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Aftershocks From EMF Article

August 13, 1995

There is more to Dr. Mark McCartin's case and the EMF story ("High Tension" by Stephanie O'Neill, July 30) that deserves to be told.

McCartin states in the article that he dropped the price on his home from $830,000 to $539,000 and still was not able to sell his home. In September, 1991, he filed a sworn statement with the Orange County assessor that his home was worth $570,000. Several months later, at McCartin's request, San Diego Gas & Electric Co. measured the EMF levels at his home, and McCartin began to express concern regarding power-line EMFs. However, McCartin put his home on the market in April, 1992, for $890,000--$320,000 more than his own estimate made his six months earlier and before his EMF concerns.

The Times failed to mention that Louis Slesin, the editor of a publication called Microwave News, has provided sworn deposition testimony linking him to plaintiffs in an EMF lawsuit against Northeast Utilities in Connecticut.

Karen Johanson, a mortgage broker and owner of San Diego-based Johanson & Associates, also quoted in the story, has been involved in litigation against SDG&E over one of the company's electric substations and is one of the founding members of CAUSE, an organization that is the local arm of a national group called the EMR (Electromagnetic Radiation) Alliance.

The EMR Alliance was founded by Seattle-based plaintiff's attorney Michael Withey, who teaches its members how to promote EMF-related litigation. Withey was McCartin's attorney. All have a vested interest in promoting the EMF controversy and litigation.

The Times article helped plaintiffs' attorneys peddle paranoia for profit. It would come as no surprise if the story elicited fear of lost property values among your readership--and this is the precise result the plaintiffs' attorneys are seeking.


Assistant General Counsel

San Diego Gas & Electric Co.


The EMF article propagates the belief that power-line fields are connected to various sorts of cancer. The epidemiological evidence for this link is weak and the proposed physical and biological mechanisms are quite speculative.

In April, the American Physical Society (APS), the professional organization of physicists, released a statement on EMFs and the public health. This action was undertaken only after several years of discussion and monitoring of the EMF issue. The statement read in part, "The scientific literature and the reports of reviews of other panels show no consistent, significant link between cancer and power line fields."

Furthermore, the fears rising from these unsubstantiated claims have not only caused real estate values to drop as documented by O'Neill, but have lead to mitigation and litigation efforts that have resulted in billions of dollars in costs. The diversion of such an amount to eliminate a threat with no scientific basis when there are more pressing environmental concerns is appalling.


Assistant Professor of Physics

Whittier College


The article on EMFs was correct in the description of the phobia about power lines and the difficulties in selling a home near one. I have had that problem and am now renting my home in Tarzana, hoping that people without small children who rent are not concerned about short-term exposures and resale problems.

The article was seriously amiss, however, in describing the confusion of the scientific community. The author based her description of the problem on old information.

In April, 1995, the world's largest group of physicists, the American Physical Society, after reviewing a tremendous amount of information, concluded that it can find no evidence that the electromagnetic fields that radiate from power lines cause cancer.

The article featured quotes from individuals who were strongly affected by the EMF phobia. This journalistic approach undoubtedly humanizes the article and is more interesting than some scientists giving a bunch of arcane data. But the people interviewed were the ones who were scared as hell. The emotional impact of these obviously biased interviews cancels any rational information given.

But how about the people who are mad as hell about the misrepresentations and stupidity of the phobia? We recognize fear of flying as unreasonable even after reading about airplane crashes and deaths. Why do we consider the phobia of flying unreasonable while phobia of EMF is "reasonable" when review of the data says there is no problem?

By your article you have further depressed the market for homes near power lines. Homeowners and buyers deserve the whole truth.




The electromagnetic fields present at 200 feet from a 12,000-volt line, such as the home of physician McCartin would be exposed to, are well below 0.1 mG--almost unmeasurable.


Seal Beach

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