EMF/EMR “Protective” Devices
Upon becoming aware of the heath dangers created by their exposure to manmade electromagnetic frequencies, many people hope there is a gizmo of some kind that will serve as a cure-all, providing them with complete protection.
Don Maisch recently posted an excellent piece on the subject of “protective” devices, on his blog, which includes comments by experts Dr. William Ross Adey and Alasdair Phillips.
EMF Protective Devices
HOWEVER, if you dig deep enough you will usually find behind some of these companies a Telco’s public relations firms doing their best to “comfort the community”. The message is: Don’t worry about your cell phone or that ugly tower at the end of the street. Just purchase one of these wondrous devices and be comforted that you, and your family, are protected.
Some years ago, when cell phone towers first started appearing on the Mornington Peninsula, South Of Melbourne, Australia, at the same time that public protest started up, a “Harmonic Products” seller appeared at meetings, offering “Power Towers” that would protect whole communities against the radiation. Why go down the frustrating path of community protest when with a modest investment of only $750 you could be protected. I later found out while in Queensland that the main person behind Harmonic Products was also doing work selling phone contracts for Vodafone! Nice!
Following are excerpts from my submission:
Submission on EMF “Protective Devices”
Don Maisch, Emfacts Consultancy
June 15, 2000
Information Technology and the Arts References
Committee, Parliament House , Canberra ACT, 2600
Dear Chairperson and Committee members
I’d like to direct the Senate Inquiry’s attention to a related problem concerning mobile phones and health, and that is the sale of devices that claim to provide protection from such radiation. This is now a multi-million dollar business around the world, with the involvement of often-dubious companies in so-called “scientific research”. This is already leading to confusion about the state of knowledge, quite apart from the dubious, and often frankly ridiculous, claims often being made about their protective effects. I submit for your consideration the attached discussion paper, which attempts to address the growing problem of the promotion, advertising and sales of a whole range of so called EMF “protective devices”.
“Current studies have shown that your heart rate as measured by an ECG is altered for a week after making just one telephone call on a digital or analogue mobile phone.Even non-users up to 60 meters away are affected by the frequencies received and generated by a mobile phone, those within 10 meters being highly affected. _ Try an easy and economical solution. You need a PHP Phone disk! ”
This disk is a small piece of metal, aluminum or titanium, that when stuck on the side of the phone, supposedly provides complete protection for the phone user.
The attached paper with this submission examines other similar devices and the companies who market them. It would be my recommendation that for any device that makes claims of protecting one from EMFs it should be a requirement that independent testing, from a recognized testing facility, be carried out to test the validly of these claims before it is allowed to be advertised and sold. As Carl Sagan said: “Extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof”. For the public hearings, I am quite happy to bring along a range of these devices and show by testing that they have absolutely no effect at reducing electromagnetic fields.
November 1999 (Updated June 2000)
I have been directly involved in the EMF/EMR health effects issue since 1993 and have been observing, with growing concern, the rapid growth of an “industry” that is producing all kinds of devices that are claimed to protect the user from the harmful effects of exposure to electromagnetic fields (EMF) or electromagnetic radiation (EMR). The science behind some of these devices could best be described as highly speculative and not based on any established scientific research. The extravagant claims made by the promoters of these devices fail to meet any criteria for proper scientific validity of the claims.
[The discussion in this paper specifically does not include mobile phone cases, which employ metallic shielding to reduce the level of absorption by the head when using a mobile phone.]
The selling of EMR protective devices is a rapidly growing “industry” not only in Australia but in all countries where concerns are being raised as to possible health effects from electromagnetic radiation. As a result, there are increasing concerns being raised from serious researchers that this “industry” is counter-productive to honest research and casts the whole science of bio-electromagnetics into disrepute. It also serves to diminish public concerns as to possible health hazards.
At the Tenth International Montreux Congress on Stress, held in Switzerland from February 28 to March 5, 1999, the issue of ‘protective devices’ was specifically examined. This Congress featured papers from some of the world’s leading Bioelectromagnetic researchers as well as researchers in the clinical applications of “electromedicine”. Presentations were given on holistic medicine, alternative, complementary and other non-traditional approaches to stress reduction by speakers from all over the world.
