How do we distinguish between good and bad Electromagnetic Fields (EMFs)?

Researchers once thought EMFs, especially very low frequency and extremely low frequency EMFs, were safe because they were of such low strength as compared to other forms of radiation, such as those from a nuclear reactor or X-ray. However, as technology increases and people continue to use more electronic devices, some researchers suspect that EMFs are contributing to a subtle assault on people’s immune systems and overall health.

Electromagnetic fields (EMFs) are present everywhere in our environment but are low in intensity and invisible to the human eye. Electric fields that create magnetic fields are produced by the local build-up of electrical charges in the atmosphere associated with thunderstorm. The earth’s magnetic field causes a compass needle to orient in a North-South direction and is used by birds and fish for navigation.

Electric fields are measured in units of volts per meter or V/m. Magnetic fields are measured in milli-Gauss or mG. The field is always strongest near the source and diminishes as you move away from the source.

Science teaches that all energy is electromagnetic in nature. Our bodies and its individual organs radiate their own EMFs and our trillion cells communicate via electromagnetic frequencies. Disruption of electromagnetic energy in cells causes impaired cell metabolism, which leads to disease.

Harmful Man-Made EMFs

Because Electromagnetic Fields, especially very low frequency and extremely low frequency EMFs, are of such low strength as compared to other forms of radiation (as from nuclear reactors or X-Ray machines), researchers once thought they were safe. But now, as technology continues to grow and people are virtually surrounded by electronic devices, some researchers suspect EMFs are contributing to a subtle attack on people’s immune systems and overall health.
We are surrounded by stress-producing electromagnetic fields. These fields are generated by electrical wiring in our homes and offices, from televisions, computers, and video terminals, microwave ovens, overhead lights, power lines, and the hundreds of motors that can generate higher-than-normal Gauss strengths. The balance of the human organism can easily be negatively affected by electromagnetic changes in the environment, and an unbalanced body is more susceptible to disease. EMFs interact with living systems, affecting enzymes related to cell division and multiplication, growth regulation, and regulation of the sleep hormone melatonin (controlled by the pineal gland metabolism.)

Cumulative exposure – hour after hour, day after day – to EMFs is of the greatest concern. Ordinary household appliances tend to generate larger cumulative EMF exposures than power lines, as most people do not live close enough to power lines to be dramatically affected by their EMFs. The same cannot be said of kitchen appliances, computers, televisions, cell phones, and even electric outlets (especially if it’s directly behind the headboard of a bed). Though EMFs from appliances drop off at a distance of about 16 feet, people are generally much nearer than that to the source of the electromagnetic field – typically 18 inches from computers, a few feet from televisions, and practically no distance from cell phones.

The first study to establish a direct link between EMFs and cancer came in 1979 from the University of Colorado. Two epidemiologists, Nancy Wertheimer, Ph.D., and Ed Leeper, Ph.D., found that children who had been exposed to high-voltage lines in their early childhood had two to three times higher than normal rise of developing cancer, especially leukemia.

In 1987, a large-scale study conducted by the New York State Department of health confirmed Dr. Wertheimer’s findings, and added that the EMFs from the high-voltage power lines also affected the neurohormones of the brain. Various studies have since shown a link between electromagnetic fields and an increased incidence of heart disease, high blood pressure, Alzheimer’s disease, headaches, sexual dysfunction, and blood disorders – the latter including a 50 percent increase in white blood cell count.

Beneficial man made EMFs

These are specifically designed frequencies, applied in controlled ways to have more natural and beneficial actions to the body. For clinical or home use there are devices available for pulsed electromagnetic field therapy. Research has shown that specific pulsed electromagnetic fields in low frequency and intensity (gauss) range increase oxygenation to the blood, improve circulation and cell metabolism. Results include sound sleep, pain relief, reduced inflammation, improved energy levels, enhanced tissue and bone healing, etc.

Because of these effects in the body, daily use of beneficial EMFs supports healthy aging. EMFs have been use extensively for decades in many conditions and medical disciplines, and results can be seen in animals as well as humans.

Beneficial man made EMFs are biologically identical to the frequencies created by the cells, organs, bone and tissues of the body. Delivered to the body by the magnetic fields, they are noninvasive and nontoxic.

Research has shown that pulsed electromagnetic field frequencies increase oxygenation to the blood, improve circulation and cell metabolism. Results include sound sleep, pain relief, reduced inflammation, improved energy levels, enhanced tissue and bone healing, etc. Visit my PRODUCT REVIEW section to hear/read more about specific devices that provide beneficial EMFs.

How to protect from bad EMFs (also called: Electrosmog)

Although we can’t see, hear, or feel it, Electrosmog is found throughout nature and all living things. While it is difficult to avoid in our daily live, we can certainly diminish exposure and even shield ourselves from it. Remember, EMFs go through doors and walls!

