Environmental Assay Inc.

Assessment and Remediation Consulting

Home (IAQ And EMFs) | Services | Resources

Most Asked Questions about
Indoor Air Quality (IAQ),
Electromagnetic Fields (EMFs), Stray Stuff,
AND then . . . Myth Busters

*Updated irregularly as time permits*
A bit of wit, a bit of sarcasm, a bit of dry humor, and THE FACTS.
Please forgive the occasional typo or syntax error, they are there for those looking for them . . .

Indoor Environmental Quality (IEQ) =

(individual stuff is further down the page)

  1. What is Environmental Quality?
    Environmental Quality is the sum of all possible aspects of living spaces that produce what is generally perceived as comfort. Possible environmental / biological irritants that can spoil this setting generally fall within two categories, that is: Mass-based or Energy-based irritants.

  2. How does one conduct an Environmental Assay?
    An Environmental Assay by definition implies an investigation of ALL factors that can influence individual perceptions of comfort. However, due to various constraints, most individuals ask to have specific items investigated, but not others.

  3. What factors limit the extent of an Environmental Assay?
    Price, Quality, and Timing. The customer / client controls one factor, the other two depend on the limitations of that first choice.

  4. I am chemically sensitive. Can I use Aluminum foil to seal sources of aromatic emissions like wood moulding, cabinets, etc.?
    The short answer is No. For the longer answer, two issues need to be considered here.

    Chemically, every piece of wood is treated with pesticides at the lumberyard, to keep it marketable, even before it is coated with nice and shiny stuff like Polyurethane. Applying a seal on one surface forces the material to outgas through another surface. So unless you can completely surround the material, the aromatics will still find their way indoors. That is because walls have holes for cabling and piping, and walls, which will experience part of the aromatic outgassing, will allow passage of air, bringing the aromatics into the living space. Most materials outgas more "stuff" at beginning of life, and less as they age, but never fully stop. Sealing any material, like with shrink-wrap, will cause those more concentrated emissions to remain in place until such time as the wrap is removed, at which time the material will continue outgassing where it last left off. A clue should be forming in your mind, right about now, that outgassing can only be circum"vented" by regular and frequent (or continuous) purging with fresh air, from outside.

    Electrically, if the residential electric system is comprised of Romex wiring, which causes an electrified birdcage effect, every piece of conductive material (like that Aluminum foil), has the capability to absorb part of the field and re-radiate it back, possibly making the situation much worse. If you then consider trying to ground each and every piece of foil, you run up against a technical challenge, even for the expert.

  5. I am Electrically but not Chemically sensitive, while a friend is the opposite. How come?
    Every one is sensitive to both, in varying degrees. However, some feel their sensitivity is exclusively Electrical, or Chemical. However, due to the slight diversity in our makeup, one will be more obvious than the other. Generally there are several categories of individuals that are most sensitive, and they are (without any specific order of importance):

    Infants, the Elderly, the Injured, Women in general, Women transitioning through Menopause, Pregnant women, Fetuses.

    Most individual being fortunate enough to have passed through infancy, will at some time fit into one or more of the other categories. So becoming sensitive is not a matter of IF, but WHEN.

  6. What is Environmental Hypersensitivity?
    There are certain individuals that refer to themselves as Multiple Chemical Sensitive (MCS), some as Electrically Sensitive (ES), some as Electrically Ill (EI), some as suffering Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS), etc. These are all variants of Environmental Hypersensitivity and are characterized by exaggerated reaction to normal irritants due to an Immature, Frail, or Damaged Immune System.

  7. My structure was built following Green and Sustainable concepts. Yet I still feel sick within it. How come?
    Green and Sustainable concepts may be well-intended, but as a friend once told me, the path to hell is paved with good intentions. Green and Sustainable in and of themselves do not cover all bases (or mean Healthy). A notable omission is the Electromagnetic aspect of the environment. That's because someone in some outfit stated that: "uncontrolled EMFs do no harm". However, extensive and well-documented evidence shows the medical profession using Controlled EMFs to assist healing (implying a "biological interaction"), so the natural deduction would be that Un-controlled EMFs can be used to inflict pain / harm (or anything other than healing). So the individual who made the statement about uncontrolled EMFs doing no harm, and all who agree with him / her are idiots. No ifs, ands, or buts.

    To complicate issues, there are certain "consultants" that buy into "myths," such as needing a remote turn-off switch, even despite the fact that armored wiring is used. The latter precludes the need for the former. But they get put in, sometimes mis-wired, forcing me to get paid to fix the problem.

  8. My home has a central forced hot air and cooling system, and a good filter. Yet many times I feel stuffy. Why?
    During times of system inactivity, and these times can get extensive during times when the temperature is mild, there is excessive CO2 buildup around you due to normal breathing (read the IAQ block further down) which is to be expected. However, the HVAC unit is not designed to control stuffiness, it's designed to control temperature. You can remove the stuffiness by turning the fan on so that it stays on continuously, or have it outfitted with a timer that forces fan operation for say 10 minutes or so every 30. This will reduce the normal buildup of human-produced CO2.

  9. What is the relationship between Rest and Stress?
    Humans cycle between the two on a daily basis. Stress is a daily waking-state exercise, because life is generally an unending process of fixing one problem before going to another. Levels of stress vary between extremes as well as the tolerance among individuals to stress. Stress needs to be followed by periods of rest, otherwise a burn-out occurs which may be characterized by nervous breakdown, physical shutdown (death), or other behavior that does not fit the norm. When rest periods are also prone to stress, as in trying to sleep under railroad tracks, or with an electric octopus underneath / behind / around the bed, rest is not productive and health begins to decline. Similar to adding straws to a camel's back, there will come a point where the back breaks, and the individual is then quick to point the finger at the most recent (and thought likely) irritant as the cause, when in fact the real culprit may have been extended exposure to a specific, or legion of, irritant(s).

