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Ultrasound is a highly controversial topic. It can now be said, without hyperbole, that an understanding of its mysteries is essential to the well-being of the individual and the human species.
The word "ultrasound" commonly refers to diagnostic ultrasound (DUS), an acoustic technology utilized for medical examinations, often to view real-time images of the fetus and the mother's reproductive tract.
Ultrasound imaging technology for diagnostic examinations evolved from a type of echo-imaging, originally developed as SONAR, an acoustic technology developed for underwater navigation. This functions by pinging sound waves off ship and submarine hulls, electronically measuring echo, the duration required to reflect ultrasound from an object back to the source.
Ultrasound is commonly used by industry to disintegrate and blend materials, and to weld steel. Since the mid-20th century, ultrasound has been employed to generate "echo images" of the fetus.
DUS is not natural sound. It is usually at a frequency of 3 to 9 megahertz with harmonics and random sonic effects. Its fundamental frequencies are higher than the EMF carrier frequencies for the AM radio band. Human hearing range is only 20 to 20,000 hertz. DUS wave pressures can be thousands times that of the hearing pain threshold.
The physics are dramatic. "Environmental Health Criteria 22: Ultrasound," published in 1982 by The World Health Organization (WHO), states that ultrasound cavitation can create powerful shockwaves far above the speed of sound. It can create cavitational bubble collapse temperatures of thousands of degrees1:
It seems reasonable to assume that effects on biological systems may be induced at least by the mechanical shock waves and high temperatures generated during the bubble collapse.
This is common knowledge among ultrasound scientists, e.g., Krasovitski (2011).2
Ultrasound has largely supplanted the earlier common imaging technology, Xrays. That earlier technology is now admitted to be hazardous; however, it took decades for that knowledge to become public. Despite professional awareness, the practice continued inappropriately in shoe stores, hospitals, and doctors' offices. The history of medical Xray imaging serves as a parallel to ultrasound history.3
Diagnostic ultrasound (DUS) may be an economic boon for medical practitioners who advocate its routine use. There is another economic: Women who avoid DUS should be able to command a $10,000,000 dowry. Let me explain.
DUS is now being applied to most of the entire world population during its fetal stage and applied to nearly all pregnant women in the United States. Fearing the process of birth, women are driven towards this invasive procedure, accepting it as a standard medical routine.
DUS is widely declared to be "harmless," despite mothers describing on internet forums, such as The Thinking Moms' Revolution, fetal trauma, maternal pain, and events preceding ultrasound-associated damage to their child.4 Other forums describe vaginal bleeding following DUS.5
The negative health implications are vast for the individual and society. DUS appears to have set the human species on a tragic path due to its subtle and not-so-subtle biological effects. Critics argue that the exponential rise in autism incidence is largely the result of fetal exposure to ultrasound.6,7 If they are correct, then it may take many generations to recover from this misguided application of medical technology.
While this may seem alarming, it bears a similarity to the aforementioned WHO document, "Criteria 22." Many scientists worldwide signed the document, including Wesley Nyborg, PhD, of the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), Melvin Stratmeyer, PhD, of the FDA, and William O'Brien, Jr., PhD, of the Bioacoustics Research Laboratory, University of Illinois.
…more than 35 published animal studies suggest that in utero ultrasound exposure can affect prenatal growth… A number of biological effects have been observed following ultrasound exposure in various experimental systems. These include reduction in immune response, change in sister chromatid exchange frequencies, cell death, change in cell membrane functions, degradation of macromolecules, free radical formation, and reduced cell reproductive potential… The data on clinical efficacy and safety do not allow a recommendation for routine screening….1
The WHO Criteria was published 34 years ago. Its concerns have never been refuted. These concerns are supported by most modern science, though, to date, that science has not been acknowledged by the dominant politic. What was described by WHO as an unacceptable risk three decades ago is now a much greater risk because the FDA has since raised allowed machine intensities by a factor of 8x15x.
Newnham (1993) is a human exposure study with two follow-up studies published later focusing on child development. The studies concern children exposed in utero during the years 1989-1991. A total of 2,834 maternal-fetal pairs were exposed to DUS from early generation machines, low ultrasound intensity. Many sessions were at less than 5mW/cm2 SPTA, none more than 25mW/cm2 SPTA.8 Disease was found.
Our findings suggested that [five or more ultrasound sessions] increase the proportion of growth-restricted fetuses by about one third. …it would seem prudent to limit ultrasound examinations of the fetus...9
These observations of growth restriction are important in that these were found despite attempts to dismiss data with statistical significance filters.10 Newnham hides data behind significance filters and dismisses positive results with such filters.
The study compared children from two groups of women exposed to DUS, a "regular" group, and an "intensive" group. The intensive group had more DUS sessions and higher exposure per session. The study results might have been much stronger had it not diluted its results by omitting the control group (zero-exposure group).
Growth restriction makes sense, as growth restriction had been found in earlier animal and cell studies.11 Growth restriction is a big problem in itself, and it can imply the possibility of other problems, such as malformations, neurological impairment, etc.12
Eight years later, Newnham followed up on the same population and published a study claiming that by year one, the smaller children had caught up to the norm, employing statistical significance arguments.
Twenty years later, Newnham followed up on the same population, studying intraocular development. It played down "differences" with statistical significance arguments: "There was no statistically significant difference between the two groups with regard to ocular biometric or visual outcomes…."13
Most statisticians agree that it is bad practice to omit data and discussion because of "statistical significance." In the article "Are There Benefits from NHST?" (Amer Psychologist. 2002;57(1):65-66), Schmidt and Hunter stated:
Significance testing almost invariably retards the search for knowledge by producing false conclusions about research literature…a disastrous method for testing hypotheses.
Newnham could not dismiss everything. The study found a significant persistent disease, which could be indicative of other, unstudied problems: "…slightly higher intraocular pressure...." The problems found by Newnham resulted after exposure to older machines, i.e., low intensities, ranging from less than 5mW/cm2 to 25mW/cm2. Newer machines, manufactured after 1991, range up to the 720mW/cm2 limit and sometimes higher.
This Swedish study reviews four population studies by Stalberg et al.14 This is categorized here as an early study despite being published in 2008 because it reviews the records of large populations of children who had been exposed to prenatal DUS during the 1970s and 1980s, the era of relatively mild intensity machines. It admits a dilution of its results by its economy of design.
Stalberg nevertheless finds some increased risk for boys (not girls) in the following categories: schizophrenia, lower intellectual ability, lower performance in school, lower performance in physical education, and a tendency towards left-handedness.
Stalberg concludes that the increased risks did not reach statistical significance, though with important exceptions.
Boys exposed to ultrasound at any time during gestation had lower mean grades in physical education and a tendency towards lower school grades in general.14
Stalberg suggests that DUS may contribute to a general stress-induced vulnerability to disease.
Ultrasound and other prenatal and environmental events may be the elements that ‘turn on' susceptibility genes in predisposed individuals.14
Thanks to Stalberg for this description of ultrasound-initiated fetal vulnerability; however, I will demonstrate later that it is not turned-on genes but simple toxic damage from ultrasound that predisposes individuals.
Stalberg provides a grim warning:
…these studies assessed ultrasound exposure in the 1970 and 1980s, with average intensity output levels for ultrasound machines of around 20 mW/cm2. This is very low compared to the maximum limit of 720 mW/cm2 set by the U.S. FDA… outputs are probably ten times higher today.... Further, the intensities for ultrasound machines are based on the manufacturer's data and high discrepancies have been found....14
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