To quote from the Congress:
“Our purpose has been to provide a more panoramic perspective of the vast clinical potential of safe Bioelectromagnetic approaches for the detection, diagnosis and treatment of disease, as well as the promotion and enhancement of health. One of the major reasons that electromagnetic therapies have not been more widely accepted, or are dismissed as quackery, is the plethora of worthless products making extravagant claims based on lavish testimonials that have no scientific basis or support. It is often difficult for the public, and even doctors and health professionals, to separate those that are authentic or may have potential merit, from others promoted by well intentioned but misguided zealots, as well as charlatans, who capitalize on placebo effects, and the lack of governmental regulations. This Congress and its sponsors can provide the tools to make such distinctions.”
Dr. William Ross Adey was the 1999 Hans Selye Award recipient at the above mentioned Montreux Congress on Stress. Dr. Adey is one of the most leading research scientists in the world today. His published research consists of over 400 papers, as well numerous books that he has contributed to. His research has been devoted to electromagnetic field/biological interactions, cell membrane organization and intercellular communication, organization of cerebral systems and cellular mechanisms, bio-instrumentation and bio-engineering, etc. His achievements in these areas have been acknowledged by numerous awards and honours, including fellowship in the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers, the D’Arsonval Award from the Bioelectromagnetics Society, the Sechenov medal of the Russian Academy of Medical Sciences and appointment as Distinguished Visiting Professor of Physiology at Loma Linda University School of Medicine, and Professor of Biochemistry at the University of California.
On July 20, 1999 I e-mailed Dr. Adey about the growing industry of EMR “Protective Devices”. His detailed reply, received on 21 July, was in part, as follows:
“I agree wholeheartedly with the concept of getting rid of it. But since the original snake oil days in the U.S., this has proved inordinately difficult”. . . . “With due respect, I am less than impressed with the attitude of certain groups in the medical profession who brush aside any suggestions for restraint in their espousal of weird devices, which they frequently justify with the retort that they can see the good results of their totally uncontrolled testing, and who are we as research scientists to urge caution and truly blinded testing. . . .”
As the EMF/EMR health effects issue becomes more widely known, especially in relation to mobile phone use, there is a corresponding increasing number of so called EMF protective devices being advertised in health and alternative magazines as ‘cure-alls’ which apparently claim to provide complete protection from exposure to all forms of man made electromagnetic fields (EMF). Though there is a wide range of devices being advertised that makes all kinds of unsubstantiated claims, they all have several features in common:
a) They neither attempt to reduce nor remove electromagnetic fields: Using a suitable meter to measure either 50-60 Hz, radiofrequency or microwave fields, no reduction will be found with, or without, the device.
b) They do not have any working limits: A blanket claim is usually given with no restrictions as to what is the maximum level of EMF/EMR exposure that the device can provide protection against.
c) The science that they quote is very speculative and arbitrarily applied to some simple device without any scientifically acceptable evidence of the truth of the claims.
The classic book on the health effects of electromagnetic radiation; Cross Currents: The Perils of Electropollution / The Promise of Electromedicine by Robert O. Becker, is often referred to in the advertising material promoting EMF protective devices. What is not mentioned however is that Dr. Becker also mentions what may well be the operative factor in how these devices sometimes appear to “work”, resulting in glowing testimonials. This factor is the placebo effect. To quote from page 98-99 of Becker’s book.
“The best example of the operation of profound belief is the placebo effect. A famous case is that of a man who was dying of inoperable cancer during the time of the laetrile controversy in the 1960’s, prior to the availability of chemotherapeutic drugs for cancer treatment. Laetrile is a simple chemical that was claimed to have a major anticancer property. It was promoted by some physicians who had excellent credentials and it enjoyed wide usage for a while, although with mixed clinical results. Some patients reported complete “cures”, while others experienced no effects at all.
The patient mentioned above had lost a great deal of weight and was in constant pain, and he asked his physician if he could try laetrile. The doctor saw no reason to stop him, and he told the patient that he knew of several people whose conditions had improved markedly with laetrile treatments. After beginning this treatment, the patient experienced a remarkable recovery: the tumor diminished greatly in size, the patient gained weight, and his pain disappeared.