  10. I am interested in finding a Safe apartment. Are there any guidelines on what to look for?
    While there is no "safe" living space, there are degrees of "safer." When walking into an apartment, condo, etc., regardless of how appealing it may be at first glance, consider that the space may have been vacant for many days (weeks, etc.), not been judiciously cleaned, and may have underlying issues that need to be identified. These brief guidelines are to try to rehabilitate any such living space in the immediate and short term.

    • Open the windows to let the fresh air in
    • An enclosed space becomes rich in aromatics and staleness because what life there is within (even normal and expected bacteria and mold) will use up Oxygen and foul the indoors, as far as humans are concerned, not to mention aromatics from material outgassing . . .
    • Empty a large glassful of water down every drain
    • Over several days' time the water traps will dry up and allow sewer gas indoors, depending on constantly changing relative pressure differences between indoors and the sewer system
    • Have a look under the refrigerator
    • Some refrigerators have a condensate pan at the bottom, accessible by removing the lower kick-panel - if this is fouled, every time the unit is operating some of the fouling may go airborne
    • Have a look under the stove
    • Check the vent exhaust filter if so equipped; BTW: if the stove is Gas-fired it will need a vent that exhausts outdoors, not your typical cheapie recirculation scheme
    • Have a look under the dishwasher, clothes washer and drier, and any supplied furniture
    • Evidence of lots of dirt is good reason for serious second thoughts
    • Have a look under the kitchen sink
    • Signs of uneven cabinet flooring are signs of recent or long past leaks, with potentially significant concentration of mold below the cabinet flooring, which could be an aromatic or particulate issue depending on constantly changing relative pressure differences between indoors and the space below the cabinet flooring
    • Assess the amount of fixed carpeting and porous fabrics
    • They are all candidates for significant particulate accumulation inclusive of animal / human dander, as well as mold spore and just ordinary fine dust - the mere act of walking on carpeting or sitting on a couch will liberate microscopic dust clouds that can stay airborne for hours and which can be airway irritants - Any such surfaces should be HEPA vacuum cleaned if you intend on occupying that space
    • Have a thorough look at ANY air moving device, such as hot water baseboards, air conditioner, etc.
    • Poor on no filtering can cause fouling (dirt accumulation) of machined surfaces or heat exchange surfaces, causing airborne carryover when these devices are in use; a poor Air Conditioning filter is an indicator of a fouled fan, internal to the unit, that may need cleaning - Use a bright flashlight
    • Evaluate whether carpeting in the hallway to the apartment is part of the picture, based on the preceding thoughts
    • Evaluate whether electric or human-applied deodorizers (if present) are used to mask some prominent feature
    • Most are artificial and may have neurological impact capability
    • Check for Magnetic field presence
    • Some near walls and floors is acceptable because you are immediately close to installed wiring. In the middle of the living room the lowest possible level is best, and above 4 - 6 mG long-term is not desirable; bear in mind that you are only checking 60 Hz, and on the EMF Frequency Spectrum that is a single blip on a vast universe
    • If there is a magnetic field in the middle of the living space, ascertain if the content is simply 60 Hz or rich in harmonics
    • You can do this with an AM radio, which will allow you to detect frequencies from 540,000 Hz to 1,640,000 Hz. If there is electrical "noise" content through most of the dial, you then know that there is electrical "noise" at many frequencies below and above that range. This is not good. If there are dimmer switches, turn them off to hear if the electrical noise goes away. If it does, replace the dimmers with plain switches. If it does not go away, go check another apartment
    • Check for AC Voltage on the telephone wire, using a very sensitive Voltage probe
    • If there is, the only healthy way to use the phone is using a speakerphone. Filtering exists to remove AC Voltage from the phone line ($150 - $250 each, depending on type), but you should not have to pay for a phone system's problem. Check the accessible phone wiring for electrical noise with that same AM radio. If there is, it will be an irritant during use, and will be due to the Switching Power Supply within the modem used to separate that from the other bundled service, via Cable or the phone company's optical fiber, FIOS
    • Check for Radio Frequency intensity using the same Voltage probe
    • Turning it on, walk around and approach the windows or metallic devices. It should remain quiet. If it beeps on approach to windows, you will probably want to consider window laminates to reduce RF ingress. If it beeps on approach to something like a stove or refrigerator, check the cord for a broken third prong, or have the wiring corrected.

  11. I need to stay in a hotel / motel for a few days to: 1) attend a clinic, or 2) have some work done at my home. Do you have guidelines for this also?
    Tie more of my hands, and there will be less I can do for you . . . Since in a hotel / motel you have less power of influence over your living space, compared to the above, and compared to the more complete influence over your home, there are still a few basic guidelines you can follow to make your life a little more pleasant.

    • By all means ask to see the place you are going to be staying in
      While there, have a look at the heater / air conditioner filter. That's right, it's got one, and it may be long fouled since its last cleaning. The moment it's turned on, a lot of aromatics and particulates may vent into the living space
    • Ensure you get a place that has windows you can open
      Even a city environment with its aromatics may be better than a fully enclosed space with various plastics and deodorizers
    • Ensure you can put a towel down by the door seal
      to close off the air passage between your living space and the hallway
    • Bring your towels, linen, and soap
      Controlling your fabrics' and your exposure to fragrances can go a long way to reduce your exposure to smelly fabrics from the establishment, however "nice" they're supposed to be.

Indoor Air Quality

Or Mass-based Irritants:

  1. What is Air Pollution?
    Air Pollution consists of undesired Particulate, or Gaseous content, as well as undesired Temperature, Humidity, and Flow characteristics.

  2. What are undesired Particulates?
    Particulates are small particles that can become airborne, and include Pollen, Mold Spores, Bacteria, Viruses, and Inert or "dead" matter within the same size ranges. Some of these particulates can elicit allergic or toxic reactions.

  3. What is undesired Gaseous content?
    Normal air composition is about 70% Nitrogen (N), 21% Oxygen (as O2), and various other trace gases. When the amount of any trace gas increases significantly, or the oxygen content decreases, then there is a danger of discomfort, nausea, and / or asphyxiation.

