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Sometimes people wonder about their house.
This post will outline some basic things that we have learned about measuring stuff and also about having an understanding of what it means in real life. It answers some of the questions we get… 🙂
- To help us with our investigations, we purchased 3 pieces of equipment to measure electromagnetic fields in our environment(s), in the following order:
- an Acoustimeter (or similar RF Meter). Ours is a Model AM-10 by EMFields. It is very accurate and easy-to-read. It measures RF-EMF (e.g. cell radiation, wifi, microwaves). RF is the most typical/critical contributor to EMF problems. It confirmed where the areas of RF existed so that we could eliminate sources of it in our house.
- a gaussmeter – Ours measures both EF-EMF and MF-EMF and is also known as one of the more accurate models. We have a PF-5 model, also made by EMFields. It was recommended to us both by Safe Living Technologies (Ontario) and Magnetic Sciences (USA).
Both of these above measuring tools are very portable too.
- a body voltage meter. This essentially is an electrican’s multimeter tool with a hand-held probe which measures EF-EMF (electrical fields) that are going through a person’s body at the time and place where that person is holding the probe, providing that the multi-meter is also attached to grounding (either to a plug outlet in the wall or more ideally, to a copper pipe hammered into the real earth soil and then that wire comes through a window to the multimeter). A demonstration of what a body voltage meter is and how it is used can be viewed on Michael Neurert’s website: www.emfcenter.com. It is relatively easy to learn to use, very accurate, but does involve long wires to pull along from room to room. (Note: The electrical fields can vary from room to room in a house due to how many outlets/lights are in a certain space (big room and few outlets can have less EF compared to a small room with the same number of outlets), what’s known as “the cancellation effect”, any fields given off by appliances such as lamps, a refrigerator, etc. and other reasons. This is why one would want to measure a variety of rooms within a house. Turning certain breakers off at the main panel can also increase or decrease electrical fields in the rooms, even if the breaker controls the lights for a totally different room. We understand that this is how electrical fields work in general.)
By the time we started measuring with our new gaussmeter, we realized we needed to involve a building biologist for more detailed testing and advice. We needed to learn more about how to understand both the real life and the science behind what the numbers meant. We contacted Safe Living Technologies and had one of their building biologists come to our house to test for a number of hours with more specialized measuring equipment.
Around this time, we were learning what a “building biologist” was – this term was new to our family. Here is a funny video clip from the “Healthy Building Science” channel to explain the areas of expertise that building biologists can help with: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JslZ58N9a7A
Building biologists are not easily found in every community but thankfully, with the 3 tools mentioned above (even just the first 2 tools), YOU can figure out a lot about your own environment(s).
Building Biologists have standards for levels which they believe are acceptable for healthy homes for sleeping areas. You can find these standards online in a number of places. Building biology standards ARE based on scientific research and what people who work in this field of interest have been noticing over the years. (But keep in mind that “building biology standards” are generally much higher standards in comparison to the standards to municipal, provincial, or federal standards and decision-makers are not often very interested in changing their standards, regardless of numerous professional scientists who are trying to push for better recognition of issues.)
Below is compiled from what we were given from various professionals involved in our investigation plus our personal experiences. For official documentation to read, please research this topic online elsewhere at a more scientific website such as at Safe Living Technologies website under their tab “Education”. (It provides a variety of official documents such as what I refer to below. It is a very good website based in Ontario, Canada.) I have compiled this blog post to the best of my understanding but it is by no means comprehensive:
For a good sleeping environments, we think about what we read in Building Biology Evaluation Guidelines (2008) Supplement to the Standard of Building Biology Testing Methods SBM-2008 (and 2015) and what we’ve heard in personal conversation…
RF (radio frequencies):
- No concern levels are <0.1 μW/metres squared (Note: This is measured on the right side (orange lights) of an acoustimeter and indicates power density.)
