Electromagnetic products are not new to the horse world, however a few years ago unconfined, high-voltage devices were introduced. Staff and therapists need to be properly informed as to the potential health risks prior to using these devices.
The high-voltage pulsed electromagnetic field (PEMF) devices are essentially remakes of the PAP-IMI, which is a human version that was banned from import into the U.S. by the FDA (Food and Drug Administration). These PEMF devices emit high levels of EMFs (electromagnetic fields) into the surrounding area and all people who might come in proximity to the devices need to be alerted to the possible dangers of exposure.
Risks include, but are not limited to, birth defects, miscarriages, cancer, and chronic fatigue, as well as posing danger to anyone with a heart condition. Recently I have learned of two different pregnant women who administered PEMF to horses, unaware of the potential health risks to their unborn child.
PEMF has been around a long time in the form of blankets, shin boots, and hoof pads. These products are more contained and use lower levels of EMF but still should be used with caution and knowledge. The high level horse models include the names of Magna Wave, Horse Magnetic Pulser, and the P3.
These devices deliver pulsed magnetic waves into the open air which means the horse, the person administering, and anything within many feet of the device are getting exposed to EMF. The power source is an electromagnetic generator housed in a rolling case and a coiled applicator is applied to the horse to perform a treatment.
The U.S. EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) has proposed a level of 1 mG (milligauss) as acceptable exposure levels and recommends people avoid high levels of EMF as much as possible. This is significant because the open field PEMF devices for horses advertise output of up to 19,200 gauss (1 milligauss = 1/1000th gauss).
To help comprehend how much electromagnetic power this is, compare it to a MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging). MRIs use output levels of 5,000 to 30,000 gauss and when activated the patient is alone in a sealed chamber protecting the rest of the medical staff from exposure. In contrast, high-voltage PEMF devices use similar levels of gauss and the entire barn - horses and people alike - are exposed.
Some manufacturers of these devices cite therapeutic benefits from the use of PEMF, however these studies are not equivalent comparisons because they used significantly lower levels of gauss. An expert in PEMF stated that the high voltage devices create a temporary analgesic effect rather than treating the underlying problem.
These devices are easy to use and manufacturers claim many benefits, but it is important for staff and therapists to be properly informed as to the potential health risks prior to using these devices.
The people at the most risk from using PEMF devices are the therapists and/or staff because they have regular exposure to EMF. The EPA states that chronic exposure to EMF should be avoided due to possible health risks. Even though in theory the therapists or staff members are only treating the horse, in reality each time they use an open field device they are receiving equal treatment.
Also, it is especially dangerous if there are any pregnant women – or horses – in the barn while the device is running because the electromagnetic radiation dispersed could cause miscarriages or birth defects. There is also extreme risk for people with heart conditions. For a person with a heart murmur or arrhythmia, it can be life threatening to be in proximity to a PEMF device while it is running.
Dangers/Risks of Exposure to EMF (emitted from PEMF devices):
- Cancer, esp. childhood leukemia
- Chronic fatigue
- Birth defects
- Extremely dangerous for people with heart conditions Other Products that Emit EMFs
Electromagnetic blankets and related products have milder outputs and are more contained than the PEMF devices discussed. However, they should still be used with caution.