Although not a chemical, electromagnetic radiation (also called EMR) has been linked with numerous health effects, including immune system problems. EMR has many sources and includes overhead power lines, radio broadcast towers, telephone/television microwave transmission and computer equipment. EMR is invisible radiowave energy that in some circumstances can change biological function. For instance, it is well known that microwaves can heat human tissue, thereby causing damage. However, even small amounts of microwave energy has been found to cause oscillation (vibration) of the DNA and genes without our cells. This research was conducted in 1984 at the National Center for Devices and Radiological Health at the Food & Drug Administration in Rockville, Maryland. According to Dr. Earl Prohofsky at Purdue University in Indiana, "That’s worrisome because that’s about the worst place in the body you’d want resonant absorption (vibration) - right in the DNA." Other research has shown that microwave energy can actually cause the chromosomes to uncoil.

In tests with laboratory rats at the Veterans Administration Hospital in Loma Linda, California, as little as 60 hertz of nonionizing energy (about what escapes from a leaky microwave) adversely affected immune response.

EPA Admits Problem

A 1984 EPA report stated there was a detrimental link between radiation and immunity including negative changes in blood count, immunity and overall health among animals exposed to radio waves.

Neutrophils Lose Effectiveness

The U.S. government has set standards allowing the public to be exposed to microwave levels of 10 milliwatts per square centimeter. Many European countries permit far less than this to their public. In a 1979 Soviet study, very low intensity microwaves about 60 times less than what the U.S. government allows, caused "inhibition of neutrophils phagocytic activity." This means that the neutrophils were not consuming foreign substances in the blood as effectively as before the microwave exposure.

Overhead Power Lines Weaken Natural Killer Cells

Another type of EMR is called "extremely low frequency" magnetic fields, which are produced by high voltage power lines. Several studies have linked high voltage power lines with increased cancer risk for children. Research from the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill and the University of Colorado found a five-fold increase in childhood cancer, particularly leukemia, in those homes near the highest level of extremely low frequency fields. Homes showing increased cancer risk were within 48 feet of power line wires designed to carry very high electric currents and within 22 feet of power lines designed to carry lower currents.

In helping to explain why this could be happening, Dr. Jerry Phillips, director of biochemical research at the Cancer Therapy and Research Center in San Antonio, Texas, conducted research into this problem. Dr. Phillips experiments have shown that exposure to extremely low frequency electric fields causes an abnormal increase in the growth of cancer cells. His research of the immune system found that natural killer T-cells were also 60-70% less effective in killing the cancer cells.