- Slight concern levels are 0.1 to 10 (Note: My acoustimeter shows these levels when a cell phone is nearby. It might be in someone’s pocket. The number tends to go up if the phone is being used, even if the person isn’t using it but perhaps a text message is coming in for them. In a number of stores with wifi available for their customers, my acoustimeter measures around 5-40 or higher. One nice thing is that not all stores have set their wifi to be available to their customers and thus, can be lower in RF and safer to shop in. By the way, if a cellphone is set on “airplane mode”, this number is nil. But to put it on that setting (or changing settings), there is some RF emitted. A camera and a Bible app can both work in airplane mode. (But uploading to a cloud requires RF.))
- Severe concern is 10-1000 (Note: My acoustimeter shows these levels when someone is using their cell phone or if I’m near a wireless router or walking in stores with “free wifi” offered. Talking or texting/receiving a text on a cell phone is closer to the 30-200 when I’ve measured situations but using the internet on a phone can get into the 500 level and up.)
- Extreme concern is > 1000 (Note: My acoustimeter shows these levels if I’m near a cell tower. The highest value I’ve seen on mine is 30,000 but most cell towers have been around 2000 when I’ve gone past them in a vehicle for the months in 2017-2018. Cell towers do and are expected to change (increase) in amounts of RF emitted.)
(I have not yet seen building biology standards for the red, yellow, green lights side of the acoustimeter which measures “peak signal strength” of the RF pulses. But the company that makes the acoustimeter explains more about those levels mean in the acoustimeter user manual. I personally find those red, yellow, and green indicators very helpful when I go out in public (e.g. to stores or church).)
MF (AC magnetic fields, low frequency, ELF/VLF):
- 0.2 mG or less has been suggested to be ideal for sensitive individuals.
- 1.0 mG or less (I’ve heard this level could still be OK for the general population who aren’t EMF sensitive)
- 1-5 mG is considered “severe concern”. (Remember, all of these numbers in these standards are for sleeping environments, not necessarily expected for work/career environments. It is when you sleep that your body repairs the most from daily pollutants i.e. greatest cell repair/growth. For example, an urban work environment could fall within this range of mG. But hopefully the bedroom area does not. I have sat in a waiting room in town with 3mG measured on my PF-5 gaussmeter. We guessed that the source was the type of in-floor heat that was toasty nice on our feet. :-))
- >5 mG is considered of “extreme concern” by building biologists.
Note: Sources of magnetic fields include appliances that are “on” (some kinds have more than others), urban water lines (if a charge is added to prevent rusting), etc.. One of the ideas here would be that it is not recommended to sleep on the other side of a refrigerator or close to an electrical panel.
EF (AC electrical fields, low frequency, ELF/VLF): Some people are discovering that higher EF can affect sleep quality especially in super-sensitive individuals. (I find that very intriguing personally because many years ago (way back in 1995), I was diagnosed with 4 muscle-related sleep disorders which at that time, remained medical mysteries as to a cause behind them. But when looking back, the symptoms worsened if I had more electricity in my environment.) From what I understand, apparently 60 Hz is both what our electricity in North America is AND the frequency of our brainwaves in sleep. Thus there are some people who are beginning to relate this to the idea of why a number of people sleep better tenting outdoors where there is no electromagnetic fields (of any form) at all.
For the below values, I’m using what I was told in conversation, mainly because the Building Biology numbers have a few rows to read, depending on how things are measured and I want to keep this simple. My numbers here would be “when measured using a body voltage meter.”
- 100 mV or less is ideal for sensitive people’s housing. (On our PF-5 gaussmeter, this also roughly means that there should be essentially no lights showing if the guassmeter is measuring more than a foot away from any source of power but the numbers are different. Yes, it will show a coloured light if held close to a stove or a light switch, etc. and that is normal, but if away from sources, the lights should be nil (or at least, almost nil).)
- 250-300 mV or less represents the typical levels found in most houses (Ontario and other parts of North America).
- at around 500 mV to 4000 mV and up (which is 0.5V-4V +) health issues in sensitive dairy cows can begin to be noticed as well. To learn about the effects on cows, there are a few interesting videos by Dr. Magda Havas linked here. But generally, according to ESA and utility safety standards, depending on the region (e.g. province or state), up to 10 V or up to 4V is considered acceptable for human residences. Around 4V for cows could get some testing and improvement.
