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 Electrical Wiring

Bring in the Ghost Busters

  The presence of electrical wiring in homes and offices produce what are called electro-magnetic fields, EMF. Electromagnetic fields are present near power lines, electrical wiring, electrical outlets, lights, appliances and anything that is plugged in to an electrical outlet. Just the simple fact that the power is on at the fuse box energizes wiring and creates electric fields near anything that is plugged in, even if it is turned off.

This can affect you biologically. Some peopleís biggest concern is about power lines. While power lines may have large electromagnetic fields near them, results of a recent study at K-12 schools indicates that wiring errors may be a more important source of exposure than power lines1.

Magnetic Fields

When something is turned on, current flows and a magnetic field is created. Magnetic fields can be very high close to power lines. Magnetic fields are not shielded by trees, landscaping or the walls of a building. It seems common sense that living to close to power lines may not be healthy. Unfortunately, schools are often built next to right-of-ways for large power lines. Links have been made between children diagnosed with leukemia and power lines next to their schools. But before you panic because you see large power lines close to your home consider that not all power lines are as bad as they look.

The strength magnetic fields decrease quickly with distance from power lines. Itís not a simple as looking at the power lines and assessing how big the field might be in your home from the power line out at the street. Smaller power lines may have larger current flows and pose a bigger health hazard than big, high-voltage lines.

The only way to know what level of field is present is to measure it using a gauss-meter. Some power utility companies will take readings at your home at no charge. Regardless of the reading, the power company will tell you there is nothing to be concerned about. This is in conflict with findings and reports from many research organizations including the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences and the U.S. Department of Energy. Their research shows that electromagnetic fields affect us biologically.

Electric Fields

Electric fields come from the wiring inside walls, extension cords and anything that is plugged in, even if it is not turned on.  A voltage is induced on the body similar to a battery. You can actually measure the voltage induced on your body from household wiring using a multi-meter available at the hardware store.

You will need two long pieces of any kind of wire. You can use an extension cord. Cut the ends off and strip the extension cord into two wires. Connect one end of one wire from the jack of the ground port of the meter to a grounding rod outdoors. You can use a metal tent stake. Connect one end of the second wire to the A/C V jack of the meter and touch the other end of this wire while looking at the meter. Youíll probably see something typical like 2-3 volts. Youíre like the energizer bunny! 

Health Issues

Most people canít feel or otherwise notice if their home or office has high electric or magnetic fields present. So why worry? It seems like thereís enough home improvement projects to do on a Saturday without going looking for more. If it ainít broke, donít fix it, right?

There are two reasons to be concerned. First, housed have burned down because of wiring and grounding errors. Thatís why there is a national electric code. Second, you quality of life may be being effected. The non-cancer, biological effects of electromagnetic fields have largely have been ignored in the news, perhaps because of all the focus on whether or not power lines cause cancer.

Linked to electromagnetic field exposure are:
  • Insomnia and sleep disorders
  • Fatigue
  • Headaches
  • Muscle cramps and menstruation disorders
  • Nerve problems, irritability
  • Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD)
  • Allergy aggravation. 

Non-cancer effects include stress, difficulty concentrating and sleeping problems. Laboratory studies have reported that exposure to electromagnetic fields may cause changes in hormones including melatonin, changes in bio-rhythms, brain activity, heart rate and alterations in the immune system7. While some scientists dispute that power lines cause cancer, most agree that electromagnetic fields affect us biologically and that prudent avoidance is in our best interest.

Caner is also possible. Studies suggest that electromagnetic fields may promote the development of existing cancers even if they donít initiate cancer8.

  • A draft report by the EPA classified electric and magnetic fields (EMF) as a class B carcinogen.

  • A 1998 report by the National Institute of Environmental Health and Sciences concluded that EMF is possibly carcinogenic. 

In July 2001, under pressure from a First Amendment Coalition lawsuit, the California Department of Health Services released a major report which summarized a decade of research costing more than $7 million. It stated: "Some of the health risk associated with exposure to electric and magnetic fields are miscarriage, childhood leukemia, brain cancer and greater incidence of suicide"9.

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Revised: July 05, 2017.

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