SILENT KILLERS - ELECTROMAGNETIC AND INDOOR AIR POLLUTION

Print PDF

 

Electro-magnetic pollution is becoming a significant issue of the new millennium, as the information age reaches full stride. In the last few years there have been numerous exposés on U.S. national television, documenting the many ill effects attributed to these silent and now all-too-pervasive fields. Indoor air pollution is an even better documented health problem that is generally agreed to be a much worse problem than out door air pollution.

 

ELECTROMAGNETIC POLLUTION

The typical modern home is riddled with fields of all kinds - electric, magnetic, radio, and microwave to name a few, the effects of which are, at best questionable and, at worst, linked to cancer. Electromagnetic fields (EMF's) are produced by the wiring and appliances in your home, even when there is no power being used (particularly when they are improperly grounded or the polarity is incorrect). EMF's are produced by all electrical devices including TV's, kitchen appliances, lights (particularly fluorescent lights), computers, telephones, electrical panels, transformers and air conditioning units to name a few.

The only 2 good kinds of Electro-magnetic fields are generally those produced by the cosmos (mainly the earth) and those produced by the body. But even here there are exceptions. For example, there are a surprisingly numerous number of building sites that are geopathically disturbed, which because of the high levels of EMF's naturally occurring there, are not considered to be suited for human habitation. By and large, all man-made EMF's have the potential to be toxic in large enough doses. Actually, too little of certain kinds of EMF's may also have a negative effect on the human body. But, the common problem in the typical home or office is high levels of EMF's.

The question that begs to be answered is: how much is too much? That question has already been partially answered by research, in Germany and Sweden in Germans, Swedes and others in Europe have set standards for EMF's that are stricter than those in the rest of the world, sometimes by a factor of 50 or more. My own view is that, as a general rule of thumb, we should try to avoid lengthy exposure to EMF's that are significantly higher than those found in nature. Let's take a concrete example.

The earth's naturally occurring Electro-magnetic fields produce a very small voltage in the human body of about 5 to 20 millivolts (20 thousandths of one volt). Not coincidentally, this is the ideal field for perfect health according to the Institute of Building Biology, an international organization concerned with the healthiness of the indoor environment. The Institute strongly recommends that environments in which there are fields of 100 millivolts or more are in need of corrective action, since fields higher than this have been linked to various health problems. In a minute I will give you an idea of what the fields are like in the typical modern over-electrified home but first let me give you a few examples of how sensitive the human physiology is to very small EMF's.

We think and move our bodies by producing small electrical impulses. For our bodies to maintain health every cell (each a computer/battery unto itself) must be in perfect Electro-chemical communication with other cells. There are 6 trillion of these intercellular communications per second in healthy body. A pacemaker keeps a person heart going by delivering a series of 1 millivolt electrical impulses. Now that you know how sensitive we are to these fields you will be suitably impressed with the following story.

A certain man stood in the middle of a large open area with a body voltage meter in his hand. He observed the usual reading of about 10 millivolts. He began walking towards his home and when he was approximately 20 feet from his home he noticed his meter readings begin to inch upwards. Readings in his home varied from a few hundred to several thousand millivolts!! The reading in his bed, where his body was supposed to get deep undisturbed rest, was 5000 millivolts, about 250 times the strength of the earth's natural field! You don't have to be an M.D. to suspect that maybe this is not good for you. This was the situation in a new condominium complex in Altamonte Springs, Florida and I can vouch for it because I am the gentleman in question. I began to envision my condominium as a giant toaster, and me the unsuspecting, overdone slice of toast. And I wondered why I woke up in the mornings not feeling rested.

By turning the circuit breakers off in my bedroom I was able to reduce my body voltage to 1400 millivolts, still nowhere near the recommended 20 millivolts, but I could not reduce it any more due to the fields generated by the wiring in the adjoining condominiums. Then using a special grounded shielding material under my bed and on a small part of the bed head wall I was able to reduce my body voltage to 60 millivolts. Although this is still a bit too high, the quality of my sleep has been dramatically improved. This is a very common benefit of reducing sleeping body voltage.

But what about the other thousand or so residents of my complex? Were they also being fried at 5000 millivolts every night? If so, that would explain why everybody was always so crabby. At that voltage I'm surprised they didn't start to smolder while they were sleeping. But seriously though, our responsibility as architects, engineers and builders, is to create safe and health-creating spaces. It is possible to design homes with safe levels of electric fields through proper wiring techniques and materials, and proper location of wiring and appliances in relation to sleeping and living spaces.

While there is mounting scientific evidence that electric fields of over 100 millivolts are injurious to human health we have also found considerable anecdotal evidence. Building biologists, in particular Wolfgang Maes in Germany, and Peter Sierck, John Banta and Roger Maurice in the U.S., have over the last several years corrected high body voltage conditions in thousands of sleeping areas. In more than half of the cases the clients reported dramatic improvements in the quality of their sleep, and how rested they felt in the morning. Also common were reports of increased well being, and relief from complaints such as hyperactivity and allergies. When electric fields were reduced in office environments increases in productivity were reported.

To give one of the more extreme examples, there was a woman who for 9 years had been sleeping on a waterbed with an electric heating grid in it. She had developed illnesses to the point that she was unable to walk. Her body voltage in bed was measured at 21,000 millivolts!! Within 2 weeks of reducing her sleeping body voltage to the natural 20 millivolts she was able to begin walking unassisted.

 

INDOOR AIR POLLUTION

Besides the very high exposure levels to EMF's that we are subjected to we are also are indecently exposed to many other toxins in our indoor environment, especially in our air and water and visually.