A few months later, when the cancer was no longer palpable and the patient felt that he was making a complete recovery, he read the press reports saying that the AMA had declared laetrile “worthless”. Very shortly thereafter, all of his previous physical symptoms and signs recurred, and the tumor reappeared. The patient’s physician then told him that he had obtained a much more potent preparation of laetrile that did work, and he proceeded to give him daily injections of what was actually just distilled water. Again, the patient went through a complete remission, with the tumor size diminishing to a non-palpable state. The patient again experienced a rapid gain in weight and a renewed sense of well being. But a short time later, he read that after careful testing, the FDA now completely supported the AMA’s opinion that laetrile was worthless. The tumor underwent a massive increase in size, the man died within a few weeks.
There is no doubt that laetrile is basically a worthless chemical that has absolutely no specific anti tumor effect. The patient’s two episodes of recovery can only be ascribed to his profound belief, reinforced by the authority of his physician, that the treatments would work.”
From what I have been seeing over the past six years, increasing numbers of people are being swayed by the professional networking marketing techniques that are increasingly being used to market these so called protective devices and even some doctors and other health practitioners are getting into selling these devices to their patients. This is totally unacceptable in my opinion. It is obvious that the increasing awareness of possible health hazards from electromagnetic fields, and the controversy generated by this issue, has opened up an area for opportunists to exploit the situation by offering easy solutions to a very complex environmental issue. It is time that this “industry” be subjected to an open and honest evaluation of the validity of the science and extravagant claims made by the people promoting these products. Currently there are no requirements for these people to provide any proof whatsoever that their various devices live up to the claims made. What is lacking in science is made up for with glossy packaging and professional marketing techniques.
What is needed is a legal requirement that before any such product is available for sale, the various claims for “protection” be verified by independent laboratories, using accepted scientific methods. The people wishing to market such devices should meet the cost for such testing.
The only way that we are going to resolve the EMF health debate is with good science based on a proper scientific method. This is the only way that we can proceed if we ever hope to eventually get proper EMF exposure standards that will provide an adequate level of protection for all of the community.
It is very easy to get trapped by one of two dangers here. If we stay completely within the framework of conventional theories and concepts we may find it impossible to advance seriously in our understanding of the complex nature of EMF bioeffects.
This was well put by one of the participants of the 1996 Vienna EMF workshop, Lebrecht von Klitzing, who wrote in the abstract of his paper: “Clinically relevant events of bioeffects by low frequency pulsed em-fields according to GSM- and DECT-technique at extremely low energy levels” that:
“One explanation for why the bioeffects of electric, magnetic and electromagnetic fields are being discussed so controversially is the ignorance towards the biocybernetic system of man. The safety guidelines consider only the energy transfer and the calculated tissue heating, they have not taken into consideration the subtle biosystem itself. At extremely low energy levels frequency dependent influences on biofunctions lead to additional effects, which can not be explained by generally accepted and well known physical laws.”
However, the other, and possibly greater danger, is that if one uncritically accepts every unconventional theory that comes along and then launches into foisting very questionable gadgetry on the populace, that is not science, it is unskilled shamanism.
June 12, 2000
Emfacts ConsultancyFollowing are some comments on various “EMR Protective Devices”
1) The Q-Link Pendant:
In the December 1998 issue of Good Medicine, the article “Home Truths” (no author mentioned) examined the many possible sources of exposure to EMFs at home and concluded with the sales pitch:
“If you’re concerned about exposure to EMFs, you could invest in a Q-Link pendant.. This Is a necklace-type device that uses an internal microchip and works like a tuning fork, realigning the body’s bio-energy, enabling the body to resist the damaging effects of EMFs.” (price: $276)
This type of advertising, deceptively served up as an article in a health magazine, tends to give credibility to the fantastic claims made by Clarus the manufacturer of the Q-Link pendant. According to other Q-Link advertisements Clarus claims a microprocessor inside the pendant creates an energy field which protects the wearer against man-made EMFs.
