Low Frequency EMR

This is an article about Low Frequency Fields and the dangers in home and office, published in WellBeing, 12/1998.

More information can be found under 'Links' and 'News'

Low Frequency Electro- Magnetic- Fields

During the past 100 years of our history, we have developed the force of electricity to an amazing level of sophistication and it is clear, that this is only the beginning of what is still to come. As we have enthusiastically embraced this convenient force, electricity is today applied to almost all aspects of our lives, be it for heating, cooking, lighting, tools, machines, toys, computers, communication, therapy, ... modern civilisation would not be possible without it.

However, during the past years the evidence has grown that there is a price to be paid, and I am not talking about greenhouse emissions, smog, nuclear waste or accidents. In this article, I intend to focus on the electric and magnetic fields due to low frequency (60 Hz) main's power. Together with High Frequency radiation (radio, TV, mobile phones, etc. - see the author’s article in WellBeing 66), they are often referred to as electro pollution, as they cause or contribute to a wide range of symptoms in living organisms. Electricity has become part of our energy - environment, and needs to be considered very carefully, so we can take its benefits without the harmful side effects.

Considerable research has been done during the past years by scientists all over the world, and it is often quite simple to reduce the impact of electric and magnetic forces, especially when planning new buildings.

We need to acknowledge a few rather uncomfortable and disconcerting facts, so that we can consequently change our home environment for the better.

Background information

Natural electric and magnetic fields and waves and waves have always been part of the human evolution. They consist of a wide spectrum, from static fields to low and high frequency fields, visible light to radioactive rays. Most of the electric and magnetic fields can not be felt, such as the magnetic field of the earth, the ionisation of the air, the radioactivity of the earth and the cosmos, and X rays and UV rays from the sun. Only a tiny part of the huge electromagnetic spectrum can be perceived directly by our senses: Warmth and light.

Electric and magnetic fields, whether we feel them or not, regulate our life functions. Without natural electromagnetic stimulation, no heart would beat, no brain would think, no eye would see, no muscle would move, no metabolism (no enzymes) would exist. Every cell performs more than 100,000 biophysical operations per second, all involving electron exchange!

In our modern automated and highly electrified society, however, a large amount of artificial electric energies are present. They interfere with the delicate natural balance and our bodily systems find it increasingly stressful to maintain their health and integrity.

Every body, every organ, muscle, nerve and cell is an antenna for electromagnetic fields (EMFs) and frequencies. Every human is individual and reacts in an individual way, depending on the resonance, frequency and strength of the impact and the susceptibility to other pollutants. Generally, a nerve ending can be stimulated (e.g. to make a muscle twitch) with only 20 Millivolt in an instant of time. What happens to an organism, which is exposed to thousands of Millivolts for hours, days, weeks, a lifetime?

Enzymatic processes are governed by far smaller voltages and scientists are just beginning to develop instruments delicate enough to gain an understanding of these essential life functions.


Technical Characteristics

Electric Fields (EF) are measured in volts per meter (V/m). They are present as long as the appliance or the wiring are connected to the electrical power supply, even if no current is flowing and the device is switched off. EF's can be shielded by grounded conductive screens, mats, tubes, special paints, etc. They tend to be reduced by walls and decrease by the inverse of the square of the distance.

Depending on whether our body, at a given time, is more insulating or conducting, these fields may be deflected or shielded. Potentially, the body can 'charge up' to collect considerable voltage.

Problems may arise from -

} faulty building wiring

} defective earthing of the building wiring

} too many wires and cables close to our bodies

} construction materials with conductive properties (steel)

} ungrounded fixtures and appliances close to the body

It has been found, that some people are affected by certain 'frequency windows', only - which may be well above or below 50 HZ.

The recommended maximum exposure for EF's at the sleeping place should not exceed 1 V/m. Ideally, it should be zero. Long term exposure to levels up to 50 V/m can not be considered safe. This is supported by Swedish norms, international norms (WHO, IRPA) however recommend a limit of 5,000 V/m. The vast difference in those values indicates the lack of well founded, reliable research and the need to establish facts on which we can rely for creating a healthy living environment. It has often been suggested, that the safety values are arbitrarily set by industry advising the governments. A recent example for this is the tenfold increase of the threshold for microwave radiation, coinciding with the introduction of mobile phones in Australia.


Action that can be taken

} Apart from shielding, the wiring can be moved, especially from the vicinity of sleeping places.

} Wiring can be changed, as not to envelope the person.

} A Demand Switch can be installed, which disconnects the phase at the fuse box. This eliminates all fields from internal sources during the night or whenever no user demands a current to flow.

} Rewiring ungrounded appliances so they become earthed will reduce the fields significantly.

} Unplug appliances when not in use.

} Use three wire appliances, whenever possible.

} Keep away from electrical appliances, at least arm's length.

} Switch off fuse of bedroom circuits at night.

} Avoid halogen lighting, as it necessitates the use of transformers, which are strong emitters of magnetic radiation.

} Avoid using electric blankets or water beds.

} Do not sleep close to fuse-boxes.

Body Voltage from AC (alternating current, mains) electric fields inducted into the body is measured as Body Potential in millivolts (mV). This method involves more time, because confirmed satisfactory earth contact with the meter has to be established. The readings will vary according to which direction the body is moving and at what height. In extreme cases it has been possible to light a test screwdriver on a person!

