Electricity doesn’t usually make the list of things we’re worried about, especially when it comes to our health. For the last two centuries, we have pretty much accepted the notion that electricity is “safe” for us and the planet. But what if it is not? What if not only electricity but other electromagnetic fields are disrupting our health and normal body functions? Arthur Firstenberg is a scientist, journalist, and the author of The Invisible Rainbow: A History of Electricity and Life. Today, he joins Hilda Labrada Gore as he walks us through history, showing how non-native electromagnetic fields have negatively affected the planet… and us. Anxiety, insomnia, heart palpitations, and more may not really be as “normal” as we’ve thought. Instead, they may be responses to our overly electrified environment. Arthur reviews the science of just how microwave and radio frequencies disrupt brain, heart, and mitochondrial function. He offers concrete ideas for how to de-electrify your own world for a brighter and healthier future.
Listen to the episode here:
Within the below transcript the bolded text is Hilda.
There are lots of things we’re exposed to that we are concerned may impact our health negatively. Air pollution, glyphosate in our food, heavy metal exposure and more, but electricity doesn’t usually make the list. For the last two centuries, we have pretty much accepted the notion that electricity is safe for us and the planet, but what if it is not? What if not only electricity but other non-native electromagnetic fields are disrupting our health and normal body functions? This is episode 272 and our guest is Arthur Firstenberg. He is a scientist, journalist and the author of The Invisible Rainbow: A History of Electricity and Life.
Arthur challenges our presuppositions and makes a compelling case that our electric environment is interfering with us because after all, we are electric beings. He covers anxiety, insomnia, heart palpitations, and more. Symptoms that we now call normal and explains that they are anything but. They are responses to our overly electrified environment. Arthur at the end of our conversation offers a rather radical suggestion for a choice we can all make that can greatly improve our health and the health of the planet.
Welcome to the show, Arthur.
Thank you for having me.
I saw this interesting article where I believe either the Air Force or NASA were indicating that pilots are suffering from the radiation exposure that they’re getting in the cockpit. What do you think of that?
I was emailed that same article and it’s got to be true.
The article indicated that they hadn’t studied the level of radiation exposure that the pilots are getting, but I’m guessing that from your experience, you would say it’s certainly affecting their health.
I would say definitely it’s affecting their health. That’s both from knowing what goes on in the cockpit and all of the technology that’s there and all of the radar beams that they are traveling in and emitting from the airplane. The fact that people who can sense such things have trouble flying because of all of the radiation in airports and on airplanes, it must be much worse for a pilot.
It said that they sometimes get brain fog, confusion, fatigue and these are symptoms of overexposure to non-native electromagnetic frequency radiation. Isn’t that right?
That is exactly right.
Let’s walk through history. What was the first use of non-native electromagnetic fields in producing some communication systems? Was it the telegraph?
It was the telegraph, but electricity was first harnessed and used in the 18th century before telegraphy was used in medicine. It was used for electrotherapy. It was considered a panacea. When they started experimenting with it, they were administering it to make the deaf hear and the blind see and the lame walk and sometimes it worked. That’s what it was exclusively used for in the 18th century before the electric battery was invented by Volta.
People saw it as a powerful tool. Were the doctors embracing it or were people afraid of it? Tell me what was happening on that emotional or visceral level.
People were excited about it. They were enamored of it. Scientists thought back then, that electricity was the life force. Even Isaac Newton thought it was the life force. They administered it gently, briefly to patients for a variety of medical illnesses with some success. That went on throughout the 18th and 19th centuries. At the end of the 19th century, when electricity became widely used for lights and for power, then it became a contradiction to use it in medicine to treat all kinds of diseases. That mostly stopped at the beginning of the 20th century.
I understand why they regarded it as a life force because, in a lot of senses, we are electric beings, aren’t we?
We are, and people who want to know a lot more about that should read Robert O. Becker’s book, The Body Electric, which was published in 1985. He was one of my teachers.
In-person or did you just read his book?
I read his book and I corresponded with him.
Let’s keep walking through history. First, it was the therapeutic use of electricity, but then it was the telegraph, then the telephone?
Telegraphy started in the early 1840s. Telephony got going in the 1880s.