As I dug into trying to understand the science behind this (remember, my favourite subject is science so I get curious about some of this stuff), here were some things I learned:
Note 1: Electrical “field” measurements are NOT the same as electrical “potential” measurements. However, they can relate to one another with similar numerical values. Utilities can measure “potential” whereas building biologists measure “fields”.
Note 2: When you turn off the main electrical panel in your house, you are turning off the hot wire, not the neutral/ground wire. This means that anything that comes in a “stray voltage on a neutral/ground wire” continues to flow inside, even if the main breaker is totally off. But the overall amount of EF does still decrease to a certain extent when the breakers are off because you’ve stopped the power on the hot wire. This is behind the idea of building biologists recommending that sensitive people turn breakers off for sleeping in any house.
Note 3: What about other sources to fields that are discussed in various websites? As indicated in Note 2, you can’t turn off a neutral/ground wire at your panel. (That is for your safety so that’s a good thing.) But… if a tree down the road blows over in a storm and knocks out your hydro for a while, that voltage also gets knocked out. Sometimes people wonder if the source of the stray voltage is coming from a geopathic stress line instead of a manmade electrical line. One way to confirm that a source isn’t geopathic is to simply measure the electrical fields (e.g. with the body voltage meter) when a storm has totally knocked off your power – after all, the geology in your ground hasn’t changed, but the power from hydro has. If the EF is “nil” with the power is out like that but “not nil” when it is restored with the main breaker still off, you can figure out that the source isn’t a water-spring (or similar).
EMI or DE (dirty electricity): This is something that our building biologist measured on our behalf with his equipment but we do not have a measuring tool for this ourselves. Basically DE is interference on the regular sine curves of electricity – it looks jagged rather than a smooth curve when represented by a diagram. (The “EMI” letters stand for “electromagnetic interference”.) There are a number of sources which contribute to DE in housing. One of the main sources is LED or other “energy-efficient” lightbulbs and so just replacing them with (much nicer lighting in my opinion) the traditional incandescent lightbulbs greatly decreased our DE levels – from 1500mV+ to 300mV – yes, that amount just by changing lightbulbs! Dimmer switches, 4-ways, unfiltered solar power, and some appliances also can add DE to the environment. Example: our electric egg beater gave off a lot of DE to the extent that it could appear like/mimic low amounts of RF on our acoustimeter (but a different brand name can be better). DE is something that is typical at significant levels in most homes today but not much is known about it yet.
Standards for DE apparently are:
No concern <25 mV, Slight concern 25-100, Severe concern 100-250, Extreme concern >250mV
I’d like to end this post by saying a few important things…
- We don’t live in a perfect world. All of us are exposed to some pollution or less-than-ideal environments at least some of the time. So our goal really isn’t to complain until we find the “perfect place”.
- Most people can handle a fair amount of pollution and although they might know it can risk their health, for them it is acceptable. Obviously, the greater population in our province live and work in cities which have smog and other forms of pollution but it is an acceptable lifestyle for them. Most people use wireless technologies, even if they understand that there is some potential risk involved. Most people consider things fine when they have lots of electricity and electrical gadgets in their homes.
- Some people have to be more careful in getting “cleaner” environments to live in because otherwise they are sensitive and become unwell. While most people can handle quite a number of things in their home and community environment, the environmentally-sensitive people cannot so easily do this. Rural-based living is often something good to consider (for anyone), especially with trees and fresh air around.
- Everyone can make at least some choices to lessen the impact of pollution on their lives. For electromagnetic pollution, the easiest thing I think is to simply to “turn off and even unplug when not in use” and that includes the routers and RF communication devices when you sleep. It just makes sense and is so easy to do. 🙂
And if you are wondering if you might be EMF sensitive, there are many websites that you can check for descriptions of what tends to be in those situations but a very readable link is https://emfcenter.com/are-you-sensitive-to-emfs/
Disclaimer: We might not agree with everything on the website links mentioned on this page (e.g. some remedies which might be mentioned).