Amateur EMF Consultants: Are They Qualified to Test for EMF, “Electropollution” and “Dirty Electricity?”
Amateur EMF Consultants & Circular Self-Referencing Organizations Dispensing Accreditations or Certifications on EMF and “Electropollution” Expertise: A Flow of Consciousness Diatribe regarding Smart Meters, “Dirty Electricity”, Electropollution and other Contentious Subjects
A phrase found in Nature magazine (one of the most highly respected scientific journals known next to Science) on 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.”
This is a subject which has been a long time in coming for discussion on this website.
There are a number of organizations and self-proclaimed experts who claim to be the gold standard for EMF education and suggested standards / quasi-regulation, what it is, the effects on human health, what can and should be done about it, and finally the bestowing of credentials on individuals who may or may not be qualified to be EMF consultants. Some of them also have connections with manufacturers of products that allegedly correct EMF issues or they make instruments that are used to evaluate EMF fields.
In some of my EMF FAQ pages and blogs I do make comments which allude to this phenomena, but I do not directly attack their positions for a number of reasons described below.
1) I believe in free speech and moreover, we need some level of disagreement in certain areas because civil discussion about differences in opinion can serve two important purposes: Learning about another person’s perspective is a valuable tool as they may make good points worth considering or reconsidering. But whether you agree, partially agree or disagree completely, the effect of being open to another viewpoint helps to define YOUR OWN belief system and stance on certain subjects.
Unfortunately, the Internet and other recent trends in Western thinking have tended to polarize people to the point to where for some reason, they must prove themselves right, (ego) prove others wrong, or feel it is their divine mission or right to correct their thinking about a certain subject. I don’t believe it is my business as to what others think or to try and force them to believe something against their will. It is often a fruitless endeavor and a waste of energy. To a large extent, only attorneys get paid to argue so I avoid doing it for free.
However, there is an ethical duty in my role as an occupational health specialist to offer alternative thoughts to what I perceive as an unnecessary frightening of the public and the selling of products and services that do not perform as purported and are administered by the inexperienced and the biased for reasons good or bad.
2) I believe there is a place for organizations who wish to promote healthier buildings for human habitation. When I did residential work for 17 years, I saw all sorts of issues with homes and structures that made me think: ‘Lord, what a stupid design or a cheap approach to an important factor in residential / office use.” Mostly it was homes in terms of making the building envelope too tight and placing energy efficiency over biological needs for fresh air. The other thing I saw that ticked me off (besides seeing corners cut on multi-million dollar homes) was seeing the HVAC system (particularly in Texas) being placed in the attic instead of on the ground floor where you have to over-tonnage the unit to make up for the heat of the attic which can reach 140 F + in the summertime. My house is older with the HVAC unit placed in sane place – on the first floor where it has cooler air to work with. I believe the shift in location for newer homes is for a few reasons including more direct access to ductwork (in theory) and also freeing up some extra square footage on the first floor. The latter reason is particularly asinine as you are trading off maybe 25 – 40′ square feet to put the HVAC unit in a place which is harder to service and is trying to cool air while inside an oven environment.
On the other hand, execution is everything. Does the organization in question follow sound science and reasonable advice? Or is there a recklessness and / or a harmful agenda present? Or is it a mixture where some suggestions are valid while others should be taken with a grain of salt or halite mine as the case may be?
3) My experience, education and skilled intuition makes me skeptical of the biological effects of non-ionizing radiation at low enough levels in frequencies and amplitudes which are non-thermal, non-optically damaging (such as lasers, UV light, etc.) regimes of EMF on humans. I do not directly oppose organizations that want to see better stewardship over our electrical infrastructure and the use of cell phones for a few reasons that I will get into detail later. (see Section 3f)
For one, I think if someone is genuinely concerned about power lines and cell phones, there are some potential issues that are worth looking at. I do believe both high voltage powerlines and cell phones can be deleterious and even dangerous, but NOT for the reasons or cause and effect mechanisms that the “electrosmog” and “dirty electricity” alarmists purport.
Here are some common disagreements I have:
A) Above ground power lines: My main concern with the above ground portion of our electrical infrastructure such as the traditional telephone pole style secondary 12.5 kV feeders, or the huge looming primary 238 kV monsters that run down the greenbelt of the utility ROW (right of way) is what is known as the “fall zone”. In a high wind, tornado, car wreck or earthquake, etc. you don’t want these coming down on your home or your fence where they can easily cause property damage and an immediate electrical threat. I have seen this twice in my life and both times the transformer exploded which is not a thing you forget. In one case, a line landed on my metal fence and caught the grass on fire. THAT is an immediate hazard!
But the vast majority of the time either the lines are too far away, (such as the primary feeders) or they are being buried in newer, suburban neighborhoods, or in some cases you have a home with a virtual zero lot back yard and the lines can almost be touched if you lean out the second story window. That is a bit too close for me, but it has nothing to do with the magnetic field EMF.
