Published: Last Updated on

Growing evidence that long wave non-ionizing radiation used in electromagnetic devices, microwave products, and TV/radio systems is harmful to the public’s health, hazardous to effective public safety systems, and threatening to military security went largely unreported by America’s media in 1987. Also underreported were the related issues of the Environmental Protection Agency’s shut-down of its funded programs to study non-ionizing radiation in light of a 1989 deadline to establish safety standards for public exposure to radio frequencies, and, the lawsuit brought against the Reagan administration by a coalition of plaintiffs who charge that the administration has violated the National Environmental Policy act by not adequately protecting the public and environment from the “Hazard of Electromagnetic Radiation to Ordnance” (HERO).

Studies that suggest links between electromagnetic fields (such as those produced by overhead power lines, broadcast towers, military hardware, hairdryers, microwave ovens, computers, TV and two-way radios, and radar), and cellular mutation, cancer, and childhood leukemia have received little attention. University of North Carolina epidemiologist David Savitz confirmed earlier reports about the apparent public health hazard. Savitz emphasized the need for further research and more federal funding to determine the extent of this potential health risk. Fifteen of 17 occupational studies have established links between exposure to low frequency electromagnetic fields and cancer. Despite this mounting evidence, the EPA shut down its program to study non-ionizing radiation which is supposed to set acceptable levels of exposure for humans and the environment by 1989. Meanwhile, total federal funding to study the health effects of low frequency fields has dropped from $10 million to just $2.5 million.

A coalition of Pentagon watchdog organizations and individuals has brought suit against the government charging Reagan administration officials with neglecting to protect the public from the HERO effect. Though the Navy and Army have been aware, for some 33 years, of the hazard that electromagnetism poses to weapon systems, the Pentagon has acknowledged very little about the hazards that accidental explosions caused by various electromagnetic sources pose to public and environmental safety. The plaintiffs cite five specific HERO related accidents, including the 1967 explosion on board the USS Forrestal which claimed 134 lives, along with a possible 25 other HERO related accidents that have occurred over the past 25 years.

Finally, in a continuing conflict related to the issue of electromagnetic radiation and its effects on public safety and health, radar specialist veterans have been filing health claims, related to their exposure to low frequency radiation, against the Veterans Administration. All claims to date have been rejected.

With such a newsworthy issue as the effects of electromagnetic radiation on public health and safety so clearly being played out during 1987, the news media, for the most part, failed to tune in.


KQED-TV 9, “EXPRESS,” 12/9/87, “Radiation Risk?,” by David Helvarg; RECON, Vol. 10, #4, January 1988, “HERO: Deadly Game of Roulette,” by Patricia Axelrod, pp 1,2,8.