Organic Consumers Association

Campaigning for health, justice, sustainability, peace, and democracy

The Harmful Effects of Electromagnetic Fields Explained

I’ve often noted that electromagnetic fields (EMFs) are a pernicious, hidden health risk. But exactly how does this kind of microwave radiation damage your health? Martin Pall, Ph.D., has identified and published research describing the likely molecular mechanisms of how EMFs from cellphones and wireless technologies damage plants, animals and humans.1,,3,4

Pall has a bachelor’s in physics from Johns Hopkins and a Ph.D. in biochemistry and genetics from Caltech, and is uniquely qualified for this type of research. For the past 18 years, he’s been scouring the medical literature, integrating and drawing parallels between work done by others to answer this pressing question. Pall explains:

“There is a huge amount of information out here that nobody has the time to integrate, digest and make connections [between]. That’s what I’ve been doing … I was interested in EMFs before I could understand how they worked. Then I stumbled onto two papers that told me, ‘Well, this looks like the way they work,’ and then I dug out more and more papers …

What the [initial two] studies showed was that you could block or greatly lower the effects [of EMF] by using calcium channel blockers … That was the key observation …

Now [I have found] 26 [papers] … They all show that EMFs work by activating what are called voltage-gated calcium channels (VGCCs). These are channels in the outer membrane of the cell, the plasma membrane that surrounds all our cells. When they’re activated, they open up and allow calcium to flow into the cell. It’s the excess calcium in the cell which is responsible for most if not all of the [biological effects].”

EMFs and Intracellular Calcium

When you expose cells to EMFs, there’s increased intercellular calcium. You also get increases in calcium signaling, which is important as well, in terms of explaining the damage EMFs cause. For the past 25 years, the industry has claimed that non-ionizing radiation is harmless and that the only radiation worth worrying about is ionizing radiation. Pall’s research unequivocally proves that this assumption is false.

“It’s been very clear, going back all the way to 1971 and even before that, that this wasn’t true. But we didn’t know what the mechanism was. Now, we do. I think it’s very important, because the industry’s been trying to hoodwink everybody for decades. Now we know how it works. One of the other things that’s very important about this is that there is a wide variety of different health impacts that have been reported. Now we can explain how [these problems arise].”

How EMFs Damage Your Health

When your VGCCs are exposed to EMFs, they open up, allowing abnormally large volumes of calcium ions into the cells — about 1 million ions per second per channel. Each VGCC has a voltage sensor, a structure that detects electrical changes across the plasma membrane and opens the channel. EMFs work through the voltage sensor to activate the channel and radically increase intracellular levels into dangerous ranges.

“Because of the structure of the voltage sensor and its location in the plasma membrane, one can predict from basic physics that it’s extraordinarily sensitive to the electrical forces from EMFs,” Pall notes. On average, these forces are approximately 7.2 million times stronger on the voltage sensor than they are on singly charged electrical groups in the aqueous (watery) part of the cell. What this means is that current safety standards are off by a factor of about 7 million.

That’s how these very weak EMFs, which industry claims can’t possibly cause you any harm, are actually taking you out prematurely. They work by activating VGCCs. This turns out to be absolutely critical, because when there’s excess calcium in the cell, a number of things happen. Not only do you get excess calcium signaling, you also get increased nitric oxide (NO). While NO has many beneficial health effects, massively excessive NO reacts with superoxide.

Superoxide levels also rise in response to increased intercellular calcium. Together, they form peroxynitrite, which is an extremely potent oxidant stressor. While not a free radical, peroxynitrites break down to form reactive free radicals, both reactive nitrogen species and reactive oxygen species (ROS) including hydroxyl free radicals.

“You get both, because you get hydroxyl radicals and carbonate radicals and NO2 radicals,” Pall explains. All three do damage. According to Pall, most of the damage is likely done by excessive free radicals, but some damage is caused directly by the peroxynitrites. The end result is rather massive harm, as excessive oxidative stress and nitrosative stress are involved in nearly all chronic disease. Much of the pathophysiology also has to do with the excessive calcium signaling, independently of peroxynitrite.

Get 20% off Mercola products, plus 20% of the sale goes to Organic Consumers Association.

Get Local

Find News and Action for your state:
Regeneration International

Cool the planet.
Feed the world.