Letters to the Editor – October 2007

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More on the CFL/Full Spectrum Light Debate

I just read Rob Ferraz's article “A Closer Look at Compact Fluorescents” (Vitality, Sept. 07) and agree that there are issues with CFLs that go beyond the mercury problem. Some of these health concerns were alluded to in the article, namely that some people complain of irritability, depression, hyperactivity, fatigue, headaches etc. The article goes on to state that if full spectrum lights are used, this problem goes away. It's not that simple.

Compact fluorescent lights (CFL) produce radio wave frequencies. These frequencies radiate directly from the bulbs and go on the electrical wiring in the home or school causing poor power quality or dirty electricity. The closer you sit to the bulb, the greater your exposure. Because the high frequencies travel along the wire you can be exposed in other rooms of your home as well as the room that contains the CFL.

Not all CFL bulbs produce the same amount of dirty electricity; some are worse than others. Our research on CFLs will be released to the public this fall so shoppers can decide which bulbs they want to buy based on energy efficiency, cost and potential health impacts.

Full spectrum lights mimic the sun and can reduce seasonal affective disorder or SAD especially during our northern winters when natural sunlight is limited. But some full spectrum bulbs also produce high frequencies that some people are sensitive to. This sensitivity is known as electrical sensitivity (ES) or electrohypersensitivity (EHS) and is becoming a growing concern because of our increasing exposure to electromagnetic energy from electronic equipment and wireless devices. As many as 3% of the population have full blown EHS and are unable to live in a modern electrical environment. Many complain that they cannot be in a room with fluorescent lights because they feel “unwell”. These people have difficulty shopping in large department stores because of the lighting and often go with list in hand and spend as little time in the store as possible. Their cognitive functions diminish and some have difficulty recalling where they parked their cars.

Putting lights on dimmer switches exacerbates the problem. The dimmer switch converts the electrical signal into high frequency transients that result in dirty electricity. Even clean incandescent lights will produce dirty electricity if a dimmer switch is used. Most CFLs are incompatible with dimmers.

Ontario moved too quickly pushing CFLs and David Suzuki should have done his homework before he allowed his picture to be used to promote them. Yes, they will save us green house gases but at what cost to our health?

Dr. Magda Havas

Dr. Magda Havas is Associate Professor of Environmental and Resource Studies at Trent University and does research on electromagnetic pollution.

Another Perspective on Full Spectrum Lighting

In your article on 'full-spectrum lighting', I was surprised that your writer regarded fluorescent lighting as an “alternative” to full-spectrum lighting. Yes, common 'cool white' and 'warm white' fluorescent tubes are far from full-spectrum (they have very uneven spectral output, with prominent peaks in the yellow or green, and no UV output), but that is also true for virtually all incandescent light bulbs (usually quite yellow).

'Daylight' and true 'full-spectrum' lights are almost always fluorescent, because it is much easier to approach 'full-spectrum' lighting by fluorescing (electrically exciting) gases, than by heating a solid so hot that it incandesces (glows). To get a wide-spectrum appearance from incandescent bulbs, special coatings must be used to absorb much of the excess yellows produced, further wasting electricity. Since fluorescent lights are naturally much more efficient (more light produced per watt input), that should be the obvious way to go – though there is almost always mercury used in such tubes, unfortunately, and older designs 'flicker' with their 60-cycle ballasts.

While several manufacturers produce 'full-spectrum' fluorescent lights, the 'Ott light' (named after Dr. John Ott, Walt Disney's original time-lapse photography expert) is the best full-spectrum light that I've seen to date. They have no flicker (using 10,000-cycle electronic ballasts), have wide-spectral output from infrared to ultraviolet (with better effects on the eyes and skin, bringing out colours more accurately in whatever they illuminate), and give off no 'soft' X-rays (they put lead tape around the cathode, to absorb the 'soft' X-rays that fluorescent lights also make). By spreading their output over a wider spectrum, they produce more useful light with less 'glare' or visual discomfort (which are caused by large 'spikes' in the yellow-green area by the more-common lights).

This was demonstrated at one of the past Total Health workshops, by comparing work area lights that use either Ott tubes or regular compact fluorescent tubes. They cost more, but I've been switching our lights steadily over ever since.

Don Greenwood, by email

Eastern Medicine Is Helping My Diabetes

I am a person with two disabilities: epilepsy and diabetes. The various medications I have been taking for most of my life had no real effects. Brittle diabetes that I have had for 10 years is causing excessive problems with my epilepsy. This type of diabetes causes my sugars to be very unstable.

At the advice of a friend, I went to the Eastern Health Restoration Center where Prof. Cecilia Zhang and her team conduct an Eastern approach. It is here I am seeing real results. Their natural herbal solution for lowering my blood sugar levels is definitely working! Not only it is working, but I do not have to take insulin anymore.

