Podcast #15: Headaches, nausea, and fatigue. Might you be electrohypersensitive?

allergies asthma brain diet emf emf protection headaches heart podcast vaccines Dec 27, 2018

by Sophia Ruan Gushée


We live with more EMFs than ever from our wireless and wired technologies. Headaches, nausea, fatigue are some symptoms that could signal that you may have electrohypersensitivity.

Learn more about this by reviewing the transcript below or listening to the podcast (just click above). There are things you can do to help you take care of yourself. You'll learn more about our ability to develop resiliency and recover. I also ask Dr. David O. Carpenter about EMF protection products: do they work?

I ask relevant experts whenever I can about EMF protection products. There is no consensus on whether they work: I hear both yes, they help; and, no, it doesn't make sense to me that they work. So I keep asking and listening so that I can figure out what feels right for my family and I. And I keep sharing this information so that you may do the same. As always, consult your trusted healthcare providers as well.



Sophia:  What do you wish more people knew about electromagnetic fields?

David:  I really wish they knew more about the hazards, because electromagnetic fields they're part of our life.  They're very convenient.  Especially in the last 20 years, the exposure we all have has just increased enormously.  We have wireless everything.  You don’t think about that but you have satellite radio.  That’s wireless.  You have garage door openers.  That’s wireless.  We all have our cell phones and many people are on them continuously.  That’s all wireless.  We depend on electricity for lights, for powering our computer, for this and that, and those are all electromagnetic fields.  

There is a large body of evidence that excessive exposure to electromagnetic fields causes a great number of different diseases.  And because our exposures are increasing, and that’s true for practically everybody in the whole face of the earth, we can expect that the diseases associated with extreme exposures are also going to be increasing.  


Podcast Intro

In this podcast, I continue my conversation with Dr. Carpenter to talk more about electromagnetic fields (EMFs) from our wireless and wired technologies. Dr. Carpenter couldn't be more qualified to enlighten us on the science that has studied how EMFs may affect us. 

I got to ask Dr. Carpenter various questions that I don't usually have the opportunity to ask anyone. Like:

  • EMFs
    • Can connecting with the earth's energy, also known as grounding, help us Some people, including credible experts, think it can.
    • EMF protection products. There are various types available for sale. Are they helpful, or a waste of money? Again, some people, including credible experts, think they can.
    • Plants and EMFs. Can plants help protect us? How do plants react to EMF exposures?
    • Dental implants. Do they make us more prone to electrohypersensitivity?
    • Mattresses. Can metal inner springs in mattresses contribute to an electromagnetic field around us while we sleep?
    • Resiliency. Can we recover from too much EMF exposures? There's good news in his response.

If you missed my first podcast with Dr. Carpenter, check it out for more discussion on Dr. Carpenter's insights on how toxic chemicals and heavy metals can affect us. His perspectives are among the most informed on this topic.

The transcript for this podcast can be found on my website: www.NontoxicLiving.tips. So if you're commuting now and want to revisit something you heard, the transcript is a great resource.

On www.NontoxicLiving.tips, you can also find more guidance to detox your home and habits from toxic exposures, including EMFs. I'm also upgrading my EMF Detox workshop, and that's relaunching in March 2019. You can learn more about that on my website. 

At the start of this podcast, you'll hear the tail end of our first podcast. We talk about brain health and development, asthma, and the hygiene hypothesis. We'll then get into EMFs. At the end of this podcast, I revisit the topic of vaccines.


David Carpenter:  Now, the other neurologic diseases, ADHD, learning disabilities, reduction in IQ, this is something I've worked with a lot, specifically with lead, with PCBs, to some degree with methylmercury.  Now, we have evidence that environmental tobacco smoke reduces IQ.  And for all of these things, methylmercury that’s in fish, all of these things appear to reduce IQ by about the same degree when they're studied one at a time.  It’s 5 to 7 IQ points in highly exposed kids as compared to kids that are not exposed.  

But even some of the exposed kids, if you look at the distribution in the population, the curb has shifted down by about that 5-7 IQ points.  So there still are some exposed kids that have high IQ but it’s just not as high as it would have been if they had not been exposed.  

What is so striking is that whenever you see this reduction in IQ, there also is an associated reduction in attention span.  That raises some very interesting questions but it also makes sense.  If a kid can’t pay attention, how are they going to really learn whether in school or at home or anywhere?  

From my point of view… I used to be in a former life an electrophysiologist and I did a lot of work looking at brain slices of rodents and looking at an electrical response which we call long-term potentiation, which is very common and very prominent in the parts of the brain that are associated with learning and memory, especially in the hippocampus.  We can demonstrate that lead, that PCBs, that methylmercury, that a number of these things reduce this electrical response in the hippocampus and that is the first stage of learning in memory.  

But we don’t even know where in the brain something like attention is really focused.  It seems to be fairly diffusely related to the brain.  And we don’t know whether these same chemicals act on the neurons that are responsible for attention so that’s not quite clear.  

Nutrition has improved so much and poor nutrition is another risk factor for reduced IQ.  But we have all of these chemical exposures which are particularly horrendous in developing countries.  One of the issues that I've been most interested in talking about and studying but have not been able to get funding for, what happens if a kid is exposed not only to lead but also to PCBs, also to methylmercury, also to environmental tobacco smoke, also to arsenic, also to fluoride, all of these things that have been demonstrated to reduce IQ?  Is it still a reduction of only 5-7 IQ points or is it 10-14?  We really don’t know the answer to that because nobody has really done that careful study.  It’s a complicated study to do but it needs to be done.  