As more non-native electromagnetic fields were introduced into our environment, was there an uptick in health problems?
There was. Even in the 18th century when it was widely used in medicine, doctors kept track of what kinds of symptoms it produced and they were pretty much the same types of symptoms that people who call themselves electrically sensitive complain of today. I don’t talk about the electrical sensitivity anymore because it’s more of a political term than a medical term. It’s not a medical entity. The Soviet Union, the Russians called it radio wave sickness. It’s not just radio wave sickness, it’s an electrical illness. I call it in my book acute electrical illness and chronic electrical illness. The symptoms throughout the century have been the same and since it was first reported in the 18th century through now. I’m talking about headaches, dizziness and nausea. These are similar to what airline pilots have been complaining of. Heart palpitations, weakness, insomnia, memory problems, muscle and joint point pains, tremors, light and sound sensitivity, ringing in the ears and nosebleeds. That was observed early on in the 18th century.
As you’re describing these symptoms, they seem fairly common. My guess is that most people don’t realize they could be related to the overwhelming amount of radiation that we’re exposed to.
They are very common nowadays and it’s considered almost normal. They are very much related to the amount of electromagnetic fields we are all exposed to in the 21st century, enormously more than several centuries ago, I’m talking about billions and trillions of times more than it exists in nature.
Is it billions and trillions of times than what our ancestors may have experienced?
Correct. When you’re talking about microwave radiation, which is how everybody’s cell phones and all of the wireless technology works, the microwave background in the universe is enormously less. It’s virtually nonexistent. We’ve introduced a new environmental factor into the world and in order for cell phones to work, for example, every square inch of the environment has to be irradiated with levels that never existed in nature. We did not evolve with them. As I write in my book, nobody that’s alive now has any clue what it feels like to be without this radiation. This is why it’s considered normal, the headaches, dizziness, nausea, heart palpitations and insomnia. This is not normal.
I think you’re right. There’s a sense in which we’ve grown accustomed to being surrounded by a certain kind of buzziness. It is definitely impacting us on a cellular level, but the thing is not everyone expresses symptoms in the same way. You and I could be in the same room under the same amount of radiation and you may have more symptoms appearing, but that doesn’t mean that it’s not impacting me on that deep level.
I think you would be surprised how similar we all are. We’re all alive, electrical beings, have nervous systems, have cardiovascular systems, have mitochondria and are affected in essentially the same way. Some people experience it first and it takes more radiation to affect the next person. If you interview people, you find out they seem normal, they’re walking around, they’re fine, but if you interview them in detail, they’re also experiencing some of the same things. Most people nowadays are on one or more medications to suppress these symptoms. There’s an amazing amount of people walking around on pain medications, on sleeping medications, on anxiety medications and on antidepressants. They’re not feeling these symptoms. Partially, because of the remedies that they’re taking for them.
It’s getting rid or depressing the symptom, how they appear, but it’s not necessarily going to the root of the issue.
It’s suppressing the symptoms and for people like me who don’t take any medications, I feel them in real-time. I’m somewhat more susceptible than the next person because of my history, but not because I’m in any fundamental way different from anybody else.
We only got as far as electricity in the homes. When does electricity cover or start to blanket our cities in our homes and the history of the US?
Millions of miles of telegraph wires already surrounded the Earth by the 1860s. That was followed in the late ‘70s and ‘80s by telephone wires, enormous amounts of them. For lights and power, it didn’t get going until the late 1880s. In 1889 was when AC electricity came into use very rapidly during that year. It’s the end of the 19th century. An important part of the history is that when telegraphy got going in the 1860s, there was a new disease described called neurasthenia that nobody could figure out what was causing it, but it suddenly appeared and with the same kinds of symptoms that people were weak, couldn’t sleep, dizzy and nauseous. It was very widespread throughout the world, at least the industrial world that had all these telegraph wires. Telegraph wires seem tame compared to now.
What people don’t realize is that the initial use of electricity, like now, you receive electrical current into your house over a wire and it returns to the power plant over a wire. In the 19th century, the early telegraph systems use the Earth as the return. None of the currents went through a wire. It all went back to the power plant through the earth. Everybody that lived anywhere near telegraph wires were getting exposed to these electromagnetic fields. This new disease came up called neurasthenia that for 40 years was very prevalent, especially in high society and a lot of famous people got it. Around 1895 or 1896, Sigmund Freud came and declared that this was a psychological disorder. He named it anxiety neurosis.
