Category Archives: EMF Testing Bio-Electromagnetic Health & Safety Levels

EMF Testing Bio-Electromagnetic Health & Safety Levels Explained

EMF Testing Indoor Air Quality Radon Gas Testing: 214.912.4691 Dallas – Houston – Austin – Fort Worth

Powerline Home Safe Distance Cell Phone RF Surveys

Cell Tower Site on High Voltage Power Line near homes in residential area in North Dallas – EMF Testing and Surveys

EMF Testing / Magnetic Field Survey & Safe Distance Measurement Services

EMF testing for those concerned about living near powerlines and feeders is available for commercial clients and large scale residential with reports that range from verbal to complete reports with photo documentation and graphics. We also provide consultation on viable strategies and products for EMF protection. We travel all over Texas and cities in adjacent states including Dallas, Houston, Fort Worth, Austin, San Antonio and Oklahoma City.

Implanted Biomedical Device EMF / EMI Measurement Compliance Surveys and Testing for Patient Safety

Medical Device Compliance Testing (Pacemakers, Implantable Defibrillators, ICD’s etc. – Medtronics, St. Jude Medical, Boston Scientific, Mortara) for individuals returning to work or home after implant surgery to identify potential hazards from AC/DC Magnetic and Electric Fields, Microwaves, RF and general EMI (Electromagnetic Interference).

RF (Radio Frequency) Scans and Evaluations – Maximum Permissible Exposure (MPE)

We test RF energy for frequency and amplitude in order to find sources and evaluate safety with respect to FCC regulatory, compliance and precautionary guidelines, and to determine potential interference issues between wireless routers, cell phone repeaters / boosters, Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) systems, and wireless microphone / audio / video data systems.

Magnetic / Electric / RF & EMF Shielding Consultations including proper grounding

If you have an issue with electromagnetic energy that is either a safety issue or causes equipment interference, we are fully qualified to assess, troubleshoot and make sound recommendations to fix or mitigate the situation.

Radon Gas Measurements & Surveys (Short / Long Term Testing)

With a background in radon and radiation safety, we are capable of evaluating and reporting on radon gas levels, how they compare with EPA standards and whether a mitigation solution is called for. This is now a common requirement for HUD, Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, structures that fall under GSA guidelines, etc.

EMF Testing for Electrical Wiring Issues Indicated by Excessive EMF Fields

Whether you believe in the safety hazards of EMF or not, the most common source of high EMF fields inside the home is improper wiring which fails to conform to current NEC code. ScanTech can detect and direct repairs on electrical wiring that manifests as an abnormal magnetic field.

Preliminary Construction Surveys / Property Transfer Phase I Environmental Site Due Diligence Survey testing regarding Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) – EMF Consultation for Safety and potential EMI – Radon Testing for Multi-Family Dwellings and Commercial Buildings.

We are often called out to site before a structure or complex is erected in order to survey and communicate any possible issues and the potential impact of nearby power lines, substations, transformers, cell towers and other EMF/RF generating sources. We also make construction recommendations for minimizing electromagnetic field emissions for safety and electromagnetic Interference concerns with sensitive manufacturing and research equipment.

Indoor air quality testing for VOC levels regarding Certificate of Occupancy permits according to City of Dallas Green Ordinances. Also known as the 804.2 Post-Construction, Pre-Occupancy Baseline IAQ Testing which is a 4 hour test for 500 uG / m^3 or less of VOCs.

Magnetized & Radiation Contaminated Metals, Stone and Imported Products

ScanTech has been in the radiation survey business for over 10 years and is routinely called upon to investigate cases of suspected radioactive contamination and magnetized ferrous metals which can cause unusual issues. Our instrumentation includes several Geiger counters with capable of detecting Alpha and Beta particle emissions, X-Rays and includes specialized Gamma radiation scintillation detectors.

Weak Cell Phone Signal Reception Issues & Wireless LAN Problems / RFID Interference

Weak Cellular Phone (including 2G / 3G / 4G LTE) & Wireless Strength Measurements with consulting for correction / mitigation in commercial buildings, residential and multifamily properties with poor coverage, slow data rates and dropped calls for all major telecom and communications carriers including Sprint, T-Mobile, Verizon, AT&T for smartphones, tablets, iPads, etc. Radio Frequency Identification system troubleshooting and interference issues investigated. We also perform FCC RF Compliance surveys for MPE (Maximum Permissible Exposure) including rooftop antenna installations.

 

Hospital Infant Anti-Abduction Security Systems

ScanTech troubleshoots RFID integrated systems designed to protect neonatal care facilities that employ systems such as Hugs by Stanley Healthcare and MyChild by McRoberts Security Technologies.

Electrostatic Discharge (ESD) Testing, Consulting And Evaluation for Commercial, Industrial and Biomedical Companies / Applications / Clients

We have the equipment to determine the sheet resistance of ESD flooring material and if anti-static grounding is working as well as the ability to identify troublesome materials and processes which can cause equipment malfunction and electric shock / fire / explosion hazards. We can also measure relative air ion counts, humidity and the direct DC static voltage on surfaces (positive or negative) up to 30,000 V to determine which objects in the environment may be damaging your static sensitive equipment.

Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) Surveys to Determine Relative Air Cleanliness PM2.5 / PM10 / HEPA Filtration Efficiency / Formaldehyde / VOC / CO2 (Carbon Dioxide) / O2 Oxygen % Concentration & Contamination for Commercial Building and Industrial / Occupational Atmosphere Evaluations with expertise in Nanotoxicology and Medical Environmental Illness Testing

We have time based datalogging air laser analysis available to characterize particulate matter such as small particle contaminants (down to 0.5 microns such as bacteria) and large particle counts (2.5 um and larger) for potential pollen, dust and mold detection which are also known as RSPs. (Respirable Suspended Particles) We can also check for formaldehyde concentrations and VOCs (Volatile Organic Compounds) levels from outgassing materials such as pressed wood flooring or glues and other binders.

Elevated CO2 (carbon dioxide) levels are indicative of Sick Building Syndrome and poor air exchange characteristics in a structure.

New nanomaterials on the market have raised concerns about the potential toxic effects of nanoparticles (such as carbon nanotubes, titanium dioxide, silver NPs, etc.) in particulate, aerosol, aqueous forms and their in-vivo effects.

Commercial, industrial, occupational health and large scale residential applications.

http://www.indoorairqualitytestingdallas.com/

OSHA Sound / Noise Level Surveys for Safety Audits

Sound (Commercial) & Industrial Safety field surveys and measurement including for acoustic OSHA sound and STC (Sound Transmission Class) noise levels / ordinances / testing (meeting ANSI & IEC Type 2 standards) to determine compliance and evaluate potential issues with excessive or disruptive noise.

Photometric Glare & Illumination (Lighting Level) Surveys for Safety, OSHA and City Ordinance Compliance

Photometric mapping for Certificates of Occupancy, (CO) identifying poor / insufficient / excessive illumination, security camera glare, ATM lighting security assessments, ADA lighting requirements / compliance, and privacy. Many cities have enacted ordinances which limit the amount of light emanating at the property line at night in foot candles. (fc) We can also measure lighting flicker rates which can cause headaches and other performance issues as well as evaluate possible disruption of circadian rhythms which lead to insomnia and lack of restful REM sleep.

Metallurgical Analysis & Consulting

Materials analysis for ferrous / non-ferrous metals / alloys. Tools and tool steel quality evaluations for carbon content. Also magnetic / RF / electric shielding capability, corrosion resistance, heat resistance, degree of temper, quench methods, elasticity, weathering, and electrical quality consulting. Metamaterial composite research for nanotechnology, biomedical, and exotic applications. (graphene, nanoparticles, carbon nanotubes, nanodiamond, etc.) Radioactivity testing for scrap metal or other suspected products.

Using the Wrong EMF Meter for EMF Testing and Home Inspections: A Case Study in Professional Judgment

EMF Inaccuracy Analog vs. Digital

EMF Meter Comparison for Home Inspection with SIGNIFICANT DISAGREEMENT in magnetic field readings

I always find it both interesting and gratifying when clients who hire me already have their own meter and yet are willing to pay an additional fee to interpret the results. They will call and express concern about either a home they are considering purchasing or one they are already occupying as they are alarmed at the high readings they see on the EMF meter they purchased.

What instigated this post is two separate clients a week apart who both purchased a Trifield 100XE analog EMF meter and got readings that indicated a field of 100 milliGauss or greater. I was a bit skeptical of this being true and for good reasons:

1) It was based on my long experience in doing EMF testing and surveys in the Dallas/Fort Worth area.

2) And what I know about using something other than a high quality meter for making a decision on something as important as where you and your family including children plan to live for the next 5 – 20 years.

Now, I am not putting down either the meter, the manufacturer or the homeowner for using this type of meter for a professional inspection. But as you will see in the story I tell, it is more than worth the money to have an expert opinion as a “sanity check” because of the likelihood that you can either get a false positive or a false negative as it were.

As you can see in the above picture, the 100XE is set to the 0 – 100 mG scale and is nearly pegged at 100 mG. The digital reference meter I use shows nowhere near that level at 7.49 milliGauss. That error is off by more than an order of magnitude which means that the Trifield is reading more than 10 X the amount that is actually present. And yes, my meter is calibrated as I periodically check it against another meter.

In this case, if the homeowner had merely relied on the meter they purchased online, it would have potentially meant that they would have passed up a home they might have been otherwise happy with based on erroneous information. This is more time and hassle for them, the seller, agents, etc. all based on a faulty needle indication.

EMF Meters Home Inspector

Two Analog Trifield Meters compared with a digital reference meter

The second case came a week later with another Trifield 100XE on the scene. In this case, it was not nearly as inaccurate, but it still reads 2.5 mG while the reference meter reads just under 1 milliGauss. Not as dramatic, but still enough difference that a family with young children might have shied away from this property when it was not really an issue.

