cell's life cycle, and certainly isn't as alarming as the article's tone suggests.

      In fact, we have a word for cells that don't undergo apoptosis: Cancer.


      Seems you are only sort of correct here.

      Cells may undergo apoptosis from internal mechanisms *or* outside influences, but in both cases, the process induces the cell to self-destruct. This is how the immune system kills infected cells, how damaged cells sometimes eliminate themselves, etc. It may be that the cell has just determined its time is up, but in many cases the self-destruction is triggered by something going wrong with the cell.

      *Some* cancer cells have a resistance to apoptosis (through a variety of mechanisms). But the main thing that cancer cells don't do is stop reproducing. The signals that tell a cell that it can't undergo mitosis anymore goes bye-bye. Melanoma, lung, and colon cancer are among those that *also* produce chemicals that make them more resistant to apoptosis.

      (Yay Google for finding this [slashdot.org] site.)
    • by tgibbs (83782) on Friday February 20, 2004 @06:48PM (#8345463)
      I'd say that apoptosis is better characterized as "natural cell death". It's a natural and essential part of the cell's life cycle, and certainly isn't as alarming as the article's tone suggests.

      Yes and no. There are certainly cells that naturally undergo apoptosis (a.k.a. programmed cell death) in their life cycles. If not for apoptosis, we'd all have webbed fingers. But apoptosis also seems to function as an "emergency self destruct" circumstance in which something has gone catastrophically wrong with a cell. And just as in the movies, it's likely that occasionally something manages to push that big red button by mistake...
  • by jnguy (683993) on Friday February 20, 2004 @04:43PM (#8343981) Homepage
    How does staring at a monitor for 10-14 hours a day affect your brain? Not good is my guess.
  • Screwed (Score:5, Funny)

    by BWJones (18351) * on Friday February 20, 2004 @04:43PM (#8343985) Homepage Journal
    Hmmmm. Let's see: Electric shaver in the morning, RF access through security to my labs, Bluetooth synching, 802.11b & g for my internet access and music streaming, television, radio, microwave oven, cell phone..........Oh man, I'm screwed. :-)

    But at least I got rid of most of the CRTs in my life.

  • sweet. (Score:5, Funny)

    by fjordboy (169716) on Friday February 20, 2004 @04:43PM (#8343988) Homepage
    So not only am I more manly for using a straight razor...I'm also less likely to have brain rot!

    Now if I could just find some more tissues before pass out from bloodloss....
  • by SubtleNuance (184325) on Friday February 20, 2004 @04:45PM (#8344017) Journal
    its the BLOW DRYERS.

  • by FisterBelvedere (754614) on Friday February 20, 2004 @04:46PM (#8344033)
    I shav eevry dai nd I deosn't ntoice aynthign.

  • Headphones (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Genjurosan (601032) on Friday February 20, 2004 @04:46PM (#8344035)
    What about headphones? If something powered only by a couple of AA batteries causes damage, how about my headphones with two silver dollar sized speakers in them?

    uggg...

    • Re:Headphones (Score:5, Informative)

      by jaxdahl (227487) on Friday February 20, 2004 @04:49PM (#8344098)
      The electric fields induced by headphones would be different by the 60-Hz waves they studied in this study, so the results of this stucy are not necessarily transferrable to your example. A separate study would have to be done to consider this, but I suspect the worst damage would be to your eardrums if you had excessive volume from the headphones.
  • Of course... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by el-spectre (668104) on Friday February 20, 2004 @04:46PM (#8344036) Journal
    Sitting in front of an electron gun in a building full of wires... we're never exposed to magnetic fields...
  • by chazman00 (321337) on Friday February 20, 2004 @04:46PM (#8344037) Journal
    ..when she told me not to sit to close to the TV
  • by jbrader (697703) <stillnotpynchon@gmail.com> on Friday February 20, 2004 @04:46PM (#8344038)
    I used to work for a guy who buzzed the stubble off his face like twice a day. He was a real hustler and he thought he got more sales if he was all bay smooth I guess. But he was dumber than a bag of hammers. I guess now i know why.
  • by Mick Ohrberg (744441) <mick.ohrberg@gma i l . com> on Friday February 20, 2004 @04:46PM (#8344041) Homepage Journal
    What about living directly under a ~40kV power line?
  • by Jim Starx (752545) <JStarx@g[ ]l.com ['mai' in gap]> on Friday February 20, 2004 @04:47PM (#8344055)
    Electric shavers have been around long enough that if they caused and serios damage (besides pulling the hair out of my face instead of cutting it) we would have heard about it by now.
  • by signe (64498) on Friday February 20, 2004 @04:48PM (#8344085) Homepage
    OK, there's a previous study that used a really strong field for 2 hours, and it caused damage. Now they used a low-level field for 24 (and 48 hours) and it caused damage. How exactly does that get extrapolated to a low-level field for 3 minutes a day over a long period of time causing damage?

