Michael's Answers to Common Questions about Electromagnetic Fields

© 2012 by Michael R. Neuert, MA, BSME

EMF Health Concerns...

Common EMF Sources...

EMF Testing and Safety Levels...

How to Reduce the EMF Exposures...

Electromagnetic Sensitivity...

What Health Organizations Say about EMFs...

What are Electromagnetic Fields (EMFs)?

Electromagnetic fields (EMFs) are a type of low-frequency electromagnetic radiation (EMR) emitted from virtually everything electrical and electronic in our modern world — cell towers, TV/radio broadcast towers, power lines, transformers, electrical panels, building wiring, computers, cell phones, cordless phones, Wi-Fi, wireless routers, all consumer wireless devices, lights, clocks, appliances, televisions, hairdryers, microwave ovens, etc.

The term "electromagnetic field" or "EMF" is commonly used to refer to all the electromagnetic radiation frequencies that are slower than visible light.  Scientists call this "non-ionizing" radiation.  In contrast, the frequencies that are faster than visible light, for example x-rays and nuclear radiation, are called "ionizing" radiation.  The hazards of ionizing radiation are already well recognized, but the potential health effects from non-ionizing radiation — or EMFs — are just beginning to be understood at this time.

What is Electromagnetic Interference (EMI)?

Electromagnetic interference (EMI) is a common problem in which electromagnetic fields (EMFs) interfere with the proper operation of complex electronic or computer systems, or their components.  These EMI problems can range from some annoying interference on a telephone call or radio station broadcast, to very costly interference issues and "glitches" that impair or shut down the functioning of complex computer and electronic systems.

The FCC takes great care in their assignment of EMF frequencies and power outputs for TV and radio stations, cell towers and consumer wireless devices — to make sure that the EMF signals from one device do not interfere with the EMF signal or operation of another device.  In other words, the FCC has set very strict "safety limits" to protect our various electronic devices from EMF interference, but ignores any possibility that EMF interference could similarly affect the most sensitive and sophisticated electronic devices on this planet — the human body, brain and nervous system.

Can EMFs affect human health?

Over a thousand research studies have linked EMFs to important biological effects. In the beginning, scientists assumed that EMFs could not affect our health because EMFs are not an "ionizing" type of radiation.  This means that they cannot ionize molecules in the very dangerous way that x-rays and nuclear radiation can harm us.  Scientists were then surprised to discover that EMFs can indeed cause hazardous biological effects by another method — by heating up sensitive tissues within our bodies.  Today, most of the official EMF safety standards for the general public are designed to protect us from these potential heating effects. 

Scientists are now in the process of discovering yet another way that EMFs can affect our health.  Similar to the way that EMFs cause electromagnetic interference (EMI) problems for sensitive electronic and computer systems, a growing body of research suggests that low-level EMFs can also influence or interfere with sensitive "bio-electromagnetic" processes within our cells, brains and bodies.  We are learning that the human body is in fact an amazing living "bio-electronic" machine, utilizing many sensitive electromagnetic processes for the proper functioning of our brain, nervous system, immune system and other organs.  

For example, researchers have shown that our pineal gland can sense daily changes in the earth's natural magnetic field, and use this information to help regulate our brain wave patterns and wake/sleep cycle.  An example of electromagnetic interference (EMI) affecting human biology is found in the fact that artificial magnetic fields (like those from power lines) can suppress the secretion of melatonin from the pineal gland at night.  This is important because melatonin is the main hormone which initiates our sleep cycle.  It is also a strong antioxidant which fights cancer naturally within our bodies.

What are the health concerns?

While there still is great controversy, studies suggest that EMFs may be linked to a variety of health problems including leukemia, lymphoma, brain and nervous system cancers, melanoma, breast cancer, miscarriage, birth defects, Alzheimer’s disease, Lou Gehrig’s disease, depression and suicide. Anecdotally, EMFs have been associated with symptoms such as nausea, headache, fatigue, anxiety, dizziness, mental confusion, memory loss, sleep disturbance, seizures, tinnitus, changes to blood pressure and heart rate, itchy or burning skin sensations, and skin rashes. Anecdotally, there are increasing numbers of people who report "hypersensitivity" to electromagnetic fields, similar to the way that some individuals have become "hypersensitive" to chemicals, often as the result of over-exposure in the past.

What are some of the studies that have linked EMFs to cancer?