When people say they have anxiety today, we think they’re just a nervous person. We would never associate it necessarily with it being almost a physiological response to their exposure to electricity or radiation.
What we call anxiety disorder today was not described in medicine until around 1866.
If we’re all so similar, why aren’t we all anxious?
To some degree, I think we will. It depends on what happens when you go to the doctor and how they treat you and what kind of medications they put you on. Some people are enormously more resistant to it than others. There’s a variation. For example, if you poison a population with arsenic or whatever, some people succumb way before others. Other people will go around looking normal for a while. There are some parts of the world now, neurasthenia is still a medical diagnosis, not here in the United States.
Did it stop after a while? Was there less of an incidence of it or did we rename it?
We renamed it anxiety. Neurosis and then anxiety disorder and it’s very common. Something like 1/6 or 1/5 of the population suffers from it.
What you’re saying resonates with me, because I’m thinking about children. A lot of children are now also diagnosed with anxiety and depression and they’re often put on medication, but you would think they would be perfectly happy. It’s difficult to put my finger on, and I’m sure that professionals feel the same way, on exactly what’s causing their symptoms.
It’s much more prevalent since the wireless revolution got going in the late 1990s. In other words, the generation that grew up with cell phones has much more of it. When I grew up in the ‘50s and ‘60s, children weren’t anxious. They never had insomnia and ADHD. They weren’t autistic in large numbers. It’s very much a disease of environmental illness.
In your book, you do correlate outbreaks of illnesses with exposure to new levels of electromagnetic radiation, but the correlation isn’t the same as causation. Just because something happens at the same time doesn’t mean that one thing caused the other, right?
We have about 30,000 studies at least on the biological effects of microwave and radiofrequency radiation. We have epidemiological studies, experimental studies on animals and clinical studies on human beings. When Zory Glaser was hired by the United States Navy in the 1970s, they commissioned him in 1971 to catalog the world’s literature on the biological and health effects of radiofrequency and microwave radiation. By 1981, he had cataloged 5,038 studies already in the 1970s. I’ve looked at what he’s done and what he didn’t find. I estimate that he found probably half of the world’s literature. By 1980, there were 10,000 studies. Now, there has to be something like 30,000.
Yet, we tool along. We go about our merry way as if we were impervious to this level of radiation and electromagnetic frequencies.
We also know causation. It’s not just a correlation. We have all these studies experimental, epidemiological clinical studies. We know the mechanism and it’s been proven many times over. Long ago, we know the cause and the mechanism, but we’re ignoring it as a society. We don’t want to know.
Can you explain a little bit more about the mechanism?
We are electromagnetic beings and I’ll be more specific. Our nervous system runs on electricity. We’re like an analog and digital computer both. Robert Becker proved this back in the 1980s, 1970s. He started working on this in the 1960s what we now call the perineural cysts, what was long considered the packing material for a nerve is a conductive pathway and that is the analog system. The neurons themselves carry signals along their axons to the synapse and then to the next nerve. That’s the digital component of our system. It’s electric. Our cardiac rhythm is purely electric. This is what electrocardiograms detect. Are the conductive pathways in your heart working correctly? Our brain is electric.
You have electroencephalograms to detect the patterns of firing of your nerves. These are electrical patterns. When you immerse yourself in electromagnetic fields, electromagnetic radiation, you interfere with nerve function, neurological function and cardiac function. You cause arrhythmias. In the mitochondria of every cell of every living creature, you have an electron transport system. It is the last step in food metabolism. You metabolize your food down to amino acids. You break down the proteins into amino acids. You break down the fats into fatty acids. You break down carbohydrates into simple sugars, glucose, and it goes into your mitochondria. The last step in digestion extracts electrons from the products of your digestion and combines it with the oxygen you breathe.