  4. What portion of the air do we use in breathing?
    Primarily Oxygen. We breathe in about 21% concentration and exhale about 17% concentration. The latter is not sufficient to maintain consciousness, so we need a continuous supply of that 21%. As the concentration gets reduced, as when there's too many people in one room, the air gets stuffy quick, and ventilation and exchange with a fresh air source is essential to keep people from passing out. In contrast, we breathe in about 350 parts per million (ppm) Carbon Dioxide (CO2) and exhale about 40,000 ppm (or about 4% concentration) with lots of water vapor.

  5. What is Combustion?
    The rapid combination of some material and Oxygen at high temperature in a process commonly referred to as a Fire. Slow speed combination also occurs and is commonly known as rust.

  6. What is Open combustion?
    A campfire is an excellent example of an Open combustion process, where large amounts of surrounding air are used to supply the Oxygen needed by the fire. A standard fireplace is functionally identical. However, the intent is to heat the indoors, not throw out air that has already been heated. Unfortunately most oil, gas, and wood fired heating appliances are of the open combustion design. When compounded by an intent of energy efficiency, open combustion appliances should be excluded at the design stage.

  7. There is a smell of oil near my oil furnace, although I don't see any leaks. How come?
    The moment a combustion furnace first ignites there is no updraft in the exhaust pipe to the chimney, so a bubble (or puff) of air composed of combustion products is formed that is of greater dimensions than the furnace. This bubble of air whose sound resembles a "whoof" can permeate any porous surface, such as concrete, sheetrock, structural lumber, etc. Once the updraft begins, the bubble of combustion fumes is sucked back into the furnace and vented up the stack. This is standard operation, unless there is a fan assist designed to start the updraft before ignition. That initial puff of combustion fumes can produce an oily smell that will linger forever, or until the porous materials are removed. If for this reason alone, Open Combustion Oil furnaces are Not recommended.

  8. What is Negative Pressure?
    If you have an inflated balloon, it has a higher or positive pressure than the surrounding air. From another vantage point, the air surrounding the inflated balloon is of lower or negative pressure compared to that inside the balloon. When you considers a structure, a fan that is exhausting air outdoors will cause a lower or negative pressure indoors compared to outdoors. Conventional Open Combustion appliances (gas stove, furnace, etc.) will cause negative pressure indoors during operation. If this happens during winter, there will be leaks around all building envelope imperfections, such as doors, windows, etc. that will exhibit entry drafts of cold and dry air. This dryness can cause mucous membrane (eye, nose, throat, lung) discomfort. To remedy this, some use local or whole-house humidifiers, to bring comfort by raising the Relative Humidity (RH) indoors. However, since the air is regularly exchanged with the operation of the appliance, the humidification process needs to be ongoing. While this brings in a lot of fresh air indoors, and dilutes indoor pollutants, the flow is uncontrolled. Even if your structure is deemed "energy efficient" and "tight", if you have an Open Combustion appliance, it fights the intent of tightness and may not operate properly possibly causing other health-related problems.

  9. I smell oil on the main floor, while the furnace is downstairs. Why?
    Sometimes a home has two exhaust stacks, one for the furnace and one for a fireplace. If both terminate at the same chimney height, Negative Pressure as described above can be the culprit as follows: the furnace is operating and needs air for the fire, drawing it from indoors and blowing it up the stack, this causes negative pressure indoors; since the two stacks end at the same height, the fireplace stack which is connected to the indoors and its negative pressure can suck some of the exhaust fumes back indoors. While stacks of the same height may be aesthetically symmetrical and "pleasing," they are a poor engineering design, and abound aplenty.

  10. What is Sealed combustion?
    A grenade is an excellent example of a sealed combustion process. However, its is quite useless for everyday needs in that we want to benefit from the process, and therewith we must be able to control the speed of the combustion process. Sealed refers to the isolation of the combustion process from the living space. A campfire with a radiator filled with water over it, and piping and a pump to bring the hot water indoors to another radiator to provide heat, is a sealed combustion system as far as the living space is concerned. Bringing the fire indoors, the air supply for the fire must come from an intentional outdoor source, say through a pipe. The hot air to be circulated indoors is then isolated from the combustion chamber and the combustion system is "sealed" from an indoor perspective.

  11. I have a "Ventless" gas / propane / kerosene heater. Is it Sealed Combustion?
    Read the operating manual carefully. Unless there is a pipe penetrating the wall to outdoors for combustion air needs, and if the manual requires a window to be cracked open, it is not a Sealed Combustion unit. If a "cracked open" window is required, and you don't open one because it's too cold outside, you may be creating a recipe for tragedy.

  12. I am chemically hypersensitive, and I am allergic to mold. How do I get rid of it completely?
    The simple answer is: you can't. The longer answer identifies thousands of airborne Mold particles or Spores of different genera available constantly outdoors. If indoors reflect a similar concentration, it is understood as a "healthy" place, from a mold perspective. There is an illusion that one can make indoors totally mold free. The moment anyone opens a door to come in or go out, a simple gust of air replenishes the indoors with a portion of what is airborne outdoors at the moment.

  13. I am chemically hypersensitive, is there a "healthy" humidifier for me?
    I do not conduct research, which requires a dedicated revenue stream, so can only offer general considerations. The definition of "Healthy" can vary with each individual, and looking at it from a strictly chemical perspective, you would want something that does not introduce aromatics in the process of humidification, and something that does not introduce water-borne organisms into the airstream. Potable water is generally treated with Chlorine or Fluorine, so this may be an issue to consider. A spinning humidifier wheel in a pan and forced airstream tends to gather sediments in the pan that needs to be regularly cleaned away. A moist pad humidifier can grow mold if it is not changed between seasons. An untrasonic humidifier can provide some electromagnetic wideband irritation. Moving water, such as in a water fountain, where the water is allowed to descend a tortuous path may be passive, and yet effective, and attractive as well. Meanwhile . . . one of the best humidifiers is generally overlooked. That is, cooking. Cooking tends to produce rapid water evaporation and subsequent humidification, not to mention the pleasant aromatics associated with food.

