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Electric Shavers Rot Your Brain 709

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 ( 156602 ) * on Friday February 20, 2004 @05:42PM (#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.
  • Minor nit to pick... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by American AC in Paris ( 230456 ) * on Friday February 20, 2004 @05:42PM (#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 jnguy ( 683993 ) on Friday February 20, 2004 @05:43PM (#8343981) Homepage
    How does staring at a monitor for 10-14 hours a day affect your brain? Not good is my guess.
  • Headphones (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Genjurosan ( 601032 ) on Friday February 20, 2004 @05:46PM (#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?


  • by Mick Ohrberg ( 744441 ) <(moc.liamg) (ta) (grebrho.kcim)> on Friday February 20, 2004 @05:46PM (#8344041) Homepage Journal
    What about living directly under a ~40kV power line?
  • by savagedome ( 742194 ) on Friday February 20, 2004 @05:46PM (#8344048)
    Well, looks like you've been using electric razors & electric blankets far too long :)
  • What about speakers? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday February 20, 2004 @05:47PM (#8344054)
    They're low-level magnetic fields. Headphones, speakers, etc etc.
  • by NixLuver ( 693391 ) <.moc.citerehck. .ta. .etihwts.> on Friday February 20, 2004 @05:52PM (#8344163) Homepage Journal
    Hey, let's not get too excited. The article clearly details some protections. Vitamin E and melatonin, the article claims, protect against such DNA chain breakage.

    Also, let us note that when the article discusses 'apoptosis' (which, indeed, may be called natural cell death - where a cell simply stops living and breaks down its DNA in response to some trigger), it points out that the incidence of apoptosis and necrosis were increased by a statistically significant amount by the presence of magnetic fields.

    All in all, kiddies, take yer vitamin E and melatonin regularly if you use a cell phone or blow drier. You should be all right then.. :)

  • Re:Umm... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by jejones ( 115979 ) on Friday February 20, 2004 @05:56PM (#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?
  • by mosb1000 ( 710161 ) <> on Friday February 20, 2004 @06:01PM (#8344314)
    Of course, you should be able to tell that by how it gives you a headache after you've used it for a while. Then again, maybe I just get that from the flicker. At any rate, my girlfriends iMac doesn't have the problem. There's a NMR (nuclear magnetic resonance) Spectrometer in the basement of the chemistry building where I go to school. Every-time I get near it I get a splitting headache and feel sick to my stomach (as a result I try not to get near it). I've always wondered it was the magnetic field of just the ultrasonic noise it emits.
  • by p3tersen ( 227521 ) on Friday February 20, 2004 @06:02PM (#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! : )
  • Prolonged exposure (Score:2, Interesting)

    by dj245 ( 732906 ) on Friday February 20, 2004 @06:05PM (#8344373) Homepage
    "prolonged exposure to low-level magnetic fields..."

    And what qualifies as prolonged? Are some people so shaggy that they are using electric razors for hours on end? and not only that, but the only thing in an electric razor is a recharchable battery, maybe some electronics for charging said battery, and a motor and wires and switch. Millions of devices have these things in them, and humanity as a whole isn't getting stupider by the second (although sometimes it does seem that way). Scientists who make brilliant discoveries (and geeks in general) tend to have more of these devices, and these people represent the smartest people that humanity has to offer.

    I think this may be a case of a study finding some correlation where there really shouldn't be any, or just bad methods overall. I'm currently taking part in a medical study, and if nothing else i've learned that there a ton of ways for the participants and doctors to skew the results. Designing a good study is essential, but actually carrying it out properly is the tough part.

  • Re:ugh. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by supertsaar ( 540181 ) on Friday February 20, 2004 @06:08PM (#8344411) Homepage Journal
    Ever see that experiment where they stand a plate of solid aluminium on its edge in the center of an MRI scanner? Whe they let go, It falls down really slowly due to magnetic flux. (antiflux? its been a while since my last physics class :) ) That is not the same as 'starting to move on its own', granted. But magnetic fields do have an influence on non magnetic metals....
  • by drox ( 18559 ) on Friday February 20, 2004 @06:10PM (#8344428)
    You shave for maybe 5 minutes very second day, or perhaps even less often. With prsonal music you have speakers next to, or even inside, your ears for hours on end.

