Informative article on Dirty Electricity by the folks over at EMF Warriors.
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by Jamie Ann Montiel, RN, BSN
Our increasing reliance on technology has undoubtedly amplified our exposure to a multitude of man-made electromagnetic frequencies. The proliferation of cell towers, cell phones, WiFi and WiMax systems, broadband internet over power lines and digital “smart” meters have caused an exponential rise not only in radiofrequency radiation but dirty electricity as well (3). There is a strong probability that this greater exposure may be contributing to, if not causing the explosive growth of modern diseases such as cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes as well as many others. It is also contributing to electrohypersensitivity symptoms in many people.
Our electrical grid which utilizes alternating current generates high frequency voltage transients up to the kilohertz range, often called “dirty electricity.” Dirty electricity deviates from a pure 60 (or 50) Hertz sine wave and has both harmonic and non-harmonic components (2). It is generated by arcing, sparking and any device that interrupts current flow, especially switching mode power supplies (2, 3, 4) because each interruption of current flow results in a voltage spike (3). Examples of switch mode power supplies include light dimmer switches, fluorescent lights, light emitting diode (LED) lights, variable speed motors, computers, copy machines and faxes, direct current (DC) chargers, diesel generators, solar power inverters and all transmitters, especially cell phone towers which generate huge amounts of dirty electricity (3, 4) which then flows back into the electrical grid. Dirty electricity generated by electrical equipment in a building is distributed throughout the building on the electrical wiring (4).
Dirty electricity is ubiquitous and is not confined to power lines, electrical wiring and appliances but can also run through the ground for vast distances which is why structures near cell towers can have high levels of dirty electricity. All cell towers have switching power supplies to convert the grid alternating current into direct current to operate the cell tower transmitters and to charge the batteries used for back-up power during grid outages (3). Diesel generators which are used extensively for back-up power in peak load periods are another major source of dirty electricity (4). Dirty electricity can enter buildings not only through electrical wiring, but through conductive water and sewer pipes and ground rods (3, 4). Within a building, dirty electricity can also enter neighboring buildings if they share the same transformer (2). It would be prudent to survey your home environment and only keep essential appliances on or plugged into electrical outlets. It is also best to use only grounded (three-pronged) power cords in electrical outlets. If possible, turn off the power to your bedroom or entire house at night.
Decades ago, the health effects of man-made radiation were not well known. In the 1880s, the introduction of electricity created a new chronic environmental stressor which is responsible for the epidemic of diseases of civilization that continues to this day (3). Before World War II, the major source of dirty electricity were generator and motor brush arcing and arcing/sparking from faulty electrical connections (4). In the 1970s, as increasing non-linear loads were added to the electrical grid (2, 3), American electric companies began using the earth as a primary neutral return to their substations in spite of the fact that this is prohibited by US National Electric Safety Code Rule 92D (5). The utilities connected the neutral return wires to the earth by running a wire from the center tap of their transformers to the ground to use the earth as a primary neutral return to the substations but with time (and increased electrical usage) existing utility neutral return wires were unable to handle the high frequencies returning to the substations due to the “skin effect” in which it takes a larger diameter wire to conduct high frequency currents because they travel on the outside or the skin of the wire (3). With the proliferation of cell towers and other wireless transmitters, especially in urban areas, it is nearly impossible to escape dirty electricity. In some areas of the US, it is estimated that 80% of the delivered electricity returns to the substation via the earth (3, 4). It’s becoming harder and harder to escape dirty electricity, even in remote islands (4).
Dirty electricity can be exacerbated by the use of certain types of lighting, which use switching power such as fluorescent (standard and compact tubes) and light-emitting diodes (LED) lighting. In addition to generating high amounts of dirty electricity, non-incandescent lighting also generates radiofrequency radiation. Older fluorescent lights with magnetic ballasts caused less electrical pollution than the news ones that have electronic ballasts (5). Most LED lights have inverters or switch mode power supplies in them to convert the alternating current to direct current; this interruption of current flow produces dirty electricity and radiofrequency radiation (5). Although invisible, radiofrequency and dirty electricity can be considered non-visible forms of light that radiate out into space as well as back into the electrical grid. This is how not only the ground and structures near high voltage power lines and cell phone towers, but the air as well can become electrically polluted (3).
