January 21, 2008
Can electromagnetic fields (EMF)
from power lines, home wiring, airport and military radar,
substations, transformers, computers and appliances cause brain
tumors, leukemia, birth defects, miscarriages, chronic fatigue,
headaches, cataracts, heart problems, stress. nausea, chest pain,
forgetfulness, cancer and other health problems?
Numerous studies have produced contradictory results, yet some
experts are convinced that the threat is real.
Dr. David Carpenter, Dean at the School of Public Health,
State University of New York believes it is likely that up to
30% of all childhood cancers come from exposure to EMFs. The
Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) warns "There is reason for
concern" and advises prudent avoidance".
Martin Halper, the EPA's Director of Analysis and Support
"I have never seen a set of
epidemiological studies that remotely approached the weight of
evidence that we're seeing with EMFs. Clearly there is something
Concern over EMFs exploded after Paul
Brodeur wrote a series of articles in the New Yorker Magazine in
June 1989. Because of Paul Brodeur's reputation. his articles had a
catalytic effect on scientists, reporters and concerned people
throughout the world.
In November 1989, the Department of Energy reported that,
"It has now become generally
accepted that there are, indeed, biological effects due to field
The EMF issue gained more publicity in
1990 when alarming reports appeared in Time, the Wall
Street Journal, Business Week and popular computer
publications. ABC's Ted Koppel and CBS's Dan Rather
both aired special segments on EMFs.
In addition to the long-term health concerns, buying a house with
high fields will be an economic disaster. In a few years, when power
line radiation is as well known as asbestos and radon, a house with
high fields will be practically impossible to sell.
Already there are hundreds of lawsuits
regarding EMFs and property devaluation.
EPA Says the
Threat Is Real
By 1990, over one hundred studies had been conducted worldwide. Of
these, at least two dozen epidemiological studies on humans
indicated a link between EMFs and serious health problems. In
response to public pressure, the Environmental Protection Agency
(EPA) began reviewing and evaluating the available
In a draft report issued in March 1990, the EPA recommended that
EMFs be classified as a Class B carcinogen - a "probable human
carcinogen and joined the ranks of formaldehyde, DDT, dioxins and
After the EPA draft report was released, utility, military and
computer lobbyists came down hard on the EPA. The EPA's final
revision did NOT classify EMFs as a Class B carcinogen Rather, the
following explanation was added:"
At this time such a characterization regarding the link between
cancer and exposure to EMFs is not appropriate because the basic
nature of the interaction between EMFs and biological processes
leading to cancer is not understood."
Curiously, this rather unusual logic appears on the same page as the
"In conclusion, several studies
showing leukemia, Iymphoma and cancer of the nervous system in
children exposed to supported by similar findings in adults in
several/ occupational studies also involving electrical power
frequency exposures, show a consistent pattern of response that
suggest a causal link. "
When questioned about the contradictory
nature of these statements, the EPA responded that it was "not
appropriate" to use the probable carcinogen label until it could
demonstrate how EMFs caused cancer and exactly how much EMF is
This explanation does not satisfy many critics who claim that the
EPAs upper management was influenced by political and economic
considerations exerted by utility, computer and military lobbyists.
How Do I
A Gauss is a common unit of measurement of magnetic field strength.
A Gauss meter (or
Magnetometer) is an instrument which measures the strength of
magnetic fields. Inside a Gauss meter there is a coil of thin wire,
typically with hundreds of turns. As a magnetic field radiates
through the coil, it induces a current, which is amplified by the
circuitry inside the Gauss meter.
Gauss meters may vary in the strength of the magnetic field they are
capable of measuring. A meter used for measuring EMFs from power
lines, transformers, substations and appliances around the home, for
example, should be able to measure as low as .1 mg.
Gauss meters vary widely in price and accuracy. Meters have either a
single axis coil or a triple axis coil. Single axis meters are much
simpler than triple axis meters to manufacture and thus, are less
To use a single axis meter you must point the meter’s one sensor in
three directions — the x, y and z axis. Then, you combine the three
readings in a mathematical equation to calculate the combined field
strength. Obviously, its far easier and more accurate to use a
Triple axis Gauss meters are quite accurate, but they
are also more expensive.
Another thing to watch out for when purchasing or renting a Gauss
meter is whether or not it is frequency weighted. Most meters will
read the same EMF strength no matter what the frequency.
As the human body appears to be sensitive to both the field strength
AND the frequency, Gauss meters used for biological purposes should
be “frequency weighted”.
This means that if the field is different than 60 Hz the meter will
consider the frequency and use it in calculating and displaying the
This feature is why frequency weighted meters will
show a higher EMF reading than those meters typically used by
electricians and engineers.