    People sleep all night, often every night, with electric blankets warming their bodies, and if it's cold they tuck their heads under the covers too. I'd think that'd be an even greater risk than the headphones.
  • Re:Umm... (Score:1, Interesting)

    by e.colli ( 630500 ) on Friday February 20, 2004 @06:10PM (#8344429) Journal
    All home eletricity generate a 50-60hz magnetic fields. And we lives all time exposed to it. Couldn't have eletricity wires in a wall near our beds?
  • by Big Toe ( 112240 ) on Friday February 20, 2004 @06:13PM (#8344463) Journal
    The free radicals do the damage, so just consume foods with antioxidants [] and everything will be fine.

    Crisis averted.
  • by TechnologyX ( 743745 ) on Friday February 20, 2004 @06:15PM (#8344491) Journal
    According to this page [], it's a minimal risk. I remember a study a while back that said that communities that had standard household power lines running through the yards of the homes yielded a higher cancer rate, but now that seems to not be the case.

    Better insulating perhaps?
  • by howlatthemoon ( 718490 ) on Friday February 20, 2004 @06:16PM (#8344498)
    Because more damage was done in 48 hours than in 24, so it is cumulative in the rats tested. They speculated that this maybe the case in other organisms because the kind of damage done is double stranded DNA breaks that are harder to repair than single stranded nicks. They cited other research which suggests the mechanism for repairing this damage is to remove the damaged cell which is replaced by cell division. This is great, except for the fact that neurons don't replicate in this fashion so it could lead to the accumulation defects. Maybe the effect is small, maybe it varies highly with some individuals being more susceptible, or maybe neurons have alternative repair mechanism, but I think it is worth more research.

    I'm not moving to a log cabin with no electricity anytime soon, but I'd like this research followed up with more experiments.
  • Thick Skull (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Flammon ( 4726 ) on Friday February 20, 2004 @06:16PM (#8344503) Homepage Journal
    Isn't a rat's skull much thinner than a human's? Wouldn't a thicker skull protect your brain better than a thinner one? If they really wanted to compare the effects on humans, they should have put helmets on the rats.
  • Re:Umm... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Dr. Mojura ( 584120 ) on Friday February 20, 2004 @06:16PM (#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 [] 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?
  • MRI (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Barnett ( 550375 ) on Friday February 20, 2004 @06:16PM (#8344512) Homepage
    "Exposure to a 60-Hz magnetic field at 0.01 mT for 24 hrs caused a significant increase in DNA single and double strand breaks."

    If this is true, just imagine what the 4T used by the MRI scanner at your local hospital will do to you.
  • Shavers are nothing. (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday February 20, 2004 @06:19PM (#8344548)
    Most people get the majory of their EMF exposure from their alarm clocks. While it's not quite as strong as a hair dryer or electric shaver, you're exposed to it for about 8 hours every day instead of 5 minutes.
  • Re:Umm... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by cayenne8 ( 626475 ) on Friday February 20, 2004 @06:20PM (#8344553) Homepage Journal
    What about staring at one or more computer monitors all day...they've GOT to be pumping out more EM waves....and are about the same distance as a blowdryer from your head...(approx 1ft.)
  • Floating Frogs (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Venner ( 59051 ) on Friday February 20, 2004 @06:27PM (#8344635)
    Hell, pretty much anything becomes paramagnetic if you have strong enough fields. Some things have stronger diamagnetic properties than others though.
    Aluminum is actually fairly paramagnetic, if I recall.

    Back in 1997 a group even levitated a frog [] in a 16 Tesla field. How fun is that?
  • Re:ugh. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by sacremon ( 244448 ) on Friday February 20, 2004 @06:30PM (#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 jabuzz ( 182671 ) on Friday February 20, 2004 @06:53PM (#8344959) Homepage

    Where the hell do they get figures of 10 and 30 Tesla from? A 25T magnetic field is about as strong as man can produce without using explosive flux confinement or discharging massive capacitor banks. This requires huge superconducting magnets cooled with liquid helium at temperatures close to abosolute zero.

    This is high school physics, the magnetic field from a straight conductor is easy to calculate. To get a magentic field of 30T, 1m from a straight contuctor requires a current of 150million amps!!!

    Looks like something written by a bunch of biologists who don't have the faintest clue what they are talking about. As a result we have more bloody junk science and anyone publishing such total and utter trash deserves a good kicking in the head.