Now, you mentioned infections and allergies, including asthma.  That’s another very complicated issue.  Well, let me tell you a story.  I was involved in organizing a conference in the Philippines a number of years ago.  This was when the asthma incidence was just beginning to increase everywhere.  We had a wonderful speaker from Hong Kong who said if you look in Asian and Australian countries, you can predict the rates of asthma based on the number of McDonald’s restaurants there.  He wasn’t saying the McDonald’s restaurants cause asthma.  What he was saying is asthma is much more common in affluent countries in Asia, that being Japan and Singapore and Hong Kong and Australia and New Zealand, than it was in poor countries.  

I was very curious about that because there is a thing called this Hygiene Hypothesis which says that if you're too clean when you're very young, you don’t have a snotty nose, then your immune system overreacts when you get older leading to asthma and allergies.  But it didn’t seem to me that we see the same pattern here in the U.S.  

I came back and we looked in New York State and, very clearly, high rates of asthma are in the inner cities, especially the boroughs of New York City, the poor minority areas much more so than in more affluent areas.  

Still, asthma is increasing everywhere.  But the degree to which early life exposures determine one’s vulnerability to immune system diseases like asthma is a very interesting question.  At least from the Asian perspective, maybe we’re too clean when we don’t allow our children to be exposed to various infections.  If you have a 5-year-old you deal with those kinds of things all the time.  The kid goes to daycare and comes home with a snotty nose.  That may be a good thing for ultimate health.  

Sophia:  I know that Dr. Philip Landrigan has written about neurotoxins and what he's written has just shed light on how little of our chemicals are studied for neurotoxicity, especially on our children and prenatal exposure.  Then recently, I spoke to Dr. Hugh Taylor about his studies on mice exposed to cell phone radiation in utero.  And just the combination of these chemicals we don’t understand along with electromagnetic fields that could possibly also interrupt normal development.  

David:  Well, it’s interesting that I just today been reviewing a manuscript that’s been submitted to a journal that is focused on that same issue of what happens if you're exposed to electromagnetic fields and chemicals.  Unfortunately, the conclusion of the manuscript, I think it’s accurate, but the conclusion is that nobody has really studied that.  I've been giving some thought to it because when you do a review of a manuscript you have to make some recommendations.  

But we know a lot about the mechanisms whereby electromagnetic fields alter nerve cells.  They do so by generating reactive oxygen species, by inducing genes.  We also know that many chemical exposures do exactly the same thing.  It may not be the same genes but it’s the same reactive oxygen species.  So that really is an avenue to pursue.  

But these authors see it, I think correctly, that nobody has really addressed that issue experimentally.  And it is a very important one.

Sophia:  What do you wish more people knew about electromagnetic fields?

David:  I really wish they knew more about the hazards, because electromagnetic fields they're part of our life.  They're very convenient.  Especially in the last 20 years, the exposure we all have has just increased enormously.  We have wireless everything.  You don’t think about that but you have satellite radio.  That’s wireless.  You have garage door openers.  That’s wireless.  We all have our cell phones and many people are on them continuously.  That’s all wireless.  We depend on electricity for lights, for powering our computer, for this and that, and those are all electromagnetic fields.  

There is a large body of evidence that excessive exposure to electromagnetic fields causes a great number of different diseases.  And because our exposures are increasing, and that’s true for practically everybody in the whole face of the earth, we can expect that the diseases associated with extreme exposures are also going to be increasing.  

So what are those diseases?  Well, way back in the 1980s when I first got caught up in this debate, we showed that there was a greater rate of childhood leukemia in children living in homes that had high magnetic fields from electricity.  That still remains a controversial issue but there have been many replications demonstrating that there is a significant increase and risk of leukemia in children if they're exposed to high magnetic fields.  Fortunately, leukemia is not a very common cancer and it’s actually one for which there's better treatment than most other cancers, but it still remains a concern.  

More recently with the advent of cell phones, there's very strong evidence that excessive exposure to cell phones held to your head in a wireless mode increases the risk of brain cancer.  And it increases a risk of brain cancer right under the area where you hold your cell phone in that temporal cortex.  It does not increase the rate of brain cancer significantly on the other sid of your head.  So that evidence, I see, is very strong.  

The question is what can you do to reduce exposure?  Well, the radiofrequency electromagnetic fields from a cell phone fall off very rapidly with distance.  If you actually read the fine print of the instruction manual of your cell phone, somewhere in the middle it will say, “Do not hold this cell phone close to your head than about one inch,” or two centimeters or something like that.  Nobody reads that.  Nobody thinks about it.  But the manufacturers know that there's a problem if you hold your cell phone right to your head for long periods of time.  

So research, and its strongest from Scandinavia because while cell phones were discovered in the U.S., they were first manufactured in Scandinavia.  People there have been using it longer than most people in this country.  

But very strong evidence that long-term exposure increases the risk of brain cancer, especially gliomas and glioblastomas which are very dangerous form of brain cancer.  

There are other diseases.  It’s very clear that excessive exposure to radiofrequency, electromagnetic fields can reduce sperm count in men, especially men that wear their cell phone in an active mode on their belt.  

There is a new syndrome that is developing that is very worrisome called electrohypersensitivity.  This is some small subset of the population get sick if they're in the vicinity of these radiofrequency fields.  This is a problem in schools, it’s a problem for some people just in everyday life because we have cell towers everywhere, cell phones everywhere, Wi-Fi everywhere and it’s very difficult to avoid being exposed to high levels.  

The symptoms these people get are primarily headaches, they sometimes get nauseous, they sometimes get heart palpitations, they can be very fatigued.  