Measuring Body Voltage does not only demonstrate how much voltage is inducted by the electric fields into our body but will also teach us to become aware of high level areas and develop an awareness for safe distances for induction of voltage, e.g. between 0.5 to 2 m away. In the same manner we have developed an awareness not to touch the phase of a connected wire for conduction of voltage. Plastic coating protects us from conducted but not from inducted electricity, i.e we don’t get zapped, but we are being radiated.

Body voltage above 100 mV should be avoided, zero would be ideal. During the day, we are approximately exposed to between 500 - 5000 mV. The body voltage under high voltage transmission lines is 100,000 mV with rubber soles, compared to 'only' 2000 mV with leather soled shoes. This demonstrates the importance of proper earthing.

Magnetic Fields are measured in Nanotesla (nT) or Gauss (G).. They can be found wherever a current is flowing, i.e. whenever an appliance is switched on. The measured levels therefore depend on the amount of use at the time and may vary over 50%, depending on the time of day.

These fields can not be shielded, as they penetrate even thick concrete and lead. Main pollutants often come from the power supply and electric cables in floors, walls and ceilings or from various switches, points, transformers and appliances.

Many studies have linked magnetic fields to cancer. Of particular interest is the recently released Swedish study, involving 436,000 people. The Swedish government in cooperation with their utility completed a twenty-five year study cross linking cancer data with utility records. This study concluded that childhood leukaemia was 4 times greater where children lived in a 300 nT field or greater, and 3 times greater when living in a 200 nT field, and 2 times greater in a 100 nT field. (A level which can be found in many Australian homes.)

An EEG (brain waves) shows irritations from 70 nT, an EKG (heart) from 140 nT, a train trip however can expose us to up to 40,000 nT. The Building Biological limit for sleeping places is 20 nT.

Keeping away from magnetic fields is difficult because they can only be deflected by very expensive MU metal. However, the field strength declines fast, and it is possible to install the wiring so it reduces fields and keeps them away from people.

Of all electro pollutants, these fields have drawn the most public and scientific attention and also produced sufficient evidence to have overseas communities change their policies and standards.

Another area of concern are electrostatic charges. I recently heard about a child whose severe asthma attacks stopped, after her nylon toy raccoon (5000 V!) was removed from her bed. - Non-conductive synthetic materials collect static charges, if they are not earthed adequately. Especially strong charges can be found on plastic surfaces of cupboards, toys, carpets, curtains, paints, monitors, etc. They increase with friction and low air humidity.

Magnetostatic effects are the consequence of the Earth's magnetic field, of magnetised steel or are caused by DC currents.

They can be measured with a compass or with a magnetometer. Artificial magnetostatic fields can be billions of times stronger than natural ones.

Action that can be taken:

} Keep metal away from beds (e.g. inner spring mattresses)

} Keep battery driven clocks approx. 50 cm away.

} Don't sleep too close to loudspeakers, heaters, cars (garage), steel constructions.

Health Symptoms

The symptoms of electro-stress differ individually, but generally speaking are listlessness and a lack of energy, headache, migraine, sleeplessness, aching muscles, even bed wetting and behavioural problems in children, heart attacks, cancer, poor immunity, etc. During the past years, I have seen an increasing number of clients with Chronic Fatigue and Multiple Chemical Sensitivity Syndrome, whose symptoms improved with a reduction of the exposure to EMF forces.

EMFs are a factor we are often unaware of, when we consider the stress factors of our environment and yet, they are forces unnatural to our body (just as petrochemicals or nuclear radiation) with obvious consequences for many of us.


The Bedroom

When improving our environment, the bedroom needs most attention, as during the night our bodies must relax and recover. The organism needs to be undisturbed, -which is the reason why we loose our consciousness during this time. Unfortunately, many of us are exposed to considerable stress by external unnatural forces and their inherent consciousness. As a result, our organism is struggling to maintain its integrity.

To improve your sleeping situation, see ‘Action that can be taken’, above. You may be surprised at the impact simple changes can have. If in doubt, have the electro magnetic forces measured by a Building Biologist. In some cases, when the installation of your home’s wiring turns out to be the problem, you may have to involve a specially trained electrician to remedy the situation. The power connection to the house or the fuse box might have to be moved, or the earthing of the building needs to be reinstalled.


The Workplace

Any other room in which we spend long stretches of time during the day should be looked at in energetic terms. Especially, if we have to be creative, cooperative, intuitive. For this very reason the WellBeing Holistic Centre in North Sydney was built under strict Building Biological consideration.

Homes need Healing

In Germany, health insurances have now started to pay for home inspections by Building Biologists, because they discovered that when the home is sick, it can be more expensive for them to pay continually for alleviating the symptoms in the patient, than addressing the actual cause of the disease: The sick building environment.

Naturopaths and occasionally medical practitioners are discovering, that medication suddenly works, which did not have the expected impact before the healing of the home.

In most cases, changes in the home can be made with small structural and financial input and not just families, but also companies are enjoying the increase in well being and productivity.

Literature and Information

  • The Body Electric: Electromagnetism and the Foundation of Life, by Robert O. Becker and G. Selden
  • The EMF Book: What you should know about electromagnetic fields, electromagnetic radiation and your health, by Mark A. Pinsky
  • Electromagnetic Pollution Solutions, by Dr Glen Swartwout
  • Electromagnetic Fields: A consumer’s guide to the issues and how to protect ourselves, by B Blake Levitt
  • Crosscurrents: Promise of Electromagnetism, Perils of Electropollution, by Robert O. Becker
  • Healthy Home, Healthy Office, by Reinhard Kanuka-Fuchs