Philosophical Society of Washington

Do Weak Electromagnetic Fields Cause Bioeffects? Why Is There Such Skepticism? What Are the Answers?

Theodore Litovitz
Professor of Physics, Catholic University

2027th Meeting Abstract
Friday, April 08, 1994 at 8:15 PM


The association of biological effects at the cellular level with exposure to weak electromagnetic fields has remained a controversial subject despite over a decade of such reports. There are two basic reasons for such skepticism, 1) the lack of replication of many reported effects, and 2) the existence of theoretical arguments based upon signal-to-noise considerations which predict that it is impossible for these effects to occur.

Over a period of six years, the Bioelectromagnetics Group at CUA has investigated electromagnetic field effects in a number of in-vitro and in-vivo systems. The research results confirm that indeed weak 60 Hz magnetic fields do cause a variety of biological effects. I will discuss how the "lack of replication" is in fact a real and significant aspect of the bioelectromagnetic mechanism and will present data that contradict the theoretical arguments against the occurrence of bioeffects based upon signal-to-noise considerations. We can now understand how cells discriminate against large local thermally induced EM noise fields which are thousands of times larger than the applied 60 Hz fields. In addition, these findings also suggest an economical method for mitigating the effects of magnetic fields created by the distribution and utilization of electrical energy.

It is our conclusion that weak EM fields do cause bio-effects. It is our further conclusion that these effects can be easily and economically mitigated. The major question remaining is "Can weak electromagnetic fields cause adverse health effects in humans?" In other words, we have answers, but "Is there really a problem?"

About the Author:

Mr. Litovitz received his Ph.D. from Catholic University of America in 1950 and became a Professor of Physics at the university the same year. Over the last seven years, he has been Director of the Bioelectromagnetics Group at CUA. He is a Fellow of the American Physical Society and of the Acoustical Society of America. Mr. Litovitz has written over 100 publications, including co-authoring the book Ultrasonic Absorption with Karl Herzfeld.

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