Electro-magnetic Fields

Or Energy-based Irritants: (Stray stuff)

  1. Stray Voltage / Current
    Stray: not controlled, not on the right path, etc. If it occurred with automobiles, there would be a lot of dead people . . . With Electricity, however, this is a function of a sloppy and deficient design that started with Edison (I wonder why it's named after him, hm . . . ), that of the three-wire system to provide 120/240. Since electricity is invisible, a lot can go wrong, but as long as the switch turns on that lamp or fan, everything seems OK. The end result, which morphs along from day to day, is current where it should not be, and voltage where it should not be. For a thorough understanding of the concepts and ramifications, a thorough understanding of the electric system and how it is interconnected is necessary. Ironically, even engineers and electricians lack much of this knowledge. So you ask: how come I by it? Well, over 30 years working on, and with, system concepts and operation, from the simple indicator light, to the remotely controlled electric substation, to the various and numerous ways to make it all happen. While this pontification cannot assume to make an electrician or engineer out of you or me, it may teach you some things they don't know (unless they've already read this, that is).

  2. How do you measure Stray Voltage?
    With a good quality voltmeter, whose input impedance is 10 megaOhms. Use a long lead (30 - 50 feet) tied at one end to a peice of metal stuck in the soil (ten feet or more from the Electrical System Ground) so that it reaches the moisture layer (typically 12 inches is plenty, unless you are in a dry climate) and inserted into the voltmeter "Common" connection. Then touch the other lead (voltage input) to the Electrical System Ground and measure for AC Voltage. Anything more than about 1/2 Volt (500 milliVolts (mV)) is significant. I have seen, at different locations, values as high as 5, 15 and 25 volts.

  3. What is an acceptable level of Stray Voltage?
    That depends on who you ask. As little as 100 mV can be felt by animals and human kids. Where it introduces deviance from normal behavior, such as cows not wanting to be milked, it produces an economic burden. Therein arise lawsuits of the farmer against the utility, and each stick to their guns, claiming the other is the only one at fault. But really, if any human can feel it, or if animal behavior is altered by it, it is an annoyance that should be investigated and corrected.

  4. Can there be Stray Voltage separate from the electric system?
    Yes. Considering the Piezoelectric effect, where something under physical stress is rapidly de-stressed, substantial Voltage spikes can be produced. Many of you are familiar with this concept as in a cigarette or grill lighter. Geologic stress can take this effect to a quantum leap higher level, and cause amounts of voltage great enough (even as localized lightning) to cause damage. Knowing what you are measuring, and where, are essential to understanding what is happening.

  5. How relevant is stray voltage apart from the electric system?
    While the Earth is used by all as the zero-voltage frame of reference, the Earth (as measured between distant points) can be at extreme values distant from zero volts. Due to cloud formations passing overhead, weather related phenomena, geologic stress, solar-magnetic-disturbance-induced ground currents, the voltage at any one point in the soil can be hundred, or thousands, of volts different from another spot. Because of this and the dangers involved, much of the bulk electric power transfer system is operated ungrounded, except for the low voltage side, and that is merely a "local" ground. The residential power distribution can be ungrounded (Delta), or grounded (WYE). Where we measure, and are concerned with, stray voltage / current phenomena, we are dealing with "local" problems, whose range is at most a few miles of convoluted wire or pipe ways. The normal Earth-related stray stuff is natural, and cannot be controlled, but since we exist at an infinitesimally small spot compared to the planet, it does not bother us. The Electric System-related stray stuff is unnatural, can kill, alter animal and human behavior, cause economic hardship, etc.

  6. How do you measure Stray Current?
    This is a lot trickier, because you now have to consider that current flows through the ground as well as metallic structures. Generally, to measure stray current, you use the same trusty good quality voltmeter, and use a clamp-on current coil measuring for AC current (some clamp-ons provide their output as a voltage). The value detected will be a function of the magnetic field strength (a direct result of current flow) through the coil. This is a measure of the flow through a physical structure. When that flow does not have an adjacent flow in the opposite direction to cause cancellation, the resulting Magnetic field can be measured in free-space with an appropriate coil. Obviously, just any coil will not do, because we would all come up with different numbers. So, standardized meters are available that incorporate the meter and coil, and are called Gaussmeters (a Gauss is a measure of magnetic field strength (the Europeans use Teslas where 100 nanoTesla = 1 milliGauss (100 nT = 1 mG))).

  7. What levels of Stray Current are relevant?
    Current produces a Magnetic field surrounding the path of the flow. The Earth's background produces about 500 mG of magnetic field, which is mostly DC except for minuscule ripple on it, somewhere below 30 cycles per second (Hertz (Hz)). This background is essential to life. In contrast, the addition of about 4 mG at 60 Hz, doubles the rate of Leukemia. While the rate of Leukemia is rare, and doubling it still keeps it rare, if it happens to you, all bets are off. If Leukemia is not reached, scores of other disease may become part of your life. So the lower the contribution of Alternating Magnetic fields, the better. If the source produces a wide-area field that you cannot walk away from, you have a real problem. If the source produces a small dimension field such as a small appliance, then its relevance is quite low. Wiring errors and system interconnections can cause wide-area fields, and these can be corrected, by someone who knows what he is doing.

  8. How are Stray Voltage and Stray Current related?
    The classical formula says that "current times the resistance it flows through equals the voltage". At this point the obvious vanishes, because current flow through dirt, through wires, through metal pipes, through concrete, through ionized water, etc. Since the resistances of all of these differ, and the current flow differs (sometime moment by moment), stray voltage detection and relevance assignment can be quite difficult. However, when some system behavior patterns are known, values can be expected to vary predictably, and relevance assignment becomes much easier. Depending on the individual consultant / investigator's knowledge of those foundational patterns, his / her conclusion will be as money you can take to the bank, or . . . dirt.