It goes along the electron transport system. The electromagnetic field affects electrons. It interferes with it with electron transport and interferes with metabolism. Effectively, makes metabolism less efficient and starves us of oxygen effectively because the electrons from your food can combine with the oxygen you breathe. Sugars, fats and amino acids back up into your bloodstream. There’s the backup, you get diabetes. It gets deposited in coronary arteries and you get heart disease. Cancer thrives in aerobic environments. If you are effectively starved of oxygen, cancer cells thrive. The modern epidemics of cancer, heart disease and diabetes, exactly those three diseases are due in large part to the expanding sea of radiation that we’re all swimming in.
What comes to mind is it’s as if our bodies were radio stations and there’s static that’s affecting the signal of the proper function of our station. It comes across instead of a beautiful song playing, it’s static. It’s messing up many functions. If only we could hear that or understand that, we might respond differently but instead, we get used to that sound and think that’s the way it is.
It’s considered normal.
Can we adapt? In other words, some people would say, “These non-native electromagnetic fields weren’t present years ago, but they are today and certainly, our bodies have evolved and changed over time.” Can’t they adapt to this new, highly electrified climate?
The simple answer is no. Any more than you would expect a computer or an electronic device to adapt to electromagnetic interference from outside. What’s done nowadays in order to have electronic machinery at all, is there’s more shielding. Our bodies are, number one, can’t develop shielding overnight and number two, the Earth electromagnetic environment is essential to our health. If you shielded us from all this artificial radiation, if somehow we adapted it and grew all this shielding around our nerves and our heart and ourselves, we wouldn’t have the natural input from the Earth which keeps us alive and gives us our health and directs our growth.
The Earth, and I would say the sun probably. We need energy from both of those sources. We’re a little battery.
We have the sun, the global electrical circuit, which circulates between the ionosphere and the surface of the Earth at all times and goes through our bodies. Doctors of Oriental Medicine, acupuncturist deal with this all the time, except they call it chi and not electricity. This goes back to the 18th century when it was assumed when electricity was discovered and played with it, this was identical to the life force. Maybe it is related or close to what goes through our bodies and our acupuncture and doctors of Oriental Medicine deal with. I’m talking about the bigger picture that we live in this environment, which supplies only information and only energy to give us life and you can’t cut us off from that.
If we could somehow shield ourselves from the non-native electromagnetic frequencies, we would also be showing ourselves off from those that we desperately need. Because of the outbreaks of illnesses that I read about in your book, do you think our current health crisis is related in any way to this new uptick in 5G infrastructure and the microwaves emitted by the new antennas?
You’re talking about COVID-19?
Yes, there was a relationship. As soon as you say that, you’re considered a conspiracy theorist, but there is a relationship. This is very important. A lot of what is being diagnosed as COVID-19 is no longer a respiratory disease. They’re talking about bleeding disorders, clotting disorders, heart attacks, strokes, neurological disorders. They’re talking about people itching and have tingling and all of this stuff, that’s not a respiratory virus. The respiratory epidemic that swept the world in December, January, February, March 2020, was respiratory disease. It killed people by causing hypoxia. It prevented the hemoglobin in blood from combining with the oxygen you breathe.
When that is combined with 5G, which is hugely intensified radiation over what we’ve been living with 2G, 3G and 4G, 5G is 10 to 100 times more powerful. The COVID-19 prevents oxygen from combining with your blood, starves your blood of oxygen. The radiation starves your cells of oxygen because of what it does to the mitochondria. Together, they’re synergistic and they kill people. This is why Wuhan, China started the epidemic. The first cases of COVID-19 were discovered a couple of weeks after 5G was officially turned on in Wuhan the big epidemic in New York City of the respiratory disease became lethal a couple of weeks after 5G became commercial in New York City.
The Diamond Princess Cruise Ship where there was that early outbreak of COVID-19 had 5G on board. It was one of the first cruise ships to have it. There is a relationship, but what’s going on now is no longer mostly respiratory disease. The respiratory disease affected mostly the elderly, people with diabetes, heart disease and other conditions. Now, it’s affecting young people, children, but it’s no longer a respiratory disease. It’s a neurological disease and it’s probably caused by 5G.
Are there others in the scientific community who are willing to explore this possibility, this relationship between 5G exacerbating the symptoms and the progression of the illness of COVID?