With the "advances" of modem building technology healthy fresh air in our homes has unfortunately become a rarity. Dozens of major studies have been done on the quality of air in modern homes by fairly reliable organizations such as the World Health Organization and the Environmental Protection Agency. Depending on which study you read indoor air pollution is rated as between 7 times and 70 times worse than outdoor air pollution, which as you know is bad enough to begin with.

The quality of the air we breathe is as important to our health as the quality of the food we eat. The average person consumes approximately 3 pounds of food daily, and breathes in approximately 33 pounds of air. It is good that people these days are becoming more aware that they should have fresh, pure food but they should be equally concerned with having fresh, pure air to breathe.

Indoor air pollution is caused by two things, the creation of toxic gases and particles within the building, and not taking in enough fresh air from outside to replace air that has become toxic or stale. Many synthetic materials such as paints, wallpapers, upholstery, drapes, chipboard and especially carpeting, give off toxic gases. Formaldehyde is one of the most common fumes encountered since 50% of all cloth material is treated with it, as well as numerous other building materials. At last count there were almost 100,000 synthetic chemicals manufactured worldwide, many of them used in the production of building materials. These chemicals tend to out-gas into the indoor environment, mostly during the first year of installation, and gradually tapering off over several years. Some carpeting has been found to out-gas slightly even after 20 years.

Mold and mildew can also present health problems in the humid tropics, in poorly ventilated homes and in air conditioning ducts. You may have read of the many buildings closed and lawsuits as a result of mold and mildew infestations, which have caused or exacerbated asthma, allergic reactions, dizziness and other symptoms. Also implicated in causing health problems is the synthetic dust found in most homes. Gone are the days of "healthy" dust composed of organic materials like earth and particles of decaying leaves that actually supplied us with micro-nutrients. These days house dust is comprised to a large extent of minute particles of synthetic, non-digestible cloth material like rayon and polyester. Look at your dust in the sun sometime, and you may notice it is multi-colored, another interesting and visually stimulating "benefit" of modern technology. These synthetics stay in the lungs for as long as 5 to 10 years. Asbestos, which is a proven deadly carcinogen, stays in the lungs for 20 to 30 years.

Even the balance between negative and positive ions in the air of the modern home has been adversely affected by the use of synthetic materials. Synthetic materials attract and hold longer, much larger static charges than natural materials like cotton. The static charge held by synthetic materials can be 10,000 volts per meter or more. Besides affecting the physiology of those near these materials this de-ionizes the air by "sucking up" all of the beneficial negative ions around, and most of the positive ions as well. There is considerable evidence that this makes the air less life-supporting.

All of the above air pollutants build up in buildings because of the lack of fresh air supplied by most air conditioning Systems. The vast majority of residential AC systems supply no fresh air at all, and when combined with modern well sealed windows can create indoor air that could almost be better described as chemical fog, without too much exaggeration.

 

WHAT YOU CAN DO

Let me leave you with just a few basic hints on how to improve the quality of your indoor environment.

1) Turn the circuit breakers to your sleeping areas off at night. There are demand switches and radio controlled switches that do this conveniently.

2) If this is not possible move all electrical devices away from your head-at least four feet away. This includes things like clock radios, phones (particularly plug-in phones), lamps and loose wiring. Note that things like TV's, computers, microwaves and major appliances should not be located on the other side of a bed head wall, since EMF's go right through walls.

3) Conventional fluorescent, are generally not recommended. Full spectrum lights are the best. But use daylight whenever possible.

4) Computers should conform to the Swedish standard MPR 2 to keep the operators exposure to magnetic fields within safe levels.

5) Metal frame and metal spring beds intensify any Electro-magnetic problems.

6) Wherever possible use natural untreated materials like cotton, wood, stone, earth and brick. They out-gas less and hold less of a static charge.

7) Use natural, non-toxic paints where possible. If not possible, water based paints are preferred over oil based paints.

8) Use natural ventilation where possible. If not, an air-conditioned home should have a minimum of 2 to 3 air changes per hour. Air should be thoroughly purified and the ion levels rebalanced.

9) An air conditioned home should be "aired out" (one complete air change with fresh air) twice a day if possible within budgetary constraints.

10) AC ducts should be professionally cleaned once a year.

11) Before locating any new living areas check for outside influences from power lines, transformer stations, radio/microwave towers etc.

12) Drink warm water a few times a day, to gently help the numerous toxins that we accumulate in a day on their way out.

13) You may wish to call in an expert to identify problems, recommend solutions, and supervise their implementation. The writer is available to do this. Call 641-470-7970 if you are considering having this done.

It is my view that electro-magnetic pollution and indoor air pollution are significant contributors to many of our modern day epidemic diseases, such as allergies, insomnia, hyperactivity and cancer. As I sit here writing this article on the dangers of electro-magnetic pollution on my laptop computer, I am faced with the same dilemma we face now in the building industry - how to strike a sane and practical balance between enjoying the marvelous advancements of modem technology without compromising, or better yet, while enhancing our health. We are just now discovering that many building technologies may have a deleterious effect on our health, but until scientific research proves something absolutely one way or the other, I recommend a course of prudent avoidance.

Admittedly, I have barely skimmed a very complex subject and perhaps raised more questions than I have answered. Actually, that would be OK, because if I have somehow perked your interest in the quality and health of your indoor environment then it has already begun to improve. I offer this article in love, with the sincere hope that it has somehow made a little contribution to your well being.

 

This article originally appeared in Natural Health magazine.  The author, David Fojo, is Managing Director of Fojo Design and Develop Ltd, Fojo Homes & communities, GreenVastuHomes.com and founder of The Virtually Heaven Foundation.

 

You have no house plans in your basket