  9. How can Stray Current cause problems in water?
    As an example, if a wooden pier has power and lighting, and if the Stray Voltage on the Electrical System Ground is sufficient, a person in the water near the ground-to-water contact point will be exposed to voltages that diminish as he / she gets further away from the contact point. If the difference in voltage from one side of the body is substantially different from that on the other side of the body, the person will feel a shock, and / or be electrocuted.

  10. I need to replace the main water valve. Are there any precautions I need to take?
    If you live in a typical residential neighborhood with a common metallic water pipe, and with metallic water pipes going to each house, and if you do not want to kill yourself, absolutely. Such neighborhoods are common for sharing Neutral current, at levels that may typically be three to five (3 to 5) Amps. Trying to interrupt that with wet hands is a real killer. To perform repairs safely, after having turned off the water pressure, attach a pair of automotive jumper cables to the pipe such that it is attached to opposite sides of the work area, giving yourself sufficient working space. Cut pipe and replace / repair as necessary. When the work is done, simply remove the jumper cables, and reapply water pressure.

Electro-magnetic Fields

Or Energy-based Irritants: (other than Stray stuff)

  1. What is "Body Voltage" (BV)?
    Like birds on a live wire, it is the amount of Electric Field coupling to the source. In absence of any alternating voltage, referenced to Earth Ground, and measuring for AC Voltage, it should be Zero. Unfortunately, contemporary living environments are rich with electric gadgets, and every power cord emits voltage right through the plastic insulating jacket, so it's not surprising to find BV as high as 2 - 15 Volts. This is produced by Induction, a.k.a. Transformer Action, a.k.a. Action-at-a-Distance, whereby anyone / thing conductive within reach of the Electric field (produced by the presence of Voltage somewhere nearby) will experience a measurable surface voltage.

  2. How do you measure Body Voltage?
    With a good quality voltmeter, whose input impedance is 10 megaOhms. Use a long lead (30 - 50 feet) tied at one end to a piece of metal stuck in the soil so that it reaches the moisture layer (typically 12 inches is plenty, unless you live in a dry climate) and inserted into the voltmeter "Common" connection. Then hold the other lead (the meter's Voltage input) with your hand and measure for AC Voltage.

  3. What are typical or "safe" values of Body Voltage?
    In a home wired with metal-clad wiring the value should be around 50 milliVolts (mV), whereas in a home wired with Romex or Knob-and-tube the values will be around 500 to 5000 mV. There is no "safe" level, but values of 50 mV or lower are much safer than 500 to 5000. The most recognizable reactions are unusual sleep patterns, or sleep deprivation.

  4. What Pulses exist within the Human body?
    In absence of any artificial voltages, the body functions with pulse-trains (individually known as "Action Potential", as noted in most college-level Biology books) within the muscle and nerve structures to propagate Indication and Control of various organs necessary for life. Their frequency varies with the level of activity.

  5. What is the Resistance of the Human Body?
    Externally, electrical contacts will experience from a few thousand to several hundred thousand Ohms (a measure of opposition to current flow). With High Resistance, there is low electrical conductivity, and viceversa. The External Resistance decreases significantly with surface moisture and mineral content (such as salt from sweat). Internally, the body is composed of an electrically highly conductive ionic mixture.

  6. What type of shielding can I use against EMF, steel, lead, etc.?
    Kryptonite is the most effective material. I have this from a reliable source . . . But really, the shielding depends on the type of field.

    If it is a Magnetic field, then the shield needs to be easily magnetizable (muMetal), and able to enclose a large portion of the field. If a motor is the source, then any required opening left for cooling may negate the effectiveness of the shield. Replacement with a better design may be the only solution. However, if the field geometry is large, shielding can be useless.

    If the field is anything other than a Magnetic one, then anything conductive can be used as a shield, provided it is properly grounded (to a source of very low voltage, like the Earth).

    If the field is Radio Frequency, then dissipative (not conductive) shielding is in order.

  7. What is Conductive, Dissipative, or Insulating?
    Conductive = able to carry electrons easily, like a wire.
    Insulating = unable to carry electrons easily, like glass.
    Dissipative = something between the two extremes above.

  8. I've heard that wiring needs to be paired and twisted for less EMF, is that true?
    Proper wiring (without errors) is always paired (supply and return in the same cable). But even proper wiring, when compounded by wiring errors is effectively no longer paired, because currents will now flow in unintended paths. With proper wiring and no errors, Magnetic fields will only exist within a few inches of a cable carrying current. Add wiring errors and such a field will now span dozens or hundred of feet.

    Considering Electric fields, even paired wiring without errors, will emit a considerable amount of such field for several feet from the cable (unless shielded, such as Metal-clad) because the cable contains one wire at 120 volts, and one or more at zero volts, averaging 60 volts, making for a very efficient source of Electric fields.

    As related to "twisting," Twisted Pairs are a design feature to reduce the reception of interference on cables affected by a wide-area field. The thinking (proven true) is that as the cable pairs twist over distance, their exposure at one point will be canceled by another point where the wire pairs are physically reversed. When this is applied to source wiring, one is implying that the field will reverse and provide less of an effect on a human. While the field may reverse, the human is not a piece of wire, so reversal of the source field every few feet does not eliminate the biological impact on the human. Therefore, "pair twisting" is a myth, as far as biological importance.

  9. I have too much EMF in my house, what do I do?
    Close your eyes, and click your heels twice . . . But really, even Oz could not fix it if he didn't know what type of field he was dealing with.

