Updated July 23, 2010
by R. Conrad
Probably everyone is affected by EMF's to some degree. In the great majority of persons most of the effects, including increased rates of cancer, occur only after years of exposure. The general population may also be affected in the short term in subliminal ways such as attention deficits, hyperactivity, depression, irritability or less restful sleep. But in a minority of persons, the effects of EMF exposure are drastic, pronounced and clearly correlated to EMF exposure, can include any of the latter symptoms, and typically also burning skin, burning/itching sensations inside the body, chest pains, heart palpitations and arrhythmias, tingling/numbness in a hand or foot (peripheral neuropathy), pronounced tinnitus, headaches, inability to sleep, seizures, increased chemical and food sensitivities and a whole range of other immune and neurological effects. These symptoms can occur either immediately upon exposure, or some hours later. Why is this minority more sensitive than the general population? In many cases, we do not know. But we do know that having chemical sensitivities predisposes people to developing EMF sensitivity - approximately half of persons with MCS (Multiple Chemical Sensitivities) eventually develop EMF sensitivity/ES/EHS (Electrical Hypersensitivity). And a significant percentage of persons with EHS develop MCS later. In some cases the sudden induction of MCS or EHS correlates with the occurrence of Candida overgrowth.
In other cases MCS is triggered by a major chemical exposure, and likewise, EHS can be first triggered by a stronger than usual exposure to EMF's. In both MCS and EHS, once a person has become sensitized, repeated exposure to the same sources that initially triggered the sensitivity then re-triggers the symptoms. Then what almost inevitably happens is that lower and lower intensities of exposure to these same sources begins to trigger the same symptoms, and the sensitivity begins to spread to wide variety of sources. In MCS, a person becomes more and more sensitive to lower and lower levels of a wider variety of chemicals, and in EHS to lower and lower levels of EMF from more types of electronic equipment and a wider range of frequencies.
Different people are sensitive to different frequencies, usually the ones that they are exposed to the most. At low frequencies, the problem is more often magnetic fields, but some people may be more sensitive to the voltage field. Shielding is only sometimes effective, can be expensive, and is a very complex subject. It all depends on frequency, and whether one is attempting to shield magnetic and/or voltage fields. Most low frequency fields from a small source fall off rapidly with distance, and so distance often helps, but not in cases where the frequencies are re-radiating throughout a home via the AC wiring. Proper grounding is also a complex subject.
In order to cool off EMF sensitivities, AVOIDANCE of exposure is absolutely necessary (also see "EMF Solutions") Pendants and protective devices do not work (see: EMF SCAMS). Avoidance requires reducing or eliminating as many triggers as possible. The longer one avoids exposure, the lower one's sensitivity tends to go. Then, if you get a lot of exposure again, your sensitivity will probably go up. It is important to avoid exceeding a certain threshold of exposure so that things don't start accelerating again. If you can keep your exposure low, and as soon as you begin to feel symptoms, turn off equipment or run out of that environment, you have a chance of not having your sensitivity increase to as high a level as before. It can be dangerous to become complacent.
Be careful. A LIST OF SOME TRIGGERS / RE-TRIGGERS OF EMF SENSITIVITY (which are initial triggers, and also re-trigger symptoms later and keep sensitivities elevated; although the first 4 on the list are not very common, they are the very worst, being very powerful direct emitters of RF energy that also contaminate all the power lines they are plugged into with a wide frequency range of dirty power, up to hundreds of feet away; the most common triggers are computer equipment and wireless devices):
1) "Induction-type" cooktops (induction cooktops/stovetops are powerful transmitters of RF energy - that is how they work - the radio frequency heats the metal of the pots directly). Standing in front of one for only 15 seconds has caused severe EMF sensitivity. Each induction "burner" is a 1 to 2 kilowatt radiofrequency generator operating at about 27 KiloHertz, which is in the range to easily sensitize people to EMF. It is one of the very worst EMF sources that could be found in the home; hundreds of times stronger than any computer, etc. I have talked to someone whose electrical sensitivities were greatly exacerbated by standing in front of one for only a few seconds. Don't even consider any type of induction cooking. On the other hand, glass cook-tops with standard resistance heating elements underneath (the kind that glow red in a very fine double spiral) usually have a relatively low magnetic field, and no radio frequency emission at all.
2) Inverters - these are the devices that are used to convert DC battery power into AC power, commonly used in trailers and in solar systems - most photovolatic systems include inverters that contaminate the powerlines throughout the house and even the powerlines of neighboring homes.
3) Welding machines.
4) Ultrasound machines. These emit powerful EMF from the scanning probe - that is what induces the crystal in the probe to emit ultrasound. Getting an ultrasound scan has been devastating for people with EHS, and appears to have been responsible for the death of one electrically sensitive woman after she had a mammogram ultrasound. Echocardiograms are done with a powerful ultrasound machine, and baby ultrasound scans are also. Most of them do not have adequate shielding.
5) Faulty Home Wiring A high magnetic field in the home or workplace (60 Hz magnetic field above 3 milligauss), caused for example by errors (crossed neutrals, crossed neutral and ground, or by power being returned to neutral or ground on water pipes) in AC wiring in the walls, by sleeping next to the AC power entrance/meter, or by power lines outside. Most persons with EHS need their environment to have a field under 0.3 milligauss, and for some, less than 0.1 milligauss.