“The revolutionary Q-LINK PENDANT creates enhanced, natural relief from computer and mobile phone radiation and other sources of man-made electromagnetic fields (EMF) and effectively helps your body to protect itself. It is designed as a pendant for individual use and has been proven to naturally strengthen the wearer’s own bioenergy.Based on years of leading edge research conducted around the world, the revolutionary technology used in the Q-LINK was developed in collaboration with esteemed scientists at Stanford University and the University of California. The pendant has been thoroughly tested and has proven to consistently reduce the harmful effects of EMF on the human physiology. The Q-LINK has been shown to reduce EMF stress levels by up to 90%, as well as stress caused by other sources.The Q-LINK PENDANT reinforces our natural bioenergy by activating an omni-directional, protective field around the body. It enhances the body’s natural, creative functioning to align with the basic bioenergetic rhythms found everywhere in nature. it has been found that when these rhythms are strong, life is flourishing, and when disrupted or weak, life is threatened or diminished. Customer studies also report boosted energy and vitality, enhanced mental clarity and alertness, balanced emotions, improved athletic performance and general well being.”
“The Q-link pendant by Clarus that has been discussed recently is worthless as a physical EMF protection device. I have fully tested mine and then destructively tested it. They claim it is a microchip and a resonant circuit. In fact it is a coil, connected to nothing and a small single-sided printed circuit board with a pretty gold plated pattern on it and what looks like a surface mount capacitor mounted on it. When I took it apart it turned out to be a surface mount shorting link soldered to two copper pads which were not connected to anything else. The unit had no resonances between 1 Hz and 1000 MHz. Absolutely of no possible EMF protection value. A complete con. Like carrying new ‘religious relics’ around hoping they will bring you luck.”
Alasdair Philips, BSc(Eng), DAgE, MIAgE
Director, UK Powerwatch, (email@example.com)
Comments on the Q-Link Pendant from Dr. Denis Henshaw
(Quoted from the UK Daily Mail, July 15, 1997)
“I think this is a load of rubbish . . . There’s no way something like this could shield the whole body. I know of no credible evidence for any of it – and if there was any, I would have heard about it. It would have been published and hailed as a major breakthrough.”
Dr. Henshaw is a research professor in human radiation, Department of Physics at Bristol University U.K. He is best known for his research that found that power frequency electric fields attract naturally radioactive elements, chemical pollution and potentially hazardous microorganisms.
2) Harmonic Products :
An Australian company which markets a fantastic array of devices is Harmonic Products, based in Queensland. One of their leading products is the EMPower Modulator, supposedly designed to cleanse homes and offices of any level of damaging EMFs simply by plugging into any convenient power socket. This company also markets the Harmonic Lightower which is supposed to cleanse properties and neighbourhoods from all RF/MW transmitter sources, such as mobile phone and radar transmitters, as well as improving the entire ego-system in the surrounding area! . It is claimed that these devices utilise “universal” energy from particles that travel faster than light.
This is truly an amazing breakthrough, considering that the Brookhaven National Laboratories, one of the American government’s foremost research bodies, has spent eight years building its Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider for a cost of about $700,000,000 (US) and this machine can only accelerate the particles that it utilises to 99.9% of the speed of light!!
A common feature of the Harmonic Products gadgets (and other similar devices) is that they have no stated limits to their protective ability, it could then be assumed that their claimed protective effect should also apply if one were exposed to high levels of EMF/EMR. For example, if the Lightower protects one from radar transmitters, will it also provide that protection standing in front of an airport radar beam? If not, then at what power level does the protective action cease?
The people who market these products usually make no attempt to identify and eliminate or reduce sources of excessive EMF exposure as they seem to suggest their device will fix everything. One example of this was found at a cancer support society where the office personnel were sold several EMPower Modulators and aluminium plates which were claimed would protect them from the EMFs. A proper EMF survey found very low fields throughout the centre and the office workers were advised to sit further back from their computers to significantly reduce their exposure to the monitor’s electromagnetic fields, advice not given by the modulator sellers. HOWEVER in the kitchen a situation existed where some of the kitchen staff were inadvertently exposed to 50 Hz magnetic field levels of around 160 mG from kitchen electrical equipment for a sufficient amount of time to cause concern. Simply changing their work practice reduced this to around 2 mG.
