Dear Sharon Noble
Magnetic fields and anxiety
Could your parents’ powerlines or their wiring be to blame?
Believe it or not, prenatal exposure to magnetic fields – the fields emitted by electrical equipment – can actually affect stress levels in later life, according to a recent study from Iran.
The researchers divided 24 rats into four groups, each of which was subjected to a different type of stress: control (no stress); stress (chronic stress); EMF (magnetic field exposure) and EMF+stress (magnetic fields plus stress). They subsequently challenged the rats’ female offspring with a battery of tests and later examined the hippocampus of the brain which plays a role in modulating behaviours such as anxiety.
‘We observed that although anxiety like behavior, increased in all treatment groups, the EMF/S group showed more anxiety compared to both the ELF-EMF and Stress groups,’ the authors found. ‘For the first time, the present research found that prenatal stress combined with ELF-EMF brought more serious anxiety-like behaviors than prenatal stress alone or ELF-EMF alone in female rats.’
The findings of this study are consistent with other animal studies which found that power-frequency magnetic fields increased anxiety-like behaviours and anxiety in offspring.
Why is this important?
It’s because prenatal stress is pervasive and it can have life-long impacts on the offspring as they mature. The authors say, ‘One of the most prevalent types of stresses is prenatal, which can exert emotional, behavioral and cognitive changes in offspring. Anxiety is a behavioral change that introduces enormous problems in the social life of offspring in adulthood’
Women are more likely than men to develop anxiety disorders, as well as depression, and this is why the researchers chose female rats for their study.
How does a mother’s stress cause these effects in their offspring?
The authors say that a it can affect the development of the neurological pathways in the child’s brain that affect performance and functioning.
Specifically, ‘ELF-EMF may initiate anxiety-like behavior by increasing 25(S)-OHC and PNMDAr2/NMDAr2 [two receptors] in the hippocampus’.
The study has implications for all of us living in developed nations. Magnetic fields are a common source of stress, as they are present in every home. They are emitted by all electrical equipment, from powerlines and wiring to meter boxes, electrical appliances and even conductive water pipes.
As well as stress, they’ve been strongly linked with childhood leukemia and the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) has classified these fields as Class 2B (possible) carcinogens at levels that are just one five-hundredth of those allowed in Australia.
Hosseini E, Farid Habibi M, Babri S, Mohaddes G, abkhezr H, Heydari H (2022) Maternal stress induced anxiety-like behavior exacerbated by electromagnetic fields radiation in female rats offspring. PLoS ONE 17(8): e0273206.
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