The strongest evidence comes from a group of epidemiological studies which have reported increased childhood cancer risks for homes near power lines (e.g., Ahlbom & Feychting , 1992).  Scientists have reported that the modern appearance of childhood leukemia — which is virtually absent in primitive cultures — is closely linked to the original date of electrification in homes (Milham, 2007 & 2010).  Relatively low-level EMFs (only 1.0 mG) have been linked to reduced survival rates for children trying to recover from leukemia (Svendsen, Weikopf, Kaatsch & Schuz, 2007). 

Homes near cell towers have been linked to greater risks for several cancers, including breast cancer.  The use of both cell phones and cordless phones have been linked to increased cancer tumors, occurring on the side of the head where the phone was used.  A wide variety of occupational studies have linked EMFs to cancer in adults.   In some laboratory studies, human cancer cells exposed to high EMFs grew significantly faster than unexposed cancer cells. Well over a thousand research studies have documented important biological effects related to EMF exposure.

Do EMFs affect the immune system?

Yes, the research suggests that EMFs can affect the pineal gland's secretion of melatonin at night.  Melatonin is one of our bodies' most potent natural cancer fighters, as well as the critical hormone that regulates our wake/sleep cycle.  Lowered levels of melatonin have been linked with breast, ovarian, prostate and melanoma cancers, as well as with psychological disorders such as depression and suicide.  We all know what happens if we do not sleep well — not only are we more tired and distressed, but we're also much more likely to catch a cold or other sickness because our immune function is lowered.  So, rather than initiate any specific disease like leukemia, it seems that EMFs may simply cause long-term stress or interference on our immune system and sleep patterns — thus weakening our body’s natural ability to keep us healthy and fight a variety of illnesses over time.

What are the typical sources of EMFs?

 The largest EMF exposure is typically from electrical wiring, lights, appliances and wireless items inside the home.  In particular, wiring near the bedrooms can emit high EMFs all night long, becoming the strongest and longest EMF exposure for many people.  Also clocks, radios and cordless phones near the beds may contribute.  Throughout the home, exposures to high-frequency EMFs from cordless phones, wireless computers, tablets, Wi-Fi, computer games and other wireless devices are increasing.  Many electronic devices such as printers and TVs now come with built in wireless capacity, which often cannot be turned off.

Cell tower locations are also increasing and becoming a significant source of exposure for more people.  Another common EMF source is from power lines — both the high-voltage power lines on the tall metal towers and the typical neighborhood distribution lines on wooden poles or buried underground.  Also in many neighborhoods, the buried pipes of the municipal water system can carry stray electricity, which can cause unusually high EMFs as well.  Fluorescent lights, computers, wireless systems and other equipment are a major source of electromagnetic fields at work and in schools.  Interestingly, a strong source of EMFs that is commonly overlooked is from automobiles — from both the standard gas engine models and the new hybrid electric vehicles.

 How do I know if I am being exposed to EMFs?

In our modern world, virtually everyone is exposed to electromagnetic fields (EMFs).  But the actual EMF levels will vary greatly depending on the particular situation and sources.  Unfortunately, it is impossible to accurately predict the EMF levels found in any particular home, school or office, because the EMFs can be emitted from many different, unexpected and unknown sources — electrical wires in walls, stray electricity in water pipes, buried power lines, hidden cell tower antennas in church steeples and water towers, nearby cordless DECT phones even when not being used, the neighbor's wireless devices, etc.  Therefore, we recommend that everyone measure the actual levels found in their own home, school or office with the proper EMF test meters. You can hire a professional to do this, or purchase or rent the appropriate meters and do this yourself.

Can I reduce the EMFs in my own home?

Yes, in most cases you can rearrange beds, couches and chairs to stay as far away as possible from obvious EMF sources such as electrical panels, refrigerators, televisions, fluorescent lights, wireless routers, cordless phone base stations, etc.  You can use a battery powered alarm clock instead of a plug-in type near your bed, and unplug all other power cords near beds, desks, couches and chairs.  Limit your family’s use of cell phones and cordless phones as much as possible, especially with children.  For your computer, use only wired components — it is best to buy electronics that have absolutely no wireless components at all, since many devices will emit wireless EMF signals all the time, even when not in use, and even when supposedly turned off.  Avoid using Wi-Fi or a wireless router, or at least turn it off at night.  And since EMFs can be emitted from so many unseen and unexpected sources, we strongly recommend that you measure with EMF test meters to determine what the actual exposure levels and sources are.