However, I do remember two properties I surveyed in which one had the primary feeder running directly over the back yard which I believe is technically a violation of the utility ROW, but I didn’t know the story of which came first. Another one was the most expensive and largest home I ever surveyed worth well into the 8 figures and built on the edge of a lake with great view. However, it was built directly beneath the huge monster 238 kV feeders hovering about 90 feet above the roof. I had trouble believing how this happened until my assistant at the time pointed out an important note on the blueprints laying on the marble kitchen table: it was classified as a “remodel” instead of a new build. (which it was – the original house was about 100’ to the East and torn down) After my client turned down the home, I recall the builder calling to ask for a copy of the report and I told him he would either have to contact my primary or pay for his own survey.
How are large power lines harmful?
They make people worry which in turn releases the stress hormone cortisol which tends to depress the immune system over time and that can lead to illness or accidents. (increased stress correlates with an increased accident / illness rate) This is a real physiological effect even if it is based on perception and I don’t know how many mothers of children thanked me for coming over to their home for an EMF survey because they were losing sleep over the imposing high voltage tower in view of their home.
B) Green power transformers: In newer neighborhoods in which the secondary feeders are buried, you will see these green (typically metal) boxes that are about 1 meter cubed out in the front yard on the property line between two homes near the sidewalk or in the back alley. (depending on where the feeders are buried) I’ve gotten a lot of calls about these over the years or in conjunction with a power line survey and the answer is simple. Unless they are defective (in which case you may have erratic electrical operation, unexplained hums or noises in audio equipment, etc.) they are not a significant issue. The primary EMF is the 60 Hz AC Magnetic field and while it is relatively high at the source, the falloff to ambient levels is very rapid as magnetic fields from coiled windings falloff as 1 / r^3 or 1 over the distance cubed. Within 1′ – 2′ the fields fall off to levels as if the transformer wasn’t even there.
C) The same phenomena is usually found with electrical substations, though the falloff is more in tens of feet so by the time you are across the street, it drops off to whatever magnetic field the secondary feeders are radiating.
D) The phenomena of so-called “dirty electricity” (which is really just noise on the voltage amplitude component and is formally known as EMI or electromagnetic interference as it distorts the wanted signal) does exist, but it is only a hazard to sensitive electronic equipment and that is the reference for which the term was invented. It is a vernacular term used by electronic technicians and electrical / RF engineers that has been misappropriated and misunderstood by those who preach it is a direct health hazard. It was never originally linked to any kind of adverse biological reaction and it does not cause brain cancer like other recognized carcinogens. In order to have any real “effect” you have to directly contact the conducted power line which is typically 120 V and the effect of direct electrocution is by far the most hazardous overarching issue to be concerned with. The radiated component of any power line that has electrical noise on it has no way of affecting a person in a manner that I would consider a risk / safety hazard. And even in electronics, it is mostly a problem when it is CONDUCTED EMI as opposed to RADIATED EMI though the latter can happen with strong signals and / or close proximity / sensitive electronic equipment.
It is not like I haven’t investigated the phenomena with an open mind; I own the popular book on the subject by Dr. Samuel Milham “Dirty Electricity” published circa 2010 along with other texts such as: Cross Currents by Dr. Robert Becker M.D. (who dubbed dirty electricity as “Electropollution”) and the Electrodynamic Man by Leonard J. Ravitz (psychiatrist) along with several other resources on electro-sensitivity. Regarding Dr. Milham’s book, I noticed a there are very few graphs or illustrations, no actual citations, and very few references to his claims. When you check in the back of the book there is Reference section, but it is only 3 pages and 90% + of the papers are authored / co-authored by Dr. Milham himself. Again, a literal circular referencing source. BTW, he also uses the comparison about how children in Sub-Saharan Africa which has hardly any electricity rarely manifest leukemia. Also, there are a litany of other factors that differ the United States from Sub-Saharan Africa, but those are not mentioned as this is the proverbial hammer looking for a nail.
BTW, the Earth has natural transients occurring all the time known as spherics, which are largely lighting strikes taking place all across the world. Also, you have the Schumann resonances, geomagnetic storms, solar flares, CMEs (Coronal Mass Ejections) and cosmic rays. Much of this is responsible for the static you hear on an AM radio. You can also build special equipment that can hear spheric activity such as “whistlers” and “tweaks” and “sprites”.
Furthermore, the body has numerous bioelectrical signals (muscle potentials plus the significant magnetic fields around the heart and brain) that are also rather noisy, yet humans continue to live in spite of this.
