Vickie Warren is a former Executive Director of the Bau-Biologie Group for the United States. She now heads up the non-profit organization Wings of Eagle Healthy Living, dedicated to grassroots education. Here, she discusses the detrimental health effects of electromagnetic fields, and what you can do to protect yourself and your family from excessive EMF exposure.
Many still do not realize that they’re chronically exposed to something that can deteriorate their health, and, unless it’s identified and remediated, can lead to premature death—an exposure that is completely invisible, tasteless, and odorless. The exposure I’m referring to is electromagnetic fields, or EMF.
Five Primary Sources of Electromagnetic Field Exposure
As Vickie Warren explains in this interview, there are basically five primary sources of dangerous EMF that surround you on a daily basis:
Electric fields: These are the fields that emanate from anything that has voltage; basically anything electric, such as lamps, electrical wiring, outlets, extension cords, electrical appliances, and power outlets.
Electric fields can affect the electrical communication in your body, such as your brainwaves, or the ability of your neurons to fire and communicate. It can also impede inter-cell communication anywhere in your body. Health problems that can manifest as a result to this type of exposure include neurological- and behavioral changes, altered cell growth, cell mutations, fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue, and even cancer.
Magnetic fields: The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has labeled magnetic fields a class 3 carcinogen. These fields can occur when there is an imbalance in the electrical wiring, and around electrical motors such as the motor in your refrigerator.
A MAJOR source of magnetic fields is next to the main power meter for your house. You definitely want to avoid sleeping up against a wall that has a power meter on the outside. Electric clock radios can also generate magnetic fields.
Fortunately, the effect drops off dramatically with distance, so simply putting some distance—typically about five or six feet—between yourself and the source is usually sufficient to drastically reduce or eliminate the danger.
Power lines, whether above- or underground.
Metal plumbing: Yes, older metal plumbing can frequently carry a current.
Wireless communications: This includes wireless power meters (so-called SmartMeters), cell phones, cell towers, wireless routers, and cordless phones. Most of these types of technologies expose you to both electric- and magnetic fields.
According to Vickie, cordless phone bases are a MAJOR source of exposure, and should never be kept in your sleeping area. While the handset is a source of exposure while you’re talking on the phone, the base transmits constantly, whether the phone is in use or not. Still, it’s best to use the speaker phone or a headset when using a cordless phone because the thermal impact of the antenna can also cause problems, particularly if you’re frequently on the phone or talk for long periods of time.
The thermal impact is what the SAR rating on the phone refers to.
The radiation emitted by wireless communications decreases linearly, so you have to put a significant amount of distance between yourself and the source to sufficiently reduce your exposure. Having walls between yourself and the source will also help; preferably with reflective barriers such as metal foil and certain types of metallic paint.
Ideally, you’ll want the cordless base station located at least three full rooms away from where you’re sleeping. Keeping a cordless phone base on your desk is not recommended, as you’ll be continuously blasted with radiation throughout your work day.
The Latest Danger—’Smart Meters’
Some areas of the United States have already begun installing a so-called ‘smart grid,’ where utility meters transmit data on your household energy usage wirelessly to the utility. Eventually, they want to expand this to installing smart meters on each household appliance within your home, to individually transmit the usage data to the smart meter.
If this technological advancement is allowed to spread across the nation, public health may plummet across the board.
According to Vickie, they’ve already seen a direct correlation between increasing health complaints in neighborhoods where smart meters have been installed. An excellent interview on the radio frequency these new energy strategies will bring into your home can be found at on ElectromagneticHealth.org. It features Blake Levitt, author of Electromagnetic Fields and a long-time science writer on this topic, and Duncan Campbell, Esq, a visionary thinker on the future of utilities and new energy technologies.
“Usually, the first issue that people start talking about is inability to sleep, or mood swings, along with headaches,” Vickie says.
How can you protect your health if your community forces one on you?
“We’ve talked to several people in Australia. What they’re doing is to put a reflective barrier to keep radiation from your meter from coming into the home,” Vickie says. “The problem is you’ve also got to be aware of your neighbor’s meters and where they are located.”
This can be a significant challenge if you live in a densely populated area or in a multi-unit dwelling. You’d have to identify all the sources, and address all of them.