It’s interesting.  I wrote a review on this fairly recently.  In the height of the Cold War, the Soviets irradiated the U.S. embassy in Moscow with microwaves.  These are all basically microwaves.  Everybody was a little worried about that because the Soviet standards for exposure to microwave radiation are much more stringent than those we have in this country.  They didn’t detect any elevation in the rates of cancer but they did find that a lot of people that worked in the U.S. embassy developed headaches and were tired and were anxious.  All of this was passed off as these people are just upset because the Soviets are irradiating them.  It’s not a direct effect of microwave radiation.  

Then there have been other studies still, and I reviewed these in this paper of U.S. Service personnel that were accidentally exposed to high levels of radar.  Radar is a different frequency but it’s basically still a microwave radiation as cell phone frequencies are.  Some of these people developed the syndrome of headaches, constant fatigue, very much this electrohypersensitivity syndrome but it just didn’t go away.  So a sudden exposure left them ill for a period of years.  

I've sensed then that several people that have had high exposure, one, for example, a California surfer, young, unmarried, very healthy but he was called to repair a radio generation facility that was all supposed to be turned off when he went into the facility.  Unfortunately, of the ten generators, three of them were not turned off.  He worked there about an hour and he began to get hot and feel nauseous and left.  It turned out then they discovered that some of these radiofrequency generators were still on.  

I met him two years later.  He had constant headaches, he looked ill, he couldn’t stand to be in bright lights.  He had been caused to develop this syndrome of electro hypersensitivity by that exposure.  

So there is some argument about what percentage of the population have this.  Maybe it’s of the order of between 1% and 5%.  Many people who have this syndrome may not even know about it.  There are increasing instances of children in schools, in computer labs where you have 10 or 20 kids on a wireless laptop with one router that is very powerful because it’s communicating with all these laptops.  It’s basically a low-level microwave oven.  Maybe not at the level that would cause an increase in temperature but certainly at the level where some children are adversely affected.  

Unfortunately, in the U.S., the Federal Communications Commission set standards and they operate under the total fallacious assumption that microwave exposure, as you get from the microwave oven or cell phone, is not dangerous unless it’s so intense that it causes a rise in temperature.  So you can cook your potato in a microwave oven; that’s a rise in temperature, obviously.  But at lower exposures they assume there's no adverse effect.  Unfortunately, that is not true.  But we still have not been able to get the FCC to lower its standards based on the evidence that there are harmful effects to these lower _____ [13:57].

Sophia:  I believe I’m electrohypersensitive.  It’s hard to know.  I think if I weren’t reading about this I would never think that my symptoms meant I was reacting to anything or that I was ill because they're kind of subtle.  It’s like nausea and just a yucky feeling in my chest and disruption with sleep.  Only as I started learning more and eventually I hired an EMF expert to measure my home did I realize high levels of exposure where I work.  

Then we shut everything down.  I didn’t have Wi-Fi on but the Bluetooth was actually very strong from my computer to my keyboard and mouse.  I immediately felt so much better after we shut everything off that it gave me a data point to recognize when I’m now near high levels of exposures, when the symptoms emerge.  

David:  I think there are many people…

Sophia:  I agree.  That’s why it’s good to talk about.

David:  Right.  They just don’t know what’s causing this.  One of those people is my wife.  She has always been very skeptical.  She thinks this is all just craziness.  She was complaining a couple of years ago that she was sitting in her easy chair watching television she would get ringing in her ears.  Well, ringing in your ears is one of the symptoms of electrohypersensitivity.  Then we looked down and the router for the Wi-Fi in our house - we do have Wi-Fi.  I’m not electro-sensitive - but the router was right by her chair.  She's still skeptical about it but she moved the router to the far side of the room and she doesn’t complain about ringing in her ears any longer.  

So a lot of people may have symptoms that are not really terribly debilitating but they're not pleasant.  Then in some people they simply can’t stay in an environment where there's Wi-Fi, where there's cell towers nearby, and some of those people are really severely debilitated.  

There's a place in West Virginia where a lot of people go because there are no cell towers and it’s an area where there's a federal facility, so no radiofrequency radiation is allowed.  I've forgotten the name of the place but it takes really extreme measures for some people to live in an environment where they're not exposed to fields that trigger these symptoms. 

Sophia:  My personal experience has made me wonder about a tipping point whether… I worked on my book for eight years which involved having a laptop on my body, which is painful to think about, but on my body for eight years.  So I had chronic high exposures for a long time.  I often wonder if my body was… I feel like my body was generally resilient but the chronic intense exposures for eight years just broke me down and now I’m hypersensitive.  

Do you believe that people can reach a tipping point where they then do start to break down and more serious symptoms start emerging?

David:  Absolutely.  I think that these multiple examples of the radar operators, the technician in the shop and so forth, those were acute exposures that reached the tipping point.  The more usual person that shows the electrohypersensitivity is someone like yourself that had high exposures for long periods of time and suddenly developed these symptoms.  Many people that worked as technical people in electronics areas suddenly couldn’t take that any longer.  It may be different for different people but I certainly agree that, for many people, there is a level of exposure that becomes a tipping point beyond which they no longer can tolerate it.

Sophia:  Do you believe that our bodies can be resilient, though?  So if we notice we’re sitting near a high EMF and we then consciously reduce our exposures and take care, do you think we can build up the resiliency?  

David:  Yes, I think there's little question when that’s the case.  I've been working with a woman just the last several months that’s a perfect case in point.  She was originally in Israel.  She's a U.S. citizen now, but she was an IT expert in the Israeli army for many, many years.  She's also a lawyer.  She moved to the U.S. and suddenly became electrohypersensitive.  She was so, so sensitive that she actually went and lived in the Catskill Mountains away from all sorts of wireless radiation for a number of years.  Slowly, she's recovered.  So she still develops symptoms if she's exposed to high levels, but she's capable of functioning and living in the real world as long as she takes care of herself.  