Can I do my own EMF testing?

Yes, in most cases you can do much of the testing yourself.  Do-it-yourself test meters are now available for the average person to use, for sale or rental.  With the proper test meters, you can test your home, school, workplace or any other location for EMFs.  You can test power lines, transformers, electrical wiring, electrical panels, Smart Meters, computers, televisions, appliances, cell phones, cordless phones, cell towers, etc.  You can test where you and your family sleep, and where your children play.  And perhaps most important for your long term protection, you can pre-test new homes and apartments for EMFs before you decide to buy or rent a new home.

For example, if you want to measure the magnetic fields from a power line, you could use gaussmeter such as the Alpha UHS.  If you are concerned about a nearby cell tower, you could use an RF test meter such as the TES 593.  And if you are concerned about the potential health effects from a variety of EMF sources, you would usually use several test meters to detect the various kinds of EMFs commonly found in homes and offices.

When should I hire a professional EMF tester?

A professional test consultant can help assure that a thorough and accurate EMF survey has been performed. Some professionals will also have expertise in the reduction of EMFs — how to shield electric panels and refrigerators, repair EMFs from electrical wiring, eliminate stray currents in water pipes, etc.  And sometimes you can save money by hiring a professional as compared to purchasing the various EMF test meters needed to do it yourself.

In northern California, we provide professional on-site EMF testing, consultations, shielding and repairs.  For all of the USA and Canada, we provide telephone consultations to help you (1) choose the right kind of test meters and take proper measurements yourself, (2) review your measurements and how they compare to the various safety levels, (3) explain what can be done to reduce the EMF levels in your particular case, and (4) guide your own electrician or contractor through the necessary steps to reduce the EMFs.

Are there different kinds of EMFs to be concerned about?

Yes, there are three basic kinds of EMFs to measure.  Magnetic fields are the EMF component most often linked to serious health effects in the scientific research literature (e.g., the link between power lines and leukemia). These common magnetic fields are emitted from power lines, building wiring, electrical panels, lights, appliances, and virtually every device that runs on regular electricity.

Electric fields make up the other half of the common electro-magnetic fields emitted from power lines, wiring, lights and appliances. They are also linked to many important biological effects, but have been studied less.  Anecdotally, electric fields are often involved when people knowingly feel “symptoms” and discomfort from different electrical sources.   Electric fields induce significant voltages onto the skin, which are easily sensed and measured.

Finally, Radio frequency or “RF” includes the higher frequency fields and microwaves emitted by cell towers and cell phones, TV and radio broadcast towers, cordless phones, Wi-Fi and other wireless computer components, microwave ovens, baby monitors, Smart Meters and various other electronic devices.  (Note: The electric and magnetic parts of the RF fields are not separable, therefore you only need one meter to detect the RF field completely.)

What EMF levels are considered safe?

There is great controversy about what EMF levels are considered safe.  Please research the EMF literature and consult with your own health professional to make your own decisions regarding EMF safety levels.  For more detailed information about some of the possible safety levels to consider, please see our What Level is Safe page. 

For magnetic fields, the lowest level linked to cancer in any of the studies is 1.0 milligauss (mG).  The average in homes across the country is probably around 0.5 mG in rural areas to 1.0 mG in urban areas like San Francisco and New York City.  In our consulting work, we usually try to reduce long-term exposures to well below the levels linked with disease in any of the studies, so we generally try to reduce magnetic field exposures to 0.5 mG or less.

Electric fields are best measured with a special method called body voltage testing or skin voltage testing.  In most homes, the typical levels will be around 0.5 to 2.0 AC volts (VAC) using a body voltage meter.  For healthy individuals, we usually use a precautionary level of 1.0 volt for living areas, and 0.5 volt for bed locations.  Anecdotally, sensitive individuals often need to reduce electric fields below 0.1 volt to feel a relief of symptoms.

Radio frequencies (RF) in the home can vary greatly depending on the use of wireless devices — wireless computers and tablets, wireless routers and Wi-Fi, cordless phones, cell phones, wireless stereo and TV equipment, baby monitors, etc.  Average home exposures vary from 0.0001 to 0.5 microwatts per centimeter squared (μW/cm²).  We generally use a precautionary level of 0.01 μW/cm² with healthy individuals, and 0.001 or less for sensitive persons.

What distance is considered safe?

