Chapter 01: The Beginner’s Guide to
What are EMFs?
In this chapter, you’re going to learn all about EMFs (electro-magnetic fields).
Four man-made ones, in particular.
You’ll learn how and why they occur, what their dangers may be and what you can do to lessen your exposure to these man-made EMFs.
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What are EMFs, in a nutshell? The quick and dirty.
Learn more about EMFs and their possible dangers
Survey your home for EMFs: Hire an EMF Pro or DIY?
A brief overview of and where the fields fall on this spectrum.
An overview of the possible health effects of EMFs.
Thoughts on if the Government is looking out for our health.
What are EMFs, In a Nutshell?
Below we give you the quick and dirty rundown on electro-magnetic fields.
Or EMFs for short.
You’ve probably heard about these, but are unsure of what they are or where they come from.
What are EMFS, in a Nutshell?
Okay, so what are EMFs?
EMF is short for “electro-magnetic field.”
In a nutshell, EMFs are physical fields, often invisible, that produce electro-magnetic radiation (EMR).
Simplified, the term EMF refers to waves of radiation that emit from a source.
Some of this radiation is naturally occurring (sunshine, for example), while other sources are man-made (the cell phone in your pocket).
In this guide, we specifically focus on man-made EMFs.
The sources of man-made EMFs are essentially the result of the electrification of our cities and the invention and near-universality of wireless communication.
The electrification of our homes and work spaces began nearly 150 years ago.
This remarkable feat of distributing electricity to and then allocating it within homes (via electrical circuits) lead to a marked societal shift and a rise in global living standards.
It also resulted in humans being in close proximity to the magnetic and electric fields that radiate as a result of the presence and use of electricity.
Advances in wireless communication devices, such as cell phones and wireless routers, over the last 30 years have also been nothing short of amazing.
Near flawless and instantaneous communication across the globe is truly a marvel of human ingenuity.
Unfortunately, this technology (and the necessary infrastructure to support it) also subjects us to never-seen-before levels of microwave radiation.
Contrary to what the telecommunications industry claims, many physicians and scientists believe this technology isn’t sufficiently tested for possible negative biological health effects.
More on this below in the health and regulatory sections.
Learn More In-Depth About EMFs
Interested in learning more about EMFs?
In this section we’ll go over some technical definitions and introduce you to the “Four Fields to Forgo.”
We’ll also tell you about the Electromagnetic Spectrum and where these EMFs fall upon it.
Let’s get started:
Deep Dive: More Detail on EMFs Than You Probably Wanted
Before we begin referencing the different types of man-made electro-magnetic fields (EMFs), let’s briefly define some terms in more technical detail before we get any farther. Just an FYI.
These definitions are courtesy of Wikipedia.
01 – Electromagnetic fields (or EMFs) are physical fields produced by electrically charged objects.
(Our Note: Fundamental to all EMFs are an interconnected electric field (the E in EMF) and a magnetic field (the M in EMF).)
02 – Electromagnetic radiation (EMR) refers to the waves (or their quanta, photons) of the electromagnetic field, propagating (radiating) through space, carrying electromagnetic radiant energy. It includes radio waves, microwaves, infrared, (visible) light, ultraviolet, X-rays, and gamma rays.01
03 – The Electromagnetic Spectrum is the range or continuum of all types of electromagnetic radiation.02
The voluntary exposure of the brain to microwaves from hand-held mobile phones... [is] the largest human biological experiment ever.
– Professor Leif Salford
Head of Research
Lund University, Sweden04
Ok, So What Causes EMFs?
Many sources of EMFs are naturally occurring, like sunshine, thunderstorms and the earth’s magnetic field.
Although interesting topics, we are primarily concerned with man-made EMFs.
Specifically, we’ll be focusing on four man-made EMFs.
We’ve named these the “Four Fields to Forgo.”
Kind of catchy, right?
We will be examining these field sources more closely in the next five chapters of the guide:
These four types of man-made EMFs are differentiated by the frequency at which they occur on the Electromagnetic Spectrum.