When she travels, she has to choose hotels that have low levels of radiofrequency exposure.  She can sense when walking down the street where the cell tower is.  She's never able to go back totally to a normal life but she's not debilitated the way she had been originally. 

Sophia:  So, two questions.  Do you think EMF products work?  Do you think earthing works, the idea of bare skin contact with the ground or the ocean, sand?  If you could just quickly talk about the Bioinitiative Reports.  I know you were co-editor and it was an international effort.  I think it would be great for more people to know about those reports.

David:  Well, I’m not a great fan and I don’t see any real evidence that grounding makes a lot of difference in terms of responses to EMFs.  There's no question that exposure to electromagnetic fields do generate currents in the body but there's no strong evidence that it’s currents that are what are the triggers for the diseases.  

At the same time, I’m not advising people to not try grounding.  If it makes them feel better, fine and dandy.  

Let me talk about the Bioinitiative Report.  The Bioinitiative Report was basically developed because of frustration that many of us that work in this area have had that the Federal Communications Commission in this country, the World Health Organization and many other national and international committees simply have not taken seriously the health threats of electromagnetic fields.  They all regurgitate the same fallacious argument that there are no documented health effects except those caused by tissue heating.  

The Bioinitiative Report is a web-based report.  It’s available free to anyone at http://www.bioinitiative.org.  It’s encyclopedic.  It’s a series of chapters written by different experts that summarize effects of electromagnetic fields on cancer, on the brain, on various organ systems and so forth.  

It is long.  It was not peer reviewed because we wanted a document that would be on the web, that would be accessible to everybody.  We've been criticized because it wasn’t peer reviewed, it didn’t come from any organization but that’s exactly why we did it.  

Now, most of the chapters of the Bioinitiative Report have been revised and published elsewhere in peer-reviewed journals but it’s a wonderful source of information.  It does detail areas where we lack knowledge, where more research is needed, but the conclusions from the Bioinitiative Report are very strong.  

There are serious health hazards associated with exposure to electromagnetic fields.  This includes electromagnetic fields from electricity and electromagnetic fields from the radiofrequency range.  We recognize that there are benefits of the sources of exposure but excessive exposure causes harm.  

There's such straightforward and relatively benign ways in which one can reduce your exposure, and we outline those in the Bioinitiative Report.  

So I would really strongly suggest anyone that wants to know more, look in the Bioinitiative Report.  You've got lots of references to scientific studies.  I’m always available to answer questions if people have them.  

The other issue you asked about was childhood cancer, and child cancer is increasing.  The two cancers of childhood that are particularly of concern are leukemia and brain tumors.  Both are increasing.  

Fortunately, for leukemia, we have really developed some very major effective ways of treating leukemia so that it’s no longer true that most kids that develop leukemia die, but still some do.  And the treatments for leukemia, that being drugs and radiation, increase the risk that these children would get other cancers later in life.  

I certainly think that electromagnetic fields are important there but there are a lot of chemical exposures that are also involved, especially in leukemia, we know about.  Benzene is a major one.  

My colleague and I just released a report on emissions from natural gas compressor stations here in New York.  I've been involved in this fracking debate for a long time and when the governor of New York announced that he was banning fracking in New York, he waved one of my publications which looked at releases into air of carcinogens in five other states that had active fracking.  

But what’s happening in New York is that there's so much natural gas being produced in Pennsylvania that they're building new pipelines across New York state and those pipelines have a compressor station about every 10 to 20 miles.  And those compressor stations are some of the most contaminating sources of emissions of carcinogens that we found in our studies of fracking sites.  

So we've just documented through the federal database, the National Emissions Inventory, the releases of things like benzene and formaldehyde, 1,3 butadiene, all known human carcinogens.  So we have so many carcinogens in our environment.  The Cancer Statistics has recently reported that more people in the U.S. now are dying of cancer than of heart disease.  It’s good news that the heart disease rate is declining but it’s bad news that the cancer rate is increasing.  

Sophia:  Has heart disease decreased or has cancer just surpassed the growth rate of heart disease?

David:  Well, I think it’s a combination of incidence in treatment.  We've gotten better at treating heart disease and so fewer people are actually dying of heart disease, at least at a younger age, but we have not been nearly as successful in treating cancer.  Some cancers, like leukemia, are more treatable than many others, but you have cancers like pancreatic cancer, ovarian cancer where 95% of people are dead within a couple of years.  

Well, in any case, it’s clear that, now, cancer is a major cause of death in the U.S., which is really a striking finding given that for most of recorded history, after we conquered infectious disease, cardiovascular disease was what killed most people.  

Sophia:  Yes.  I think this dialog often gets a little confusing when somebody will say, “Well, we’re also living longer than ever.”  That’s why I think the rates of cancer in children is interesting because they're hopefully not smoking and making other life choices that are not healthy.  Do you have comments to those who would say, “Yeah, but aren’t we living longer?”

David:  That may explain the changes in death rate for the adult population, but it certainly does not explain the increase in the rates of childhood cancer.  And both leukemia and brain cancers are increasing.  There's not such quite clear increase in bone cancer, which is another important cancer in childhood.  But then that’s not as common as leukemia and brain tumors.  

But the leukemia and brain tumors in children must have an environmental origin because why else would a young child develop these diseases that we associate with old age?  We have a lot of evidence for certain chemicals, certainly for EMFs, for both leukemia and brain tumor.