Now as an aside, take a look at the reading of the Natural EM Meter (blue label) to the right. This is one of my personal meters and it reads low at less than 0.5 mG. More accurate, but it is still reading lower levels than what is actually present. So why do I even use this meter? Because one thing I do like about analog meters is that they are good for seeing trends and odd fluctuations – but I never use them for absolute values on a survey.

You may think I am saying the Trifields are not any good, etc. but they do have their uses as long as you understand their accuracy limitations. To be blunt, the reason these have become so popular is because of the interest in the paranormal and ghost hunting fields and the ways in which they can be customized with outputs, alarms, backlighting, etc. but these features are not of direct use to a serious prospective homeowner or professional EMF inspector. There is more commentary on this in the following post regarding a technical conversation I had with the manufacturer.

At the end of the day, a proper EMF inspection is about more than just reading a meter; it is about having judgment and recognizing errors when they do not fit with conventional experience and wisdom. It is about being knowledgeable about the different kinds of meters, single axis vs. triple axis, true-rms averaging and how the frequency range of an individual model of meter can weight the readings differently. It is also about risk assessment, diplomacy and seeing a larger picture than just a scary needle sweeping across a meter face.

SCANTECH EMF CONSULTING  214.912.4691

Why A Professional Digital EMF Meter Should Be Used For a Survey

In my previous post, I commented on a recent phenomena this past year in which a number of customers who had purchased an EMF meter online or elsewhere to do a survey on a prospective property contacted me after finding what appeared to be anomalously high readings and wanted a second opinion.

Every time it was a Trifield 100XE which is easily recognizable with the yellow label, brick-like construction and familiar needle movement which distinguishes it as an analog meter versus the digital EMF versions. The variations in accuracy varied from moderate to extreme when compared with my 3-axis professional grade meter and I began to wonder what was going on.

I recently contacted the manufacturer of the Trifields (AlphaLab Inc.) and one of their electrical engineers cleared up the mystery as to why the readings seemed to vary so wildly. The 100XEs are typically sold as frequency weighted which means that even slightly higher frequency magnetic fields will add even more to the indicated reading than a meter with a “flatter” frequency response. Also, they measure from 40 Hz – 100 KHz which is a VERY broad band for an AC gaussmeter used in a EMF survey for testing the influence of power lines. Typically, for measuring 60 Hz and any relevant power harmonics, an EMF meter that measures in the range of 30 Hz – 3 KHz is a broad enough range and even 30 Hz – 300 Hz will cover 60 Hz plus the 5th harmonic. The strength of the harmonics gets progressively weaker as frequency increases.

60 Hz Power Line Harmonics

60 Hz Power Line Harmonics

In other words, you may have a 3 milliGauss magnetic field at 60 Hz, but a weaker magnetic field at 120 Hz will weight the reading even more strongly and register as 6 milliGauss when in fact it is only 3 mG.  (from an excerpt on the company website) So the standard Trifield 100XE weights the “harmonics” (multiples of 60 Hz such as 120 Hz, 180 Hz, etc.) differently than a flat frequency EMF meter. Ordinarily, any instrument that is frequency weighted has an attendant chart which tells you how much more weight at different frequencies is measured than over the non-weighted frequency point of the meter.

Below is an example of this sort of chart for the Natural EM Meter (blue label) which is very different from the 100XE model. (This was taken from the vendor website – I know the word “frequency” is misspelled)

EMF Meter Frequency Magnetic Field

Natural EM Meter (not 100XE) Frequency Weighting Chart

A little confusing?

Based on my experience, I can interpret the chart, but what I wanted was the chart for the 100XE model Trifield and I could not find it on the manufacturer’s website. This is what initiated the call to the vendor. When I spoke with an electrical engineer, she explained that the 100XE is not particularly accurate (rated as +/- 20% according to the specs on their website) and is not recommended as a reference for any type of serious EMF survey.

Furthermore she went on to explain that even the manufacturer has NO SUCH chart for the 100XE model so you really don’t know what you are reading and how much is due to the 60 Hz magnetic field that you are interested in and how much is distorted or misrepresented by the high frequency harmonics.

And to further dispel another myth, the Trifield is named for the fact that it measures 3 types (tri) of fields: magnetic, electric and radio frequency, NOT because it is a 3-axis meter in every mode as the RF (radio frequency) measurement is only in SINGLE or 1-axis and will alter greatly depending on the orientation of the meter with respect to the RF source.

But I am not disparaging the company at all (they make some excellent equipment for certain applications and their website is very informative) and the 100XE has some viable uses, but it seems to be more towards something more subjective like the paranormal field rather than what a serious EMF consultant would choose for an official EMF testing survey. I DO like the needle movement as it does help you to track slow or fast fluctuations so I do keep a Trifield with me, but the difference is that I know under what circumstances it can be used and also when I would not use it as an absolute for helping a client decide on a property decision because of the proximity of power lines.

EMF Meter Phone Apps – Do They Work and/or Indicate Dangerous Conditions?