Apparently Prof. Zhang is having a very good success rate with the treatment of diabetes. Out of 500 diabetics treated so far, she and her team have shown very good improvements in 90% of these cases. Prof. Zhang has taken 36 diabetics off insulin, including me! Using this treatment approach, 9 diabetics avoided surgery, some diabetics saved their kidneys and vision.

The Eastern solution I have been given for my epilepsy is also successful. I usually have a grand mal seizure once a month. With this solution I have had no seizures so far.

If these Eastern Health Methods show such progress, then why are they being ignored by western medicine? Shouldn’t health problems, regardless of who has the answers, be used by all. Could this mean that if Eastern practices have some valuable answers, they take away a large portion of the medical industry from today’s western medicine?

All I know is that I want to go to a place that shows me good results. Prof. Zhang and her team definitely do those. Children with attention deficit syndrome (ADS), are also showing success under Prof. Zhang’s hand.             

Paul Myers, by email

Nuclear Decontamination

Linda Tadich’s request for information on how to protect her health from nuclear plant emissions also begs an ethical question about the disproportionate risk for people living and working close to Ontario’s nuclear reactors. It is not healthy to live in fear of nuclear pollution, but it makes good sense to strengthen our bodies based on the reality. It would probably be helpful to give some background explanation first. 

The Pickering CANDU reactors emit very small amounts of low-level radioactive particles, called isotopes, such as carbon, iodine, various minerals, plutonium, and more tritium than other types of reactors. These emissions are in the white puffs of steam you see coming from the plant and in the cooling water flowing back to Lake Ontario. They remain radioactive for a few hours to millions of years. Tritium combines with oxygen and forms a slightly radioactive form of water with an extra hydrogen atom and a radioactive half-life of twelve years. Since this radioactive water acts in every way like water, it cannot be filtered or boiled out (1).

The measurable radiation dose at the source of the emissions is considered inconsequential and meets nuclear industry regulations. But these emissions enter the air and vapor cycle, accumulating in water, soil, food chain – and our bodies. These radioactive chemicals do their harm from the inside. They directly affect the cell membranes, the workings of the interior parts of the cell, the endocrine signal receptors, cell division, normal repair and maintenance of tissues, and the ability of the lungs to exchange oxygen and wastes (2). 

Most of the tritiated water is excreted from the body. However, some becomes organically bound to cells (3). Tritium goes wherever ordinary water goes, including cell cytoplasm and the fragile hydrogen bonds that hold DNA proteins together.

Lethal cancers may be negligible according to nuclear engineers, but immune system suppression, thyroid effects, diabetes, reproductive problems, asthma and cardiovascular damage from oxidative stress have become common. Nuclear emission effects must be measured differently, such as recording the patterns and rates of infections, hospitalizations, prescription drug use, absenteeism, chronic disability, birth defects, miscarriage and premature births, and average lifespan of long-exposed residents compared to similar populations without neighbourhood nuclear emissions. 

The greatest impact of these very low level exposures is on the developing embryo and fetus, and damaged gene expression in future generations. It is irreversible harm to the seeds of life.

Ontario residents can be exposed to low level radiation from nuclear power plants, incineration and uranium processing. Our cancer and chronic illness rates are cause for concern. Ontario lags behind British Columbia and has not developed cancer and birth defect registries that would allow better tracking of the environmental health effects of low level nuclear pollution. 

We now know that Canadian CANDU plant workers are at greater risk of cancer and early death than workers in other types of nuclear plants that emit less tritium and Carbon-14 (4). Research shows that people living and working within ten kilometers of the reactors are at increased risk of cancer, chronic illness and reproductive health problems also. This is not a sacrifice we should make just to boil water for steam turbines.

Appropriate nutrition and lifestyle improvements can help repair some of the damage from radioactivity, but the truly effective action is to stop the production of these poisons at the source. The body of science on health effects of low level radiation exposures is large and solid. Politicians only need to be shown. Governments move when challenged by an educated and informed public (5).

· Iodine and selenium are protective of thyroid, breast and reproductive health.
· Vitamin D3 (see Dr. Rona’s article in September issue) is strongly anti-cancer and immune-supportive.
· Vitamins C, E, natural beta-carotenes and omega3 fats help protect cell membranes from oxidative stress.
· Drinking distilled water helps the body excrete radioactive chemicals.
· Trampoline rebounding exercise can improve lymph circulation, white blood cell counts and natural killer cell activity.
· Weight-bearing and resistance exercises increase bone cell turnover and reduce the impact of the bone-seeking toxins, especially when the diet has plenty of calcium, magnesium and Vitamin K from vegetables and leafy greens.
· Sauna helps the body excrete soluble radioactive toxins.
· Probiotic foods such as kefir, miso, natto, sauerkraut and kimchee can repair the digestive and immune systems.
· Supplements such as CoQ10, chlorella and spirulina, cilantro, alpha lipoic acid, N-acetyl cysteine and glutathione support the body’s detoxification and antioxidant defenses.