Sophia:  I'd like to transition a little bit to resiliency or recovery because we’re learning a lot more about epigenetics and the ability for non-genetic factors, like diet and exercise and other things, being able to affect our genetic expressions.  I know that’s such a big topic, but earlier when you were talking about autism, I wondered if you had thoughts about the few cases where an autistic child seems to have recovered.  

I read this fascinating book called Radical Remission about the cases of cancer that doctors had decided were terminal but there was some sort of radical remission and the patient seemed to just spontaneously recover.  I was just wondering if you have insights on… when I read the book Radical Remission there were like ten common factors that all these patients had.  A lot of them were lifestyle choices: more in organic diet and filtered water and a number of other things that we do have choice over.  

So I was just wondering if you had any insight on… we've talked about a lot of damage that can be caused from toxic chemicals and EMFs and heavy metals, but how much hope do you have that if a child is prenatally, early in life, or even an adult has been exposed, how much opportunity is there to mitigate or undo the damage?

David:  Well, you've asked a whole pile of questions there.  I haven't read the book.  That sounds like an interesting book.  But it’s been known for years that a very small number of patients with terminal cancers of all kinds suddenly the cancers go away.  I must say I’m skeptical that organic diets and that sort of thing is the basis of this.  It seems much more likely to me that this is the immune system kicking in and identifying some abnormal marker on the cancer cells that the immune system attacks and kills the cancer.  

We are seeing a lot of progress in oncology these days in developing antibodies from the patient’s own cancer cells and giving immunotherapy rather than just these drugs that kill everything.  It’s still early in the infancy of doing that but there's some remarkable findings of patients, I know this is true for melanoma, that patients are on deathbed practically and development of a particular antibody from the patient’s own cancer cell is successful in pretty much eradicating the tumor.  

It’s very clear that we are all exposed to any number of nasty things through our diet, through the personal care products we put on our body, from the air we breathe, the water we drink and that sort of thing and.  Certainly, reducing our exposure to those is a positive thing.  Whether it can cause a reduction in existing cancer growth, I’m more skeptical of that.  

You asked about epigenetics and this really is an exciting area because nobody 10 years ago, maybe a little more than that, but nobody ever thought about this business of there being changes in DNA that could be passed from one generation to another that weren’t changes in the DNA structure.  In other words, the nucleotide sequence was not different.  But what was different was only methylation or some other change on the nucleotides that compose the DNA chain.  

We've never been able to explain on the basis of genetics some of the traits that appear to run in families that don’t appear to be determined by the genes per se.  But now we find that what your grandmother ate and was exposed to can influence your health.  Even some personality traits can be passed down from grandmother that don’t appear to be related to change in the DNA sequence but are, in fact, related to these reversible changes in the methylation or the other groups that are added to the DNA that can cause changes in one individual over their life span.  

I have a colleague, for example, that’s looking at breast cancer.  She's taking epithelial cells from women that are breastfeeding - the breast milk does contain some of these cells - and looking at the rates of methylation of the DNA.  She finds in some women very much higher rates of methylation than in others.  And her hypothesis that she wants to proceed to study is that that methylation is a result of some toxic exposure that those women have.  That’s a marker for a predisposition to develop breast cancer in the future.  

That’s still a hypothesis.  She hasn’t been able to follow those same women in sufficient numbers to determine whether the methylation really does increase risk of breast cancer.  But we do know that many chemicals would cause methylation of DNA in various types of cells.  

So we've just scratched the surface there.  It’s an enormously exciting thing.  It may explain traits that run in families that are good as well as traits that run in families that are not so good.

Sophia:  Going back to an earlier topic about patients with cancer who you being skeptical that turning to an organic diet, and maybe a more nutrient-dense diet, so maybe their diet became more empowering of the body and the immune system.  

I was just wondering, is it possible that by improving diet, by having organic, nutrient-dense, whole base, plant-based diet if it’s possible that could unburden the body toxic chemicals and heavy metals while also empowering the immune system to then the body becomes more activated to be healthier.  

David:  Please understand, I’m a strong advocate of having a diet of nutrients, organic as much as possible, and reducing one’s exposure.  I think that shouldn’t wait until one develops your cancer to pay attention to adequate nutrition and nutrients.  But I think, yes.  

For example, Vitamin D.  Vitamin D is a very critical vitamin.  Many, many people are very deficient in Vitamin D.  It’s easy to be monitored and it’s easy to take Vitamin D supplements.  But most people don’t even think about that until they get sick then maybe they begin to look at what their nutrition is, what they're eating, what they shouldn’t be eating, vitamins and nutrients they should have and that they do not have.  

Well, the down side of that is that I think in the U.S. we tend to over supplement ourselves with things from health food stores that sometimes not only don’t help us but are actually very dangerous.  Many times people don’t eat a healthy, balanced diet.  And it isn’t necessarily true that someone that does have a good, balanced diet is immune from developing cancer or other diseases.  

So it’s up to each of us to make choices about what we expose ourselves to.  Reducing exposure to contaminants is going to improve our health.  And each of us has a basic need for a number of vitamins and nutrients that we simply must get, if not from diet then through supplements.  

But the problem is that the FDA does not regulate most supplements.  Some supplements that are on the market are distinctly dangerous to people.  I can’t understand why the FDA doesn’t regulate supplements in the same way they regulate drugs.  What I do understand is because of specific action of congress - too many senators and congressmen who are fanatics about health foods that don’t realize that there can be dangers there as well as benefits.  We all do have a choice to eat healthily or not to eat healthily.  

Sophia:  Do you have advice on how to identify supplements that don’t have unhealthy contaminants?  It seems very hard to know.