It is difficult to predict an accurate safety distance from common sources of electromagnetic fields (EMFs) because the actual EMFs emitted can vary greatly depending on the situation.  The best advice is always to measure with an EMF test meter to determine the actual safety distance required in your particular case.  For detailed suggestions about safety distances from power lines, cell towers and other common EMF sources, please go to our What Distance is Safe page.

How are the different kinds of EMFs measured?

Each of the three different kinds of EMFs requires a different type of test meter.  Magnetic fields are usually measured in units called milligauss (mG) with special instruments called "gaussmeters."  Electric fields are detected by either measuring the AC volts on a person's skin with a "body voltage meter" or the volts per meter (V/M) with a standard "electric field tester."  RF/microwave fields require a special broadband RF test meter that can detect a wide range of RF frequencies, especially the digital microwaves, in units of microwatts per centimeter squared (μW/cm²).

For example, if you want to measure the magnetic fields from a power line, you need a gaussmeter such as the Alpha UHS.  If you are concerned about a nearby cell tower, you need an RF test meter such as the TES 593.  If you are knowingly sensitive to electric fields, you need a body voltage meter.  If you are concerned about the potential health effects from a variety of EMF sources, you may need several test meters to detect all three types of EMFs — a gaussmeter for the magnetic fields, a body voltage meter for the electric fields, and an RF meter for the radio frequency fields.

Are all EMF test meters the same?

No, a triple-axis meter is always recommended because it allows you to hold the test meter in any orientation, and get an accurate and complete three-dimensional reading.  In contrast, a single-axis meter requires you to move the meter around in all possible directions to find the highest field strength, or take three readings in orthogonal directions and do a math calculation.  In practice, most people will get much more accurate and helpful readings with a triple-axis meter, because it is easy to misread a single-axis meter and underestimate the actual field strength.

For magnetic fields, we usually recommend a triple-axis gaussmeter that can detect both the ELF and VLF frequency ranges. The ELF range (extremely-low-frequency) includes the common 60 Hz magnetic fields from power lines, wiring, refrigerators, transformers, lights, appliances and everything that runs on regular electrical power.  The VLF range (very-low-frequency) includes some of the additional higher frequencies that come from televisions, computers, fluorescent lights, compact fluorescent bulbs, and other electronic equipment. 

For testing RF/microwaves, it is important to use a triple-axis meter that can also detect a very wide range of RF frequencies.  An RF meter than can detect frequencies up to 6.0 GHz (or more) is recommended to detect the vast majority of the digital wireless devices used today — including the higher frequency cordless and DECT phone systems in many homes and offices.  (The less expensive RF meters that can only detect frequencies up to 3.0 GHz or 3.5 GHz will unfortunately miss some of the important higher RF frequencies being increasingly used for wireless today.)

How much do the EMF test meters cost?

There is a wide range in the cost and quality of test meters available today.  Unfortunately, the least expensive meters are often too inaccurate or lack certain very important features — such as the ability to detect a wide enough range of EMF frequencies.  The test meters we recommend are usually the lowest cost meters available that meet our criteria for accuracy, wide frequency detection, and dependability.  For up to date cost information, please see the test meter page at our commercial website: www.emfcenter.com

For example, most gaussmeters will detect only the ELF magnetic fields related to electrical power, but not the VLF frequencies emitted from fluorescent lights, computers, televisions and electronics.  For this reason, we usually recommend the Alpha UHS gaussmeter because it is the lowest cost meter available that detects both ELF and VLF fields, and is accurate enough to trust its measurements.

And a very unique service that we provide, is that we check every test meter for proper operation and accuracy before we ship it out to you.  Note: This is only for phone orders (which are shipped from our office in California), and not for website sales (which are shipped directly from a distributor).  To help save costs, we also offer special rental meters for use by our consulting clients.

What particular EMF test meter is best for me?

For magnetic fields, the lowest cost gaussmeter that (a) is triple-axis, (b) includes both ELF and VLF detection, and (c) is accurate enough for normal use, is the Alpha Model UHS gaussmeter.  If this cost is too high, a substitute meter that can be used instead is the TriField 100XE.  The TriField is a special value because it can detect all three kinds of EMFs with one instrument.  But its measurement of magnetic fields is fairly inaccurate (it tends to read high), and the settings for electric fields and RF fields are not sensitive enough to detect the common levels found in homes (so it actually is not very useful for this).  Note: When searching for a new home or apartment, we strongly recommend that you test with a more accurate gaussmeter like the Alpha UHS, because the TriField is just too inaccurate for this purpose.