6) Dirty power in the AC wiring of the home, either from an EMF source within the home (see 8 through 14 below) , or coming from outside from neighbors, a faulty street lamp, or elsewhere. If the problem disappears when you turn off all the the circuit breakers or the main breaker, it may be coming from inside the home. If turning of all the breakers does not solve the problem, the dirty power may be coming in on the neutral line (which is not broken by turning off breakers).
7) Living near a cell-phone tower or Wi-Fi hub.
8) Wi-Fi in the home or nearby. Cell phones. Do not use anything wireless in the home. Especially not wireless baby monitors. Many home security/alarm systems use wireless, as do some intercom systems. Some transmit their signals through the house AC wiring - this is not good either. Be sure that your computer's Wi-Fi and Bluetooth are turned completely off. 9) Excessive time working in front of a computer, particularly if a main-frame/desk-top unit is within a few feet. CRTs, LCDs, and TVs are common triggers/sensitizers. Once sensitized, many people with EHS cannot use a computer for more than a few minutes without debilitating symptoms, and many cannot use a computer at all. TV cable boxes, modems, DVD players and DVR's can also be a problem. Some types of radios, hi-fi/stereo/surround-sound amplifiers, or FM tuners are problematic and others may be ok. Most speakers radiate an intense magnetic field for some distance when producing loud sounds, particularly at low frequencies. Use both a gaussmeter and the AM radio to help evaluate these devices (see paragraph at the bottom). 10) Any type of switching power supply (see LOW EMF COMPUTING for an explanation of what a switching power supply is) that is on for a considerable time, including UPS computer back-up units, computer power supplies, the power supply inside a projector, and most types of battery chargers. Low voltage halogen lights are usually powered by a switching power supply. Almost any electronic device can include a switching power supply that generates EMF. Almost all "wall-wart" and "brick" types of power supplies are now of the high EMF switching type.
11) Dimmer switches, some types of motor/variable speed controls, mosquito zappers, electrostatic air purifiers, compact fluorescents, regular fluorescent lights, and ultrasonic vaporizers (including a popular battery-powered ultrasonic inhaler that is held up to the face and commonly used for inhaling glutathione by persons with MCS). Hair dryers, most electric blankets and heating pads and even electric shavers and electric toothbrushes can be triggers. Of course microwave ovens are leaky, and dangerous for persons with EHS, unless they are at a considerable distance. I put mine in the far corner of the garage and I use a special $200. line filter on its AC line (call me if you want to know how to order this filter). I turn on the power to the microwave oven using a power strip only just before use, push the oven timer buttons with a 4 foot long wooden dowel, and run. I call it "hit and run".
12) EMF from motors: the worst are brushless DC motors (often running on AC via a switching-type power supply). AC or DC motors with brushes are not as bad, because their emissions are not at one narrow frequency, but instead are spread out like white noise or static; but their RF emissions, and their magnetic field, can cause symptoms in some people. AC induction motors are very quiet in terms of RF, and the closed-frame type has only a local magnetic field. The cheaper type, open-frame AC induction motors can have a much stronger magnetic field, but are also quiet as far as RF goes. Thus the best motor type to have is closed-frame AC induction.
13) EMF can come from electronic thermostats or fan speed controls in heating or air conditioning systems, or from GFI's, smoke detectors/alarms, or carbon monoxide detectors, either when operating normally, or due to a malfunction. Faulty street lights, even hundreds of feet from a home, can generate large amounts of radio frequency that propagates into a home via the AC wiring (due to an intermittent lamp starter or power supply or bad lamp or photocell).
14) The speaker in the earpiece of a telephone, earphone, or headset generates an AC magnetic field while it is making sound. Some telephones are powered by a switching power supply, either internal or external. Phones usually incorporate microprocessors, and the caller ID screens generate some EMF. Often a lot of radio frequency noise is carried into a home on a phone line. TV Cable carries very high frequencies, that may or may not be a problem for some persons. Sometimes ground loops occur between a ground rod grounding a house, and a ground rod grounding the shield of an incoming TV Cable. Sometimes large amounts of radio frequency noise is detectable on an AM radio (see AM Radio as HF Sensor) when the phone line and the TV Cable are both connected, but disappears when either one is disconnected. 15) Chemical exposures can also initially trigger and later re-trigger EHS and its symptoms. Examples are toxic off-gassing from electronic devices, pesticide or herbicide exposure, heavy metal toxicity, VOC's in "sick buildings" or from remodeling, exposure to fragrances, air fresheners, and laundry dryer exhaust. (All of these can also initiate and retrigger MCS symptoms.) Infections, and also reactions to foods that one is allergic to can increase sensitivity to both electrical and chemical exposures. Most of the devices under 8) through 14) above also send dirty power back onto the AC power line throughout the home, though to a lesser extent that 1), 2) and 3). Some of these devices will register on a gaussmeter (see article: GAUSSMETERS), but some will only register on a device that is sensitive to higher radio frequencies such as a RF meter, or particular AM radios (see AM Radio as Inexpensive High Frequency Sensor).