Monday, May 05, 2008
Annals of Proving Negatives: Hybrid Cars and EMFs
I sometimes joke that things that are too good for you must be dangerous, usually with respect to my collection of non-iron dress shirts. Hitting close to the shopping list for my next car, the NYT recently carried a story with the scaaaary headline, "Fear, but Few Facts, on Hybrid Risk."
The case of claimed Hybrid Health Syndrome is not the most compelling I could have read:
No kidding. I'm curious as to whether this was the only story the reporter Jim Motavalli could find, or just the best. Ms. Linzer's "wellness consultant" just might be doing her a disservice by encouraging the belief that there's a stronger causal nexus between the car and those symptoms than, say, aging.
Neysa Linzer, 58, of Bulls Head in Staten Island, bought a new Honda Civic Hybrid in 2007 for the 200 miles a week she drove to visit grocery stores in her merchandising job for a supermarket chain. She said that the car reduced her gasoline use, but there were problems — her blood pressure rose and she fell asleep at the wheel three times, narrowly averting accidents.
“I never had a sleepiness problem before,” Ms. Linzer said, adding that it was her own conclusion, not a doctor’s, that the car was causing the symptoms.
The extra journamalistic touch is here:
Their concern is not without merit; agencies including the National Institutes of Health and the National Cancer Institute acknowledge the potential hazards of long-term exposure to a strong electromagnetic field, or E.M.F., and have done studies on the association of cancer risks with living near high-voltage utility lines.Bob Park reminds us what the NCI study of long-term exposure to EMF actually found:
On July 3, 1997, the day the massive four-year NCI study of power lines and cancer appeared in the New England Journal of Medicine, Gina Kolata reported in the Times that the study was unambiguous and found no health effects associated with electromagnetic fields. An editorial in the same issue of the Journal put it in perspective: "Hundreds of millions of dollars have gone into studies that never had much promise of finding a way to prevent the tragedy of cancer in children. It is time to stop wasting our research resources."I suppose hybrids will eventually be certified to some EMF standard as a matter of lawsuit avoidance. But I don't think I'll lose sleep over the prospect of adding yet another Prius to Madison's streets.
Hybrid cars are more comfortable, so she relaxed and fell asleep at the wheel. Yeah; I want to meet any OD or MD who would go with that diagnosis.
I will admit that the Prius is a real quiet car. Even with the windows down you can barely hear it running on electric power. Could she be used to motor noise, and finds the quiet engine soporific?
I always thought it was the bit of conventional-propulsion noise and vibration that helped knock the kids out in the car once upon a time, myself.
The seminal work has been done right in our own state of Wisconsin, Tom.
Doctors are woefully uneducated about this issue, as are the vast majority of the general public. A few very persistent and courageous individuals have worked very thoroughly for many years to accrue data re. this growing menace to our well-being...