Tag Archives: emfs

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.

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

DNA Damage in the Cell and Mechanisms of Cancer: A Quick Overview Part II

DNA can be damaged in many different ways through a variety of mechanisms, many of them from exogenous (external) causes, and some from endogenous (internal) factors. On average, this damage tallies out to 10,000 to over 1,000,000 molecular lesions per cell per day in the human body.

Fortunately, most of this damage is either automatically repaired on the DNA itself or the damage can set off a global response to prevent reproduction of the mutated/damaged cell. But occasionally the body’s systems do not catch the error in time (or the damage is repaired incorrectly) and the cell is allowed to multiply into a tumor – either benign or malignant cancer.

The forms of DNA damage can be classified by agent and the effect on the DNA strand itself.

Exogenous (External)

1) UV radiation from the sun which is technically a form of EMF, but it is electromagnetic radiation that is at a high enough frequency / energy level that it is crosses over into the ionizing radiation regime. UV-A radiation can lead to the formation of free radicals which cause indirect damage. UV-B radiation can crosslink adjacent thymine and cytosine bases and create thymine or pyrimidine dimers, which is known as direct damage.

2) Other forms of high energy radiation (X-Ray, Alpha, Beta, Gamma)

3) Viruses (also known as oncoviruses) are most common but certain bacteria and parasites can be responsible

4) Chemical carcinogens including from natural sources (such as plant toxins or asbestos) known as mutagens. Particularly aromatic compounds that can insert themselves between the planar nitrogenous bases of the DNA helix. (also known as intercalating agents)

5) Hydrolysis (cleaving of bonds by water)

6) Thermal disruption

7) Some studies show or suggest evidence of damage from certain Electromagnetic Fields (EMFs) including both low frequency power lines and higher frequency RF (Radio Frequencies) including those in the microwave range which are used in cell phone / tower communication.

Endogenous (Internal)

1) Attack by Reactive Oxygen Species (ROS) or Reactive Nitrogen Species (RNS) generated in the course of normal bodily functions which can form hydrogen peroxide and ammonia respectively. (both are toxic) The presence of these compounds come from oxidative deamination which form oxoacids in the liver.

Single Strand Breaks – a break in one of the two deoxyribose-phosphate backbone / strands in a DNA molecule

Double Strand Breaks – breaks in both of the two deoxyribose-phosphate backbone / strands in a DNA molecule

Examples of DNA Damage

Examples of DNA Damage

Point Mutation – A mutation that alters a single nitrogenous base. It can be either the substitution of one base for another, or the deletion / addition of a single base or small number of bases.

Base Substitution Mutation – The substitution of one base pair for another in DNA. Because of the degenerate nature of the genetic code, base substitution may or may not alter the amino acid encoded. If the new codon from the base substitution still results in the same intended amino acid, then the mutation is considered “silent”. But if it results in a different amino acid being produced, then it is termed a “missense mutation”  as the sense (bio-genetic intelligibility) of the codon produced after transcription of the mutant gene is altered. There are two categories: Transitions and Transversions. A transistion does not change the type of bases in the base pair as in a pyrimidine vs. a purine, but a transversion does. A variety of human genetic disorders (such as sickle cell anemia) are caused by base substitutions.

Nonsense Mutations – A special category of base substitution arises when a base is converted in such a way that the transcribed codon is converted to a stop codon. This stop codon results in premature termination of the translation and leads to a truncated (incomplete) protein.

Frameshift Defects – The addition or deletion of a single base has much more profound consquences than does the substitution of one base for another. Frameshift mutations alter the reading frame in the mRNA (messenger RNA) downstream of the mutation, which in turn will mean the majority of the protein will be altered. Frameshifts can also cause the same effect as Nonsense Mutations as 3 in 64 codons are stop codons which means there is a relatively high probability the protein coding will be prematurely stopped at the wrong point.

Triplet Repeat Expansion Mutations

DNA Damage & Repair Sample Table

DNA Damage & Repair Sample Table

DNA Damage Responses

DNA Damage Responses

Cancers, Diseases and Other Physical Illnesses Believed to Be Linked to EMF/RF Radiation

This is a list of the various conditions whose risk factors are believed to be correlated to EMFs (electromagnetic fields) from power lines, cell towers, cell phones, smart meters, microwaves and other electrical/electronic devices. This is not a confirmation or affirmation that any of these are necessarily true or to suggest hard safety level limits; but it is part of the continuing blog and educational journey of determining the true causation and effect relation.

Where applicable, I have put abbreviations and/or descriptions of these conditions as they traditionally appear in research literature for convenient reference to coming articles on the epidemiology of possibly EMF related diseases and conditions. Also the risk factors they are allegedly linked to are listed as well.

CANCERS

In the developed world, about 50% of all adult men and roughly 33% of all adult women develop cancer during their lifetime.