For testing the radio frequencies, we recommend a triple-axis RF meter with a wide frequency range up to at least 6 GHz — to include the newer RF frequencies being used by many cordless phone systems and other emerging wireless technologies.  Thus for measurements of RF — especially the digital microwaves from cell towers and various wireless devices — the lowest cost meter that we recommend is the TES 593 RF meter.  It detects frequencies from 10 MHz up to 8 GHz.  If this cost is too high, a similar meter with less accuracy and a narrower frequency range would be something like the Tenmars TM-195.  This meter only detects frequencies up to 3.5 GHz, but this does include the majority of RF emissions from cell towers, cell phones, Wi-Fi and wireless computer devices.

For people with serious health conditions and/or sensitivity to EMFs, we also recommend measurement of the electric fields with a Body Voltage Meter.  You can purchase or rent a body voltage meter from us, or you can also make your own at less cost.  Basically, the body voltage meter utilizes a standard digital volt meter and special set of test wires which can be purchased on line or at any Radio Shack or Home Depot type of store, and modified as needed.  Instructions to make your own body voltage meter are included on our Free Instructions: How to Make a Body Voltage Meter page.

If you want to measure the magnetic fields from a power line, you probably only need one meter — a gaussmeter such as the Alpha UHS.  If you are only concerned about a nearby cell tower, you will only need one meter — an RF meter such as the TES 593.  If you are concerned about the possible health effects from all sources, we recommend that you measure all three types of EMFs (because all three types have been linked to health effects).  You would need three test meters — one for the magnetic fields, one for the electric fields, and one for the RF fields.

Can I rent an EMF test meter and save money?

Yes, you can often save money by renting the test meters instead of buying them.  Many of the meters we sell are also available through our "Seven-Day Rent-by-Mail" program.  We ship the rental meters to anywhere within the United States.  Your one-week rental period begins on the first day you receive the meter.  Your total actual cost is the rental fee plus the shipping fees in both directions.  California residents add sales tax.  Please see our commercial website www.emfcenter.com for up to date information about EMF rental meters.

If you are only concerned about a cell tower, you will need to rent one meter — an RF meter such as the TES 593.  If you want to measure the magnetic fields from a power line, you probably need only one meter — a gaussmeter such as the Alpha UHS.  However, if you are concerned about the possible health effects from EMFs in general, then we recommend that you measure all three types of EMFs, because all three types have been linked to important health effects.  To measure all the EMFs you would need to rent three meters — one for the magnetic fields, one for the electric fields, and one for the RF fields.

What can I do if I find high EMFs in my home?

Once you measure the EMFs, the solution may be as simple as moving beds, couches and chairs far enough away from the strongest EMF sources.  For example, move your bed farther away from the electrical panel on the other side of the wall to reduce the EMFs down to a safe level.  Eliminate many EMF sources entirely by unplugging lamps and turning off wireless devices at night.  The solution is often relatively obvious.  If needed, you could also consult with an EMF professional for more help — someone in your area who has technical experience in the reduction of EMFs, or contact our office to schedule an appointment for an EMF consultation over the telephone.

Can the EMFs be shielded?

Each kind of EMF requires special shield materials and installation procedures.  Magnetic fields are shielded with special alloys such as MuMetal®.  Please note that magnetic shielding will usually require some professional guidance, because improper placement can actually increase the fields.  Electric fields are easier to shield, but again the shields must be properly installed and grounded, or they can also raise the exposures rather than lower them.  Similarly, RF fields can be shielded with special materials including shielded paint like Y-Shield Paint for the walls and shielded mesh fabric curtains for the windows. 

We can help provide the technical guidance and materials needed to shield all three types of EMFs.  Although the materials tend to be relatively costly, in some cases the electric fields and RF fields can be shielded with more inexpensive materials like aluminum foil or window screening.  Actually in many cases, shielding is not really the best solution.  Better reductions are often gained by simply getting more distance from the EMF source, turning off or eliminating the source, or fixing the wiring errors causing the high emissions.

Can I reduce the EMFs from our existing wiring?

In existing homes, high magnetic fields from the electrical wiring are often caused by improper electrical wiring connections, wiring errors, and plumbing currents.  Most wiring issues can be repaired without opening up the walls. The corrections are usually made by repairing the electrical connections located in accessible electrical boxes.  Certain strong sources of magnetic fields — electrical panels, transformers, refrigerators, pump motors and other common sources — can be shielded with MuMetal® type alloys. 

