Why electric cars may be hazardous to your health

2015-03-02 11:19 PM
A few of my clients who are elec­tri­cally sen­si­tive can tol­er­ate a few gas powered vehi­cles, but become very ill when­ever they drive or ride in a hybrid or elec­tric car.

Biên tập viên: Trần Tiến Phong

Đánh giá: Trần Trà My, Trần Phương Phương

Elec­tric cars are safe - aren’t they?

Elec­tric cars may be “safer” for the envi­ron­ment, but not nec­es­sar­ily safer for your long-term health.

While battery-operated alarm clocks and small elec­tron­ics are safer than ones that plug into the wall out­let, when you talk about a battery-operated elec­tric car, it’s an entirely dif­fer­ent ani­mal. Elec­tric cars do run on bat­tery cells, but they con­tain a car­load of elec­tri­cal wiring and com­put­er­ized sys­tems to make the car run smoothly and effi­ciently. This trans­lates into high elec­tri­cal and mag­netic fields that can be haz­ardous to those with elec­tri­cal sensitivities.

The offi­cial jury is out on whether hybrid cars emit mag­netic fields that are dan­ger­ously higher than those given off by reg­u­lar gasoline-powered vehi­cles, but then again, the so-called jury is also still out about whether EMFs of all shapes and sizes, includ­ing radio fre­quency radi­a­tion, are bio­log­i­cally harm­ful. Using the ICNIRP stan­dards in  to say any­thing is safe is pretty much like say­ing if you don’t inter­nally com­bust after 30 sec­onds inside a hybrid car, then it must be com­pletely safe to spend a third of your life in it, as many hybrid own­ers do, because their jobs require them to be in the car for sev­eral hours a day. It’s basi­cally the same kind of mis-representation of “What is Safe?” that the Amer­i­can pub­lic has been fed over the pro­lif­er­a­tion of wire­less tech­nolo­gies.

Eco-friendly does not equal healthy

A few of my clients who are elec­tri­cally sen­si­tive can tol­er­ate a few gas-powered vehi­cles, but become very ill when­ever they drive or ride in a hybrid or elec­tric car. As the canaries of a grow­ing envi­ron­men­tal ill­ness epi­demic, these “test sub­jects”, in my opin­ion, are proof enough that the con­cept of the elec­tric car is fun­da­men­tally flawed because it does not take into account the poten­tial toll on human health this “eco-friendly” inven­tion might take.

So while the elec­tric car move­ment may sat­isfy the polit­i­cal sen­si­bil­i­ties of tree-huggers and “green energy” advo­cates, I’m not an fan of elec­tric cars because I see poten­tial dam­ag­ing long-term health effects for peo­ple who spend a lot of time in these cars.

There’s no such thing as a free lunch

In fact, as part of my work as an EMR con­sul­tant, I’ve heard that clas­sic cars from the 60’s era and ear­lier can be some of the low­est emis­sion for EMFs because these cars didn’t have any of the fancy elec­tronic fuel injec­tion sys­tems, computer-controlled con­soles and mon­i­tor­ing sys­tems, and elec­tric seat adjust­ments. Every­thing was old school mechan­i­cal or ana­log. With the advent of the com­puter chip, cars became per­haps “smarter,” more “con­ve­nient”, and “safer”–particularly with the advent of our high-tech air bag and safety restraint sys­tems, which I’m all for–but they aren’t nec­es­sar­ily health­ier for you in the long term.

In the end, it’s always a trade-off: mod­ern con­ve­niences like mobile con­nec­tiv­ity, sen­sors that adjust almost every­thing, nav­i­ga­tion sys­tems that tell you where you want to go, fewer car­bon emis­sions, and reduc­tion of con­sump­tion of fos­sil fuels in exchange for a cumu­la­tive cloud of invis­i­ble con­t­a­m­i­nants whose dev­as­tat­ing cumu­la­tive health effects are just now begin­ning to surface.

Green energy isn’t cheaper

This may be the biggest under­state­ment of the year, con­sid­er­ing the boat­load of money the gov­ern­ment has spent try­ing to build green energy and con­vert peo­ple to alter­na­tive energy sources. I am a pro­po­nent of green and sus­tain­able liv­ing. I also believe new “green tech­nol­ogy” comes with another hefty price tag–not just a mon­e­tary one.

Take CFL light bulbs, for instance. They cost about three to five times more than an incan­des­cent bulb, and they also give off a mag­netic field of around 10 mG within about a twelve to fifteen-inch radius of the bulb. Put a CFL light­bulb in your reading/crafting lamp, and you’re likely expos­ing your brain to a high AC mag­netic field for long peri­ods of time. Break the bulb, and you have a haz­ardous waste spill in your home. But aren’t you glad you’re sav­ing a penny on your elec­tric bill and don’t have to change them for five years?

Sure elec­tric cars don’t use as much gas. They don’t emit as many carbon-based by-products. But they ARE pol­lut­ing your per­sonal envi­ron­ment with higher lev­els of esmog.

My point is that green energy may be cleaner in one respect, but it is not with­out it’s trade­offs in result­ing electro-pollution, which has long-term dam­ag­ing effects that can’t be ignored, even for the aver­age healthy per­son. And it cer­tainly isn’t cheaper when you fac­tor in all the poten­tial health costs. I believe alter­na­tive energy cer­tainly has a future, but I also think the peo­ple who develop these tech­nolo­gies must con­sider other health aspects of their cre­ations, so they don’t just swap one kind of pol­lu­tion with another.

The dragon of new tech­nolo­gies that sup­port elec­tric cars

One of the most glar­ing defi­cien­cies in the elec­tric car is the short dis­tance it can travel before need­ing to be recharged. A group of researchers at Stan­ford Uni­ver­sity have begun devel­op­ing a “high-efficiency charg­ing sys­tem that uses mag­netic fields to wire­lessly trans­mit large elec­tric cur­rents between metal coils placed sev­eral feet apart. The long-term goal of the research is to develop an all-electric high­way that wire­lessly charges cars and trucks as they cruise down the road.”

You prob­a­bly can guess that the word­ing of this intro para­graph already gives me cold sweats. Terms like “mag­netic fields,” “wire­lessly,” and “large elec­tric cur­rents” raise all sorts of ques­tions as to the safety of this tech­nique. It does not make me feel any bet­ter to know that an MIT team exper­i­ment­ing with the same tech­nol­ogy, called mag­netic res­o­nance, observed that “the mag­netic field appeared to have no impact on peo­ple who stood between the coils.”

Which means, of course, that there is a strong mag­netic field being gen­er­ated. Mag­netic res­o­nance imag­ing can cause a huge cri­sis for ES indi­vid­u­als, so the state­ment that the field appeared to have no impact on the human guinea pigs is about as com­fort­ing as say­ing they didn’t explode or melt.

The rest of the arti­cle goes on to envi­sion how the entire national high­way sys­tem would be out­fit­ted with mag­netic res­o­nance coils, all gen­er­at­ing mag­netic fields that would charge your car bat­tery as you drive.

And though kudos should be given to the research direc­tor who stressed that deter­min­ing safety of the tech­nol­ogy was first and fore­most, he admits that 3% of the energy trans­fer could be lost as “poten­tially harm­ful radiation.”

Given the country’s track record of using out­dated and far too lenient stan­dards for deter­min­ing safe expo­sure, I won­der what con­clu­sions they will come to about this new poten­tial form of pol­lut­ing every high­way in the coun­try. And the expense of “revamp­ing” the entire high­way system.

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