We’ll explore the spectrum more below, but please see the footnotes to learn more in-depth about the science and physics of EMFs.03
The Four Fields to Forgo
There are four types of man-made EMFs that we’re going to focus on.
We call these the Four Fields to Forgo.
In this section you’ll learn all about magnetic fields, electric fields, radio frequency fields and dirty electricity.
Let’s get started:
The Four Fields to Forgo
Before we examine the Electromagnetic Spectrum, let’s take a brief look at the four types of EMFs that we worry about the health effects from.
A quick note: You’ll see “AC” referenced below and throughout the guide and it stands for “alternating current.”
Alternating current is how electricity is most commonly distributed and brought into our homes and places of business.
You’ll learn more about alternating current in Chapters 2, 5 and 6.
01 – AC Magnetic Fields
AC magnetic fields are present primarily due to four reasons:
- Proximity to overhead (or underground) electrical AC transmission or distribution lines.
- When an electrical current is being drawn by a device, appliance, or motor.
- Electrical wiring errors (neutral-to-neutral/neutral-to-ground connections).
- Stray electrical current on water pipes, cable tv lines, phone lines and other utility installations.
The elevated magnetic fields of the power lines are often the result of the separation/spacing of the lines.
Inside your home, you’ll see magnetic fields resulting from the use of electricity by devices, appliances and motors.
For example, the backside of your refrigerator may often have substantial magnetic fields emanating from it.
Wiring errors and stray current can also produce large magnetic fields.
02 – Radio Frequency Fields
RF Fields are present primarily due to tech devices and the infrastructure erected to support those devices. Some examples of RF emitters:
- WiFi routers
- Cell phones
- Bluetooth-enabled devices
- Tablets, such as iPads and Kindles.
- Cell phone towers
- All stuff 5G
03 – AC Electric Fields
AC electric fields are present primarily due to two reasons:
a) When an electrical circuit is energized.
b) Proximity to an overhead power lines.
There needn’t be any current (actual use of electricity by devices or appliances). Simply the presence of the electricity in the energized circuits is enough to create these fields.
04 – Dirty Electricity
Dirty electricity is caused by the manipulation of the electrical current by devices, appliances and lighting in your home.
Some examples of the devices that produce dirty electricity are:
a) Dimmer switches
b) Laptop computers
c) CFL and LED Bulbs
e) Various entertainment systems
Dirty Electricity can often be reduced by the use of plug-in filters or whole-home filters.
The Four Fields to Forego, A Recap
AC Electrical Fields
Mainly found when room wiring is energized.
AC Magnetic Fields
Present due to wiring errors, stray current, external powerlines or when a device, appliance or motor is drawing electricity.
Radio Frequency Fields
Mainly attributable to wireless devices and their infrastructure.
Mainly due to devices purposefully manipulating the electrical current.
The Electromagnetic Spectrum
The electromagnetic spectrum is the range of all types of electromagnetic radiation.
In this section we explain it in more technical detail.
We also provide an illustration of where the Four Fields to Forgo fall on the spectrum.
Let’s dive in:
Deep Dive: The Electromagnetic Spectrum Explained
As mentioned above, the Electromagnetic Spectrum05 is the range of all types of electromagnetic radiation.
This runs the gamut from Extremely Low Frequency (ELF) radiation06 all the way to gamma rays generated by the cosmos and utilized in man-made therapeutic radiation.
There are several interesting features of the electromagnetic spectrum:
a) Moving from left to right, you’ll see the frequency (waves per second) increase and the wavelength decrease.
b) Frequency and wavelength are inversely proportional.
Put another way: you go from long wavelength, low frequency, lower energy density waves to small wavelength, high frequency, high energy density waves.
Why is this important to understand?
If you look at the spectrum, you’ll notice that it’s divided into two parts: non-ionizing radiation on the left and ionizing radiation on the right.
