May 9 2014, 10:38pm CDT | by Forbes
Despite speculation to the contrary, electrosmog, or electromagnetic radiation created by the use of electronic devices, has not been shown to affect biological processes at levels lower than those considered to be safe by the World Health Organization (WHO).
For the first time, biologists at the University of Oldenburg have shown that robins lose their magnetic compass when exposed to AM radio waveband electromagnetic interference at levels as low far below the threshold defined by the WHO.
“In our experiments we were able to document a clear and reproducible effect of human-made electromagnetic fields on a vertebrate,” said Mouritsen. “The effects of these weak electromagnetic fields are remarkable: they disrupt the functioning of an entire sensory system in a healthy higher vertebrate.”
Migratory birds use Earth’s magnetic field to navigate.
Robins were housed in orientation cages that were, in turn, housed in earthed wooden huts covered with sheets of aluminum, which shielded the birds from electromagnetic exposure.
When electromagnetic interference was introduced inside of the aluminum-clad wooden huts, the birds’ magnetic orientation ability was immediately lost.
“Our measurements of the interferences indicated that we had accidentally discovered a biological system that is sensitive to anthropogenic electromagnetic noise generated by humans in the frequency range up to five megahertz,” said Mouritsen.
Several generations of students repeated the experiments independently of one another on the Oldenburg campus over the course of seven years.
While the effect of electrosmog on bird migration is limited to urban areas, Mouritsen emphasized that the findings should be cause for concern “about the potential effects for human beings, which has yet to be investigated.”
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