For more information, please visit the website of the International Institute of Concern for Public Health, a non-profit organization that is independent of government and industry. We provide scientific expertise to evaluate the public health effects of nuclear pollution. The IICPH operates on the key principle that a safe environment is a fundamental human right.

Aliss Terpstra RNCP

Marion Odell

The International Institute of Concern for Public Health   www.iicph.org
P.O. Box 80523 RPO White Shields
2300 Lawrence Ave. East
Toronto ON Canada M1P 4Z5      (416) 755-3685   .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)


  1. Health Effects of Tritium http://www.iicph.org/docs/health-effects-of-tritium-appendix-1.pdf
  2. ibid.Ref.1 Page5 7 Part III : Risks Other Than Fatal Cancer Due To Tritium
  3. ibid Ref.1 Page 2
  4. “Comments on Radiation and Health in Durham Region Report 2007” page 8 by Rosalie Bertell, Ph. D., GNSH
  5. 2003 Recommendations of the European Committee on Radiation Risk (ECRR)
    Health Effects of Ionizing Radiation Exposure at Low Doses for Radiation Protection Purposes. Edited by Chris Busby: Regulators’ Edition Brussels, 2003

    Can ICRP Be Trusted to Set Radiation Standards? by Rosalie Bertell

Other resources:

Bertell, Rosalie PhD, GNSH. No Immediate Danger: Prognosis for a Radioactive Earth. Toronto, 1985.

Bertell, Rosalie PhD, GNSH. Planet Earth, the Latest Weapon of War: A critical study into the military and the environment. Toronto, 2001. 

Graeub, Ralph. The Petkau Effect.

BEIR. Health Effects of Exposure to Low Levels of Ionizing Radiation. National Academy of Sciences 

Radiosensitivity Mechanisms at Low Doses: Inflammatory Responses to microGray Radiation Levels in Human Blood, G.Vickers, Dept. of Biology, University of Bremen, Journal, International Perspectives in Public Health, Vol. 9, pp. 4-20 1993.

The Carcinogenic, Mutagenic, Teratogenic and Transmutational Effects of Tritium. Citizens Awareness Network http://www.nukebusters.org

Confirmation that Ionizing Radiation can Induce Genomic Instability: What is Genomic Instability and Why Is It So Important? John Gofman, MD Ph.D and Egan O'Connor, Committee for Nuclear Responsibility.

The Bystander Effect in Radiation Oncogenesis by Stephen Mitchell, Stephen A. Marino, David J. Brenner and Eric J. Hall, Columbia University.

Cardis, E. et al. IARC Study comparing health of nuclear workers in 15 countries. British Medical Journal, 331:7508, 2005.

Painful Pap Smears

Please give me a holistic perspective on this: My pap smear experience was so painful that my doctor could not go through with it and had to send me to another gyno. She seemed to say that the muscles were probably just tight, but I have a feeling that it's something more than that. I have a high pain tolerance but this was truly unbearable. What's going on?

Pooped with Paps

Dr. Zoltan Rona responds: 

Dear Pooped:

Pap tests should not be a painful experience. Stressful, yes but, if it’s painful, there are a number of possible reasons why:

1) Poor technique in performing the test; solution: talk it over with your doctor and see if she might consider a different way of doing the procedure. For example, she may want to use a warmed up (in hot water) speculum plus more lubrication using vitamin E cream. A cold speculum in a dry vagina can be uncomfortable and occasionally painful because the cold can cause vaginal blood vessels to constrict and the dryness can cause unnecessary friction.

2) Not enough lubrication when inserting the speculum; solution: use vitamin E cream in copious amounts. If that doesn’t work, a low dose bio-identical estrogen vaginal cream used for a few weeks before the procedure can make speculum penetration more tolerable.

3) Too large a speculum; solution: use a child-sized or adolescent-sized speculum. Some doctors like to think that one size fits all but, like penis sizes, vaginas come in small, medium, and large. Size of speculum does matter.

4) Vaginal muscle spasm due to anxiety or calcium and magnesium deficiency; solution: take large doses of calcium (1500 mg) and magnesium (500 mg) daily for at least 3 days before the procedure. If that doesn’t work, take some L-theanine, an extract of green tea and natural anti-anxiety agent (1000 mg before the procedure). Other remedies that could be used if anxiety is an issue are: black cohosh, dong quai, St. John’s Wort and valerian.

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