    There is a common pattern of most individuals referring to Alternating Magnetic Fields exclusively as EMF.
    EMF, short for Electromagnetic Field(s) encompasses:

    > Steady-State Magnetic Fields,
    > Alternating (constantly reversing) Magnetic Fields,
    > Steady-State Electric Fields,
    > Alternating (constantly reversing) Electric Fields,
    > Transients (with fast rise and/or fall times),
    > Harmonics (whole-number multiples of 50 / 60 Hz),
    > Radio Frequency Fields,
    > Light rays, and distortion thereof (or peaks within its spectrum),
    > X-rays,
    > Radioactive particle and Ray emissions

    So if and when you might think you have too much EMF in your living space, you need to be specific as to what EMF you are talking about, to get real help, or pay several individuals to search for you, hoping you get someone who knows what they are talking about.

  10. I have too much EMF in my house, and my electrician seems helpless on how to help.
    Most electricians, unfortunately, are only versed on voltage and current on a wire, not Electric or Magnetic Fields in free-space. Although they could be the best-qualified individuals to help you, this information is not part of their knowledge base, and most are too busy making money to investigate, or try to do anything about, "fields."

  11. I've just moved and one of my neighbors has a Ham radio. How do I find out how much impact it has on me?
    I, or anyone else with the appropriate tools, would have to set up shop in your home for a week or so, and monitor on a 24-hour basis to determine: 1) what frequencies are being used to transmit, 2) how long the time duration of transmit is, 3) how much power is being transmitted, 4) what kind of modulations is being used, and whether the Ham is using 5) directional equipment, which would vary the three-dimensional power distribution. Then, and only then, can conclusions be made. Alternately, you could ask him / her for these details, as most Hams are nice people, and they're most helpful to those in need.

    However, when placed in perspective against the backdrop of possible problems indoors that could dwarf the Ham signals, the relevance of the Ham emissions may be moot.

  12. I've heard that EMF above 2 is bad. Is that so?
    There is a common misconception that anything above a 2 is bad. But 2 whats? The media and the scientific community have steered public focus exclusively onto Alternating Magnetic Fields, which are Caused by Current Flow. So when I hear a client stating that they've just bought a multipurpose newfangled instrument and they read 2 on it, and they're ready to panic, I am forced first of all to educate, and then set the various contributors in perspective.

    The field types that in and of themselves are either: 1) causative agents of disease, or 2) promoters (based on 20+ years of first-hand experience), in generally decreasing level of importance are:

    A) Alternating Electric Fields,
    B) Harmonics Emissions [many frequencies simultaneously],
    C) Radio Frequencies (pulsed being the worst), and
    D) Alternating Magnetic Fields.

    Of the above, the least predictable are Radio Frequencies. There may be somewhat predictable people usage patterns that cause general overall background increases, but if measurements are made and a new transmitting array is installed nearby a week later, all previous observations may become moot. Some sources are: Radio and TV broadcasts, Cellular phone services, WiFi (wireless Internet links), baby monitors, etc.

    Harmonics are associated with Lightning, Spark Plug Ignition Systems, Dimmers, Fluorescent Lamps, Motor Speed Controllers, DC motors, etc. The uniqueness of these emissions is that they can interfere with the central nervous system directly, and for a person who is sensitive enough, relief can be immediate when something is disconnected or turned off.

    Alternating Magnetic Fields are caused by Current Flow, but more specifically by current flow that is not immediately adjacent to a return current flow in the opposite direction, causing wide-area fields. Using a desk lamp as an example, there are two currents flowing in the cord, one to the bulb, and the other from the bulb. Their being so close causes effective cancellation such that field detection is only possible within a few inches of the cord. Wire separation such as in overhead power lines can cause this phenomenon. This you have no control over. Redundant neutral connections to mask problems in a flawed system (plumbing currents, discussed elsewhere on this site) can cause this phenomenon. You can eliminate this after integrity verification of related equipment. Indoor wiring errors can cause this, with an unpredictable "flavor", in that a switch may be operated and a field instantaneously appears or disappears. You can eliminate this by testing the circuits at the breaker panel and with wire tracing and correction (without opening walls, in most cases). Appliances and transformers can cause this, but by being point sources they are of low relevance, unless a lot of time is spent in their immediate vicinity. Magnetic fields are expounded at some length at magnetics.html

    Alternating Electric Fields are simply produced by the Voltage on the wiring. In an outdoor overhead power line there may be a concern or not, depending on whether the line is WYE or Delta. There may be a much greater concern indoors due to structural cavity wiring. Romex and Knob-and-Tube are prolific producers, and your option is primarily remote turn-off control to de-energize wiring in areas where you spend a lot of time, such as the bedroom. Appliance wiring, especially by the bedside, is of great concern due to its extended influence. Electric fields are expounded at some length at electrics.html

    Any and all of these conditions can be found in any house across the land. Even a casual glance at the above will disclose that all of these signals are changing with respect to time, some of them very rapidly, whereas in an topic item # 9 it was pointed out that there are "static" systems that we are also exposed to. Alternating being causative agents, or promoters of, disease, while Static ones being necessary for a healthy life.

  13. How far from electric appliances and their Electric fields is Safe?
    In a typical home wired with Romex or Knob-and-Tube (somewhere around > 90% of all homes in North America), an Electrified Birdcage effect is set in motion, where the different cage "bars" are individually energized to voltages of different polarity. Within this realm, moving away from one source one gets closer to another source. So measuring field intensity from an appliance to determine a "safe" distance may be moot, especially if moving away from the appliance you find yourself standing only a few inches above energized wiring in the floor below you . . . In a home wired with Metal-clad, or other form of Shielded wiring, it can be noted that the Electric field from an appliance and its power cord extends out some 4 to 6 feet (1 to 2 meters) with significant intensity. This being said, having anything energized by the bedside is a definite no-no. Similarly, for wiring within the walls, since sheetrock is transparent to alternating electric fields, if you have a wire traversing immediately behind the head of the bed, moving the bed a foot or so away from the wall may be a lifesaver. Caveat: most appliances are ungrounded. That is, they use only two wires. These (the cord and the appliance) are prolific producers of electric fields. Appliances that are properly grounded have the case of the appliance tied to electrical ground, and if the appliance is in front of the power cord (as say, in the case of a refrigerator), it will serve to shield from the cord's electric field. A noticeable field may, however, be detected on the other side of the wall.