The “Four Fields to Forgo” are found along the non-ionizing portion of the spectrum. AC Electric and Magnetic Fields are found in the 60Hz range on the far left in the ELF (Extremely Low Frequency) range. Radio Frequency Fields are just left of center in the MHz and GHz ranges.
Ionizing radiation (the right side of the spectrum) is well known to be harmful and potentially life threatening.07
Ionizing radiation can cause DNA molecules to go haywire and lead to negative health outcomes such as cancer.
It’s important to note that ionizing radiation also has beneficial medical and imaging applications. X-rays for broken bones would be a good example of this.
The effects of high levels of non-ionizing radiation haven’t achieved the same scientific consensus as with ionizing radiation.
Throughout this guide, however, we’ll provide the latest studies that show reducing your exposure to these fields may be in the best interest of you, your loved ones and your pets.
To learn more about the Electromagnetic Spectrum please visit our appendix page: Man-made EMFs and the Electromagnetic Spectrum.
The Electromagnetic Spectrum, Important Points
Frequency is inversely proportional to wavelengths. Decreasing frequency = increasing wavelengths.
As you go from low frequency to high frequency, the energy density increases.
Waves vs. Beams
Increase the frequency enough and the energy behaves less like waves and more like particle beams.
Ionizing radiation is known to be harmful. The scientific case for non-ionizing radiation is being made.
The Possible Health Concerns with EMFs
Now to the section on the possible health effects of EMFs.
The science isn’t cut and dry, but with each passing month more and more health studies are coming out about the possible dangers of non-ionizing radiation.
In this section we go over some of the thoughts on negative health effects from scientists and physicians.
Let’s get started:
OK, So What are the Health Concerns with EMFs?
The following is a list of diseases and illnesses some believe to be attributable (fully or partially) to excessive exposure to EMFs in the non-ionizing radiation spectrum:08
- Alzheimer’s Disease
- Cancers, including leukemia in children
- Blurred vision
- Brain fog
- Cancer (Breast Cancer)
- Cancer (Lymphoblastic Leukemia in Children)
- Cancer (Malignant Melanoma)
- Dizziness and Vertigo
- Decreased immunity
- Headaches / migraines
- Heart palpitations
- Irritability and aggression
- Multiple Sclerosis
- Ringing in the ears
- Skin rashes
- Sleep Problems
The science isn’t settled (unlike with the dangers of smoking, for example), but with each passing year more and more epidemiological studies come out pointing towards the possible dangers of these types of radiation.
The most recent study of note is a $30 million dollar National Toxicology Program study on the RF radiation from cell phones that we go over in chapter three.09
Please visit our EMF Health Studies page to read specific scientific and epidemiological studies on the Four Fields to Forgo.
Finally, let’s talk about the precautionary principle.
The Precautionary Principle
The “precautionary principle” is one of the guiding doctrines of Building Biologists and EMF Specialists.
It can be defined as the following:
“the belief that an action should not be taken if the consequences are uncertain and potentially dangerous.”
With this in mind, we believe that care should be taken to limit the man-made EMF exposure of humans and especially of kids and young adults.
This may seem like a tough undertaking in our modern society.
The good news is that many points of exposure, especially within our homes, can be reduced or eliminated without much inconvenience for your family.
"A good laugh and a long sleep are the two best cures for anything."
– An Old Irish Proverb
Sleep and EMFs
When talking about EMFs to clients and friends, one health aspect I focus on is sleep.
Putting the potentially catastrophic outcomes aside, at a minimum these man-made EMFs are likely contributing to a less restful, less restorative sleeping cycle.
That alone, dismissing all the other evidence of negative biological effects, would make it worthwhile to reduce or eliminate your exposure to EMFs.
Realistically, the quick pulses of a transmitting wi-fi router or cell phone that’s placed directly next to your bedside is likely to have a negative impact on your sleeping cycle.
We live in a hectic age of stress, anxiety and sleep deprivation.
A better quality sleep (a truly “deep sleep”), in our opinion, is rationale enough to significantly lower one’s exposure to these EMFs.