An enormous amount of electricity is created at power generating
stations and sent across the country through wires that carry high
voltages. All power lines radiate electromagnetic fields.
question is: how much are the power lines near YOUR home radiating?
The amount of EMFs coming from a power line depends on its
particular configuration. Power companies know which power line
configurations are best for reducing EMFs but most don’t feel the
evidence supports costly changes in the way they deliver
A substation is an assemblage of circuit breakers, disconnecting
switches and transformers designed to substations have been blamed
for causing cancer clusters among nearby residents.
wrote about several such cancer clusters
in the July 9, 1990 issue
of the New Yorker Magazine.
A key component of a utility’s electrical distribution network
depends upon numerous, small transformers mounted on power poles. A
transformer looks like a small metal trash can, usually cylindrical.
Even when the electrical service is underground, you will often see
a metal box (usually square} located on the ground near the street.
Many people don’t realize that when they see a transformer, the
power line feeding the transformer is 4000 to 13,800 volts.
The transformer then reduces the voltage to the 120/240 volts needed
by nearby homes. Since these transformers can be seen in almost
every neighborhood, they are a source of concern.
EMFs near a transformer can be quite high, but due to its small
structure, the field strength diminishes rapidly with distance, as
it does from any point source.
For this reason, having a transformer
located near your home is usually not a major source of concern,
although just to make sure, everyone should measure the field
strength around it.
If your home has high EMF readings, it is important to determine the
sources of the EMF so that remedial action can be taken, if
possible. Many times a particular room will have a higher EMF
reading. Check to see if the electricity is coming into the house on
the wall outside that room. When this is the case, it is usually a
good idea to block off that room and only use it for storage
Sometimes, the source of a high magnetic field is incorrect wiring.
If you suspect that your home is wired improperly, obtain the
services of a licensed electrician.
Warning: Do not touch electric
wires, even if you think the current is turned off.
If you need to
disconnect electrical circuits to determine the source of magnetic
fields, you should call a licensed electrician.
Computers are a complicated subject.
Know this: EMFs radiate from
all sides of the computer. Thus, you must not only be concerned with
sitting in front of the monitor but also if you are sitting near a
computer or if a computer is operating in a nearby room.
The Swedish safety standard, effective 711/90, specifies a maximum
of 0.25 mG at 50 cm from the display. Many US manufactured computers
have EMFs of 5 - 100 mG at this distance. And know this too: the
screens placed over monitors do NOT block EMFs. Not even a lead
screen will block ELF and VLF magnetic fields.
Space does not permit a more thorough discussion of computers.
you use a computer, it is important that you measure your EMF
exposure with a Gauss meter and review the literature concerning the
health impacts of computer use.
Blankets and Water beds
Electric blankets create a magnetic field that penetrates about 6-7
inches into the body. Thus it is not surprising that an
epidemiological study has linked electric blankets with miscarriages
and childhood leukemia.
This pioneering work was performed by Dr.
Nancy Wertheimer and
Ed Leeper, who originally discovered that magnetic fields were linked
to childhood leukemia. Similar health effects have been noted with
users of many electric blankets and water bed heaters will emit EMFs
even when turned off.
The devices must be unplugged to delete the EMF exposure
Additionally, there is the issue regarding the vibrations that are
generated by sleeping on standing water.
There is less hard data in
this area but some experts are concerned about the consequences.
Electric clocks have a very high magnetic field, as much as 5 to 10
mG up to three feet away.
If you are using a bedside clock, you are
probably sleeping in an EMF equivalent to that of a power line.
Studies have linked high rates of brain tumors with chronic exposure
to magnetic fields, so it is wise to place all clocks and other
electrical devices (such as telephones and answering devices) at
least 6 feet from your bed.
Fluorescent lights produce much more EMFs than incandescent bulbs. A
typical fluorescent lamp of a office ceiling have readings of 160 to
200 mg 1 inch away. Keep them at least several inches away.
Ovens and Radar
Microwave ovens and radar from military installations and airports
emit two types of radiation — microwave and ELF. Microwaves are
measured in milliwatt per centimeter squared (mW/cm2)
As of 1/1/93,
the U.S. safety limit for microwave exposure is 1 mW/cm2, down from
a previous 10 mW/cm2. The Russian safety limit is .01 mW/cm2. All
microwave ovens leak and exceed the Russian safety limit. In
addition, recent Russian studies have shown that normal microwave
cooking coverts food protein molecules into carcinogenic substances.
When measuring microwaves from military and airport radar sources,
100% accurate readings can only be found with extremely expensive
digital peak-hold meters. Why? Because analog devices begin to drop
their reading immediately after the radar sweep passes. Thus, while
an analog meter can show whether or not you are being exposed to
radar EMFs, analog meters can’t show your true exposure.
thousands of dollars to purchase, digital-hold meters capable of
accurately detecting radar EMFs can be rented for several hundred to
over a thousand dollars per month.
