Is There a "Suicide/EMF" Connection


17 March 2000

///Folks, there are three or four consecutive messages here.  Dr. Jerry Phillips and Dr. Joe Bowman are included.  Be sure you read all the way "back" in this

---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Thu, 16 Mar 2000 16:16:58 -0600 (CST)
From: "Roy L. Beavers" <>
To: emfguru <>
Subject: RE: More support for the "suicide/EMF" connection (Phillips)..

.......Joe Bowman adds good discussion to the subject, below.....  Be sure you read all the way....!!

I HOPE that folks are not misreading this evidence as showing that EMF "causes" SUICIDES!!!  What this evidence MAY be telling us is that: EMF produces bioeffects (neurological) which may lead persons to be more prone to suicide than they otherwise would be.....  It is still the bioeffects (which, in this case, we don't yet know) that count!!!

(Joe, in the Vietnam case below -- one did not have to be neurologically unbalanced to consider suicide.....:)


Roy Beavers (EMFguru)

It is better to light a single candle than to curse the darkness

People are more important than profits!!

---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Thu, 16 Mar 2000 15:58:50 -0500
From: "Bowman, Joseph D." <>
To: "'Roy L. Beavers'" <>
Subject: RE: More support for the "suicide/EMF" connection (Phillips)..


To add to your discussion of suicide and EMF, the NIEHS Working Group report reviewed 2 epidemiologic studies on suicide in electric utility workers, along with a study of depression (section and table 4.39).

WEB site:

Here is the Working Group's conclusion about these epi studies (written in 1998):

*         *          *          *          *


One study addressed the risk for depression among electrical workers in a cohort of Viet Nam veterans. A nonsignificantly increased risk was observed for only one of the 24 measures of depression used. Given the small number of cases and the many outcomes analyzed in the study, the finding may be due to chance.

The risk for suicide was considered in two studies. No significant association with exposure to EMF was seen by Johansen and Olsen (Johansen, 1998), while an increased risk was seen with only one of 10 measures of exposure by Baris et al. (Baris et al., 1996a).

There is inadequate evidence that occupational exposure to ELF EMF causes suicide or depression.

[This conclusion was supported by 17 Working Group members; there were 6 votes for 'lack' of evidence, 2 abstentions, and 4 absent.]

*         *          *          *          *

The Savitz result would clearly change this picture.  Although I haven't seen his suicide paper yet, his electric utility cohort is much larger than the other two populations, and his data on EMF exposures, cause of death and job histories are as good or better.  The scattered associations found by these 3 weaker studies don't diminish the Savitz finding and might provide a bit of support.

Joseph Bowman, Ph.D., C.I.H.

*         *          *          *          *

National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH)
4676 Columbia Parkway
Cincinnati, OH 45226

Phone:  +1-513-533-8143
FAX:                     -8510

My opinions do not necessarily reflect the policies of NIOSH.

-----Original Message-----
From: Roy L. Beavers []
Sent: Thursday, March 16, 2000 3:08 PM
To: emfguru
Subject: More support for the "suicide/EMF" connection (Phillips)..

Following has been forwarded by Dr. Jerry Phillips

He writes:  "[the following] Fits with the present discussion of EMF exposure and suicide.  Your readers should be reminded of several studies that appeared in the literature in the 80s and 90s also providing a statistical association between 60 Hz EMF exposure and increased suicide incidence." 10700607&form=6&db=m&Dopt=b/  (Printed below)

Guru also takes note (in the experiment reported below) that a dose-response ("intensity dependent") was observed.....

For those of you who (again) have been asking about Moulder ... and the criteria of acceptance or rejection he applies to research ... in making his statements that deny any existence of EMF bioeffects (at conditions of exposure experienced in the "normal" work or home environment), the following experiment is a good example of the kind of thing he routinely ignores.....  It has no peer review, no replication.....  Just as there has not been in the "suicide research" (of Savitz et al) reported earlier today......[.....below....]

That kind of "don't accept the evidence until conclusively proved" science is, of course, the kind of "science" that protected the tobacco industry for more than fifty years.....  Hundreds of research results like the following went ignored.....  It seems that we will soon be saying the same about EMF -- "hundreds" of such results are being ignored ... by an establishment "tobacco-science criterion" that is designed to protect the vested interests....  The status-quo......

.....While the 'tobacco-science Moulders' of the world ... continue to broadcast that "there is no problem."

Clearly, the "establishment" goal is the protection of $$$$$$$ at the expense of people.....!!!!

That is simply NOT the approach that should be our guide in matters of public health.....  We will ALWAYS end up in the "fix" that we are now in ... with lead, asbestos. tobacco, etc..... [......Please look again at guru's "Open Message to the Decision Makers on Lookout Mountain" ... on the]

Cheerio.....  (Jerry has provided an interesting study below -- particularly for our scientists, who may have overlooked it.....)