David:  It’s very difficult.  It’s extremely difficult, again, because the FDA has no regulation.  First of all, almost every supplement you buy in a health food store it cannot tell you what the concentration of the active ingredients are.  It doesn’t even identify what the active ingredients are.  So two bottles may have very different levels of whatever they propose the important ingredient to be.  Many don’t even have any of that because it’s totally unregulated.  There's no responsibility by the producer.  Because the only thing that the FDA does regulate is it does have restrictions on what the manufacturer can allege the health effects to be.  You can suggest but you can’t overstate.  That’s a real problem.  Those supplements are simply not regulated.

Sophia:  Listening to you made me think that this idea that because of lack of regulation, lack of transparency in what’s in the supplements, it’s impossible for a consumer to really know what’s in their diet supplements.  But this is actually true of many consumer products, cleaning products, beauty products, other household products.  

David:  Absolutely right.  They also should be regulated.  A lot of cosmetics and so forth.  If you look at the contents list, many of the things we now know to be in them, especially things like the phthalates, are not listed and yet they're major sources of exposure to the _____ [35:47] disruptive chemicals. 

Sophia:  I love your thoughts on the safety of substitute chemicals.  I know you have expertise in PCBs, which followed PBBs, and I noticed in my research there are a number of chemicals that were banned or phased out because they were known to be toxic, but then they were replaced by another chemical that wasn’t safer.

David:  That’s absolutely right.  There are a number of current examples of that.  Let’s talk about the fluorinated compounds PFOA, PFOS.  These are now being found everywhere.  They contaminate water supplies and so forth.  The same is the situation with the polybrominated diphenyl ethers that are fire prevention substances.  

But both of these are being replaced.  The major ones that have been used in the past are being replaced by compounds that are similar and have either fluorines or bromines but they have a different carbon chain length.  And these replacement compounds have not been tested as much as the ones that have been identified as being dangerous.  

Bisphenol A, which is added to plastic to make it hard, is now being replaced by Bisphenol S, a slightly different molecule.  One has never been tested for toxins.  Because it’s so similar, the logical assumption should be it would do the same bad things.  Because it’s not been tested the industry can go ahead and use it.  

The EPA often says that there are 86,000 chemicals in the U.S. that are current usage but the EPA itself has tested only 200.  Extensive testing that is done is usually done by the manufacturer, and manufacturers don’t want to provide the public or even EPA with the secrets that they already know.

Sophia:  What happened to BPS?  I was reading that replaced BPA and then that was being shown to…

David:  They put all kinds of things.  There’s not an active research program in testing.  We still have BPA allowed in lots of things.  _____ [37:49] it’s allowed in things.  But the industry is recognizing that the evidence is getting so strong.  Those are going to be totally outlawed in the future so they're already moving to related compounds that have similar uses.

Sophia:  Would you please talk a bit about the relevance of animal studies to humans? 

David:  Well, I think animal studies are absolutely essential for understanding human health.  I must say I have total lack of understanding people that object to the use of animals in research.  We eat animals, and I'm certainly not tolerant of abuse of laboratory animals, but the genome of animals is so similar to that of humans that the only way you're really going to be able to develop methods for prevention and treatment of human disease is to do the work in animals first.  

That’s not to say that there aren’t some issues in extrapolating results from animals to humans.  It’s not uncommon to find, for example, that a chemical given to one strain of mice has a different effect in a different strain of mice.  Or that mice and rats don’t respond similarly to a particular chemical.  

So it is certainly wise and appropriate for a chemical in animal studies to be studied in different strains of one species, different species.  Now we’re much more cautious about using primates for these kinds of studies.  But the closer the animal is to human, if you have an issue like HIV, for example, you don’t get the same kind of infection in rodents that you do in primates.  So they're very important for research there.  

But I very much feel that animal research is absolutely essential if we’re going to ever be able to prevent and treat any disease.

Sophia:  So if we find in mice that prenatal exposures to cell phone radiation alters the structure of the brain, how likely is it that that would happen in humans?  Or that a carcinogen, a chemical causes cancer in mice, how likely is it that that would cause… I mean, of course not all humans exposed to a carcinogen develops cancer.  To those who want to say, “Well, we’re not animal.  We’re not mice.  So just because it causes cancer in mice doesn’t mean it’s going to cause cancer in humans.”

David:  We may not be mice but we have about 95% of our genes that are identical to those in mice.  And different strains of mice they may differ by 1 to 5% in their genetic structure.  But all animals are made from the same basic building blocks and diseases like cancer are diseases of DNA.  Our DNA doesn’t differ much from mice.  It doesn’t differ a lot from even things like slime mold.  

So most of what we know about human diseases has come from studies of even things like molds that are not animals, but from mice, from rats, from hamsters, from rabbits then progressing to the human cells in a tissue culture dish.  You can’t do those response studies in humans easily.  It’s just not possible.  It’s not ethical.  But you can do those studies in rats and mice.  They become the basis of extrapolating to people.  

Now, I served on the PCP panel on the International Agency for Research on Cancer.  They have reports on many different substances that cause cancer.  They have four criteria for determining whether something is a carcinogen.  

One of them is are people exposed to it?  If you are not exposed to it, it’s not going to cause cancer.  

One is do we know a mechanism whereby that chemical or radiation - they have done this with EMF as well - do we know mechanism whereby it can harm cells?  

Three, can you demonstrate adverse effects in animals?  

Then finally, is there evidence in humans that this substance causes harm?  

They only rate a substance as a known human carcinogen if you can answer all four of those questions in the affirmative, that you do know a mechanism, you do know people are exposed, we have animal evidence and you have evidence in humans.  

For most carcinogens, the greatest amount of evidence comes from the animal and cellular studies.  