Telephones can emit surprisingly strong EMFs, especially from the
handset. This is a problem because we hold the telephone so close to
our head. Place the Gauss meter right against the ear piece and the
mouth piece before buying a phone.
Some brands emit no measurable fields and others emit strong fields
that travel several inches….right into your brain.
machines, particular those with adapter plugs (mini-transformers),
give off high levels of EMFs.
Razors and Hair Dryers
Electric razors and hair dryers emit EMFs as high as 200 to 400 mG.
This seems alarming, but we don’t know if this is worse (or better)
than a chronic exposure to a 2-3 mG field.
Some EMF consultants
recommend that hair dryers not be used on children as the high
fields are held close to their rapidly developing brain and nervous
Electricity is an inseparable part of our modern day society. This
means that EMFs will continue to be all around us. But as Discover
Magazine postulated, aside from making our life easier, is
electricity also making our lives shorter?
Most experts agree that limited, non-chronic exposure to EMFs is not
a threat. For example, it is probably acceptable for a person to be
near a toaster in the morning.
BUT, it is not advisable for a person to sleep under an electric
blanket, up close, live near a power line/substation, and sleep in a
room where the power enters the home. This person is under an
extreme case of chronic exposure. This condition, unfortunately,
applies to millions of Americans.
If you wish to follows the EPA’s advice and practice “prudent
avoidance” then the following advice is offered:
Measure your home, work and school environments with a Gauss meter
Measure EMFs both inside and outside your home. Don’t let your
children play near power lines, transformers, radar domes and
Avoid areas where the field is above 1 mG. Measure the EMFs from
appliances both when they are operating and when they are turned
off. Some appliances (like TVs) are still drawing current even when
they are off.
Don’t sleep under an electric blanket or on a water bed. If you
insist on using these, unplug them before going to bed (don’t just
turn it off). Even though there is no magnetic field when they are
turned off, there may still be a high electric field.
Don’t sit too close to your TV set. Distance yourself at least 6
feet away. Use a Gauss meter to help you decide where it is safe to
Rearrange your office and home area so that you are not exposed to
EMFs from the sides/backs of electric appliances and computers. In
the home, it is best that all major electrical appliances, such as
computers, TVs, refrigerators etc, be placed up against outside
walls. That way you are not creating an EMF field in the adjoining
Don’t sit too close to your computer. Computer monitors vary greatly
in the strength of their EMFs, so you should check yours with a
meter. Don’t stand close to your microwave oven. Move all electrical
appliances at least 6 feet from your bed. Eliminate wires running
under your bed. Eliminate dimmers and 3-way switches.
Be wary of cordless appliances such as electric toothbrushes and
razors. You may choose not to wear a quartz-analog watch because it
radiates pulsating EMFs along your acupuncture meridians.
An older mechanical windup watch would be an acceptable alternative.
It is also recommended to wear as little jewelry as possible and to
take it off at night. Many people have metal sensitivity which can
be aggravated by placing it right on the skin. Measure with a gauss
meter to be sure.
And last, but not least, always always always remember that
pass right through walls. The EMF you are reading on your Gauss
meter could be radiating from the next room… or from outside your
Additional Radiation Info
Eyeglass frames should ideally be made from plastic with no wires in
them, otherwise they can serve as an antenna to focus the radio and
cellular phone waves directly into your brain.
What EMF Level
There’s a heated debate as to what electromagnetic field (EMF) level
is considered safe. Since the experts have not come to an consensus,
you’ll have to decide for yourself… Many government and utility
documents report the usual ambient level of 60-Hz magnetic field to
be 0.5 mG.
Thus, any reading higher than 0.5 mG is above the “usual” ambient
exposure. Many experts and public officials, as well as the few
governments that have made an effort to offer public protection,
have adopted the 3 mG cutoff point. The EPA has proposed a safety
standard of 1 mG. Sweden has set a maximum safety limit of 1 mG.
Dr. Robert Becker, an MD who has been studying the effects of EMFs
for 20 years, states a lmG safety limit in his book
When electricians try to solve a magnetic field problem they do
their best to drop the level to 1 mG or below.
Dr. Nancy Wertheimer, a Ph.D. epidemiologist who has been studying EMFs for 20 years, has been looking at the epidemiological data in a
different way — she is trying to associate EMF levels with health
rather than disease. The level she is coming up with is a cut off of
1 mG. Russian researchers claim that 1/1000ths of a mG should be the
The BioElectric Body believes that there are several stages of
health between “optimum wellness”, “degenerative disease” and
“Cancer”. Thus, we maintain our own living and sleeping quarters at
0.5mG and below.