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Electric Fields – the Importance of Measuring Them

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Electric Fields – VITAL to measure

Electric fields are an important part of an EMF audit.

In an nutshell, extremely low frequency (ELF) AC electric fields are present where there is any household wiring or any appliances plugged in. They exist where there is a potential.

You can read more about the science behind ELF AC electric fields here – I want to focus on the importance of assessing them.

I measure ELF AC electric fields

I am one of a pinch (not even a handful) of building biologists who measures ELF AC electric fields. This is one of four EMF areas which I assess – I also assess ELF AC magnetic fields, high frequencies and “dirty” electricity.

Most EMF audits only cover ELF AC magnetic fields and high frequencies – half of what I assess!

ELF AC electric fields is NOT assessed by measuring body voltage. Body voltage gives an indication of exposure when someone is laying on their bed… that is all. ELF AC electric fields need to be measured with specialised equipment – as the fields are incredibly easy to influence. This means that if I put a meter in or very near the field, it will change. If I enter the field or move very close to it, it will change. (You can read more about the concept of earthing mats – which are all about managing this form of EMF here.)

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The Wisdom of Those Sensitive to EMF

ELF AC electric fields emanate from the wall. One thing I have noticed when auditing homes of the electromagnetically sensitive is that they intuitively position their bed in the centre of the room – well away from all the walls.

As well, they often turn circuits off – which can reduce the fields.

Case Study

Recently, I was called to complete an Essential Audit for a client who was primarily concerned about EMF. One of the biggest concerns was the smart meter – as is often the case.

Like with all audits, an emphasis is placed on where a person spends time.

So, I completed each of my layers of assessment, including my 4 levels of EMF testing.

Level 1: high frequencies – due to the position of the smart meter, areas where the client spent time were well within Building Biology Guidelines.

Level 2: ELF AC magnetic fields – again, these were well within acceptable levels as per the Building Biology Guidelines.

— This is where other EMF audits stop —

Level 3: “Dirty” Electricity – levels here were up to 7 times higher than the goal, so needed to be addressed.

Level 4: ELF AC electric fields – the levels were mind-blowing!

Building Biology Guidelines state that when using a potential-free meter, that levels of ELF AC electric fields should be below 1.5V/m. The levels I measured were above 50V/m.

OUTCOME: I was able to advise my clients on the best course of action for their situation – both immediate steps and a longer term solution.

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As you can see, if only two levels were completed, the advice would have been that the area is safe. Clearly, having assessed 4 levels of EMF, it is clearly unsafe and as such measures need to be taken to ensure the safety of my clients.

What Does the Science Say?

Very little – but enough! ELF AC electric fields are difficult to measure – and the biggest focus of research over the last 40 years has been on ELF AC magnetic fields and high frequencies.

Maes

However, Maes (2015, 3) states that, “studies show that long-term exposures of only 10 V/m increase the risk for childhood leukemia, cancer and other health problems.”

Cech, et al

Cech, et al (2008) studied the impact of ELF electric fields on pregnant rats: “By vectorial addition of the electric current densities, it could be shown that under worst case conditions the basic restrictions recommended by ICNIRP (International Commission on Non-Ionising Radiation Protection) guidelines are exceeded within the central nervous system (CNS) of the mother, whereas in sole field exposure they are not. However, within the foetus the induced current densities do not comply with basic restrictions, either from single reference-level electric fields or from simultaneous exposure to electric and magnetic fields. Basic limits were considerably exceeded.”

Gok, et al; and Guler, et al

Two other studies were looking to explain the effect in the brain and retina in pregnant rats, or discover the effectiveness of antioxidants from AC ELF electric fields exposure (respectively: Gok, et al, 2016; Guler, et al, 2009). The premise can be made from the scope of the research is that there are biological effects in these different areas.

Reiter

Further, research was done by Reiter (1993) into the effects of ELF electromagnetic field exposure and its effects on melatonin production. Reiter concluded that the mechanisms remain unknown, but the effect exists.

Blank

Some findings were included in the BioInitiative Report, including:

Electric fields exert a force on electrons, and have been shown to stimulate protein synthesis in HL60 cells (Blank et al, 1992), E coli (Laubitz et al, 2006) and muscle in vivo (Blank, 1995). (Blank, 2007, 9)

Pall

Prof Martin L Pall’s research shows that electric fields trigger the voltage-gated calcium channels, causing apoptosis (programmed cell death) (2013).

Eco Health Solutions EMF audit includes electric fields***

So, although there is limited research, there is a growing body of evidence that demonstrates health or biological effects within the body. As such, all exposures to all types of EMF should be as close as possible to nature, and be within the no or slight concern categories of the building biology guidelines.

What Should You Do?

Have a thorough EMF audit – perhaps an Express Audit suits your budget better, or the comprehensive (and recommended) Essential Audit.

Please give me a call, so I can work out how best to meet your needs.



References

Blank, M (2007) BioInitiative Report: Section 7: Evidence of Stress Response (Stress Proteins): Health Risk of Electromagnetic Fields: Research on the Stress Response (Online) Available at http://www.bioinitiative.org/report/wp-content/uploads/pdfs/sec07_2007_Evidence_for_Stress_Response.pdf (3 February 2017)

Cech, R, Leigeb, N, Pediatitis, M (January 2008) Current Densities in a Pregnant Woman Model Induced by Simultaneous ELF Electric and Magnetic Field Exposure Phys Med Biol 2008 Jan 7;53(1):177-86. doi: 10.1088/0031-9155/53/1/012. Epub 2007 Dec 19. (Online) Available at https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18182695 (27 January 2017)

Gok, DK, Akpinar, D, Hidsoglu, E, Ozen, S, Agar, A, Yargiciglu, P (December 2016) The Developmental Effects of Extremely Low Frequency Electric Fields on Visual and Somatosensory Evoked Potentials in Adult Rats Electromagn Biol Med. 2016;35(1):65-74. doi: 10.3109/15368378.2014.987923. Epub 2014 Dec 11.

Guler, G, Turkozerr, Z, Ozgur, E, Seyhan, N (February 2009) Antioxidants alleviate electric field-induced effects on lung tissue based on assays of heme oxygenase-1, protein carbonyl content, malondialdehyde, nitric oxide, and hydroxyproline. (Online) Sci Total Environ. 2009 Feb 1;407(4):1326-32. doi: 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2008.10.050. Epub 2008 Nov 22.

Maes, W (June 2015) Questions About the Standard of Building Biology Methods and the Building Biology Evaluation Guide (Online) Available at https://buildingbiology.com/site/wp-content/uploads/sbm-2015-questions-english.pdf

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Author of all content is Lucinda Curran, unless otherwise indicated.