E) On smart meters and why they are harmless unless you are unwise enough to open one. (which is a utility company violation and something only a licensed electrician should do) For one, the RF power levels are minuscule, (particularly compared to your phone, Bluetooth, etc.) intermittent (only a brief pulse every 30 seconds or so) and the home inhabitants are shielded from the it because the meters are partially enclosed in a metal case with a metal backplate that effectively blocks almost all of the point source field from entering the structure. Also, since the smart meter is located at the power drop, the predominant field is the AC magnetic field, not the RF emissions from the smart meter.
F) Cell towers / wireless routers / cell phones:
Back in the mid-1980s I used to work on 2 way trunked radio systems and cellular phones when they were $4,000 metal boxes that were typically mounted under the seat and required a rather tedious external antenna to be installed. At the time, no one was worried about EMF or RF radiation, and in fact I had a number of customers ask me to align the RF circuits for HIGHER power so that they could get more range and clarity out of those early analog models which typically ran in the 2 watt range, but could be bumped up to 4 watts at the ceiling.
Now, cell towers typically run on ~ 2 watts (5G systems are a little more at 4 watts) and our cell phones are less than 0.25 watts. So why did the power go down instead of up? It wasn’t due to the concerns over safety, but because signal to noise ratios and receiver sensitivity have greatly improved (BETTER RECEPTION) so the need for higher transmitter power DECREASED (both at the cell tower and the cell phone) which in turn significantly increases battery life while in use. Also, there are more cell towers and coverage so a phone does not usually have to “hunt” for a tower as much as it used to. It is in the cell manufacturer’s best interests to keep consumers happy about a cell phone that has significant usage time between charges. Personally, I wish they left the small whip antenna on in case of areas of poor reception, and to this day if I am traveling to a rather remote location, I still keep a paper map on me in case the GPS navigation goes out. (it still happens in some areas) But antennas are not as aesthetically pleasing and they are usually easy to break off which makes for a common warranty replacement item.
Trivia – Example of a ridiculous theory on a link between 5G cellular wireless and CoViD-19:
Air pollution / indoor air quality is an infinitely more likely causation factor between industrialization / electrical infrastructure and the incidence of SARS CoViD-19. This is a classic case of 5G being a confounding factor which reflects that correlation is not causation.
So how are cell phones dangerous?
a) They are a HUGE distraction factor and you are more likely to have an accident while walking around, working in a hazardous area and ESPECIALLY if you are driving which is why so many laws in conjunction with operating a motor vehicle while a cell phone have been passed. This is a PROVEN risk and not debatable.
b) I believe that the exposure to lighted screens late at night throws off circadian rhythms and disrupts sleep which our body needs to operate efficiently. There is also a sort of addiction many people have developed in living through their phone. An example of a theory related to disruptions in bodily rhythms leading to cancer is the Carcinogenic Effects of Night Shift Work which has been substantiated by the NTP (National Toxicology Program) as shown here on a CDC / NIOSH website:
c) They are teaching a new generation of society that the ONLY way to communicate is by having a device in your hand. I feel this can be an isolating factor and reduces socialization, the ability to read body language and other cues. Cell phones are amazing devices, but there needs to be a balance where they have their place and do not substitute for genuine human contact.
d) As for 5G, I am saving that for another article but suffice it to say that I have no concern over the energy emitted or number of antennas they put up; only the issues previously brought up that applies to any cell phone.
4) Personal comfort in finding an answer and / or a product that brings relief. I recognize that there are some individuals who have unique sensitivities and do not interpret the world or react to it the same way that most of the human population on the bell curve. This can take the form of interesting phenomena such as synesthesia, or visual agnosia aka “face-blindness” where a person cannot distinguish between individual human faces. Or there can be a chemical trigger or disease such as Lyme disease which can cause lasting effects and hypersensitivity reactions. And there are people out there who are either challenged to find answers for themselves or for others who need assistance. I was someone who worked with EI (Environmentally Ill) patients for years and at a certain point I had to accept that I could not assist them, nor could I ethically take their money knowing that I could not assist them. As for those who do find their own ways to cope or dedicate themselves to helping them for honorable reasons, then I accept whatever mutually beneficial solutions are found without needing to have certain authorities tell me that particular set of solutions and / or approaches applies to EVERYONE and that they have nailed down the science behind it.
Anesthesia is used everyday all around the world as a valid medical practice in surgery, but in fact we STILL do not completely understand the mechanism behind the procedure. We just have an accepted set of protocols, guidelines and experience which has refined the practice enough that specialists in that area can work in an acceptable risk zone. But there is ALWAYS a risk, just as driving to work is statistically one of the most dangerous (greatest cause of death) activities for workers.
5) Distraction from Well Established Factors that Influence Health Issues – the Upside Down Risk Assessment tendencies of human beings. People tend to focus and fear relatively exotic and violent forms of death but overlook the common and mundane and statistics show that you are much likelier to die of fairly ordinary things like cardiovascular disease, stroke, diabetes, respiratory infection or Alzheimer’s. I am not saying the latter is preferable or pleasant, but there ARE things you can do such as modify your diet and exercise to compensate for genetics, etc. and avoid metabolic disorders.