EMF Meter App for Android Phones and Tablets

EMF Meter App for Android Phones and Tablets (and similar ones for iPhones / iPads) with design based on the Trifield 100XE analog meter

I was recently contacted by a commercial client who was concerned about purchasing office space in McKinney due to a number of factors:

1) The close proximity of some imposing high voltage powerlines directly outside of his office

2) Recent inexplicable computer equipment failures in the office

3) That cute app that you can download onto Android (and probably your iPhone) that measures magnetic fields.

So does this app really work?

DC Magnetic Field Reading (not 60 Hz AC Powerline frequency)

DC Magnetic Field Reading (does NOT read 60 Hz AC Power Line frequencies)

Yes, but NOT in the manner that you think. It works as far as measuring the NATURAL DC magnetic field of the Earth which varies according to locale and the proximity of ferromagnetic building material. But DC means there is no frequency or fluctuation in the field; it is by definition 0 Hertz or 0 cycles per second as opposed to the North American power grid frequency of 60 Hertz.

What is the difference?

Quite a bit.

There is very little evidence that DC magnetic fields are harmful in any way (except higher intensity fields than Earth normal to those with certain biomedical implants such as pacemakers, ICDs, implantable defibrillators, etc.) and in fact there are patents on medical devices which use low level DC fields to speed the healing of broken bones.

But look at the overall reading above showing 834 milliGauss (mG) with the bar graph registering ominously in the red. And speaking of which, the “green – yellow – red” color coding scheme is something I object to in EMF / RF testing instrumentation as it is completely arbitrary from a technical standpoint and induces needless fear-mongering with regard to actual safety levels. It is done partly as a marketing feature to make it look cool, but also as an attempt to give some kind of intuitive user knowledge about the EMFs in the environment, but in fact instills false confidence and infers incorrect information.

While I can give a brief overview of bio-electromagnetics to my clients while consulting, diving into the details is an incredibly complex subject that even a B.S. in Electrical Engineering does not fully prepare you for. You also have to have biomedical knowledge of human and cell physiology (thus, my continuing education and credentials as a biomedical engineer) plus at least some understanding of disease epidemiology and probability / statistics which makes this a truly interdisciplinary field that few understand well.

While the Earth’s magnetic field is typically around 500 – 600 mG, this can be either concentrated or attenuated significantly when inside of the frame of a steel building. What can potentially scare people with this app is that they read about Swiss safety limits of 10 mG, 2.5 mG or even 1 mG and then they assume this reading means they are in some sort of danger. I can guarantee that this meter does not measure anything having to do with health or safety with respect to AC power lines.

The reason for having DC magnetometers built into a smart phone is so that it can relate relative positions of the phone (such as when you turn it on it’s side) with respect to the Earth’s magnetic field and respond accordingly.

It is a cool app to play with and I have it on my phone, but it is not something I would use for a professional EMF inspection, nor would I use it to advise a client on the health, safety or risk conditions of their environment.

The Natural Electromagnetic Background Fields of Our Planet Earth

What types of energy (including electromagnetic fields) emanate naturally from the earth?

This can get a little murky as the Earth receives energy from the sun and other extraplanetary sources and retransmits a certain amount, but I will delineate as best I can.

These are the known and scientifically accepted forms of energy:

DC Magnetic Fields on the order of 500 – 600 milliGauss from the magnetic core

DC Electric Field of 150 Volts/meter (can vary from -5 to 192 V/m depending on weather and up to 100,000 V/m in a thunderstorm) up to a maximum of 300 kV at a height of around 30 – 50 km. But note that the field is not uniform with height and typically falls off to 30 V/m at 1 km above the surface. Interestingly, dust devils can create radio noise and electrical fields of up to 10,000 V/m and magnetic fields of 3 – 30 Hz.

ELF (Extremely Low Frequency) AC field emanations known as the Schumann resonances which are characterized by multiple frequency peaks starting at the fundamental of 7.83 Hz  with harmonics of 14.3, 20.8, 27.3, 33.8, etc. up to about 60 Hz which happens to coincide with the North American powerline frequency. Many of these frequencies also fall into the same frequency bands as human brainwaves. (Alpha, Beta, Delta, Theta, Gamma & Mu bands)

Please note that these Schumann emanations are very faint (300 milliVolts per meter for the electric field and 10 microGauss for the magnetic component) compared to the other electric and magnetic fields mentioned.

Radio Frequency background noise from lightning (known as sferics which typically extend from 1 – 30 KHz) and interstellar radiation such as microwaves and cosmic rays

Geothermal Energy (heat) from the molten core

Reflected Solar Energy (from the infrared to ultraviolet wavelengths)

Chemical Energy (converted and stored primarily by plant life and to a lesser extent by animals)

Kinetic Energy (any mechanical action from wind to tectonic shifting would fall into this category as well)

Negative and positive ions as a result of electric discharges in the atmosphere, natural ionizing radiation, (UV) wind shear, and radon gas. The typical ion density is about 10^10 /m^3 or 10 billion ions per cubic meter with an average lifetime of a few minutes per ion. Increased positive ion counts can be indicative of radioactive decay such as from radon gas.