So not only are non-incandescent lights generating unnatural visible light which nowhere near resembles natural sunlight that humans evolved under, they generate other harmful forms of electromagnetic radiation in the low frequency and radiofrequency range. Though not all LED lights emit radiofrequency, a majority of them do. Nearly all the non-incandescent lights tested emitted radiofrequency radiation, generated dirty electricity in wiring and increased amperage in anyone close to the lights (5). Increasing one’s distance from electrical lighting and appliances will reduce exposure according to the inverse square law where the intensity of the radiation is inversely proportional to the square of the distance. For example, energy twice as far from the source is spread over four times the area and will expose you to one-fourth the intensity of the energy.
Dirty electricity and other forms of artificial electromagnetic radiation play a significant role in carcinogenesis. In other words, exposure to dirty electricity is associated with increased risk for cancer. Epidemiological studies have found increased incidence of childhood leukemia with proximity to high voltage electrical utility power lines (1). Dirty electricity was shown to be a potent carcinogen in a study of cancer in teachers at a California school; there was a positive trend of increasing cancer risk with increasing cumulative exposure to high frequency voltage transients measured in the classrooms’ electrical wiring (3, 4).
More people nowadays use and are exposed to non-incandescent lighting than ever before. By 1951, more light was produced in the US by fluorescent lamps than by incandescent lamps (5). Non-incandescent lighting can generate high body current or amperage, especially if in close proximity to these sources so with increasing distance, body amperage decreases. Low ceilings where overhead fluorescent and LED lights as well as their use in desk lamps which are close to people’s heads are problematic. The National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences Working Group of 1998 has suggested that chronic exposure to contact currents of 18 microamps and above (or greater than 1 millivolt per meter) is associated with the development of cancer and this level is exceeded in most homes and offices with fluorescent lighting (5). This may explain the high incidence of skin cancer in tanning bed users; they are in very close proximity to high levels of unnatural radiation other than ultraviolet light. Tanning bed lights are not balanced the way sunlight is; sunlight has visible and infrared light in addition to ultraviolet light.
Melanoma incidence is increasing while more people spend less time outdoors while using ultraviolet light-blocking sunscreen and sunglasses outdoors. Melanoma usually occurs on body areas that are not exposed to sunlight. Those who have outdoor occupations like gardeners, farmers, and fishermen are less likely to get melanoma than indoor workers (5). Indoor office workers have higher malignant melanoma incidence rates than outdoor workers in spite of indoor workers’ lower ultraviolet light exposure (5). It’s become questionable as to what the main cause of melanoma is but the sun and ultraviolet light are probably not the culprits. Artificial light and bulb electronics, not necessarily ultraviolet light from the sun are the likely cause of malignant melanoma; this better explains the epidemiology of skin cancers than intermittent ultraviolet light exposure (5), especially with the increased usage of sunscreens, sunglasses and other ultraviolet light blocking agents. Melanoma may have many causes but it is very plausible that unnatural electromagnetic fields generated by the electrical grid and modern lighting do act as carcinogens.
Dirty electricity can also be tied to other health problems. Studies have shown that artificial electromagnetic fields in general can cause cellular stress, genetic mutations and electrolyte abnormalities such as calcium efflux (3) as well as affecting neurotransmitters and hormones (4). Artificial electromagnetic fields can also impair barriers (most notably the blood-brain barrier) and cause blood to be more viscous. The increase in blood viscosity with increasing exposure to dirty electricity may explain the symptoms of headaches, chest pain, hypertension, fatigue, vision problems and many other symptoms of electrohypersensitivity (1). Also, certain medical conditions can be exacerbated by dirty electricity. In several cases studies, it was found that glucose levels in diabetics were unnaturally elevated and they required more insulin in electrically polluted environments and that reducing dirty electricity levels with specially designed filters helped diabetics lower their need for insulin (1). In several case studies of multiple sclerosis patients, symptoms improved after dirty electricity filters were installed; one dramatic case allowed a chair-bound patient to walk after mitigation with filters (2).