Sophia:  Thank you.  Would you talk a bit about the testing of safe radiation levels?  I've read that it’s historically been conducted on a model that is based on an adult man who is about 6-feet tall and 200 pounds, therefore not considering the unique vulnerabilities of children, fetuses and maybe women.

David:  In the past, everything was focused on a 70-kilogram white male.  70-kilogram white males are not even the majority of the population.  Then finally people realized, well, women aren’t necessarily responding the same as men.  They have different body structure, they have different hormone structures.  Then more recently we realized that the fetus and young children are very much more vulnerable to a lot of things than adults are, and also that the elderly are more vulnerable because their immune systems have been declining, they have multiple health issues.  

Then finally I think we've begun to address those issues.  But the other issue that has not really been addressed is genetic susceptibility.  So many people, whether they're a fetus or an old person or a 70-kilogram man, may have a genetic susceptibility so that they're more vulnerable to some exposure than the average person.  So we've gone from trying to protect the average adult white male to then understanding women and young children and the elderly need separate protection.  

But the question is, when the government sets a standard, should it be for the average person or should it be for the most vulnerable person?  The way it’s been in the past, usually there's a safety factor or fudge factor.  So if you have clear evidence that a certain concentration of a chemical causes cancer, you would go down in the order of magnitude or two orders of magnitude in concentration for your standard.  That is to presumably protect the more vulnerable person.  

But I think increasingly we’re going to find, as we understand more about human genetics, that what is responsible is to try to protect the most vulnerable members of society, not a 70-kilo white male. 

Sophia:  So I read that the metal inner springs of mattresses could maybe contribute to creating electromagnetic fields around your sleep area.  Does that make sense to you?

David:  Well, yes and no.  I don't think that’s been very well documented.  But mattress, if they have metal springs, metals can interact with electromagnetic fields.  For example, there's increasing evidence that mercury amalgam, dental fillings, increase risk of electrohypersensitivity.  Again, I don't think that’s super well-documented but there's some evidence that that is the case.  That mattresses make a big difference, I’m not at all sure that’s true.  

Sophia:  I've read that some plants can help protect from electromagnetic fields.  Does that make sense to you?

David:  It doesn’t make sense to me at all.  Electromagnetic fields certainly can be disturbed by structures but plants are not ones that I would expect would.  Metals make much more sense.  So springs in the mattress, perhaps.  Metals on the walls, perhaps.  But I don't see any logical mechanism whereby plants would protect humans.  

Now, there is some evidence, and it’s growing, that electromagnetic fields may have adverse effects on plants.  That’s a different issue, however.

Sophia:  Yeah, I've come across that too.  I've become very interested in energy and electromagnetic spectrum because I've been trying to learn more about unnecessary EMFs in my home that I can mitigate.  But there's an emerging trend in wellness with infrared saunas and infrared lamps and LED face masks, these things, these technologies that use a part of the electromagnetic spectrum for healing and for beauty.  Yet when I read about EMFs, like cell phone radiation and dirty electricity, that’s all harmful.  I was just wondering if you had any comments on energy.  It’s just interesting to me that energy seems to, in some…

David:  This whole thing of tanning studios, but that is absolutely evil because ultraviolet light increases risk of cancer.  Ultraviolet light is obviously a different wavelength of infrared.  But there are so many tanning studios all around the place, and especially teenage girls seem to think that having a tan makes you attractive.  Well, it increases your risk of cancer very considerably.  

I know less about infrared radiation for therapy.  Infrared is basically heat, so it’s a heat lamp.  Well, if you're cold a heat lamp is good.  I don't really see that it would have any healing benefit.  It would perhaps raise body temperature which may have positive effects but may have negative effects.  I’m just not very knowledgeable about infrared as a healing mechanism. 

Sophia:  Two more questions.  One, with parents increasingly struggling with technology domineering our lives and children’s attention, I was just wondering… and I've read about digital dementia being really common among children in some parts of the world, like South Korea and probably in the U.S., but there's so many concerns with our children spending more time in front of digital screens, whether it’s eye health or EMFs and the blue light.  And considering the developing brain, I was wondering if you had words of advice for parents.

David:  I think that it’s really important that we deal as a society with this problem because, with the advent of all this digital technology, people have stopped relating to other people in a face-to-face fashion.  This is a particular problem with kids because some of them are spending most of their day on their cell phone and communicating that way, but it’s not the same kind of communication as a face-to-face communication.  

This digital dementia is that these kids lack ability to relate to other people in a face-to-face fashion.  That can be an enormously disabling characteristic over their whole life span.  

The digital technology is wonderful.  We all use it.  We all value it.  But it should be used in perspective and it should not be allowed to dominate the young years of a child’s life to the point that they don’t exercise outside, they don’t play with other kids.  They don’t have to have their cell phone on them all the time.  

I've seen these studies now of children that absolutely panic if their cell phone is taken away from them for 15 minutes.  So parents have some ability to control that, but of course it’s peer pressure because all the kids have cell phones and do those things, so I don't have an easy answer.

Sophia:  Yeah.  My last question is about vaccines.  I ask for my younger self, which probably represents others.  It was upsetting to read about some of the toxic ingredients in vaccines.  At the same time, I know that they all served a purpose, like to preserve or some other purpose to make the vaccine effective and safe.  I vaccinate my kids.  I believe in it.  I know it’s good for public health.  

I just wondered, is anyone paying attention or is the list of vaccines being given to our children just growing with no one being thoughtful about what these little bodies are enduring?  I was just wondering if you could provide comments to help parents become more comfortable with vaccinating their kids.