  • Re:Umm... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by pclminion ( 145572 ) on Friday February 20, 2004 @06:56PM (#8344991)
    For a point source, it does.

    A point source? Please, tell me where to find this mythical magnetic point source (a.k.a. a monopole).

    For a line source, it drops proportional to the distance.

    Again, please tell me where to find a "line source" of magnetic field? You seem to be thinking of the electric field, which is quite different from a magnetic field. It's physically impossible to have a monopolar magnetic source. To put it in terms of Maxwell's Laws, the divergence of the magnetic field is always zero.

    Maybe I should connect a ground wire to my tinfoil hat.

    As I've said elsewhere, your tinfoil hat won't do a damn thing to block a magnetic field, grounded or not. Come on, you can surely find a magnet and piece of foil somewhere in your house and perform the extremely simple and obvious experiment that proves this...

  • by Tandoori Haggis ( 662404 ) on Friday February 20, 2004 @06:58PM (#8345013)
    No I'm not kidding.

    There used to be shavers that relied on the user using a squeezing action to pump a ratchet gear which kept an internal flywheel working.

    They were manufactured by "Viceroy". I was given a broken one to play with when I was a kid. I was fascinated by it. .j pg itey ouknow/id24.html

    Is there as causal link between women using vibrators and medical problems?

    Anyway, before items such as those we may have seen on television appeared e.g. as found here: =VIBRATORS

    there were clockwork alternatives, as theis article explains, (diagram half way down page): s.html

  • Re:Umm... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by dnoyeb ( 547705 ) on Friday February 20, 2004 @06:59PM (#8345019) Homepage Journal
    The power of magnetic fields drops off with the square of the distance. That means the device must have mucho power if its going to reach inside your brain at any appreciable levels.

    Nevertheless, all magnetic fields affect everything in the universe to some small degree. So their is an effect.

    I think its something we just deal with. You cant expect this level of electromagneticness and not expect any adverse reactions. Its time we stop acting like its all good.

    btw you can consider 802.11 an electric field, and not a magnetic one.
  • My car is killing me (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Mr_Huber ( 160160 ) on Friday February 20, 2004 @07:13PM (#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 dinog ( 582015 ) on Friday February 20, 2004 @07:24PM (#8345246)
    Hmm. I guess I'll have to give up many things. I don't use a hair dryer or electronic shaver, but I do start my car every day. The solenoid puts off a fairly strong EMP. No more cars for me. Also My TV and microwave have to go. I'll get rid of my phone, computer, and stereo as well. Those speakers with gigantic magnets can't be doing me any good. Hmmm, isn't sunlight a form of low level EM radiation ?

    Maybe I should just disconnect myself from the so called grid, move out into the country and orienteer in the dark for entertainment. All I'll need is matches and a compass ... (?) .... AAAAIIIRRRGGH !!!
    My God, I'm doomed....

    Dean G.

  • Fenton Reaction (Score:5, Interesting)

    by DynaSoar ( 714234 ) * on Friday February 20, 2004 @07:26PM (#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 ( 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.

  • "DNA ROT" (Score:3, Interesting)

    by mcc ( 14761 ) <> on Friday February 20, 2004 @07:38PM (#8345376) Homepage
    OK.. I'm looking at this... and I REALLY don't know very much about cell biology, but I have to ask.. they seem to be really, really worried about DNA being damaged by this. Except as far as I am aware, brain cells never reproduce or divide. Is this correct, and if so, why would I worry about the DNA being damaged if Mitosis is never going to happen? Unless, like, you're shaving the head of a two week old baby or something.

    The implication I guess is that cell breakdown and death occurs more quickly, but aren't you constantly losing brain cells at a breakneck pace anyway?
  • Re:Umm... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by AvitarX ( 172628 ) <`gro.derdnuheniwydnarb' `ta' `em'> on Friday February 20, 2004 @07:44PM (#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.

  • by tgibbs ( 83782 ) on Friday February 20, 2004 @07:48PM (#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 lophophore ( 4087 ) on Friday February 20, 2004 @08:02PM (#8345590) Homepage
    Ahh, no. Magnetic radiation is not absorbed by the lead in the front of the CRT. The lead is there to block x-ray radiation. Most of the magnetic field goes right through that.

