Updated: Wednesday, 02 May 2012, 10:26 PM CDT
Published : Wednesday, 02 May 2012, 10:26 PM CDT
HOUSTON - At a place where the condemned have their lives taken, a Texan charged with keeping the convicted behind bars is unshakably convinced his time atop Huntsville prison walls very nearly killed him too.
"I just couldn't figure out why I was getting so sick. I just started feeling weaker and weaker and dizzy", recalled Joseph Milam.
Eight hours a day, often six days a week, Milam stood guard in the tower they call "six picket."
"My blood pressure was so high I wouldn't even write it down because people would start talking about how insane I was for staying there and allowing that to happen," said Milam.
Before his assignment to "the pickets", the career public servant was in pretty good health. Near certain he was somehow being poisoned, Milam's eyes settled on the heavy power lines strung just a few feet from the guard tower.
"I carried a gauge up there one day with me which they probably would have fired me if they'd known about," said Milam.
The gauge known as a tri-field milli-guass meter quickly confirmed for Milam that his body was being saturated by a powerful electro magnetic field emanating from the wires, a force many scientists consider a dangerous form of pollution.
Milam says solving the mystery saved him from a heart attack.
"I do not think I could have lasted another month," said Milam.
It's an undisputed fact that the ever increasing electrification of our world has produced escalating exposure to electro magnetic fields.
In addition to power lines, televisions, microwave ovens, clock radios, cell phones, nearly any gadget, big or small, powered by electricity casts off invisible waves of "EMF", some way more than others.
For most of the last century and well into this one, scientists and doctors have told us not to worry.
"Absolutely, totally, safe," says Stewart Bushong, a radiology professor at Baylor College of Medicine.
Bushong says EMF can't hurt us because the waves simply don't produce enough heat to damage human cells in a way that could cause cancer.
"No sweat, absolutely no sweat," he added.
But some are "sweating it", entire nations. Fueled in part by studies that show children exposed to heavy levels of EMF have a greater chance of developing leukemia, Sweeden and several other countries in the European Union have established strict safety thresholds - limits far below what's common place in the US.
"I think its going to be one of the biggest health risks we have ever seen," said Dr. William Rea, cardiovascular surgeon and founder of the Environmental Health Center in Dallas.
Rea believes Americans bombarded by EMF are at enormous peril because the impact on mind and body appears to accumulate over time.
"I think for some people there are no safe levels and I think we are just beginning to realize that," said Rea.
Rea says the number of electrically sensitive patients seeking care at his clinic has exploded. He also fully believes studies linking asthma, diabetes and cardiovascular disease to EMF exposure will be verified.
"I think you have to look at the whole spectrum of disease and you may find in certain people its triggered by electromagnetics," said Rea.
Yet nearly every study pegging EMF as a genuine health hazard has been matched by research claiming the radiation produced by power lines and electrical appliances is benign.
This evidentiary stalemate has prompted both the Center for Disease Control and the National Cancer Institute to insist that there is little conclusive proof EMF causes cancer or any other disease in children or adults.
For those who deliver electricity in America, that's amounted to a green light for business as usual.
"We've not seen evidence that it's unsafe," said Floyd LeBlanc who speaks for Centerpoint Energy, the company which owns and operates much of the electrical infrastructure in the greater Houston area.
LeBlanc says the effort to minimize EMF levels is part of a loose nationwide philosophy known as "prudent avoidance".
"There is no standard in the United States. There has been no scientific conclusion as to whether these fields are safe or unsafe, so generally you try and keep the field exposure as low as possible" said LeBlanc.
In southwest Houston, FOX 26 gauged EMF at just two Centerpoint substations near homes and pedestrian walkways.
At both locations we detected levels at least 30 times above what's considered safe in Europe.
Back in Huntsville, a now retired and healthy Joe Milam believes folks who just can't figure out why they feel bad might consider limiting the electricity in their lives.
"I do not think I would be alive today if I had not done study and research on my own," said Milam.
He's just one witness in a world awash in wattage and mysterious invisible waves.
For now, it seems the only thing certain is our uncertainty.
Customers concerned that their homes or businesses are subject to excessive levels of EMF can call Centerpoint for a free inspection.
Everyone is welcome to share their opinion, but please do so in a civilized manner. If you use offensive language (even censored) or make personal attacks, it is highly likely that your comments will be removed and you will be banned from posting again. So, if you want your opinion heard, keep it clean and civilized.