The brochure for the EMPower Modulator states:
“Designed, tested and approved to Australian Standards this new safety product combats the health risk associated with exposure to EMR.”
The Australian Standards that are referred to are only those required of any product that is plugged into a 50 Hz power source, that is, it is designed as to not electrocute the user! This advertising tactic is the same as what the cell phone industry likes to do when they claim that their mobile phones are safe because they conform to the relevant Australian Standard. In fact this standard is only for providing protection against immediate biological damage at high exposures. The standards mentioned in the EMPower Modulator advertisement have nothing to do with the claimed protective effect.
The same advertisement quotes the Victorian Trades Hall Council’s (VTHC) Hazard Information Sheet on the Health and Safety Effects of EMR: ” A strategy to prevent work related injury and illness must be aimed at modifying the workplace-controlling the hazard at the source.” This is referring to reducing the level of exposure, which the Modulator does not do. The Power Modulator instead claims to use “field conditioning technology which magically neutralises the negative effects of EMR.
It is worth noting the list of fantastic claims, unsupported by any scientific evidence made by Harmonic Products for their Harmonic Lightower, which is also claimed to total provide protection from mobile phone base stations :
“Accelerated germination in all plants, crops, fruit, etc; frost resistance; trees become very fire resistant, protects bush; stops biological stress caused by mobile phone, radar and satellite frequencies; animals become calm and docile, easier to handle; air becomes much cleaner and fresher, more negative ions; increased sap and sugar/nutrient flows, Great or vineyards, orchards; insect pests are not attracted to plants within harmonically enhanced fields; power lines, sub stations, transformers etc no longer cause biological stress; micro-climate improves within the treated zones. the health, well being and mood of people is often improved, especially children.”
As for the science behind all these claims, it is all explained in the Harmonic Lightower advertisement with the all embracing statement ” These Devices Work”!
Harmonic Products also makes something called the UFO. The Sydney Morning Herald had an article on this gadget in its DRIVE section, February 12, 1999, by Tony Davis:
“WAIT, THERE’S MORE
A Queensland company known as Harmonic Products Pty Limited has produced the most amazing automotive product since the Energy Polarizer.
Known as the UFO, it looks suspiciously like a 9 cm by 9 cm piece of flat metal. The device – it is claimed – can be fitted in minutes, works for life and brings the following benefits: zero toxic emissions (for any car in reasonably maintained condition); more power and/or improved fuel economy; and reduced mechanical wear.
The UFO brochure adds that the gains are “undeniable, instantly measurable”.
We tracked down inventor Noel Orchard, who initially told us he had a policy of not divulging to the media any details about the UFO. He then explained what it was and how it worked.
“It’s a little device which sits in the car which modifies a certain part of the frequencies coming off the alternator. It’s made entirely of stainless steel and has no moving parts.
“It’s a totally different concept to anything seen before.”
The makers promised to send university test results proving that everything they claim for the UFO is true. We have yet to see them.
So how much would you expect to pay for this device? But wait, there’s more … the UFO also reduces driver stress caused by a vehicle’s electrical magnetic and computer radiation. All that for just $600 – phone 07 5596 6726.”
A brochure obtained from Harmonic Products several months after the above article indicates that the UFO has since been renamed Harmonic Emission Control Technologies (HECT). This is one way of handling bad publicity!
The Harmonic price list ( Australian dollars):
The EMPower Modulator $295
Harmonic Lightower (small) $550
Harmonic Lightower (large) $850
UFO Car Kit ( now HECT) $595
Harmonic Products also market other products such as the EMpower Disk, Personal plate, 3 Phase Power Kit and the Wet Set, all of which are variations on the same theme.
3) Purple Harmony Plates (Aust)
This recent arrival to the protective devices market is a spin off from Harmonic Products’ network marketing scheme and apparently specializes in selling “Purple Plates, Disks and Angels”. These are nothing more than pieces of purple coloured anodized aluminum cut into various shapes which are claimed to have miraculous powers such as listed above in the Harmonic Products section.