    -Todd
    • by Tackhead (54550) on Friday February 20, 2004 @05:02PM (#8344327)
      > OK, there's a previous study that used a really strong field for 2 hours, and it caused damage. Now they used a low-level field for 24 (and 48 hours) and it caused damage. How exactly does that get extrapolated to a low-level field for 3 minutes a day over a long period of time causing damage?

      And while both experiments are interesting (as is the testing of the hypothesis by fiddling with the iron in the rat brains), I still have to wonder why they didn't do the obvious third experiment: low-level field, 10 minutes a day, over the lifetime of the rat.

      (Or high-level field, 10 minutes a day, for the rat's lifetime, and low-level field, 5 minutes every hour, for a week, and so on, and so on.)

      Bottom line: Interesting data so far, but the investigation looks pretty incomplete. It also looks like it wouldn't take more than a month or two of additional experiments to complete the investigation of the really interesting hypothesis, namely that Electric Shavers Rot Rat Brains.

      Why wasn't that done?

  • ugh. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Niet3sche (534663) on Friday February 20, 2004 @04:52PM (#8344159)
    Someone's gotta put this into perspective:

    These are rats exposed to 60Hz AC EMF at 0.1 to 0.5mT for two hours (continuous). Also studied were rats exposed to 60Hz AC EMF at 0.1mT for 24 hours (continuous).

    So I suppose, as an analog ....

    Go lie down in an MRI for a couple days straight. If you don't go deaf from the noise (they're loud), then you might see similar results. Oh, and don't wear deodorant ... it contains aluminium which will cause it to be dragged through your arm... ouch.

    Not that I'm saying there may well be something in this ... but how many of us even use the shaver/hairdryer for 2 continuous hours in a sitting? It may well be (and is likely) that the effects are not cumulative, but are actually acute trauma scenarios. For instance, you can assert that dropping a grain of dust on your foot 5 times a day for 10 years would make for the same mass as, say, dropping a car on said foot. However, the problem then comes in saying, "therefore, the two are analogous - we will see the same damage from the dust as we would with the car".

    It just does not follow.

    • Antiperspirant (Score:3, Informative)

      by HoserHead (599)
      Actually, antiperspirant contains aluminum; deodorant is by definition free of these chemicals. It makes sense if you look at the names: antiperspirant stops you from sweating (by whatever means, which involve aluminmum salts), while deodorant just stops you from smelling.

      On a separate note, it's getting increasingly difficult for people who want to avoid antiperspirant on (perhaps ill-founded) fears of aluminum damage to one's body. Particularly for women; my girlfriend literally can't find any deodorants

    • Re:ugh. (Score:5, Interesting)

      by sacremon (244448) on Friday February 20, 2004 @05:30PM (#8344674)
      MRI tends to operate in the area of 1T, which is 2000 - 10000 times stronger than the fields used in this study.

      There have been a number of studies in the past that have tried to link exposure to magnetic fields to cancer (particularly leukemia in children who live near high voltage power lines). It has generally been scoffed at, as the energies involved are not enough to break chemical bonds. However, by involving iron and free radicals, the energies involved can have an impact on reactivity.

      Makes me wonder, given I did my Ph.D. dissertation in a lab that studied free radicals, using machines that generated fields of 0.3T (note, not mT) for hours at a time...

  • by rixstep (611236) on Friday February 20, 2004 @04:53PM (#8344177) Homepage
    I use a dual G5 shaver every morning, and the g/f always points out how I missed something here, something there, and it gets consecutively worse - I keep missing more and more.

    And here I thought it was just because I was hungover.
  • by Doesn't_Comment_Code (692510) on Friday February 20, 2004 @04:56PM (#8344231)
    In related news, DARPA funds research to eliminate the North and South pole.
  • by f97magu (312756) on Friday February 20, 2004 @04:57PM (#8344238)
    In the study, the researchers discovered that rats exposed to a 60-hertz field for 24 hours showed significant DNA damage
    In Europe we have 50 Hz fields. *sighs in relief*
  • by dr_canak (593415) on Friday February 20, 2004 @05:00PM (#8344287)
    Here is what Robert Park (author of "Voodoo Science") has to say

    http://www.aps.org/WN/

    -and-

    http://www.aps.org/WN/WN97/wn070497.cfm

    In fact, he devotes a whole chapter in the aforementioned book regarding the complete lack of evidence regarding EMF as a health risk. I use the chapter and this topic of research when teaching stats and epidemiology classes as an example of bad science, misused statistics, and causation vs. correlation.

    jeff
    • by nlh (80031) on Friday February 20, 2004 @05:20PM (#8344556) Homepage
      In fact, he devotes a whole chapter in the aforementioned book regarding the complete lack of evidence regarding EMF as a health risk.