In the 1970s, photobiologist John Ott demonstrated that grounding the fluorescent lights in a school improved the attention and behavior of students; he essentially built a Faraday cage which grounded the radiofrequencies from the fluorescent lamps (5). In one case study, a fourth grade teacher reported that she was able to change unruly student behavior in about 45 minutes by plugging in dirty electricity filters and noted dramatic improvements in previously unteachable children (3). In rural areas, dirty electricity in the form of stray voltage can harm livestock (3). It was found that dairy cows exposed to high levels of voltage transients from barn wiring and lighting caused a significant decline in milk production and milk quality that was only restored when the lights were either turned off or replaced with lights designed with filters to reduce dirty electricity and radiofrequencies (5). It’s quite possible that many animals and pets are being harmed by stray voltage. Old Order Amish who live without electricity have less than half the cancer incidence as the rest of the US population (3, 4). People in non-industrialized areas of the world do not seem to have the same health conditions that modern, high-tech societies are afflicted by due most likely to the lack of electrification. Small islands that receive their electricity via diesel generators can have high levels of dirty electricity and their inhabitants may also be affected by diseases of civilization (4) which may be better termed as diseases of electrification.
Dirty electricity can be measured by using an oscilloscope, a multimeter set for peak-to-peak voltage, a microsurge meter such as the Graham-Stetzer (GS) meter (3). A microsurge meter measures the average magnitude of the rate of change of voltage as a function of time and this preferentially measures the higher frequency transients (4). Dirty electricity filters can be plugged into outlets, they contain electrical capacitors that can short-out the high frequency transients on the circuit and they are most effective when placed close to the offending appliances (2, 3). Symptoms of electrohypersensitivity can be improved by reducing dirty electricity levels.
Dirty electricity is perhaps one of the most important factors involved in sick building syndrome. Dirty electricity filters placed in a Wisconsin school that had sick building syndrome significantly improved power quality and the health and energy levels of staff and students improved (2). In another school, this one in Toronto where dirty electricity filters were placed, approximately 50% of the teachers reported improvements in energy, performance, mood or health (2). It is recommended that dirty electricity levels be reduced to less than 50 Graham-Stetzer (GS) units (3), though less than 20 GS units is better. Although dirty electricity filters can reduce the electrical transients, they also create the problem of causing a magnetic field to be generated and this field emanates a few feet from the filter. This means that persons should not spend any significant period of time near these filters. Magnetic fields may be more problematic for some people than for others.
Ideally, it would be best to live without electricity, but because of our need for the comforts and conveniences of modern life, dirty electricity cannot be easily avoided. In order to reduce your acute and cumulative exposure to dirty electricity, you should maximize your distance from and minimize time spent around electrified environments as much as possible. Limit or avoid use of non-incandescent lighting and other sources of dirty electricity in the home. Measure dirty electricity levels and hire a professional to see if you have any wiring errors in your home and have them fixed. You may have to relocate if you live in an urban or densely populated area or if there are high voltage power lines and cell phone towers near your current home. The most important thing you can do if you have health problems or electrohypersensitivity symptoms is to spend as much time outdoors in remote, uninhabited areas far from civilization.
- Havas, M. Dirty Electricity Elevates Blood Sugar Among Electrically Sensitive Diabetics and May Explain Brittle Diabetes. Electromagnetic Biology and Medicine. (2008), 27:135-146.
- Havas, M. Electromagnetic Hypersensitivity: Biological Effects of Dirty Electricity with Emphasis on Diabetes and Multiple Sclerosis. Electromagnetic Biology and Medicine. (2006), 25:259-268.
- Milham, S. & Stetzer, D. Dirty electricity, chronic stress, neurotransmitters and disease. Electromagnetic Biology and Medicine. (2013), 32(4):500-507.
- Milham, S. Evidence that dirty electricity is causing the worldwide epidemics of obesity and diabetes. Electromagnetic Biology and Medicine. (2014), 33(1):75-78.
- Milham, S. & Stetzer, D. The electronics in fluorescent bulbs and light emitting diodes (LED), rather than ultraviolet radiation, cause increased malignant melanoma incidence in indoor office workers and tanning bed users. Medical Hypotheses (2018), 116:33-39.