Recap of Possible Health Concerns of EMFS
Leukemia in High Risk Occupations
The Ontario Electric Utility Workers study notes this.
Voltage Gated Calcium Channels
This is from a study by Martin Pall.
Also known as EHS. While RF radiation is often the main cause of this, ELF AC Electric Fields may be a contributing factor.
Melatonin & Sleep Disruption
The theory goes that electric fields may lead to less melatonin production and result in poorer and less regenerative sleep.
Wait, Isn’t the Government Looking Out for Us?
In this section we address the common thought that “If EMFs were really dangerous the government would protect us.”
We address this and present a case that this, unfortunately does not appear to be true.
The FCC standards will surprise you.
Wait, if EMFs Were Really Dangerous Wouldn’t the Government Let Us Know?
One of the hardest parts of learning about the possible risks of man-made EMFs is the sense that the government isn’t really looking out for your health and safety like it does in other environmental areas such as clean air, water purity and exposure to chemicals.
A great example of this is the regulation of cell phones and wireless devices.
When I read about the possible risks of radio frequency radiation for the first time, my thoughts were:
“Wait, this can’t be true. I’m sure the government and wireless industry have tested these devices for safety. They must have ensured these devices are safe to use, right?”
Surprisingly, in the US the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is in charge of the safety regulations for the non-ionizing radiation that cell phones, wifi routers and other transmitting devices produce.
Not the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
Not Health and Human Services (HHS).
Not the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH).
As it states on the FCC’s website:
“On August 1, 1996, the Commission adopted the NCRP’s recommended Maximum Permissible Exposure limits for field strength and power density for the transmitters operating at frequencies of 300 kHz to 100 GHz.” 10
Did you catch the date?
The current safety guidelines for this technology in the United States were written in 1996!
In 2013, the FCC announced a plan to revisit the safety guidelines, but as of this writing there haven’t been any updates.
Think about that for a second.
Think how much has changed with mobile phones and wireless devices since 1996.
When cell phones first appeared over three decades ago, the agency developed very basic safety standards for cell phone handling. Those standards have not been updated since 1996, even though cell phone technology has grown in power and complexity.
– Daniel and Ryan DeBaun, authors of Radiation Nation.11
So, they have tested the devices for safety, but there are massive questions about the testing protocol itself.
In other words, yes, they’re testing the devices, but are they testing for the right biological threats?
We cover this in more detail in our chapter on Radio Frequency Fields.
The hard truth is that, whether through government inefficiency or regulatory capture, the safety guidelines haven’t been updated for a quarter century and it’s unlikely that these safety guidelines are good enough for today’s modern communication devices.
Bottom line: It’s up to you to measure for and reduce the man-made EMFs in your life.
A Brief Overview of DIY EMF Meters for Testing
Below we give you the quick rundown of EMF meters you can use to measure the Four Fields to Forgo.
Many of the meters are multi-use meters, meaning that the meter can measure more than one of the man-made EMFs.
We go into these meter options in much more detail in the individual EMF chapters of the guide.
Let’s get started:
Popular EMF Meter Reviews and Recommendations
When you visit our EMF meter reviews page, you’ll see we’ve divided our EMF meter reviews into three categories: Professional Grade, Mid-range and Budget.
Many of the meters are dual-use or triple-use meters that can measure AC magnetic fields, AC electric fields and/or RF fields, too. These are noted when applicable.
Below are some of the meters we cover on our EMF Meter Reviews page.
EMF Meters: The Tools Used to Measure Electromagnetic fields
The good news is all of the Four Fields to Forgo can be measured by an EMF specialist or an EMF DIYer and there are a variety of affordable meters that won’t break the bank.
Let’s briefly summarize the man-made EMFs and the meters used to measure them:
AC Electric Fields can be measured with both electric field meters and body voltage meters and are measured in volts per meter (V/m).
AC Magnetic Fields are measured using gaussmeters and measured in milligauss or nanotesla.
Radio Frequency Fields are measured using RF meters and most commonly measured in microWatts per meter squared (µW/m2). .