Background radiation from the decay of uranium and other radioactive elements including radon gas.

Telluric currents through the earth’s crust that are geomagnetically induced and affected by several complex variables such as the interplay between the ionosphere and solar winds. Furthermore, they also change direction from day to night. I have had trouble getting empirical data on this except that the frequency band falls in the ELF range like the Schumann resonances.

Radon Gas Testing in Dallas / Fort Worth and Texas: More Critical For Home Safety Than You Think

Radon Gas Home Inspections in Dallas Texas    Radon Gas A Home Danger in Dallas

20,000+ Lung Cancer Deaths Annually in the United States

I had another radon gas inspection job in Garland recently and a remark by one of the interested parties got me to thinking. This was relayed by a third party, but I believe the statement was something along the lines of: “Texas homes do not have a radon problem” which I know to be patently false as I have found homes that tested beyond the EPA action limit of 4 picoCuries/liter including MINE. (I have measured 4.9 – 8.0 pCi/L in the Lake Highlands area which is equal to a pack of cigarettes a day) I have also personally been to several residences that had radon mitigation systems in place, and when they were turned off, the levels went back into the danger zone.

So how do myths and misinformation like this get perpetuated? Radon is a more common issue in other parts of the United States and tends to be more detectable in homes with basements, (as radon is heavier than air) but it is common enough in the North Texas region to be worth checking as a part of indoor air quality testing in Dallas and Fort Worth.

The number of homes in the Dallas, Tarrant, Collin and Denton counties exceed the EPA action limit 5 – 10 % of the time which IS statistically significant; up to 1 out of 10 homes. Furthermore if you add in the number of homes which are marginal (2.0 – 3.9 picoCuries/Liter) as radon gas concentrations vary throughout the day, year, etc. then the number of potentially affected homes in North Texas is closer to 16 – 24 %.

Also, the World Health Organization (WHO) recommends a lower limit than the EPA with the mitigation safety limit set at 2.7 pCi/L versus the higher limit of 4.0 pCi/L by the Environmental Protection Agency. And there is NO SAFE LIMIT of radon gas, any amount is bad, but you can’t get away from it entirely as even outdoor levels are typically 0.3 pCi/L and average indoor is 1.1 – 1.3 pCi/L.

So how dangerous is radon gas? Here is a quick risk comparison by the EPA:

Radon Gas Risk Statistics

Radon Gas Risk Statistics

This graph shows only 15,000 deaths annually, (the lower number is because the stats are derived from 1986 data quoted by Environmental Science Technology Vol 24 pp. 774 – 1990)  but a more recent EPA report (2014) shows closer to an estimated 20,000+ lung cancer deaths annually due to radon – 2nd only to smoking in direct cause – which is actually higher than the fatalities caused by drunk driving in which a great deal of energy has been focused on in recent years.

The problem with radon gas is that it is invisible, silent, and much harder to track than the erratic, weaving driving patterns of an inebriated driver. Couple this with a mythologies like: “Texas homes don’t have radon” or “You need to have a basement for radon to be an issue” and this becomes a significantly overlooked risk and safety factor that is relatively easy to test for and not necessarily that expensive to correct.

How does radon gas do it’s damage? By the emission of inhaled alpha particles that get into the lungs and whose ionizing radiation damages cell DNA. This mechanism works by attacking DNA molecules within the cells to form free radical ions, or changes the molecules themselves into excited molecules that can form biochemical pathways to cancer.

Radon Gas Inhaled Lung Damage Alpha Radiation

Radon Lung Damage Alpha Radiation

So even if your home has no basement (very few residences in Texas do) then why be concerned? Because the gas can still seep in through cracks in the foundation or gaps in a pier and beam construction. (you don’t need a basement to have a radon issue)

Radon Gas Home Inspection in Dallas / Ft. Worth to find potentially unsafe levels of radioactivity due to these various sources of entry

Radon Gas Home Inspection in Dallas / Ft. Worth to find potentially unsafe levels of radioactivity due to these various sources of entry

The solution is to first retest to make sure that the radon levels are consistently high enough to warrant attention and if so, proper ventilation is designed and installed by a professional radon mitigator, and then the residence retested to make sure that the system is working. Incidentally, ScanTech does no mitigation as we consider it a potential conflict of interest.

But for a prospective homeowner who is interested in a property, it is important to get the radon checked as soon as possible once you are inside the option period. The reason why is because of the time delays in deploying the kits, waiting the 48 – 96 hours for the kits to develop, transit time to the lab and the radon lab processing / reporting time. This means a dead minimum of 4 days under IDEAL circumstances with rush fees and hand trucking the kits in to the lab. Otherwise, it can take up to over a week which can easily exceed the standard 10 day option period.

ScanTech does have the ability to check the radon levels with a special digital tester that can get results much more quickly (in as little as 1 – 2 days after deployment) with the same level of accuracy as the activated charcoal radon test kits described above and it is less expensive when comparing a return trip to retrieve the device and interpret the results versus a return trip for the charcoal kits.