To reduce the electric fields from wiring, especially during sleep, some people can simply turn off certain electrical circuits at the breaker panel at night.  A body voltage meter can be used to determine exactly which circuits would need to be turned off.

Can I install new shielded Low-EMF wiring? (for my new or remodel construction project)

Yes, you can have shielded wiring installed to greatly reduce both the magnetic fields and electric fields emitted from your home's wiring system.  If the necessary decisions are made soon enough in the construction process, your "EMF-Free" or "Low-EMF" wiring can be installed for the least added cost.  We provide professional wiring design consultations to help guide you, your architect, your contractor and/or your electrician through the necessary steps for installing reduced-EMF wiring for your new construction or remodel project.

What is "Low-EMF" Electrical Wiring?

"Low-EMF" wiring uses (1) special materials to shield the electric fields and self-cancel the magnetic fields, (2) proper placement of equipment and wires to minimize the EMFs by distance, and (3) careful methods to eliminate stray currents that can cause high magnetic fields.  The cost of shielded wiring is higher than regular wiring because the shielded materials cost more.  (An option to save some money is to use standard unshielded materials and skip step 1 above, but get some EMF reductions by using the procedures and placements of steps 2 and 3.)

For assistance, you can order our Low-EMF Wiring Instruction Guide for a small fee.  All recommendations for methods and materials meet or exceed the current requirements of the National Electric Code.  Michael can also provide the necessary consultations and specifications over the telephone to assist you with your own particular new home or remodel construction project.

Can I reduce the EMFs from nearby power lines?

High voltage transmission lines — the power lines on the big tall metal towers — can emit strong EMFs for several hundred feet.  Neighborhood distribution power lines — on wooden poles or underground near the home — can also emit surprisingly high levels.  For both types of power lines, the EMF emissions can vary greatly and are difficult to predict.  Therefore, it is always recommended to measure the actual magnetic field levels onsite with a gaussmeter.  While there may be modifications that the electric utility company can do to reduce the magnetic fields, in most cases the cost will be prohibitive for the average homeowner.  In certain cases, the installation of an electronic "magnetic field cancellation system" may be a possible alternative.

What are power line "magnetic field cancellation" systems?

In some cases, the magnetic fields from nearby power lines can be reduced with special electronic equipment that detects the existing magnetic field and produces an opposing magnetic field electronically to help "cancel out" the fields in a certain limited area.  These systems are called "Active Magnetic Field Cancellation Systems," and they are usually used to reduce electromagnetic interference for electron microscopes and other sensitive scientific instruments.  The total cost for the design and installation of such a system for a home usually starts at around $20,000.  So for most home owners, this price is simply prohibitive.

How do I reduce the EMFs from my computer?

Computers emit a complex mixture of EMFs including of all three types of EMFs, and at a variety of different frequencies.  Thus to adequately test your computer, all three types of EMFs need to be measured.  For further assistance, we provide telephone consultations, test meters and/or shielding materials as needed.

One of the concerns is the increasing exposure to digital radio frequency (RF) fields from the use of Wi-Fi and wireless computer components.  Today, many computer products come with wireless already installed, and in many cases the equipment will emit RF signals all the time — even when not being use, or when supposedly turned off.  If possible, buy computer hardware without any wireless capability, and use hard-wired connections for everything — no wireless routers, printers, keyboards, mice, etc. 

We recommend that you test with an RF meter to confirm that all components are truly not emitting any RF wireless signals.  The jumble of cords near your feet can also be a strong EMF source, so move these as far away as possible.  People at computers are often exposed to high electric fields, so testing with a body voltage meter can be helpful.  If the electric fields are high, shielding can be added as needed and the computer properly grounded.  In addition, move all computer hardware, such as the monitor, CPU and printer, as far away from your body as possible.

For all computers, it is very important to make sure that the electrical wall outlet is properly grounded, or the electric fields emitted from the computer and monitor may be unnecessarily strong.  Monitors can cause high exposures, especially if they are not grounded.  For laptops, a handy trick is to use a USB wired remote keyboard so that your hands are not positioned directly over the relatively high EMFs at the laptop's own keyboard. 

What about televisions and computer games?

