A new study offers direction for those examining the illnesses of those working or living near large electrical facilities.
Exposure to light has been proven to inhibit the normal secretion of melatonin from the light-sensitive pineal gland. But light is only one part of the electromagnetic spectrum, occupying a wavelength between 730 and 400 nm. Because light is the only visible portion of the electromagnetic spectrum, other wavelengths may also inhibit melatonin secretion, including the omnipresent magnetic fields generated by the production, transport, and distribution of electricity (50 Hz in Europe, 60 Hz in North America). These fields are encountered in most activities of daily life, from lighting to heating and other routine household applications of electricity.
Past experimental studies of rats exposed to electric or magnetic fields have found a diminution in melatonin secretion. The importance of the length of magnetic field exposure in this inhibitory effect suggests that the effect of these fields on pineal function may be cumulative, at least in rats. In fact, much of the evidence for the melatonin hypothesis is based on data for rodents. But humans and rodents differ with respect to melatonin secretion in two important ways: (1) rodents are nocturnally active, and they show differences in the anatomical location of the pineal gland; and (2) the geometry of the skull may cause stronger eddy currents in field-exposed animals.
Donna Krupa | American Physiological Society
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