    Do you recall the vertical refresh rate of your monitor? Most modern computer monitors refresh between 60 and 85 hertz, un-nervingly close to the 60 hertz rate described in the article. Fortunately, most of this oscillating magnetic field is in the back of the CRT monitor. So yes, your computer CRT monitor may be harmful. If this worries you (should it?) then invest in a LCD display.

    I wonder what the prolonged effects of the 60 hertz field produced from the synchronous motor or power transformer of bedside alarm clocks does for you.

    After reading the article, I plan to become a luddite hermit.

  • by illumin8 ( 148082 ) on Friday February 20, 2004 @08:30PM (#8345789) Journal
    My electric shaver has a Nicad battery that is charged by AC power, but the motor itself runs off of power from the DC battery. I'm not an EE major, but isn't having a DC current next to your head a lot different than having a 60 hz AC current running next to your head?

    I'm just curious, because I just bought a nice electric shaver and I'd like to keep using it. I never use my shaver while it's plugged into the wall. I only plug it in about once a week to recharge it.

    There is an increasing number of western medical doctors that are starting to believe that having electric fields near your body aren't health for you. One of my favorite doctors, Dr. Weil, who has a great website [], by the way, recommends that you should get rid of the clock radio by your nightstand as well as any electric blankets in your house. It has also been proven that women who spend 8 hours a day in front of a CRT monitor during pregnancy have a higher rate of birth defects. Exposure to electromagnetic fields can't be that good for you, so I try to stay away from them...

    Of course, I'm typing this from my Powerbook sitting on my lap while I sit on the couch, with the AC adapter plugged in and charging away... Maybe I shouldn't try to have kids for the next little while... :-)
  • by -tji ( 139690 ) on Friday February 20, 2004 @08:45PM (#8345930) Journal
    Aren't most electric razors these days battery powered? Mine is. So, I'm not using that 60Hz AC wall power.

    But, I assume the electric motor emits an electric field. I wonder how that compares to the field in their study.
  • Re:Umm... (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday February 20, 2004 @09:11PM (#8346139)
    But WE ARE inmersed in a 50/60Hz electromagnetic field 24 Hs a day, 365 days a year (almost).

    We are not actually touching with our head this sources of radiation, but if the effect is cumulative ANY electric device (including the wires inside the wall) will contribute to produce these terrible effects.

    Try touching an oscilloscope probe with your finger. You'll see what I mean.

  • Please...... (Score:2, Interesting)

    by psi42 ( 747491 ) on Friday February 20, 2004 @09:15PM (#8346165)
    When I was in Radio Shack a few months ago, I saw a sign posted that looked somewhat like this:

    Certain components sold
    in this store, such as portable
    CD players, contain lead, which can cause
    cancer. You should wash your hands thorougly after
    touching these materials.

    Of course, it was a lot more formal than that (I don't exactly possess a degree in Lawyer Talk), but that was basically the gist of it.

    Now, it's kind of hard to take an article like this seriously when stuff like this is being posted. How much risk, exactly, is there in getting lead poisoning from a portable CD player?

  • Re:How close? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by SlashSim ( 229766 ) on Friday February 20, 2004 @11:40PM (#8346974)
    Draping your welding cable over your shoulder and behind your back so that it passes near your wallet while welding will eventually ruin your credit cards too.

    Why throw it over your shoulder like a continental soldier? It's easier to weld a clean bead and less tiring when you're not holding up 5 feet of #2 AWG cable with the stinger.

  • Re:How close? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Dr. GeneMachine ( 720233 ) on Saturday February 21, 2004 @03:13AM (#8347805)
    Not if it's 10 Tesla. Found that out the hard way. ;)

    Yeah... welcome to the club. Ahh the powers of an NMR magnet - erased my credit cards on my last day of work before going on vacation. Found myself in italy the next day with a fried card. Yay.

  • Re:Umm... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by stephanruby ( 542433 ) on Saturday February 21, 2004 @05:27AM (#8348183)
    Then, I guess you would have a problem with the Journal of the American Medical Association, that supposedly prestigious peer-reviewed scientific journal contains so many stupid pharmaceutical advertisements, it's almost as bad as Ms. Magazine.

"Say yur prayers, yuh flea-pickin' varmint!" -- Yosemite Sam