David:  The vaccines were developed to prevent diseases that kill people, and especially kill children.  We've been very successful.  Polio is almost eradicated.  You hardly ever see a case of diphtheria.  We didn’t see cases of measles until relatively recently.  That’s true actually for diphtheria as well because too many parents are deciding, on the basis of rumor, not knowledge, that there's more harm in vaccines than there is benefit.  

Now, it certainly is true, and it’s been true forever, that there are a small number of adverse health effects from vaccines.  People die of measles.  People die of diphtheria.  People die of whooping cough.  So I’m a strong advocate of vaccines.  

Of course there should be care taken that we don’t put toxic things in vaccines.  Children’s vaccines no longer have thimerosal, which is an organic mercury preservative.  Obviously, you don’t want your vaccine to _____ [51:03] bacteria.  That’s why the preservatives were added so they wouldn’t get an infection from taking the vaccine.  But thimerosal is potentially dangerous and it’s no longer in any childhood vaccine.  

The problem is, on a national basis now, a sufficient number of parents have stopped vaccinating their children.  These are usually more high-income, more affluent parents that should know better but they are not giving their children vaccines.  Therefore, the diseases are appearing.  They appear suddenly in a community.  And if a quarter of the children are not vaccinated then one child that comes down with the disease can spread it to a significant number of other children.  

There's this thing called group immunity.  So if most people are immunized then it’s unlikely that even those that are not immunized will develop the disease.  But as the number of [immunized? 51:58] people grow, then the chance of getting a real epidemic grows.  

I would urge parents to vaccinate their children.  Follow the advice of your pediatrician.  It should be done with care, of course.  I’m supposedly headed to Nigeria and I was supposed to have my vaccines for yellow fever and other diseases today.  I’m going to have my shots and I would urge every parent to give their kids their shots as well.

Sophia:  I've been nervous about the flu vaccine wondering if it’s necessary, when I know in the past there have been news reports that the flu strain evolved and so the vaccine isn’t really effective against the current flu virus, what are your thoughts on that?

David:  Well, that’s true.  There are so many different viruses that cause influenza and they differ by strains.  So the people who developed the vaccines have to try to anticipate what the strain that’s going to dominate this year is, and they don’t always get it right.  

However, there is very little evidence or danger from taking that flu vaccine.  Influenza still kills a large number of people in this country and around the world.  It may be that the vaccine this year isn’t the one that you really would like to have had, but that vaccine is not going to harm you except in extraordinarily rare cases.  If it is the one that prevents this year’s flu epidemic, it may save you a lot of grief and, possibly, even death.  

So I’m going to get my flu vaccine at my doctor’s appointment next week and I would urge everybody to get their flu vaccine as well.  And it’s not just for the old people or the very young people.  The flu kills young, healthy people too.  We've seen that year after year so everybody should get a flu shot.

Sophia:  Thank you so much.  It’s such an honor and a pleasure.  It’s so wonderful to talk to you.  I really appreciate you taking the time.  

David:  I appreciate it.  Thank you.

Sophia:  Thank you.  Take care. 

About Sophia Ruan Gushée

Sophia Ruan Gushée is a preeminent nontoxic lifestyle expert, author of the critically acclaimed books A to Z of D-Toxing and EMF Detox Workbook, creator of D-Tox Academy and 40-Day Home Detox, and host of the Practical Nontoxic Living podcast.

She has helped thousands of people eliminate harmful—often hidden—chemicals, heavy metals, and electromagnetic fields from their homes and lifestyles. Based on more than 15 years of tracking the latest research, she believes that removing these toxins is the overlooked key to unlocking greater mindfulness, mental clarity, emotional harmony, and physical healing.

Sophia also works with companies and served on the prestigious Brown University School of Public Health Advisory Council and the exclusive Well+Good Council. She has appeared or been featured on the most popular health and wellness platforms including The Doctor Oz Show, Health magazine, Family Circle magazine, MindBodyGreen, and much more. You can learn more about Sophia by clicking here: Sophia Ruan Gushée.

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About Ruan Living

Ruan Living simplifies a nontoxic lifestyle through its Practical Nontoxic Living podcast, free detox workshops, online D-Tox Academy, and transformative 40-Day Home Detox. It aims to help you avoid toxic chemicals, heavy metals, and electromagnetic fields (EMFs) from what you buy, own, and do— without compromising your joy and convenience. Ruan was founded by Sophia Ruan Gushée, author of the bestselling critically acclaimed book A to Z of D-Toxing: The Ultimate Guide to Reducing Your Toxic Exposures and several detox workbooks. A graduate of Brown University and Columbia Business School, Sophia has served on the Brown University School of Public Health Advisory Council and Well+Good Council. A popular nontoxic living speaker, consultant, and teacher, Sophia lives in New York City with her husband and three daughters. Her passion for empowering others to enjoy nontoxic living began with the birth of her first daughter in 2007. Everything she creates is a love letter to her children and for the healthiest, brightest future possible. You can learn more here: Sophia’s Impact.


This article is for informational purposes only. This information is provided “as is” without warranty.

It is not, nor is it intended to be, a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment and should never be relied upon for specific medical advice. We do not offer medical advice, course of treatment, diagnosis, or any other opinion on your conditions or treatment options. To the extent that this article features the advice of physicians or medical practitioners, the views expressed are the views of the cited expert and do not necessarily represent the views of Ruan Living.

In no event will Sophia Ruan Gushee or Ruan Living be liable for any damages or loss of any kind resulting from the use of this website. Anyone relying upon or making use of the information on this website does so at his or her own risk.

Some of the services and products recommended on this website provide compensation to Sophia Ruan Gushee or Ruan Living. All recommendations are based foremost upon an honest belief that the product, service, or site will benefit our site visitors in some way.  

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