However, you may be able to request that your meter be set up to transmit information only once a day, as opposed to once every minute. So if your home is outfitted with a smart meter, talk to your utility company and see if you can change the transmission rate to once every 24 hours, ideally during a time that you’re not home. And then tell your neighbors and ask them to do the same.
How to Decrease EMF Exposure while Sleeping
First, begin with a visual inspection of your bedroom to identify sources of electric- and/or magnetic fields. Vickie recommends sleeping with your head away from the wall, facing the center of the room—even if it means lying with your head facing the headboard end of your bed.
Because unless you live in a community that requires buildings to have shielded conduits, you will be exposed to electrical fields from the wiring in your walls. There are not many communities that require this however. Outside of Chicago, where I live, the building code does require electrical wires to be run through a shielded pipe, which reduces both fire hazard and electric field radiation. However, single family homes in most areas of the US have bare wires running through the walls.
If you’re not sure whether your wiring is shielded or not, you can purchase a volt sensor from your local hardware store. Just run it up and down across your wall, and if the meter detects an electric field, you know you’re being exposed.
Remediating open wiring in a home that’s already built can be an expensive venture. The least expensive fix, should your bedroom walls emit electric fields, is to simply turn off the particular circuit breaker for your bedroom at night.
Be aware that just turning your lights off does NOT eliminate electric fields, because the electrical outlets always carry voltage, whether the light is on or off. Next, make sure everything around your bed is battery powered.
How to Determine Your Level of Magnetic Field Exposure
While you can safely assume that you’re being exposed to electric fields from lamps, appliances and wiring in your walls, magnetic fields is another matter. There is no way to know whether or not you have a magnetic field problem in your home, unless you test for it.
Again, magnetic fields can be generated from power lines nearby, whether overhead or beneath the ground, motors such as your refrigerator and power meters, as well as older types of metal plumbing.
“I recommend you use a Gauss meter,” Vickie says. “There is a plethora of them available on the market that are fairly inexpensive. Get together with your friends and family and buy one, because you only have to measure once.”
Another source of magnetic fields that most people are clueless about is your hair dryer. A hair dryer can actually emit greater magnetic fields than your refrigerator! So if you can avoid using one, you’ll be better off for it.
Unfortunately, whereas you can shield against electric fields, you cannot shield against magnetic fields—they go straight through metal, including lead. The only way you could protect yourself against it is to completely encase the source and ground it, using a so-called Faraday cage.
Other problematic sources include cordless telephone bases, which I discussed above. Laptop computers are another high energy source of both electric- and magnetic fields, so avoid putting a laptop directly on your lap. You can block the thermal effects by using a lap pad, and you can shield against the electric field by adding a reflective material or metal to it, but you cannot block the magnetic field component…
What’s worse is that computer charging devices are ungrounded, so ideally, you’ll only want to use a laptop when it’s running on battery; not when it’s plugged into an outlet and charging. The same goes for iPads, Kindle’s and even cell phones. Pregnant women should be especially careful using these types of technologies while plugged in. According to Vickie, the amount of EMF you’re exposed to from a laptop that is plugged in compared to a laptop that is running on battery is about a hundred times higher!
Taking the actions discussed above can help to significantly reduce your and your family’s exposure to electric- and magnetic fields. It’s important to remember that all of these exposures are cumulative—it all adds up, so whatever you can do to lessen your exposure can have a beneficial impact on your overall health and well-being.
“I was talking to a group just recently and I was joking that we’ve now come full circle with the smoking concept,” Vickie says. “You can’t smoke in buildings anymore because of second hand smoke. There are smoking rooms. Maybe someday our children, or maybe our grandchildren, will come up with cellphone rooms… Unfortunately it takes two generations; it’s going to be two generations before they actually say, “Look, these probably killed our grandparents.”
Maybe it will eventually come to that, but not anytime soon… In the meantime, we just have to remediate the threat to the extent that we can, to reduce exposure as much as possible.
If you can afford it, you could go as far as hiring a professional to implement the changes needed. For more information, please contact Wings of Eagle Healthy Living at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Wings of Eagle Healthy living is a a 501C3 non-profit founded to grassroots education.
“We will work with anybody who is willing to start making a difference,” Vickie says.