New Study Proves EMF Affects Living Things, Discovers Electro-Bonsai Effect

A tree growing around electric power lines.

Supersmario / Getty Images

This story was originally published on April 1, 2007—also known as April Fools Day.

There has been much discussion at TreeHugger about the danger of Electromagnetic Fields (EMF) generated by cellphones, routers, power lines and microwave ovens. Some people think it is a serious issue; WIFI is banned at Lakehead University, and in Scandinavia there are cellphone-free beaches for people with electro-hypersensitivity. Clarins even makes a spray to protect your skin from it. Other people feel thatit is not a problem.

Treehugger Labs wanted to determine this once and for all, and has spent the past year studying the issue. We wanted to pick a life form that would not move around a lot so that we could ensure that there were no other factors, and we are, of course, against animal testing, so we chose trees as our subject. We searched for trees that grew near power lines to see what the effect of the EMF was on the form of the tree.

We were surprised to find that maple trees growing up under power lines were profoundly influenced by the lines. They tended to develop a bifurcated "Y" formation as the limbs seemed to grow away from the lines themselves. We call this effect "electrobonsai" because it looks like it might have been shaped by humans.

In tree after tree, we saw the electrobonsai effect. The limbs clearly are trying to move away from the power lines. They appear healthy and have been around for a long time, but definitely try to keep a safe distance away from the EMF.

The wires are rated at 22 KV, 60 Cycle. Most of the city was rewired from 4Kv over the last few years so it appears that there is no relationship between the voltage and the electrobonsai effect.

As you can see from our control group, normal maple trees do not take the bifurcated Y shape but branch randomly.

The team concluded that there is no question, tree limbs are distorted by the power lines, and the only thing that could be emanating from the lines is the EMF. Sometimes we have seen that where they could not grow away from the lines, limbs are sheared off as if by a chainsaw, and then exude a brown protective coating to seal the wound. Who knew that plants could develop such sophisticated mechanisms for dealing with EMF.

Judging from the average distance of limbs from power lines,(2.4 metres or 8 feet) we have concluded that it is probably prudent to keep transformers, routers, cell phones and hair dryers eight feet from your head at all times.