There are a lot of people talking about it, especially among my colleagues, my scientific colleagues and my activist colleagues, but we’re not getting media coverage. We’re not getting airtime because there’s such a preoccupation with everything being COVID-19 and anybody that says anything different is considered a conspiracy theorist. We’re not even getting airtime.
I know there’s that quickness to label people who think differently or who have a different approach to what’s going on. It’s quite sad because we’re not exploring possibilities and ways in which we might improve our health. Maybe if there was any way, do you think there’s a chance that people might wake up to the fact that this is damaging our health and want to slow down the rollout of 5G? Isn’t there a whole group of European scientists who have signed some petition to stop its rollout?
In 5G, the biggest petition is the one that I am administering. It’s the international appeal to stop 5G on Earth and in space. We have 300,000 signatures from all over the world so far, including thousands of scientists and thousands of doctors. There’s an international day of protest against 5G and that’s being organized by another group to Stop 5G International, and that is also a worldwide multinational.
I do want to ask you as we start to wrap up because this is quite discouraging. If the reader could do one thing to improve their health and may be particularly in regard to their exposure to non-native electromagnetic radiation, what would you recommend that they do? What’s one first step they could take to protect themselves?
The single most effective thing that people can do to improve their health is to throw away their cell phones and never use one again. I say this for two reasons. One is, and people don’t realize this that the exposure drops off as the square of the distance. In other words, it increases as the square of proximity to your body. Since your cell phone is held in your hand, on your body, let alone next to your brain, you are getting much more radiation from your phone than from any antennas in the street, any cell towers. The other reason is that my mission is to save this planet. In other words, it’s not just human beings anymore. There were very few insects left in most places on this planet and this is in large part due to all this radiation.
There are reports of millions of migratory birds falling out of the sky, along the migration path from Colorado down to Mexico, from Nebraska down to Mexico. They are emaciated. They’re dying because they’re starving. They’re insect-eating birds. There were no insects left to eat. Insects have a much higher metabolism than we do. It affects their metabolism much more quickly. It affects the migratory ability of birds also, but these birds are dying because they were emaciated. I’m trying to save the planet. The satellites that are going up, SpaceX is in process of launching tens of thousands of satellites. They’re launching 60 every couple of weeks.
This is going to disturb the ionosphere which controls the global electrical circuit, which keeps us alive and healthy. This is an existential threat to life on Earth. The thing about cell phones is not only that it is your biggest exposure, but in order for your cell phone to work when you need it to, every square inch of this planet has to be irradiated. If the radiation is the product, if we want to turn the infrastructure off, people have to give up their cell phones. That is the single most effective thing for our planet and for your health.
What you said about the satellites being launched, I find very alarming. There are teams of scientists working with Elon Musk and others to make this happen. Aren’t they aware that they are risking the very life of this planet?
They have no clue. I’m looking for people that know, not so much Elon Musk, but his brother Kimbal who lives in Boulder, Colorado. Kimbal and his wife are staunch environmentalists. Kimbal is on the board of SpaceX. I’m sure he has no clue. We have to start a dialogue with these people and start talking about the relationship between what they’re doing and what’s happening to this planet. It’s very important.
Thank you for your commitment to doing what you can to get the word out. You’ve given us a lot of food for thought that we can hopefully take action with and make a difference for our future. Thanks again, Arthur.
- The Invisible Rainbow: A History of Electricity and Life
- Forbes Article
- The Body Electric
- Stop 5G International
About Arthur Firstenberg
Arthur Firstenberg is a scientist, journalist and author who is at the center of a worldwide movement to reduce electromagnetic pollution. His book, The Invisible Rainbow: A History of Electricity and Life (Chelsea Green 2020), is the first book to tell the history of electricity from an environmental point of view.
He is president of the Cellular Phone Task Force, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, www.cellphonetaskforce.org, and a co-author of the International Appeal to Stop 5G on Earth and in Space, www.5gSpaceAppeal.org. His work has been translated into 32 languages. He graduated in mathematics from Cornell University, and attended U.C. Irvine School of Medicine from 1978 to 1982. Injury by x-ray overdose cut short his medical career. For the past 38 years he has been a researcher, consultant and lecturer on the health and environmental effects of electromagnetic radiation.