      Right. But, um, wouldn't this study - by definition - be evidence regarding EMF as a health risk?

      nlh
      • by dr_canak (593415) on Friday February 20, 2004 @05:32PM (#8344690)
        Not necessarily,

        as the study needs to be independently replicated. Something that, to date, has not been accomplished by any researchers looking at EMF.

        That's a big part of the EMF scare. The CDC ( I think) did a huge meta-analysis of all the available evidence of EMF and related health risk, and found no link whatsoever. The study came out in 1997, and even with a huge sample size of cases and studies, there was no significant effect whatsoever.

        I'm not saying it's not something that should be explored and investigated, but EMF and health risk is right up there with cold fusion. Its not something significant research dollars should be spent on.
  • by deathcow (455995) on Friday February 20, 2004 @05:01PM (#8344313)
    We have been remodeling our house, and found the old circuit breaker panel improperly wired. The Neutral (white wire) was hardwired to the ground inside the panel. Now, having neutral grounded is normal for a MAIN DISCONNECT panel, but not for a SUB panel. If you have more than one panel, some are going to be SUB panels, and ground and neutral should be isolated from each other.

    Anyway, since neutral was grounded in the breaker panel, it means all the return current in the house was balancing between the ground and neutral wires to get back to the main disconnect panel. Now, sending current over wires makes voltage, and in this case, that voltage is seen on every grounded item in the house!! Electrical fields everywhere.

    Normally with 120V AC currents in your house, current on hot equals current on neutral, and the net RF field balance of a circuit in use is ZERO. (Try and clamp on ammeter to confirm this..) But if your ground and neutral are improper, it can make all kinds of wires have fields.
  • by p3tersen (227521) on Friday February 20, 2004 @05:02PM (#8344335)
    mobile phones operate at frequencies many millions of times higher than the fields used in this study. cellular damage from exposure to low-frequency fields (if real) would surely be mediated by a different effect than cellular damage from exposure to high-frequency fields (if real).

    i am skeptical of this study because a friend of mine who works in biomagnetics assures me that the effects of high B-fields on human tissue were carefully invesigated prior to the approval of MRI macines for use in biomedical imaging. any ill effects due to low-frequency or DC fields would have been found at that time. of course this is just hearsay and i am not qualified (or inclined) to assess this particular study on it's scientific merit! : )
  • by Eradicator2k3 (670371) on Friday February 20, 2004 @05:14PM (#8344478)
    ....if this affects the DNA in, oh I don't know, the "nether" regions of the human body. I mean, I do plan on having kids someday, provided I ever hook up with a woman (ANY WOMAN). Please respond immediately as my razor finished recharging and I'm kind o in the middle of something.
  • by errxn (108621) on Friday February 20, 2004 @05:15PM (#8344484) Homepage Journal
    I find this whole study to be flawed. I mean, really, when are rats gonna use electric razors or blow dryers in the "real world"? C'mon!
  • Leaving Earth Soon? (Score:4, Informative)

    by Kozar_The_Malignant (738483) on Friday February 20, 2004 @05:27PM (#8344643)
    The article abstract states that a field strenth of 0.01 mT (millitesla) applied over 24 hours caused a significant increease in DNA strand breaks.

    The Earth has a magnetic field with a strength that varies between 20,000 nT and 70,000 nT (nanotesla, the unit usually used.) Converting nT to mT using my few undamaged brain cells gives a background field strength for the planetary magnetic field of 0.02-0.07 mT. The lower numbers are found near the equator and increase with latitude.

    Using an electic shaver or hair dryer for five minutes a day would increase exposure by a factor o 0.0007, given the ranges for them found on several sites. You might be better off leaving the Earth's magnetic field altogether except for that nasty cosmic radiation it protects you from.

