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Accidental Bird Study Sounds Alarm About Common Unseen Radiation

September 13, 2014

Story at-a-glance

  • Scientists are sharing for the first time that normal levels of “electrosmog,” or electromagnetic pollution, cause the magnetic compasses of migratory birds to fail. And the levels at which this happens are well below the limit the World Health Organization defines as harmless.
  • A team of scientists stumbled upon a discovery several years ago that robins kept in earthed wooden birdhouses on the campus of the University of Oldenburg were unable to use their magnetic compasses to navigate. One of the team covered the wooden structures with sheets of aluminum that weakened the level of electrosmog inside, and the birds once again had use of their magnetic compasses.
  • Over the next seven years, the researchers conducted numerous studies to validate their discovery. Ultimately, they were able to confirm that the disruption of the birds’ compasses occurred with electromagnetic fields that covered a much broader frequency range and at a much lower intensity than previously thought.
  • According to the lead scientist, the results of the study should make us think not only about the survival of migratory birds, but also the potential impact of electromagnetic noise on humans.

By Dr. Becker

For the first time, scientists have revealed that average levels of electromagnetic noise, or "electrosmog," completely disrupt the magnetic compass of migratory robins. This is true even when the electromagnetic signal levels are just 1/1000th of the limit the World Health Organization (WHO) defines as harmless.

Electrosmog is the unseen electromagnetic radiation that is generated from the use of both wireless technology and household electricity. Common sources of electrosmog include utility smart meters, cell towers & antennae, cell phones, cordless phones, wireless Internet routers, microwaves, high voltage transmission lines, baby monitors and other wireless devices including WIFI, computers, monitors, laptops, tablets, reading devices, computer monitors, wired and wireless cell phone headsets, and educational interactive whiteboards.1

"The effects of these weak electromagnetic fields are remarkable."

A research team led by Dr. Henrik Mouritsen of the University of Oldenburg in Germany published their study in the May issue of the journal Nature.2

"In our experiments we were able to document a clear and reproducible effect of human-made electromagnetic fields on a vertebrate. This interference does not stem from power lines or mobile phone networks," Mouritsen told ScienceDaily.

What Professor Mouritsen means is that the frequency range required to disrupt the birds' magnetic compass is much lower than expected, and includes the two to five megahertz range generated by electronic devices. According to Mouritsen, "The effects of these weak electromagnetic fields are remarkable: they disrupt the functioning of an entire sensory system in a healthy higher vertebrate."

An Accidental Study

It has long been known that migratory birds use the Earth's magnetic field to guide the direction in which they fly. That's why Mouritsen and his colleagues at Oldenburg University were puzzled when robins they kept in wooden birdhouses seemed to have no use of their magnetic compasses.

They decided to cover the wooden structures, which held orientation cages, with sheets of aluminum that would not affect the Earth's magnetic field, but would mitigate the electrosmog inside the birdhouses. The result was stunning. Suddenly, the birds were again able to use their magnetic compasses. This "accidental" study seemed to indicate that very low levels of electromagnetic interference – levels far below the limits defined by the WHO's International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection – completely remove the ability of migratory birds to access the Earth's magnetic field.

Seven Years and Many Experiments Later, Researchers Are Confident in Their Original Findings

Over the next seven years, Mouritsen and his colleagues performed a long series of additional experiments to validate their findings. Several successive classes of Mouritsen's doctorate students performed double-blind studies. What they learned over and over again was that the birds' magnetic orientation ability was immediately lost with the removal of the aluminum grounding screens or the deliberate generation of electrosmog inside the earthed wooden birdhouses.

In addition, the researchers discovered that the disruption of the birds' compasses occurred with electromagnetic fields that covered a much broader frequency range and at a much lower intensity than expected.

As you might expect, electrosmog is much more of a problem in urban environments than in rural locations. The University of Oldenburg team discovered that when robins were placed in orientation cages, without screening, a half-mile to a mile outside city limits, their magnetic compasses remained functional.

According to Mouritsen, "…these findings should make us think -- both about the survival of migratory birds as well as about the potential effects for human beings, which have yet to be investigated."

For more information on the potential effects of electrosmog on humans, read Dr. Mercola's article Cell Phones Are Dangerous, But This May Be Far Worse.

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Sources and References

  • 1 Center for Electrosmog Prevention
  • 2 Nature, May 15, 2014, Issue 509, pp 353-356
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