You have to know where the sources of EMFs are in your everyday world and how strong these sources are. Is there wiring in the wall behind your bed that you don’t even know about? Is the vaporizer emitting strong fields in the baby’s room? How much EMFs are you and your family getting from the power lines in the street? Get a meter and test the areas where you spend time.

There are simple solutions like taking appropriate distance from these EMF sources. For example move your bed away from the EMF hot source and use an ear piece for your cell phone. If distance is not an option than put proper shielding in place or try to turn of or even throw out electrical appliances that you can do without


Humans and animals exposed to AC irradiation (such as that from electrical appliances) for long periods of time, and especially to strong fields, can sometimes develop unexpected reactions. The issue of cancer being produced by these kinds of field exposures remains unsettled. With the exception of therapeutic applications, most of these field exposures should be limited as much as possible. Therapeutic fields are typically quite different from the normal environmental fields we are exposed to regularly. Besides hair dryers and electric blankets, some of the strongest and most prolonged exposures we experience include riding on electric trains, using video monitors, and talking on non-hands-free cell phones. Additionally, all the risk factors for the combination of environmental fields and other potential toxic exposures, such as radon or smoking, are unknown. Since these exposures are not always entirely avoidable, are there ways we can reduce our risks?

Typical emissions

Electric fields in V/m range from:
< 1 at 30 cm from a hair dryer,
0-10 in a typical house, and
0-50 in an urban environment,
to 30 at a distance of 30 cm from a television screen,
6 at 30 cm from a refrigerator, and
5,000 under a 380 kV power line.

Magnetic fields in uT (20 uT=0.2 gauss) are in the range of:
0-0.1 in an urban environment,
0-1 in a typical house,
0.1-1 at 30 cm from a refrigerator,
20 under a 380 kV power line,
100-500 at a distance of 30 cm from a television, and
1,000-2,500 at 30 cm from a hair dryer.

You can actually see how much EMF a hairdryer and a TV produce!

Effective technologies exist for shielding people from electric fields

Commercially available anti-glare and anti-static filters can effectively eliminate the harmful frontal fields computer monitors emit. However, they do not shield from the magnetic fields produced by these monitors; magnetic fields are notably more difficult to shield against. Both static and alternating magnetic fields can easily penetrate common materials including steel, concrete, and lead. Magnetic fields can be altered and reduced by high-permeability metal alloys, which are typically very expensive. Some so-called low-radiation monitors use such alloys to shield the deflection coil which can help reduce magnetic field emissions.

Detection and Avoidance

One of the most effective methods of reducing your negative EMF exposure is through detection and avoidance. By knowing the position and strength of fields emitted from a monitor, for example, you can establish an imaginary circle of safety around it. Appropriate measuring instruments can be used to determine this circle of safety. You may take a similar approach around the home or place of work, where long-term exposure is possible from other, sometimes unexpected sources of EMFs. By conducting a survey around the home or workplace, high-exposure points can be identified. Avoidance action can be as simple as repositioning furniture, moving the EMF source, or both. It is known that the backs of monitors and microwave ovens can produce especially strong EMFs. There are numerous reports of individuals being sleepy or tired while sitting behind one of these sources, and other symptoms dramatically improve when their positions are relocated away from the source.

Emissions from video display terminals or VDTs

Four types of fields are emitted from monitors (video display terminals or VDTs) at levels significantly above background EMF:
• DC electric fields which result from electrostatic charging of the screen,
• ELF magnetic fields,
• VLF magnetic fields, and
• VLF electric fields

VLF pulsed electric fields are emitted from the flyback transformer and ELF and VLF magnetic fields are produced by the horizontal and vertical deflection coils.

Pulsed electric fields in the vicinity of VDTs occur as follows from surveyed machines:
• The strongest, 300+ V/m, can be measured 20 cm from the right side of the unit where the flyback transformer is located. These decrease to about 50 V/m at a distance of 40 cm.
• At the front they average around 50 V/m, but decrease rapidly to negligible values at 25 to 30 cm.
• Through the top of the unit they average 280 V/m measured 10 cm from the top and decrease to about 30 V/m at a distance of 30 cm.
• With a printer located on top of the VDT, emissions through the front and top are significantly decreased – since the printer acts as an effective shield.

DC electric fields having potential gradients of less than 200 V/cm have not been found to produce any biological effects, though indirect effects can occur. DC electric fields may cause an acceleration of charged airborne particles against the face of the VDT operator. The particles may be responsible for the skin rashes and eye problems reported by some VDT operators.

