The Electromagnetic Fountain

How dangerous are electromagnetic fields?

with 2 comments

During the Article 08 exhibition I was assisted by Geir Tore Aamdal who works as an environmental health consultant in Stavanger. While watching the fountain, we had several conversations about how the health issues connected to the use of cell phones was the main issue that both the public and press referred to in connection with its appearance in the town square.

He asked me what my intention was with the fountain. I told him I was  interested in exploring electromagnetic phenomena as a potential source of artistic material. By attempting to reveal electromagnetic activity in public space, to create a temporary, emotional/emotive place which the public could discover, enjoy and interpret as they wish. Perhaps a playful, aesthetic experience could initiate reflection and discussion over issues connected to the usage of the EM spectrum, in particular the part of it which is used for telecommunications, but perhaps from a wider perspective too. For me the main issue is more territorial. (As such, I am also interested in the appearance and effect of transmission and reception towers, needles, etc, in/on both urban and remote landscapes.) Anyway, I asked him if he could write briefly about his thoughts, and here they are:

How dangerous are electromagnetic fields?
By Geir Tore Aamdal

Lately there has been a lot of attention drawn to the electromagnetic fields in the urban landscapes. Stavanger municipality has been sued for allowing a network of wireless internet in the town centre, parents in Bekkefaret kindergarden demand that a mobile network antenna in the vincinity is removed, and environmentalist Kurt Oddekalv calls electromagnetic fields the largest threat to human health. But how dangerous are electromagnetic fields really?

In my job as an environmental health consultant I get several questions about electromagnetic fields. I always point to the Norwegian Radiation Protection Authority (Statens Strålevern)

The knowlegde we have today about mobile phones and wireless networks shows no connection between these electromagnetic fields and health problems. But these are quite new phenomenons, with not enough experience yet. Many studies show no connection, some few indicate that there might be some connection. Just to be on the safe side, some measures for protection are recommended, like keeping the phone calls short, using handsfreegear, avoid placing the router in the bedroom, and avoid keeping the laptop in your lap.

Antennas for mobile networks are sending the signals horizontally, which means that higher-than-normal radiation only is directly in front of the antenna. Higher values than international standards only occur within a range of 0,5 meter. And the antennas usually do not send at maximum range.

There is little information about young children using mobile phones, so caution is recommended.

My advice to the worried public is to read only serious information on Internet, like the NRPA pages. And in planning new buildings, antennas and home networks having the recommendations from NRPA in mind, just to be on the safe side. When it comes to which is the largest health threath, for instance smoking and unhealty food are much more damaging , and the connection is well documented.
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My question to Geir is whether the Electromagnetic Fountain served to cause more paranoia in relation to health risk issues ……

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Written by ajsteggell

November 28, 2008 at 5:40 pm

2 Responses

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  1. When you worry about something strongly you literally worry yourself sick, even if the phenomenon is not dangerous in itself. This is a real health impact, even if it is impossible to measure. Thus worrying about EM waves can make people sick. And if the fountain made people aware of the EM fields in town, and this made them worried, the fountain may have an indirect negative impact on people’s health.
    Luckily there is a cure for this – that is correct information

    Geir Tore Aamdal

    November 29, 2008 at 2:33 am

  2. “Luckily there is a cure for this – that is correct information”

    … makes me think of the “Spectral Bat”, or the “False Vampire Bat”, as it’s otherwise called, which does not actually suck blood at all, but has never the less evoked fear in people for centuries. On the mysterious side, the Spectral Bat uses echolocation as a communications and navigation aid, but the question of whether the high frequency sounds are emitted via its nose or mouth is not yet known.

    ajsteggell

    November 30, 2008 at 6:38 pm


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