    Magnetic field, gamma radiation, take your pick.
    • by DynaSoar (714234) * on Friday February 20, 2004 @06:12PM (#8345142) Journal
      Kozar_The_Malignant (738483) sez: "The article abstract states that a field strenth of 0.01 mT (millitesla) applied over 24 hours caused a significant increease in DNA strand breaks. The Earth has a magnetic field with a strength that varies between 20,000 nT and 70,000 nT (nanotesla, the unit usually used.)"

      The article is about a magnetic field alternating 60 times per second. The Earth's magnetic switches polarity over hundreds of thousands of years; it is DC for the purpose of the article.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday February 20, 2004 @05:41PM (#8344806)
    First off, I'm an RF Engineer. 2nd, I know an RF Engineer who specializes in RF and EM biohazzard. Don't just take my word on it concerning the following information - please go ahead and double check it with what information you can find.

    This supposed damage from low-level EM fields has been a concern and a wife's tale for quite some time. Cellphones that are close to people's heads and electric blankets have often been the center of the discussions.

    But think about the MRI machines, where there are absolutely huge magnetic fields concentrated around someone's skull, where the brain tissue is housed. Does getting an MRI cause huge amounts of brain damage? Don't you think we would have found such correlations prior to now if there were some?

    I've heard stories of people coming out of MRI machines "seeing stars" briefly - that would make some sense because the brain works via electromagnetic impulses, which are effected by strong magnetic fields. I haven't heard of permanent damage resulting from exposure.

    Hair dryers and personal Shavers? Come on. No.
    Electric blankets are a bit more diffult to dismiss, since they do create an EM field covering a person's body, and at 60 Hz. Cellphones far from cell stations transmit more power, and right next to a person's head.

    However: the only thing that has been shown to conclusively disrupt DNA is ionizing radiation such as that of radioactive materials or ultraviolet light. (As can be shown of instances of skin cancer in the case of UV, and cancer from radiation - even though it's also used as a treatment for cancer - for the very same reasons). Those are things to be concerned about.

    RF energy such as that in cellphones has been found to be safe except for the heating created by the RF energy, the very principles behind the microwave oven. [Which concentrates 1,000 watts into a metal cage with a small amount of food in it - a very different scenario than a very low power cellphone next to a quite large meaty object in open air.]

    There are areas where people work where CRT monitors do not function due to the magnetic fields in the vicinity. I.E. we're talking more than 1 gauss [yes, 1,000 mili gauss] of magnetic field. Hint: THEY LIVE, and they're working in that environment every day. [Think about broadcasting stations, or power stations, etc, etc.]

    This will eventually be shown to be mostly bunk.
  • by HangingChad (677530) on Friday February 20, 2004 @05:53PM (#8344950) Homepage
    ...the electric field put out by my mon....mon thingy...this glowy thing next to my computer with the pretty pictures on it. Mon...mon something.
  • My car is killing me (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Mr_Huber (160160) on Friday February 20, 2004 @06:13PM (#8345148) Homepage
    I wonder what the magetic fields from my '04 Prius' electric motor is doing? Also, has anyone else noticed their cassette tapes have a 2 week half life?
  • by Llywelyn (531070) on Friday February 20, 2004 @06:14PM (#8345161) Homepage
    There is no statistical test which is valid for small groups of inbred mice. Particularly when trying to extend those results to humans.

    Saying that "Electrical shavers make your brain rot" off of significant but not astoundingly skewed results in a single study involving 16 mice is a little bit premature.
  • Fenton Reaction (Score:5, Interesting)

    by DynaSoar (714234) * on Friday February 20, 2004 @06:26PM (#8345263) Journal
    The effect noted in the article is hypothesized to be caused by a Fenton reaction. This is the reaction of iron with other materials to form radicals. In this case it would be to form oxidizing radicals, such as hyperoxide species. These cause oxidative stress and damage if they're too concentrated. This was discussed in a recent /. article on high EM fields (http://science.slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=04/02/ 09/1223246&tid=). Their hypothesis comes from the fact that they used oxidizer scrubbers, like vitamin E, to prevent the effect. Oxidative stress is blamed for causing Parkinson's and other apoptosis based disorders, arthritis and non-viral immunosuppression (chronic fatigue/immune deficiency syndrome).

    As I said then, we're sadly ignorant about the effects of water in its various conditions and products due to external forces, on our systems. We're starting to find out a lot of answers, good and bad, are focused on water. In this respect, this article makes perfect sense.

  • by Nathaniel (2984) on Friday February 20, 2004 @06:29PM (#8345289) Homepage
    Next on the list, that alarm clock on my headboard that I sleep next to for 5-6 hours a day. Not that I'll be sad to see it go.

"It's what you learn after you know it all that counts." -- John Wooden

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