It is not yet possible to determine whether pulsed EMFs emitted from VDTs represent a health hazard. Most published standards apply between 10 and 300 kHz to the MHz range, and do not cover the ELF or VLF bands of electromagnetic radiation. The American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists recommendations should be taken seriously, and all radiofrequency radiation exposures should be kept as low as reasonably possible.

Experiments conducted at the Canadian Center for Occupational Health and Safety have led to a practical method for reducing pulsed electric field emissions from VDTs. The method calls for the installation of a plywood enclosure lined with copper foil. A grounding wire soldered to the copper foil connects to a grounded metal screw on the modem cable. This shield effectively removed emissions through the sides and top of the VDT. Another way to reduce exposures to VDT emissions is to reposition the workplace so that no one may sit or stand near the side or rear of a VDT. A working distance of 1-1.5m is recommended. Keep in mind that VDTs should not be positioned in a line (back to front), as individual operators may be exposed to emissions from nearby terminals.

One case study, which examined VDTs that were flickering from the fields produced by power cables in a room below, found that 3mm-thick iron or 250um-thick metal could provide the required shielding. For any other given set of circumstances, the required thickness of the material would depend on the strength of the underlying fields.

Fabrics with electromagnetic shielding properties

Many materials have been developed for shielding people from negative EMFs. One reasonably well-studied example which has been used clinically is Farabloc, a fabric with electromagnetic shielding properties.

Farabloc can reduce a person’s signs, symptoms, and muscular strength deficits resulting from delayed-onset quadriceps soreness caused by eccentric exercise. A randomized, single-blind, placebo-controlled crossover trial found that double layers of Farabloc fabric wrapped around the thigh reduces pain, reverses strength loss, and lowers malondialdehyde, creatine phosphokinase, myoglobin, leukocyte, and meutrophils serum levels. Farabloc shields high-frequency EMFs. This material has also been found to reduce phantom pain.

Power line AC field reduction strategies

Concern about exposure to EMFs is focused primarily on power frequency EMFs, which fall within a frequency range of between 3 and 3,000Hz. This range is designated as an extremely low frequency (ELF) band. In the ELF range, wavelengths are extremely long, between 100 and 100,000km, which for practical purposes means that we are almost always in the field. The electric and magnetic fields from power frequency sources are considered independent of one another. For a given system or source, electric fields are determined by voltages and the magnetic fields are determined by currents.

Electric fields are produced whenever a potential of voltage exists between two objects. Magnetic fields are produced by moving electric charges, which generally implies an electric current. Therefore, any wire that carries an electric current is a source of magnetic fields. Ground currents can be important sources of residential magnetic fields.
The physical layout of electric wires is critical in reducing both magnetic and electric fields. The most basic reduction approach calls for relocating sources at a distance from a critical region, such as an office or piece of sensitive electronic equipment. Minimum spacing of “hot” and “neutral” wires will result in lower magnetic field exposures. Conducting objects are effective in shielding electric fields. For example, placing a grounded conductive enclosure around a space will eliminate the electric field in that space. For ELF electric fields, the conductive enclosure can be as simple and inexpensive as a wire mesh screen.

Magnetic fields, especially ELF magnetic fields, are much harder to shield than electric fields because they readily penetrate most materials. Shielding can be active or passive. Active shielding is done by creating additional sources to produce an opposing canceling field, thereby altering the intensity from the source. Active shielding involves the use of coils that carry a current oriented in such a way that it will reduce or cancel the magnetic field to be avoided. Controlling alternate current pathways that produce large current loops is also a valuable approach.
Passive shielding is done by changing the magnetic field in a region. It is accomplished by placing a material shield between the magnetic field source and the region to be shielded. Shields can be made of ferromagnetic materials that alter the structure of the magnetic field by providing a preferred path the for the magnetic flux lines. This process is known as flux shunting. Shields may also be made conductive materials in which the magnetic field source induces electric currents that tend to oppose or cancel the original magnetic field. This process is known as induced current shielding. Shielding in which induced currents flow in conductive loops of wire is being investigated as a means of reducing magnetic fields near power lines. Only a small number of materials are suitable for reducing magnetic fields, and these materials can be expensive. Design and cost considerations must therefore be part of the shielding process.

Author's Bio: 

Dr. William Pawluk is an international medical expert in the medical use of electromagnetic fields (PEMFs), with over 27 years experience. He has had academic appointments at Johns Hopkins and U of Maryland, co-hosted a natural medicine radio show for over 10 years, has appeared on The Dr OZ Show, written and done interviews and lectures on magnetics, conducted research on the use of various kinds of PEMFs on pain, wound healing, concussion, etc., and teaches professionals and consults regularly with the public on the use of magnetic therapies. He has an authoritative website, and published the book Power Tools for Health, reviewing the science and various therapy options.