Wednesday, March 29, 2006 : Does power corrupt?
No one knows how many people are sensitive to electricity.

Symptoms of electrical sensitivity include the joint pain Mr. Byrne experienced, but also a bewildering array of other common problems most everyone feels at one time or another, such as fatigue, headaches, poor sleep quality with frequent wakefulness, ringing in the ears, depression, difficulty remembering things, and skin rashes. The list of symptoms has created speculation that some cases of sick building syndrome, where people working in buildings complain of nausea and headaches, might be due to electrical sensitivities.

The allergy-like symptoms are a far different medical condition than the cancers Dr. Stevens studies, and some researchers are speculating that a possible culprit is the recent deterioration in the quality of electricity flowing in power wires.

Power quality is a well-known problem in the utility business, caused by the proliferation of computers, lighting dimmer switches, energy efficient bulbs, and other modern electronic gadgets. These new devices cause a more complicated use pattern for electricity than old-fashioned items such as incandescent bulbs, producing negative feedback involving high-frequency peaks, harmonics and other noise on electric wiring.

The change in power quality means more variable electromagnetic fields, and possibly more biologically active ones, are associated with electricity than there used to be. This is a possible explanation for the rise in electrosensitivity complaints in the view of Denis Henshaw, a professor at the University of Bristol in Britain, who is an international authority on the health effects of power transmission lines.

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