Dirty Electricity (DE) or Microsurge Electrical Pollution (MEP) is measured utilizing DE meters and in V/m or Stetzer Units.
EMF Meter Recap
Measuring EMFs in Your Home: Call a Pro or DIY?
So, you’ve made the decision to measure the EMF levels in your home or office.
This section is about the next step:
Should you hire an EMF professional or do the surveying and take the measurements yourself?
Let’s go over the pros and cons of each:
Call an EMF Pro or DIY?
If you’ve decided that you want to survey your home to learn if there are any elevated EMF levels, the next step is deciding whether you want to hire an EMF professional, try to go about the investigation alone, or a mixture of the two.
In the end this decision depends solely on you, your budget and your available time.
When to call an EMF Specialist
- If you’re experiencing uncertainty about the entire process.
- You’re not as curious about the science or the accumulated data and simply want to make sure your family is safe from the possible biological risks of EMFs.
- You just don’t have the time to purchase or rent a meter, do the survey yourself, and lead any subsequent mitigation efforts.
- If you don’t want to take a chance with the survey readings and want to ensure that professional-grade meters are being utilized.
Who may want to DIY
- A person who enjoys DIY activities and would enjoy the process and technical aspects of taking your own EMF meter readings
- Someone who has the time and inclination to properly do the surveys and research what the testing results mean to one’s home and office environments
- Someone who will use the tools for additional surveys of family and friends’ homes, can afford to add the tools to their collection of useful instruments, or feels comfortable reselling the meters on the secondary market when no longer needed.
- Someone who doesn’t mind the strange looks and the inquiring questions of neighbors and strangers as they wander their property and neighborhood holding a beeping meter (We kid, but we know from experience that you’ll get a lot of curious people approaching you).
When to utilize both
- There’s nothing stopping you from taking your own readings and then consulting an EMF specialist. Most will consult with you over the phone/skype/facetime for a reasonable hourly fee.
- This is an effective means of surveying a home that isn’t in practical traveling distance from the service area of the EMF specialist.
– – – – – – –
It’s important to reiterate that Electromagnetic Radiation Specialists and other EMF professionals, beyond having hundreds or thousands of hours of specialized training and experience, also utilize professional grade meters.
The discrepancy in readings from the lower-end meters and these professional meters can be significant and this can mean that homeowners won’t receive the full picture of EMF exposure.
Read an example of this from Dave Green, a Building Biologist and EMF Consultant in Michigan.
– – – – – – –
REMEMBER: When in doubt, or if you have any questions regarding any of this, call an EMF professional!
– – – – – – –
DIY: How to Lower Your
Electro-Magnetic Field Exposure
DIY EMF testing requires you to have the right emf meters and the knowledge of how to accurately use them.
The next five chapters will give you a background of the Four Fields to Forgo (plus information on 5G) and then you can utilize our EMF meter buying guides12 and EMF Field Guides to begin surveying your home or business.
If you prefer a hard copy or ebook/kindle edition, these can be purchased below.
They make great gifts for your family members (especially those with children) and support our important cause of getting this information out to the general public.
Sign up for our EMF newsletter and we’ll send you a pdf of our guide, 20 Ways You Can Immediately Reduce You and Your Family’s Exposure to EMFs, free of charge.
In Conclusion: Case Studies, Resources, & Footnotes
Below are some final thoughts we have on EMFs.
There’s also some interesting EMFs resources below.
We’ve included a few case studies that EMF Experts have experienced in the field. These make for an interesting read, as well.
Lastly, we’ve added all the footnotes from the chapter.
Stories from EMF Specialists – EMF Case studies
In chapter 2-5 we’ve included several anecdotes from practicing EMF consultants. These EMF specialists share some of the most interesting and strange electromagnetic exposure scenarios they’ve come across in their years in practice.
Many of these experts are available for remote EMF consulting via Telephone/Zoom/Facetime/Skype and can be extremely helpful in locating problematic areas of electromagnetic exposure.