One of Purple Harmony’s claims is that by simply purchasing their 2.7 cm Purple Disk and sticking it on your mobile phone, you are protected against its radiation. As with most of these devices no evidence is offered to verify these claims. Purple Harmony’s price list is as follows:
Purple Disk (two sizes) $25
Purple Angels (Two sizes) $ 20 & $30
Purple Plates (Two sizes) $35 & $100
4) The Safety Butterfly:
The Italians are now getting into the act with the Safety Butterfly, being marketed by ZUCCARI in Trento, Italy. If scientific proof were expressed only in professional packaging this one would be a winner. However when you read the advertising material it’s another matter. This device is specifically made for the mobile phone and simply by sticking the small butterfly shaped gadget on your mobile phone, you are “protected”.
“How does the Safety Butterfly work? Like the butterfly itself which cleans and purifies the air [?], the Safety Butterfly, protects us against electromagnetic waves at high frequency. . . . made of silicon and glass carbon, [it] eliminates the electromagnetic emissions in three ways. A large part of the electromagnetic waves can be separated and removed from their source (mobile phone) and therefore away from the person who is phoning. A much less consistent part is absorbed by the same Butterfly, stored and released slowly during the day when the source of emission is at a distance from the body and finally the remainder is transformed, transduced in natural infra red rays, which are not only safe but also favour biological activity.”
Revealingly, the manufacturer states:
“Tests on this product carried out by the manufacturer cannot be repeated. Therefore the manufacturer does not accept any responsibility for further tests carried out in a different manner.”
However the Butterfly information sheet plainly shows the mobile phone signal being deflected away from the user’s head but tests using an RF meter by this writer, failed to find any reduction in phone emissions by using the Butterfly.
5) The Bio-Shield
This product claims to provide protection by generating a frequency that somehow negates EMFs/EMR. For people who are concerned about the possible health hazards but do not know much about the technicalities, this may sound quite attractive. For instance why be concerned about any possible problems with the mobile phone transmitter tower built next to your home when simply by purchasing a “Bio-Shield”, your entire family is protected. The company that markets Bio-Shield first points out in its marketing material what the possible exposure hazards are, then goes right into the following sales pitch [with my comments added in brackets … Shivani]:
“As you can see, it is almost impossible to avoid the effects from EMFs. The only effective way to negate the effects of EMFs on the body is to generate a field that the body responds to instead of the 50-60Hz EMF fields.”
[The “only effective way” should be first identifying and then reducing, or eliminating any excessive EMF exposure, if found. When sources of exposure are identified it is usually possible to avoid those exposures without needing to resort to purchasing a protective device which is usually quite expensive.]
“The Bio-Shield is an effective device which generates a 8Hz field (naturally occurring earth frequency) which allows the immune system to return to normal, thus negating the effects of EMFs, allowing energy levels to normalize and EMF radiation symptoms to disappear.”
[ There is no research that I have ever seen that indicates that an 8 Hz frequency will allow the immune system to “return to normal”. Bruce Rapley, in the Section on the Techno AO device, mentions that quite the reverse may be true. This claim must also cover high level “EMF radiation symptoms” since no limits are stated. ]
“The Bio-Shield is designed to protect human beings and animals from the negative effects of man-made electromagnetic fields (EMF’s).”
[ Again, no limitations are given.]
“The Bio-Shield works on our body systems at cellular level. There is no need to track down individual sources of EMF’s and arrange alternative screening for all appliances.”
[Great news for the Bio-Shield sellers: they do not have to know how to conduct a proper EMF audit or even bother to take EMF measurements. Just sell a Bio-Shield.]
“Just plug the Bio-Shield into a socket, central to the area to be protected, and leave going. This will ensure a healthier, happier and safer environment to live or work in. [It] Helps reduce stress levels, Work attendance records may improve. Promotes a calm and relaxed atmosphere. Computer and appliance users concentration improved. Personal energy levels increase. Reduces effects on body from fluorescents, fax machines, photocopiers, computers, TVs, powerlines, cellphones etc. Reduces geopathic stress. etc.”
[ Where is the body of research that verifies all these fantastic claims?]