What do killer smog and wireless technology have in common?

Devra Davis
4 min readNov 2, 2022

Electromagnetic smog still an unrecognized, deadly pollutant.

The Donora wire mill (which later became part of the American Steel & Wire Company) on the banks of the Monongahela River in 1910. Library of Congress

Little fanfare commemorates the 74th anniversary of the Donora killer smog that hit my southwestern Pennsylvania hometown in October of 1948. As fall settled over that small working-class steel town, toxic, pungent, yellow-gray coal, coke and zinc fumes morphed into a deadly airborne soup that settled along the Monongahela Valley. In five days, twenty people suddenly dropped dead.

An even more lethal smog in London that killed twelve thousand four years later made the reality of air pollution impacts on human health undeniable. This set the stage for the global effort to reduce air pollution that is ongoing to this day. While the massive levels of noxious factory fumes that killed people years ago in Donora and London are no longer a problem in those areas, forest fires and industrial effluents are providing new and menacing forms of sullied air around the world today.

And there is another type of invisible, tasteless and odorless form of air pollution confronting the world today, that packs a double whammy. Invisible electromagnetic fields like those used in wireless technology for cell phones and cell towers, are invaluable and necessary for modern communication, but they are not harmless to human health or the environment. Moreover, the amount of energy needed to power the billions of devices now being operated is projected to far outpace any gains in efficiency promised with use of these devices.

The human impacts are considerable. Men who keep cell phones close to their bodies have much lower levels and inferior quality of sperm than those who do not. Damage to the fetus during pregnancy has been demonstrated in numerous studies in animals, with prenatally exposed animals developing smaller brains and testes. Studies of rodents exposed to levels of cell phone radiation comparable to what people experience every day find significant increases in very rare, very malignant cancers. Some of these same types of tumors are…

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Devra Davis

Devra Lee Davis, PhD MPH President of Environmental Health Trust ehtrust.org, Visiting Professor of Medicine at The Hebrew University Hadassah Medical School