  14. Why is my car's starting circuit giving me problems?
    This may be an aside, but it is unquestionably related to maintenance of electrical systems. Most electrical systems have many connections between the source and the load. An automobile's starting circuit is no different. There are connections at the key switch, there are connections at the transmission, and there are connections at other sundry meeting points. Typically these connections are designed to carry about 20 Amps, whereas the short high-current main wiring to the starter may carry 100 Amps or more. The longer control circuit, having many interconnections, is more prone to failure, where over time the ability of the various interconnections to carry that 20 Amps vanishes. This happens due to buildup of oxides between the connecting lugs, heating and expansion causing them to get loose, dirt or grease getting into that looseness, etc. Testing with a voltmeter is bound to be most frustrating, since turning the key will show voltage at the designed delivery points. However, the current carrying capacity is no longer there. This leaves two options. Option one is to disembowel the entirety of the circuit, tracing it through various sharp-edge hazards of the dashboard and other filthy and greasy corners of the car and engine compartment, testing each connection for looseness and dirt, at whatever the going rate is. Option two is to install a bypass circuit in addition to the old control circuit, where the old control circuit is still used as a control circuit, but now only to convey voltage (which it still can) instead of conveying current (which it no longer can). In this option the new bypass circuit will carry the 20 Amps to the starting solenoid, while the old control circuit with all of its interlocks is still performing its function.

    Residential Electric systems are no different. Since some junctions are aluminum to copper, oxide buildup can likewise cause the gradual loss of current carrying ability, but in this case the driving force is 120 Volts, instead of 12 Volts. Connection failure is such cases is cause for sparks, fire, and life and limb hazard to the occupants. This is most unfortunate, because a few simple checks every ten years or so could prevent most of these failures.

Myth-buster section

(by necessity due to persistent inquiries,
and ongoing myth propagation by certain "consultants,"
who really should find some better things to do)

  1. Should I "ground" myself when using the phone?
    Grounding implies that there is some "energy" sort of stuff "floating" out of the phone, that would be eliminated by grounding. In many cases there is not. In some cases the phone wiring can become energized by its travel adjacent to power lines with 7,200 VAC on them. While the telephone companies are quick to eliminate AC voltage appearing as a "difference between the wires," because it makes the phone circuit useless, they could care less if the voltage is the same on both wires (telephones need two wires). For those whose use of the telephone has become a lifeline, this latter effect can be problematic because by the law of Induction the user will acquire some of the AC Voltage on the line. Grounding would convert this acquired Voltage to Current. The effect is a transformation, not elimination. AC Current through a person is as bad as AC Voltage on a person. A better recourse is to call the phone company and tactfully request they repair the line, or you the homeowner install an AC Phone Filter from SNC Manufacturing in your home to eliminate the AC Voltage problem.

  2. Should I install Copper anywhere around me (or on me) for "protection?"
    There is nothing "magic" about copper, neither is there any / more "magic" about it if it had current flow through it sometime in the past. Some individuals like to wear copper jewelry (fine with me), and have alluded to me that if it had current flowing through it the better? Current flow is a leapfrog flow of Electrons through a conductive matrix. When the flow stops, the matrix reverts to its initial undisturbed state. There is no "memory" of past current flow. Placing metal foil, copper or aluminum, or even foil-lined insulation anywhere around, or on top of (such as a roof) has implications based on the type of wiring used, and whether the material is "grounded" (see the paragraph above). If the house has Romex, the foil needs to be grounded, or it will make an already bad situation worse. If the house has Romex, and the foil is grounded, not only does it transform the Electric Fields nearby to Current, but it reorients the other fields to focus on the foil as a convenient "drain" point. If it is grounded, and is on the roof, then it electrically disconnects the individual from the planet's "sky voltage," a DC vertical voltage necessary for good health. So no metal foil is the best and only option.

  3. What about Alarm or Thermostat wiring?
    In most cases the Voltage on these wires is AC, but it is not referenced to ground. That is, there is 24 Volts between the two wires, but the two wires have equal and opposite voltage, causing effective cancellation. That is because the two wires' individual voltages equate to zero volts, as far as a source of emissions is concerned. In contrast, wiring within Romex (and all appliance wiring), has 120 V on one wire and zero on the other(s) causing an effective 60 V source (it does not seem to matter if there is one or two wires at zero).

  4. There is high EMF on my wall.
    Irrelevant. This is a common failing of new users to EMF metering. Magnetic Fields being easier to measure, there is a plethora of magnetic field meters (gaussmeters) available. One meter is sold to measure Electric, Magnetic, and Radio Frequency (but with the first and last selection rather insensitive, making the meter a poor investment, but I digress . . .). A new user needs to find sources to get a perspective of what does what. Magnetic fields in properly wired cabling cancels beyond about six inches from the cable. Placing a meter within the first six inches then is irrelevant, because the amount of stay time (physical presence) immediately near that cable, relative to the rest of the day is nil. Those first six inches are available at every wall that has wiring within it. So if wiring has current through it, you can measure it at the wall surface. You can do the same with a lamp cord. Turn the lamp on, and measure Magnetic fields on contact with the cord. Move away a few inches and the field drops off markedly. The deception of the meter mentioned is that if you select Electric and try to measure that same cord, the meter will be blind to it (unless the meter is sitting on the energized cord), because its Electric Field sensitivity is inadequate.

