Reviewed by Kenneth R. Foster
By Devra Davis; Dutton, 2010; 271 pp.; US $26.95; 978-0525-95194-0
Zapped: Why Your Cell Phone Shouldn’t Be Your Alarm Clock and 1268 Ways to Outsmart the Hazards of Electronic Pollution
By Ann Louise Gittleman; HarperOne, 2010; 272 pp.; $25.99; 978-0-06-186427-8
Dirty Electricity: Electrification and the Diseases of Civilization
By Samuel Milham; iUniverse.com, 2010; 120 pp.; $12.95; 978-1-4502-3821-2
Edited by Paolo Vecchia et al.;
International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection; 2009; ISBN 978-3-934994-10-2; Available at http://www.icnirp.de/documents/RFReview.pdf
Risk Analysis of Human Exposure to Electromagnetic Fields
By Zenon Sienkiewicz, Joachim Schüz, Aslak Harbo Poulsen, and Elisabeth Cardis, report of the European Health Risk Assessment Network on Electromagnetic Fields Exposure; 2010; Available at http:/efhran.polimi.it/docs/EFHRAN_D2_final.pdf
Do you feel zapped, disconnected, electronically polluted by electromagnetic fields in your homes and workplace? Are you fearful of your electricity? These three books will feed your fears.
But are such fears justified? Public debates have been going on for more than a century about the possible health hazards of electromagnetic fields from power lines and radio-frequency energy from broadcast transmitters—and now cellphones. At the same time, health agencies have repeatedly reviewed the scientific literature and found no clear evidence of a problem. How can these totally different perspectives be reconciled?
Disconnect is the latest tome by Devra Davis, an epidemiologist with a variety of academic appointments on her résumé. Her previous books have excoriated other industries for the risks of their products, and in 2007 she founded an organization, Environmental Health Trust, "capitalizing on growing public interest" in them. In Disconnect she turns her attention to one of the "addictive delights of our technological age"—cellphones.
Davis writes in a popular style, personalizing her story with interviews with ordinary citizens who used cellphones and later developed brain cancer or other diseases. Her heroes are scientists who, she says, made breakthrough discoveries about the hazards of radio-frequency energy, only to be stymied by a cellphone industry that tried to stop their funding or disarm them by funding other scientists to cloud the issue with unsuccessful replication studies. Picking through the large scientific literature on biological effects of radio-frequency energy, Davis presents the case that "cell phones are not safe" and worries that half of the roughly 4 billion cellphone users throughout the world are under the age of 20.
In her less rigorous book, Zapped, Ann Louise Gittleman takes aim at electromagnetic fields of all sorts, from those emitted by cellphones to the much lower frequency fields associated with power lines. "You may be surprised—even shocked," she says, "to discover that on a daily basis you are exposed to some form of electromagnetic radiation that may be compromising your health." She describes the "electrosensitivity syndrome" that causes people to experience "a variety of often debilitating symptoms when they’re exposed to even low-level radiation."
Gittleman, who has a Ph.D. in holistic nutrition from the Clayton College of Natural Health and calls herself "the First Lady of Nutrition," says readers can "zap-proof" their lives by making "food and [food] supplements your radiation shield." Her "Zapped Diet" contains "the nutrients your body needs to help neutralize the stressful impact from EMF [electromagnetic field] side effects," and recommends honeybee food supplements (for its caffeic acid, a component of bee resin) and eating lots of walnuts. She provides links to activist organizations concerned about health effects of electromagnetic fields, and to homeopathic practitioners offering "internal EMF protection detoxification."