The charcoal kit route is more feasible if the testing is not as time sensitive and/or the client is willing to either mail or hand carry the kits into the radon testing lab itself located in Dallas County.

SCANTECH EMF CONSULTING  214.912.4691

RADON FAQ PAGE for Dallas / Fort Worth & Surrounding Counties

http://radontestingdallas.com/

http://www.indoorairqualitytestingdallas.com/

EMF Power Lines & Safe Distance for Protection – What is Wrong with this Picture?

Mark Twain once commented:

“Figures often beguile me,” he wrote, “particularly when I have the arranging of them myself; in which case the remark attributed to Disraeli would often apply with justice and force: ‘There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics.”

So what is beguiling about this figure?

safe-living-distance-to-power-lines

Deceptive depiction of EMF fields from high voltage powerlines.

It gives greatly oversimplified answers to alleged effects based on solely on DISTANCE instead of actual ELECTRIC OR MAGNETIC FIELD STRENGTH. It is understandable that most clients and residential home owners want a simple formula or guideline to the question “How far or what distance from high voltage power lines is safe, or within safety levels for my family and I?”

Unfortunately, the answer isn’t that simple for the following reasons.

Because of the poor coupling between electric fields and the human body, even strong external AC electric fields have a vanishingly small effect on the voltages induced in the body compared to the bio-electric energies already present in the heart, brain and nervous system. Magnetic fields have a stronger potential for affecting the human organism, but the only parameter mentioned is the 765 kilo-volts present on the line which pertains to the electric field, not the magnetic component which would relate to current measured in amps.

There is also a fine nuance in the graphic itself that most people not familiar with electromagnetic theory would miss. The field is shown as radiating out from three different points on the tower in concentric circles. This is indicative of a magnetic field, not an electric field. The electric field comes straight out of the wire and that is based on voltage which is the only metric given. So the implication is that the main parameter for an electric field is given, but a magnetic field illustration is given by mistake instead.

Notice that certain critical information is lacking. There is no mention of any parameters that actually govern magnetic fields such as amperage, phasing or physical specifications of the tower. Furthermore, in my experience of measuring high voltage towers, I have never seen one that could influence ambient fields (EMFs) out to 2 kilometers (over a mile) with any conventional AC gaussmeter or electric field meter.

And with regard to the safety levels, what does the term “stunted growth” mean or apply to? Is it based on studies of children or even human beings? How is the term “stunted” even quantified? Is it 1%, 10% or 34.25%? Do certain effects such as abnormal EEGs actually begin (or end) at exactly 507 meters? This figure is presented without any form of context, explanation, references or other supporting data and very little clarity. This sort of anti-information only serves to distort known physical laws into a neat and convenient visual bite that gives the reader a false sense of knowledge.

The only concept the diagram illustrates to any degree is the idea that electromagnetic fields “fall off” or diminish with increasing distance, though it does that rather badly by not explicitly stating it. But notice what is so compelling about the graphic; it is attractive, neat and gives a tabulated numbers versus certain biological effects causality that urges a viewer to adopt it as accepted fact without argument.

To re-invoke the perennial wisdom of Twain:

It ain’t so much what we know that gets us into trouble. It’s what we know that just ain’t so.

Then this sort of pseudo-scientific mythology gets incorporated into the bylaws of how EMF works (such as proliferating on the Internet) and only dilutes the cause of actual knowledge by displacing it with misdirected garbage which is worse than useless.

I have sat in on numerous high level PhD thesis defenses and if the presenter had used a slide like this, I guarantee they would be discredited on the spot for the aforementioned reasons. But without peer review or challenge, there are some who think they can become an authority on a complex subject merely by skimming some articles found online.

A phrase found in Nature (one of the most highly respected scientific journals known) in 1885, page 74 Nov 26, 1885 exemplifies this phenomena:

“A well-known lawyer, now a judge, once grouped witnesses into three classes: simple liars, damned liars, and experts.

More information can be found here:  http://scantech7.com/EMF_Survey_FAQ.htm

Counties & Cities Served by ScanTech Technical Consulting

Service Cities for EMF – Indoor Air Quality Testing Smart Meter – RF (Radio Frequency) inspection services include: Plano, Highland Park, University Park, Park Cities, Arlington, Fort Worth, Grapevine, Frisco, Denton, McKinney, Allen, Lewisville, Irving, Mesquite, Bedford, Euless, Richardson, Coppell, Grand Prairie, Garland, Addison, Farmers Branch, Rockwall, Carrollton, Parker, Rowlett, Lucas, Fairview, Park Cities, Keller, Roanoke, The Colony, Highland Village, Lake Dallas, Corinth, Prosper, Austin, Houston, Round Rock, Spring, The Woodlands, Bastrop, Duncanville, Lancaster, Rowlett, Royse City, Trophy Club, Southlake and Hurst. Counties served include Dallas, Collin, Denton, Tarrant, Travis, Harris and Rockwall County.