Roy Beavers (EMFguru)

It is better to light a single candle than to curse the darkness

People are more important than profits!!

Subj: The Savitz-van Wijngaarden study which showed possible
EMF/suicide linkage....

In response to the following PubMed medline query:

Magnetic field desensitizes 5-HT(1B) receptor in brain: pharmacological and functional studies.

Massot O, Grimaldi B, Bailly J, Kochanek M, Deschamps F, Lambrozo J, Fillion G, Unite de Pharmacologie Neuro-Immuno-Endocrinienne, Institut Pasteur, 25-28 rue du docteur Roux, Paris, France

Abstract: It was previously suggested that exposure to magnetic fields (MFs) could generate dysfunction of the CNS. The physiological manifestations described lead us to postulate that these symptoms might be related to a dysfunction of the serotonergic system and particularly of the 5-HT (1B) receptors. Accordingly, MFs could modify the conformation of these receptors altering their functional activities. In rat brain membrane preparations, we showed that the affinity constant of 5-HT for 5-HT(1B) receptors was modified under exposure to MFs since K(d) varied from 4.7+/-0.5 to 12+/-3 nM in control and exposed (2.5 mT) membranes, respectively.

This effect was intensity-dependent (the sigmoidal dose-response curve was characterized by an EI(50) of 662+/-69 muT and a maximal increase of 321+/-13% of the control K(d)), reversible, temperature-dependent and specific to the 5-HT(1B) receptors. Similar results have also been obtained with the human 5-HT(1B) receptors. In parallel assays, the functional activity of 5-HT(1B) receptors was investigated.

The capacity of a 5-HT(1B) agonist to inhibit the cAMP production was reduced by 37% (53.7+/-3.5% to 33.7+/-4.1%) following exposure to MFs and the cellular activity of the receptors (inhibition of the synaptosomal release of 5-HT) also was markedly reduced (66.5+/-3.2% to 28.5+/-4.2%). These results clearly show that in in vitro assays, MF specifically interacts with 5-HT(1B) receptors, inducing structural changes of the protein that result in a functional desensitization of the receptors. Thus, in vivo, exposure to MFs may lead to physiological changes, particularly in the field of mood disorders where the 5-HT system is strongly involved.

---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Thu, 16 Mar 2000 00:43:43 EST
Subject: Study: EMF, Suicide Risk Linked

Forwarded by Spark Burmaster
Study: EMF, Suicide Risk Linked

.c The Associated Press

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) - Chronic exposure to low-frequency electromagnetic fields may be responsible for a higher suicide risk among electric utility workers, according to researchers at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

While unable to prove that exposure causes suicide, researchers found electricians for five U.S. power companies had twice the suicide rate and linemen 1 1/2 times the rate of utility workers not employed in those jobs.

The findings appeared Wednesday in the April issue of Occupational and Environmental Medicine.

The researchers studied about 6,000 men who were part of a larger group of about 139,000 employed as utility workers between 1950 and 1986. Research involving the larger study group has shown that some workers exposed to high magnetic fields have elevated cancer rates, but not that EMF exposure causes cancer.

One explanation for the possible link between exposure and suicide is that electromagnetic fields are thought to suppress melatonin levels in the body, said Edwin van Wijngaarden, a doctoral student and lead author of the UNC study.

``The EMF-cancer link is pretty controversial,'' van Wijngaarden said. ``This may also be controversial, but at least there is a more plausible biological mechanism involved.''

Melatonin, a hormone produced by the pineal gland deep in the brain, is thought to play a key role in a person's sleep cycle and mood.

``There does seem to be a link between melatonin levels and depression,'' said study co-author David Savitz, a professor and chair of epidemiology at UNC.

Researchers said it isn't known exactly how electromagnetic fields might inhibit melatonin production.

Daniel Kripke, a California researcher who has studied the relationship between EMFs in the home and melatonin levels, said he had not seen the UNC study but questioned the role that melatonin might play.

``This is an area where there is a lot of speculation,'' he said.

A 1996 study by Canadian researchers found no link between suicide and EMF exposure. But Savitz said the UNC study was significantly larger than the Canadian study of workers at a Quebec utility company.

Van Wijngaarden said the results of the study may not be applicable to the general population because the study group was so selective.

UNC researchers looked at data compiled over several years from employees of Carolina Power & Light Co., Pacific Gas & Electric, PECO Energy Co. (formerly Philadelphia Electric Co.), Virginia Electric Power Co. and the Tennessee Valley Authority.

Van Wijngaarden and his colleagues found 536 suicides among the group between 1950 and 1986 and compared them to a control group of 5,348 non-suicides of the same race and age.

Suicide is the eighth leading cause of death in the United States; 30,000 people took their lives in 1997.

AP-NY-03-15-00 1801EST

Copyright 2000 The Associated Press.

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