Similar to computers, televisions also emit a complex mixture of EMFs.  Staying a minimum distance of six feet away from the television will usually be enough to avoid the magnetic and electric fields.  Flat screen LED and LCD televisions emit less than the old picture tube TVs, but are still a concern.  To measure the safe distance, use a  gaussmeter that can detect both ELF and VLF magnetic fields.  Remember, most common gaussmeters will only detect ELF frequencies, but televisions, computers and fluorescent lights require a wider spectrum meter than can also detect VLF frequencies, such as the Alpha UHS Gaussmeter.

Perhaps the biggest concern is when children play video games at the television or computer.  If the game uses any wireless components, the strongest EMF exposure will probably be the radio frequency (RF) fields from the wireless devices.  The best option is to use only non-wireless game equipment.  Warning: If the game equipment has any wireless capability at all, simply using a wired controller does not mean that the wireless is automatically turned off.  In fact it will sometimes stay on, emitting RF needlessly.  If you are unsure about this, test with an RF meter to see if the game equipment is emitting wireless RF, and how much.

Can I reduce the EMFs from cell phones?

For many people, cell phones are their strongest exposure to radio frequency (RF) fields.  A group of studies has reported increased risks for a variety of tumors in the side of the head where the cell phone is used.  It is impossible to shield the cell phone, because to work properly, the phone's EMF signal must be strong enough to reach the nearest cell tower.  The best choice is to reduce the time spent on the cell phone, and as some studies suggest, this may be especially important for children.  If possible, use a corded landline phone instead.  Here are your best alternatives for reducing the RF exposure from cell phones, with the best options first:

Option #1.  Don't use the cell phone at all, or as little as possible.  Keep it turned off.  Use it only for emergencies or very short calls.  Use a corded landline phone instead.  If needed, install additional phone wires and jacks in your home to avoid using any wireless devices.

Option #2:  Use the cell phone in "speaker phone" mode only.  If possible, don't even hold it in your hand.  Put it down and back away so that your arm cannot conduct the EMF signal back up to your body.  This small added distance greatly reduces your overall RF exposure.

Option #3:  Use a hands-free kit.  Unfortunately, some of the EMF will conduct up the wire of the hands-free kit to your ear.  So the best choice is get a special type of hands-free kit that uses an "air tube" or "stethoscope" for the last few inches near your head instead of a metal wire.

What about the EMFs from cordless phones?

The RF signals emitted from cordless phones are similar to those from cell phones.  Research studies have reported important health risks — including brain cancer — from the use of cordless phones as well as cell phones.  To reduce the RF exposure from cordless phones, consider using the same three safety options listed above for cell phones:  #1 reduce your usage; #2 use as a speaker phone; or #3 use with a wired headset.

 Cordless phones have an added safety issue.  The base station for most cordless phone systems will also emit a strong EMF signal — usually all the time, even when the phone is not in use.  The best alternative is to remove the cordless phone system completely, and only use corded phones plugged directly into wall jacks.  Some people make this switch by getting a good quality corded speaker phone for each room (with a long cord to add mobility).  Another option is to move the base station farther away from people, especially from beds and sitting areas.  You could also test with an RF meter to determine if your particular cordless system is emitting all the time or only when in use. 

Can I avoid the EMFs from cell towers and TV/radio towers?

The number of cell tower antennas are steadily increasing.  And many antennas are now being cleverly hidden in places like church steeples and water towers, or are no longer listed on sites like www.antennasearch.com.  Radio and TV broadcast towers emit even stronger RF signals.  And recently, television has converted from analog signals to digital, and this is a concern because many sensitive people report being much more affected by digital signals than analog.

The best way to avoid the RF from cell towers and radio/TV towers is to live and work as far away from these sources as possible.  Thus before buying or renting a new home or apartment, it may be wise to ask neighbors about nearby cell towers, and measure the EMFs onsite with an RF test meter.  Several studies have reported increased cancer risks within approximately one quarter mile of cell towers, so a minimum safety distance of one fourth of a mile or more may be prudent.

These kinds of EMFs can be shielded, but it is a little tricky.  A building's structure will usually provide some passive shielding, so that the levels inside a building are often 5 to 10 times lower than they are outside (from this kind of outside source).  A good time to install RF shielding is during construction, before the walls are closed up.  Thick vegetation and trees can also provide some shielding effectiveness.  Remember, since many RF sources are unseen or unknown, it may be wise to pre-test a new home or apartment with an RF meter before you  buy or rent.

What is Electromagnetic Sensitivity?