EMF Studies and Learning Resources
Learn more about EMFs by visiting our Important EMF Studies page or by visiting our EMF Learning Resources page.
If you’re interested in a becoming a Building Biologist or ElectroMagnetic Radiation Specialist, please visit the Building Biology Institute13 to learn more about these careers.
A Final Note on ElectroMagnetic Fields
Congratulations on taking the first step to become more informed on EMFs.
Most people haven’t given much thought, if any, to the subject of EMFs. Life is busy and it’s easy to overlook the technologies in our lives beyond the immediate positive applications.
We realize it may be overwhelming at times to realize how common man-made EMFs are in our work and home environments.
Just remember that mitigating EMF exposure doesn’t have to happen overnight!
Small changes in how you use technology will make a sizable difference in your overall exposure.
Slow and steady.
For example, if there’s no security or health reason to have your wi-fi on at night, start by turning it off while you and your family sleeps.
If you’re not expecting an important call, put your phone in “airplane mode” when you carry it on your body.
Purchase battery powered alarm clocks for all the bedrooms.
You’ll be surprised how little inconvenience many of these changes are.
Slow and steady.
Slow and steady.
Slow and steady and before you know it your exposure levels will be markedly lower.
As they say in the Building Biology field, “Nature is the gold standard.”
So, provide your family, your pets and yourself the lowest EMF environment possible.14
01 – EMFs and EMR
02 – Electromagnetic Spectrum
Wikipedia’s page for the electromagnetic spectrum can be found here.
NASA has an interesting webpage, although it omits ELF (extremely low frequency) radiation.
03 – Professor Salford
Professor Salford’s university page can be found here.
More information on Professor Salford and a list of his articles can be found here.
04 – EMFs In-Depth
Oram Miller has a great introduction to EMFs on his site Create Healthy Homes.
The World Health Organization’s (WHO) has a page on EMFs here.
05 – Graphic Note
The original graphic is used with permission from the National Cancer Institute, with some additions made to better illustrate where common external objects and internal devices fall on the spectrum. Notice the demarcation of non-ionizing and ionizing radiation.
06 – ELF Radiation
Frequencies (vibrations per second) ranging between 1 Hz and 2 kHz are considered to be Extremely Low Frequency (ELF). For example, power lines in North America have a frequency of 60 Hz.
07 – Ionizing Radiation
Some types of ionizing radiation can also be used for medical treatments. Radiation therapy for cancer is one example. Read more about it here.
08 – Health Studies
See our appendix section on EMF Health Studies
09 – National Toxicology Program Study
10 – 1996 FTC Cell Phone Guidelines
11 – Radiation Nation
You can purchase this informative book in our EMF Books section.
12 – Recommended EMF Meters
View our Best EMF Meters of 2021 chapter.
13 – Institute of Building-Biology and Ecology
Learn more about Building Biology and IBE.
14 – EMF Field Guides
The Beginner's Guide to EMFs - Chapters
Preface - Homepage & Table of Contents
Introduction - Why I Wrote This
Ch. 01 - What are EMFs?
Ch. 02 - What are AC Magnetic Fields?
Ch. 03 - What are Radio Frequency Fields?
Ch. 04 - What is 5G?
Ch. 05 - What are AC Electric Fields?
Ch. 06 - What is Dirty Electricity?
Ch. 07 - The EMF Field Guides
Ch. 08 - Step-by-Step EMF Guides
Ch. 09 - EMF Testing; Hire an EMF Pro or DIY?
Ch. 10 - EMF Consultants Near You
Ch. 11 - DIY EMF Testing
Ch. 12 - EMF Meters for DIY Testing
Ch. 13 - DIY: The Best EMF Meters of 2021
Ch. 14 - What the EMF Test Results Mean
Ch. 15 - Taking Action
Ch. 16 - EMF Shielding Guides
Ch. 17 - Final Thoughts - Moving Forward
The Beginner's Guide to EMFs
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Welcome to the Beginner’s Guide to EMFs.
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