  5. My neighbor is harassing me with EMFs.
    Very, very unlikely. If we are in the realm of spy vs spy, maybe. But in the realm of everyday life with most individuals, we are all party to the mixed soup of electrical contributions from various fields and sources. Neighbors share electrical "noise" from digital or non-linear power consumers. Neighbors share Radio Frequency from the myriad of sources: cell phones, wireless routers (WiFi), wireless house phones, etc. If someone had it in mind to harass someone else with EMFs, the signal would by necessity have to be very directional, as power frequency components are shared equally by all users connected together (one transformer = 6 to 12 users), and trying to use power-frequency components the perpetrator would be doing himself / herself harm as well. Directional properties begin at around one gigahertz (stated with tongue-in-cheek, as directional signals at lower frequencies can be produced, but a moon-bounce-sized antenna in the neighbor's yard pointed in your direction would be a dead giveaway, and an obviously addressable grievance), because at that frequency and above antennas are small enough to be discreetly small, such that conceivably, someone could build a directional system and point it in your direction, and since most walls are transparent to Radio Frequency, cause you to experience some unpleasant bio-effects. Over the years, I have dealt with only a handful of individuals who had this perception. Instruments usually proved their assumptions false. However, their conviction was not swayed, leaving them open to opportunistic vultures waiting in the wings, to make measurements for a fee to "confirm" their perception and maintain a client willing to pursue additional "services."

  6. All my wiring feels to me as if on fire.
    For a few individuals who have extreme Environmental Hypersensitivity, energized Romex wiring is a major debilitating situation. That's because the perception promoted is that if one simply reduces EMFs to a minimum, all will be OK. When that individual is using a very biased knowledge base, as in "reducing milligauss to zero is all that's needed," their health keeps on faltering (that's because the wires are "still" on fire) with "experts" at a loss as to what is ailing them. There are a lot of "experts" with this same very biased knowledge base (One website that caters to environmental sensitives, and advertises and has listings of "safe homes," goes so far out in Alice's Wonderland that they have technical documents, one of them indicating that Romex is superior to other types of wires, using the same flawed meter discussed here in several places, and adding that "a few twists will do," so it's no wonder why so many are deceived by limited knowledge.). When the affected individual becomes informed about Electric fields, and realizes that turning off a breaker or two provides real relief, they're on the road to real solutions. Some of the eventual outcomes are remote-controlled turn-offs for one or several circuits, running bx / metal-clad wiring to a section of the home to produce an electrically quiet zone, but with power still available, etc.

  7. I am electrically sensitive, what is the best car to drive?
    A vintage diesel. But, you reply, "I can't stand the smell of diesel." Well, if it is maintained properly, the only smell of diesel will be behind you, as you travel down the road at 30 to 70 miles per hour. Diesels do not have an electronic ignition system, so they do not have a source of wideband emissions, which are more biologically irritating than anything else because of the expanse of frequencies they cover. So can you make any other car more friendly? Maybe, with lots of reverse engineering, and extreme shielding around the electronic ignition . . . Take an AM radio sometimes, and use it to detect electrical noise around your car (bear in mind that such a device is "deaf" to the alternator's low frequencies (unless the alternator is at death's door)), you may be surprised at the amount of electrical stuff going on (some even with no key in the ignition). The AM radio only detects higher frequencies, and when the range is reasonably blanketed (swamped on all frequencies) you then know that there's a lot going on beyond its range of reception, down into the frequencies of biological interest.

  8. Plumber: Why do you want a Dielectric installed? Water will still conduct current. Get a different job, stop believing in myths, or listen to those that are willing to pay you for your skill set. Yes, water conducts electricity, when the water is filthy, that is. Clean water, as in potable, does not, because the free ion level is not sufficient to support current flow. So whether the dielectric is a short union with some rubber washers, or a several-inches-long piece of PEX piping (Dielectric is anything NOT electrically conductive), once installed it will stop current flow.

  9. Electrician: In my 30+ years of being an Electrician, I've never seen a dielectric stop current. In your 30+ years of being an electrician, you've never seen one correctly installed, and if you had a part in it, you did it wrong. Next Electrician, please.

  10. Electrician / Electrical Engineer: When you turn that thing on, you hear what, all over the house? Why, I don't hear it, so you must be mental. I am not mental, if you learned how to properly use your instruments, you could document what I hear, and take steps to reduce / eliminate it. Next specialist, Please!

  11. But I must have a Faraday Cage. All my acquaintances have one. Just because flies instinctively land on s__t, doesn't mean it's good for you. There's a lot of ignorant fools flying around, led by other ignorant fools. Do you want to be part of that lot? Read further into this site, and you'll begin to understand that Faraday Cages are Not good for long-term occupancy, just like a dentist's chair . . .

  12. I live or die by my Trifield. This tool is marketed as a swiss army knife of EMFs. It's not.
    > 1) It's susceptible to Harmonics making the "detected" Magnetic field as much as 50 times greater than reality.
    > 2) the Electric and RF settings are insensitive.
    > 3) The meter movement is susceptible to electrostatic phenomena, pegging the meter full scale at times, without any field presence.
    Welcome to the living dead.

  13. Romex is The best type of wire, and twisting it reduces EMFs. Myth upon Myth. Does that make it wishful thinking? If We Just Think that the > 90% of North American homes wired with Romex are OK, Will _ That _ Make _ Them _ All _ Better? Learn the fundamentals, realize there's a big gap in your knowledge, and further realize that being a consultant to environmental sensitives is not in your job description.

  14. I've had a dielectric installed, and the field did not diminish. Did the installation fail? Installation of a dielectric in and of itself will not stop current, unless the grounding / bonding wire(s) is(are) also relocated to the house side of that dielectric. Bear in mind, however, that doing so without proper testing opens your electric system to a flaw that is a fire hazard.

Disclaimer: Electrical systems are by their very nature dangerous, and, if certain precautions are not followed when testing, maybe even fatal. Please, please, if you have any uncertainty in what you wish to do, hire someone that is competent. If there is any question of unfamiliarity by someone who is supposed to be "competent", print this page (and / or other applicable ones from this web site) and have them read and understand it / them before proceeding (or hire another (hopefully more knowledgeable) specialist). Nonetheless, I cannot be held liable for your failure (or your electrician's) to follow proper technical precautions.