Cancer is generally described as an unwanted / unregulated growth of cells with malignancies having a potential to metastasize and invade other organ systems and tissues. Cancer types are organized by organ and cell type they originate from and by the morphological characteristics of the cancer cells themselves.

Carcinogenesis is a multi-stage process which may include genetic (alteration of DNA composition and structure) and epigenetic (alteration in gene expression without DNA alteration) changes. It is suggested that external stimulus such as certain types and levels of EMF/RF may contribute to the multi-stage cancer process by influencing epigenetic changes resulting in effects such as abnormal cell proliferation and differentiation, apoptosis or modified adaptive responses.

LEUKEMIA

Leukemogenic factors are agents which are or believed to be related to promoting the development of leukemia.

Childhood Leukemia (CL) – Power lines  (rates are 4.5 per 100,000 developed world and 2.7 per 100,000 in developing countries) CL is a family of biologically heterogeneous neoplasms and represents the most common cancer in children with 30-50 new cases per million children developing worldwide annually.

subtypes include:

Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia (ALL) – Represents 80% of all cases of CL in white populations aged 0-14 years but has a peak incidence between 2-5 years. Most common chromosomal aberrations in ALL are hyperdiploidy (35%) and the presence of the TEL-AML1 gene fusion. (25%)

Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML) – Represents 15 % of all cases and incidence rises with increasing age and has few causative agents, but include benzene, alkylator, topoisomerase II inhibitors and ionizing radiation (which includes radon gas in up to 13% – 25% of all cases estimated worldwide) which is of a wavelength far beyond that of power lines.

In general from birth, the incidence of leukemia rises to a peak of around 3 years of age, then declining briefly before steadily rising throughout life. This is unlike most cancers as it has a peak incidence early in life and a short latency.

Acute Nonlymphocytic Leukemia (AnLL) – In adults, benzene exposure is causally related. ( > 40 ppm cumulative exposure = >120 ppb annually over a 76 year lifetime)

Acute Lymphocytic Leukemia – Limited evidence of benzene related exposure causality.

Multiple Myeloma – Limited evidence of benzene related exposure causality.

Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma – Limited evidence of benzene related exposure causality.

Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia (CLL)

Chronic Myeloid Leukemia (CML)

 

BRAIN CANCERS

Glioma  (a malignant form of brain cancer) – Allegedly linked to cell phones as it has a short latency and is fast growing.

Glioblastomas (most common form of brain cancer)

Astrocytomas

Meningioma (a diverse set of tumors in the meninges of the brain; usually benign) – Allegedly linked to cell phones though the Interphone study shows reverse causality.

Acoustic Neuroma or Vestibular Schwannomas (benign intracranial tumor, but can be dangerous) – Allegedly linked to cell phones

 

OTHER CANCER TYPES

Breast Cancer

Lymphatic Cancers

Hematopoietic Cancers

Pituitary Gland Tumors

Uveal Melanoma (cancer of the eye)

 

NEURODEGENERATIVE DISEASES

Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) / Motor Neuron Disease

Alzheimer’s Disease

Parkinson’s Disease

Dementia

Myeloproliferative Disorders (MPDs)

Lymphoproliferative Disorders (LPDs)

Idiopathic Environmental Intolerance (IEI-EMF)

Typical EMF & RF Sources in the Home

Homes have several potential sources for high EMF and RF sources including:

  •  External high voltage power lines (both primary and secondary feeders) which can produce elevated levels – particularly in densely populated urban areas / cities such as Dallas, Fort Worth, Houston, Austin, etc. or in homes near utility easements
  •  The main 120/240 volt feed entering the home through the power drop
  •  Breaker boxes
  •  Fluorescent lights (some also have an RF component as well which can cause equipment interference)
  •  High output halogen lamp banks such as those used in track lighting (uses a lot of current)
  •  Appliances with motors or heating elements (washers, dryers, refrigerators, etc.)
  •  AC Adapters
  •  Wiring Errors
  •  Outside Air Conditioning Compressors and Pool Equipment
  •  Wireless Routers, Cell Phones, Bluetooth and Cordless Phones (radio frequency only)
  •  Smart Meters (but fairly low level)
  •  Dimmers (though the range tends to be very short, but I have seen them wreak havoc with sensitive electronic equipment)

The focus should primarily be in areas exposed to EMFs where occupants spend 90 % of their time or greater – this sample schematic gives examples.

Focusing on areas where people spend 90% of their time

Focusing on areas where people spend 90% of their time

LFE means Low Frequency Electromagnetic – this is the typical ELF (Extremely Low Frequency) band for 60 Hz AC power

Typical Low Frequency 60 Hz EMF

Typical Low Frequency 60 Hz EMF Sources

Higher frequency RF sources in the home including wireless routers, printers, laptops and other portable cell phone / tablet devices – DECT means Digital Enhanced Cordless Telecommunications

Typical High Frequency RF Sources in the Home

Typical High Frequency RF Sources in the Home