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February 17, 1993

Electromagnetic Fields and Circadian Rhythms

JAMA. 1993;269(7):868. doi:10.1001/jama.1993.03500070048020

To the Editor.  —Dr Sagan1 has reviewed the studies to date that pertain to the possible neurobehavioral effects of electromagnetic fields (EMFs). While the studies cited are certainly inconclusive, he did not mention the well-documented effects of EMFs on aspects of human circadian rhythms, and the implications regarding EMFs and human behavior.Environmental determinants of human behavior had been routinely ignored in our thinking about mental illness until rather recently. Witness the fundamental discoveries regarding the biological effects of natural light (electromagnetic radiation), seasons, and photoperiod on human functioning.2,3 Could it be that artificial EMFs have similarly pervasive effects on human functioning?Wever4 has systematically summarized his experiments concerning the effects of EMFs on circadian rhythms, as measured in temporal isolation units in West Germany (one of which was specially constructed with electromagnetic shielding). He reported that the "natural EMFs" inside the unshielded unit (ie, those penetrating