ScanTech EMF & Radon Service Area

ScanTech Dallas – Fort Worth EMF, Indoor Air Quality & Radon Testing Service Areas

www.emfinspectordallas.com

Dirty Electricity – Is it really “Electropollution” or a Real Threat to Health and Safety? The Dirtier Truth

Comparison of a "Clean" Powerline Signal (top) with one that has EMI or High Frequency Noise (bottom)

Comparison of a “Clean” Powerline Signal (top) with one that has EMI or High Frequency Noise (bottom)

“Dirty electricity” is a rather unscientific term used loosely to describe a signal waveform that has extraneous noise components riding on top of it – typically of higher frequencies and/or a transient random nature.

It is more accurate to describe it as a noisy signal or more specifically as 120 Volt 60 Hz AC with high frequency components. Incidentally, ScanTech Consulting has the capability to evaluate the amount of high frequency noise on a power line in the ranges of 10 KHz – 10 MHz in order to diagnose possible EMI and equipment interference issues. (see picture below)

The controversy is whether or not this phenomena has any measurable impact on human health and safety. Please notice that the use of the terms “dirty” and “electropollution”  have a negative connotation and will tend to immediately bias any reader. Also, the term “dirty electricity” and “electropollution” are not the same. Dirty electricity is any electromagnetic waveform that has unwanted and / or noticeable harmonics and regular or intermittent transients in either the voltage and / or the current component. Electropollution is another relatively unscientific term used by certain EMF consultants / specialists to describe potentially any and all electromagnetic waves of artificial origin, so dirty electricity is only a small subset of EMFs that could be included in the meaning of electropollution.

Bear in mind that there are a number of natural sources of electromagnetic noise such as the Schumann resonances, (spectral peaks in the Earth’s natural ELF field) and radio atmospheric signals which are known as “whistlers” and “sferics” (or also spelled “spherics”) which are produced by global lightning strikes that interact with the ionosphere and Earth’s magnetosphere.

Now before you think that I am completely dismissing the topic out of hand, I can tell you as an electrical engineering graduate that extraneous noise usually is a real problem, but it is normally far more so to equipment (particularly sensitive electronics) directly powered by it rather than to human health. I do have equipment designed to track this down, but this applies more to the commercial arena where (for example) anomalous equipment operation can be caused by a nearby defective (or poorly filtered) LED bulb or an arcing motor in some other part of the building.

Most power supplies are designed to filter out and/or minimize the potential damage that these noise spikes and transients can do before they reach the vulnerable logic components of your computer or charging cell phone. In addition, surge suppressors and UPS (uninterruptible power supplies) are an inline solution to prevent some of the larger transients such as those from a nearby lightning strike from doing something unpleasant such as zapping the motherboard of your PC.

Actual Scientific Measurement of High Frequency Electrical Noise on an AC Powerline

Actual Scientific Measurement of High Frequency Electrical Noise on an AC Powerline

They are also designed to filter out noise that may corrupt data such as on an Internet LAN cable or in critical medical and scientific equipment such as an EKG monitor or scanning electron microscope. But on occasion due to ground loops or incompatible equipment grouping, even the best power supplies can be thwarted if the data/signal lines themselves have corrupted information and / or spurious noise. In this case, you are looking for what is known as S/N or the signal to noise ratio.

So what about the effects to human beings? Does the electric noise on your 60 Hz AC mains actually cause any health problems?

I find it unlikely for several reasons. For one, the overall amplitude of the noise is typically much lower than that of the 120 V AC already on the lines – usually by an one to two orders of magnitude. (at least 10 – 100 times less) Then assuming you are not directly connected to the line (which would be a far more dangerous and immediate problem than any alleged long term health effects) you have to consider the electric near field that is present near any energized line with voltage.

The electric field “couples” or induces voltages in the human body with very poor energy transfer because the very high dielectric constant of water present in the body shields the internal tissues, cells and organs. The resulting induced internal voltages and current in the body from external fields are reduced by an order of 1,000,000 times less.

So even with an external electric field of 1000 Volts / per meter (V/m) the induced voltages inside a human would be on the order of 0.010 V/m (10 milliVolts) or less. This is much less than the typical voltages generated within the heart and brain which are from 1 – 10 V/m. Furthermore, the endogenous DC fields generated by the flow of ionic current through cells in the body is on the order of 10 – 100 V/m.

I find it hard to believe that a 10 milliVolt field could substantially perturb a system that routinely generates voltages that are 100 – 10000 times greater. Again, this is within a 1 KILOVOLT / per meter electric field which is much higher than you will see anywhere except inside of an industrial electric room or underneath a high tension line.

The electric field generated by the alleged dirty electricity has a greatly diminished amplitude – probably no more than 10 V/m. Divide that by the same attenuating factor of 10^6 (1 million) and you wind up with induced voltages of 0.0001 V/m which is in the microvolt range.  (100 microVolts) This is even more unlikely to cause any noticeable change inside the human body given the fact that the resting membrane potentials of most human cells range range from -40 to -80 millivolts which is at least 400 X to 800 X greater than the 100 microVolts cited. The negative numbers for the internal voltages of cells are stated as such because you are measuring the voltage with respect to the ECF (Extracellular Fluid) surrounding cells which is used as a ground reference.

