medical risks of using a theremin?

Posted: 11/20/2008 6:03:16 AM

Joined: 11/20/2008

i was wondering if anyone has heard of any side effects from the theremin. being exposed to the waves, it seems like it might have the same effect as using a cell phone, causing brain tumors and cancer and whatnot.
am i just being paranoid?
Posted: 11/20/2008 7:06:25 AM

From: Colmar, France

Joined: 12/31/2007

I think that the risk is insignificant compared to a cell phone.

The latter work on frequencies from 850 to 1900 MHz and with pulsed waves while a theremin works far below 1 MHz and isn't build to radiate power but only to create a very weak electromagnetic field as you may find it also around a cheap AM radio.

This subject has already been discussed here because people feared for their pacemakers and the engineers and technicians found that there was no risk at all for the reasons cited above.

So don't worry be happy with your theremin. Playing the "Air on a G-String" from Johann Sebastian Bach should be a good cure for your paranoia.
Posted: 11/21/2008 12:14:09 PM

From: UK

Joined: 4/15/2008

Thank you for your simplified explanation, Thierry.
My health took a marked turn for the worse shortly after I started learning to play the theremin. I'd already searched and read all the health info on the forums, but despite firmly believing the theremin was NOT the cause, I have, unfortunately, gone from bad to worse during the last few months. Your explanation of the high MHz from mobile phones compared to the very low MHz from the theremin has reassured me more than anything else I've read.
Posted: 11/21/2008 1:10:54 PM

From: Escondido, CA

Joined: 2/6/2008

An even simpler analogy ...

Do you get sick standing by an AM radio? That's about what a theremin is, in reality.

An AM radio has a lot of the same elements ... the local oscillator is always 455kHz above the received signal, so at worst case that's about 2MHz. Granted there's not a lot of radiated signal, but holding your hand up to it to tune it you would probably be getting about the same dose of radiation as from a theremin.

Hope that eases your fears!

Posted: 11/21/2008 6:18:48 PM

From: Kingston, NY

Joined: 2/13/2005

My health took a marked turn for the better as soon as I started learning to play the theremin.
I would even say it has saved my life, plus the added benifit that I can now... play the theremin.
Golly Thereminstrel, I really doubt the theremin has made things worse, except were bad ergonomy might have crept in.
The question has come up before (
And I still believe it is simpler and safer than any modern personal electronic device and the benefits of it's practice on the mind and body can be almost beyond measure.

Good luck iamthewaaalrus, I hope you keep on playing.

If any one's doctor says otherwise please let us know ASAP, there are a lot of aether-heads here who should know, though I bet we wouldn't be able to stop playing.
Posted: 11/21/2008 7:52:11 PM

From: Eastleigh, Hampshire, U.K. ................................... Fred Mundell. ................................... Electronics Engineer. (Primarily Analogue) .. CV Synths 1974-1980 .. Theremin developer 2007 to present .. soon to be Developing / Trading as . ...................................

Joined: 12/7/2007

"My health took a marked turn for the worse shortly after I started learning to play the theremin"

Thereminstrel - I am sure there is no medical physics related reason linking your health and Theremin playing... However, depending on the nature of your ailment/s, there may be physiological reasons..

Examples - Standing up and extending your arms for prolonged periods.. this MAY give a greater cardiac load than anything else you do / have done.. It MAY affect blood flow to the brain and/or periperals, it may affect your blood pressure..

In short - You MAY have a health issue which is being shown up by the PHYSICAL actions involved in playing, and these actions MAY be making the condition worse... But this is only likely if you are quite inactive and unfit..

You can be SURE that NOTHING radiated by your Theremin is causing a health problem.. And IF the action of playing the Theremin is "causing" the problem, then you have reason for concern, because it is NOT the Theremin which has actually 'caused' you problem, it may just be revealing a problem you were not aware of.

Fred Mundell
Fundamental Designs Ltd.
Electronics Consultant.
<- See Profile Image for Email.
Designer of Theremins and other alternative electronic music controllers and instruments.
Posted: 11/21/2008 10:30:07 PM

From: Richmond Hill, Georgia

Joined: 9/18/2005

The radio waves are usually below 500 KHz.

I'd worry more about repetitive motion injury. I'm the poster child for bad posture causing an injury. I was taken off the woo woo machine for almost 4 months due to bad posture/tennis elbow.

Lydia Kavina told me to be loose and not tense up.

Posted: 11/22/2008 7:49:43 AM

From: UK

Joined: 4/15/2008

Thanks for the reassurance, everyone. I've never actually thought the theremin was responsible for the dip in health - actually, I've had an ongoing health problem for several years, and the purchase of my first theremin and (subsequent practice) coincided with a health set-back after a goodish period, which was almost certainly for other reasons. In some ways the theremin has had a very positive effect, giving me a new creative venture to focus on during a time I could've felt extremely negative - but it has been very frustrating when I want to spend time practicing and often don't feel well enough for days on end; I feel that this is stopping me from progressing. I try to be very careful about posture, and repetetive strain etc; I find it best to play seated for example. The main reason I've been glad of this post is that provides me with a simple easy-to-remember explanation I can give to people who say things like: "No wonder you feel ill messing around with a dangerous-looking "thing" like that!" Sometimes, people take one look at the theremin and think I'd be better off taking an extended vacation in Chernobyl!
Posted: 11/22/2008 9:37:58 AM
Thomas Grillo

From: Jackson Mississippi

Joined: 8/13/2006

Actually, there are health risks.

1: The theremin is highly adictive.

2: There is a high risk of personal injury from disgruntled audiences if played poorly.

3: There is risk of paranoya. Thereminists will often worry increasingly, that they've left their theremin on when going out.

4: OCD risks increase as thereminitsts find themselves reaching out to car antennas, or anything with a vertical rod attached to a box.

5: Anxiety issues are common, particualarly when traveling by air. Especially on (Doesen't Even Leave The Airport) airlines.

6: Seperation anxiety issues appear increasingly over time, and are exhibited when thereminists are away from their theremins for more than a couple of hours, particularly if the theremin is down for repairs.

7: Hearing things: Thereminists will, over time start to hear theremins in the darndest places one wouldn't otherwise pay much attention to.

8: Denial. "I can quit any time I want to..."

9: Emotional swings. Once thereminists master their skills, they often encounter intense emotions as they play, and can often find themselves shedding a tear, or two on stage. Extreme caution is advised at this level of playing.

But hey!, I wonldn't have it any other way. ;)

I'm sorry to hear you're experiencing continued health problems.
Posted: 11/24/2008 2:02:35 PM

From: Hungary

Joined: 2/13/2008

Well, I don't think there are any medical risks of using a theremin. Leon Theremin died at the age of 97, Clara Rockmore died at the age of 87. But who cares? If it makes longer, or shorter, life is just better with theremin. :)

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