Electromagnetic Sensitivity (ES) is a serious health condition in which many people report heightened sensitivity and troubling symptoms related to EMF exposure. This condition is often verified when, by simply removing or turning off the EMF source or moving the person away from the EMF source, the symptoms disappear, but reappear later when the exposure is reintroduced.  Anecdotally, the incidence of electromagnetic sensitivity is steadily increasing, especially with the proliferation of wireless technologies such as Wi-Fi computer wireless, DECT cordless phones and Smart Meters. 

People with Electromagnetic Sensitivity are often very affected by the normal EMF levels found in a typical home or work environment today.  Thus, special measures are often needed to reduce the exposure levels even further.  For further information, see our page on electromagnetic sensitivity.  This condition is also called Electromagnetic Hypersensitivity (EHS), Electro-Sensitivity, Electrical Sensitivity, and Electrical Hypersensitivity.

I am very sensitive to EMFs, but what can I do?

Persons with Electromagnetic Sensitivity are often adversely affected by the normal EMF levels found in the typical home or work place.  We recommend that you test your environment thoroughly. to determine what the actual EMF levels are, especially where you sleep.  In our experience, many individuals with Electromagnetic Hypersensitivity will need to reduce their long-term exposures to levels well below those found in the average home or office, to relieve their symptoms.

Even when a person seems to react only to a specific source — like a computer, wireless router, power line or cell phone — our anecdotal experience suggests that the best results occur when the person reduces all the EMFs as much as possible.  This reduces the total EMF exposure "load" on the body, and appears to help the body become less sensitive to EMFs in general.  Typically, this might involve turning off certain electrical circuits at night, or adding some shielding, or rewiring with shielded electrical materials.  Most sensitive people need to make a "safe haven" location with very low levels in their home to retreat to.  In extreme cases, some people recover by relocating to a remote location (often without electricity and cell phones) for a period of time.

What do the EMF research scientists say about EMFs?

Over a thousand studies have now reported biological effects related to EMFs, including effects on cells and hormones, suppression of immune function, and serious illnesses including several cancers. Scientists no longer argue whether or not EMFs can affect human health, that is generally accepted. But there is still great controversy about the extent and severity of these health effects at common exposure levels. Some believe that the overall impact on our health is relatively minimal when compared to other environmental issues like asbestos or pollutants in the air. Others argue that the studies are not yet consistent or conclusive enough to warrant action. For many years, experts such as Dr. Granger Morgan at Carnegie Mellon University have recommended a policy of "prudent avoidance" — reducing EMFs whenever possible without excessive cost or inconvenience. Most scientists agree that more research is needed.

What does the EPA say about EMFs?

In 1990, scientists with the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) leaked a draft report that recommended EMFs be classified as a "possible human carcinogen" (similar to DDT and PCBs). The scientists were concerned that their findings were being held back from the public. Later, the EPA's final published report did not include the same strong wording as the draft, but it did state that the EMF cancer studies "...show a consistent pattern of response that suggests a causal link." To date, no official safety standards have been set by the EPA for exposure to low-frequency magnetic fields. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has set safety limits for public exposure to RF/microwave fields.

What do the BioInitiative Report scientists say about EMFs?

There is growing support, especially in Europe, for applying what is called the "precautionary principle" — while the health risks to the general population are not proven conclusively, the potential risks are plausible enough to warrant protective action.  In 2007, an international group of scientists, researchers and public health officials concluded that the existing scientific knowledge has indeed grown strong enough to alert the public and urge governments to develop new safety limits.  Their science based document, the BioInitiative Report, warned that existing safety limits for EMFs from power lines and wireless devices like cell phones are inadequate to protect public health.  They concluded by recommending much stricter EMF safety limits based on the available research.

What do the official health organizations say about EMFs?

In recent years, a variety of national and international health organizations have reviewed the EMF issue.  Some have concluded that the evidence for health effects is still not conclusive. Others have concluded that the scientific evidence is strong enough to demonstrate significant health effects.  In 2002, scientists with the California Department of Health Services reviewed the EMF research and wrote in their final summary report: "all three of the DHS scientists are inclined to believe that EMFs can cause some degree of increased risk of childhood leukemia, adult brain cancer, Lou Gehrig's Disease, and miscarriage."  In 2001, scientists with the Washington State Department of Health reviewed historical data and reported that the sudden appearance of childhood leukemia in modern societies is closely linked to the original electrification of homes.

What does the World Health Organization say about EMFs?