And again, this is in a 1 kiloVolt / meter field. What you encounter routinely inside of a home is at most 100 V / meter or so, and more typically 1-10  V /m. So divide that 100 microVolts by 10, 100, and 1000 and you wind up with 0.1 – 10 uV (microVolts) being induced in the body which is hardly a drop in the bucket as far as electrochemical signaling in the body is concerned. There is probably a greater pathological effect from listening to Barney The Dinosaur than this minuscule amount of “dirty energy” injected into a human host.

Even if there are minor effects, the body is an organism with a renowned impetus and ability to maintain equilibrium under a range of conditions. This is why we usually don’t perish as soon as something affects our blood pH, body temperature, glucose levels, etc. Our bodies are constantly keeping up with an influx of stress, bad food, bacteria, substandard air and food quality and a plethora of other threats and chemical / genotoxic insults. We only become ill when a substantial imbalance develops that our system cannot compensate adequately for.

In addition, many of us already have DSL for high speed Internet access which runs routinely pulses high frequency signals through telephone lines and yet I never hear any fuss or concern expressed over this medium. Granted, the practice of using twisted pair conductors does prevent this “noise” from radiating any appreciable distance, but it is in the high frequency ranges that many claim are damaging when present on a power line. I find it interesting that certain so called “experts” seem to cherry pick what type of noise is clean or dirty.

At any rate, I do not claim that electromagnetic energy is COMPLETELY harmless, only that it is better to calmly examine actual data and put said risks into proper perspective.

But whether you are interested in “cleaning up dirty electricity” for either the benefit of your electronic equipment or because you are concerned about the safety risks to your health – I would strongly advise that you read this article concerning devices that claim to eliminate electrical noise / health risks and what the real effects are:

EMF – Harmonics, and questionable means to “clean” them

This is your friendly Dallas / Fort Worth / Houston / Austin EMF Testing Inspector signing off for now.

Stay Well!

SCANTECH EMF CONSULTING  214.912.4691

Radiation & EMF Mythology Promulgated by Media and TV Shows

Sometimes I am dismayed by the lack of what I consider to be “common sense” science knowledge and critical thinking skills displayed by not only the mainstream public, but also by supposedly educated individuals. Even some experienced medical doctors I have personally met display an alarmingly poor understanding of even basic physics and draw conclusions that range from dubious to plain ridiculous.

While I have enormous admiration for anyone who achieves a doctorate degree, particularly in the health sciences field. and I am not detracting from their actual medical skills and experience which I know well outweighs my ability in that arena, the intersection of how physical forces and energies interact with the human body exceeds a knowledge of anatomy, experience with disease and how to perform surgery.

As a recent example, I was watching an episode of Dr. House which is a medical mystery drama series loosely based on the character of Sherlock Holmes, but set in our modern 21st Century. I am a huge fan as I enjoy the acerbic wit, sharp dialog, medical jargon, dark human dynamics and brilliant acting which is fairly consistent throughout the show’s history.

In Season 2 Episode 19, Dr. House orders Chase to investigate the patients house for sources of radiation with a Geiger counter. Chase dutifully walks around with the device while holding the probe up to different appliances while the ominous crackling rate of the counter increases to a near continuous ripple of static. At one point in a cell phone conversation, Chase laments to Dr. House: “You know how many electrical devices give off radiation?”

I am well aware that the series takes a very liberal Hollywood treatment of distorting facts to fit a story better, but given that there was a legitimate episode which involved accidental radiation poisoning, I found this on the edge of inexcusable. The kind of radiation that a Geiger counter detects has nothing to do with the electromagnetic fields found in any kind of modern home appliance, even a microwave.

Geiger counters typically detect Alpha radiation if the detector itself has a mica window, (high energy Helium nuclei) Beta Radiation, (high energy electrons) Gamma Radiation, (high energy photons) and in some cases X-Rays depending on the model.

The energy levels of EMF and RF even well up into the microwave and thermal infrared range simply do not have enough energy to ionize atoms and thus set off such a detector. And by the way, thermal radiation causes molecules to vibrate more rapidly, which is a very different effect than knocking subatomic particles (such as electrons) off of an atom.

But this anecdote underscores a fundamental issue that I find in educating the general public:

Most people do not understand the electromagnetic spectrum, the difference in physics and physical effects that different regimes of frequency manifest and will often confuse one with another. Visible light is a form of electromagnetic radiation, but it is not the same thing as X-Rays or gamma radiation. This lack of understanding can lead to a fear of things which have no demonstrable effect on the human body, and I have clients purchase instruments or shielding gear that is not designed for the concern they have.

More than once I have seen a customer purchase an RF meter (instead of an EMF meter) to measure power lines and vice-versa. Or the meters are of insufficient consistency, quality or display their information in a confusing or misleading manner such as labeling different readings by color code (green, yellow and red) which have no real world correlation to any particular standard.

This is why consultant services such as ScanTech exists – not simply to read numbers on a meter, but to supply context and meaning to what exactly is being measured and what risk factors / effects are associated with that.