Top Causes of Death in the United States (CDC 2019 – not counting 2020 because of CoVid-19 which floats between # 1 & # 3)
Number of deaths for leading causes of death in the USA (2019):
- Heart disease: 659,041
- Cancer: 599,601
- Accidents (unintentional injuries): 173,040
- Chronic lower respiratory diseases: 156,979
- Stroke (cerebrovascular diseases): 150,005
- Alzheimer’s disease: 121,499
- Diabetes: 87,647
- Nephritis, nephrotic syndrome, and nephrosis: 51,565
- Influenza and Pneumonia: 49,783
- Intentional self-harm (suicide): 47,511
Healthline Top 12 Causes of Death in the USA
WHO (World Health Organization) Top Causes of Death in Millions Annually (2016) – Notice this Differs from Causes in the USA as other Countries Are Included
Notice that EMF exposures is not listed on here. You say it is hidden in the cancer statistics? Read on.
Again air pollution, bad outdoor air quality and poor indoor quality are linked to the top four reasons of death:
6) It is unfortunate that EMF meters from certain manufacturers “Color Code” or attempt to quantify risk factors instead of sticking with hard numbers. Does a meter that indicates that a level is RED really mean that it is dangerous. Really? The psychological attraction of color coding for numerical levels of EMF is very deceptive and is not uniform among manufacturers that use this form of output display. 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 / alarm and infers incorrect information. This is better suited for ghost hunters / paranormal investigators so that fluctuations can be easily seen in the dark.
7) The growth of electrical infrastructure and changes in life expectancy / world population. If electricity / electrosmog is so dangerous, why are we living longer on average and why does world population continue to climb? This graph shows that life expectancy in the United states has effectively DOUBLED since 1880 to now, all while a large electrical grid has been built.
8) Want to know what a risky lifestyle is without having a cell phone, cell tower and power lines? Go to an underdeveloped country (like West Africa as I have) WITHOUT an electrical infrastructure and see how long you and your children last. You will discover that the convenience of lighting, air conditioning, running water, 911 and communication is fairly essential to your relatively easy life compared to many.
9) So why is the cancer incidence and death rate so high? The many insults to the human organism and changes in environment and diet. I study medical and environmental geology and have found many interesting and surprisingly dangerous issues that affect our health that almost no one talks about. Radon, respirable dust, noise, stress and cardiovascular health, chromium depletion of the soil, increased use of high fructose corn syrup and sugar substitutes in our food, lack of exercise, etc. When I took a course in Physical Chemistry & Thermodynamics with Biological Applications (BMEN 3315 ) which is arguably one of the HARDEST courses you can take in college (PCHEM has a reputation which is a bit surprising as it is currently rated as a Junior level undergraduate class) and I can personally testify as to the difficulty level; particularly with the professor I had. I liked Dr. Levene and learned a great deal from him including a number of recommendations on cookbooks (he was passionate about the chemistry and experience of food) and also books on cell mutations that led to cancer. (DNA Repair & Mutagenesis)
The fact is that human bodies have about a trillion cells and each cell repairs it’s DNA anywhere from 10,000 to 1,000,000 A DAY. It is a remarkable repair mechanism, but with those kinds of numbers, something is bound to slip through, particularly if we don’t take care of ourselves.The following infographic illustrates some of the many parametric mechanisms involved in cardiovascular disease. Notice that EMF is not indicated in any of the pathways.
10) I don’t up sell, push products or install anything. I do sometimes recommend approaches for air quality such as certain air purifiers, better quality filters, HEPA vacuums, consult on respirator equipment etc. but I always encourage my clients to do their own shopping and decide who to buy it from. Many times I point them towards Amazon and in no way do I benefit from any kickbacks or extra profit from selling something that isn’t needed, which I cannot say is true for all EMF consultants.
11) There is a natural psychological / fear emotional anchor and respect for high voltage electricity and the visuals associated with imposing electrical infrastructure. In other words, we have built in emotional associations with high voltage towers and powerlines. Some people don’t like the lack of aesthetics, many people are aware how dangerous it is to contact high voltages, and others may not like feeling dependent (vulnerable) that we have a power grid that we count on to work.
12) “But so-and-so is an M.D., has a talk show, other respectable credentials.” First, I do have respect for people who achieve difficult educational goals and are good at many things in their life. But a paradox that I have often encountered is that just because someone is a physicist, physician, pilot, etc. does not automatically make them correct on every subject, nor does it mean they are particularly good in their field. I have “fired” medical doctors because I had demonstrable evidence that they were not up to the task of taking care of a family member. I’ve met physicists, psychiatrists and experts in air quality that had surprising opinions (read “stupid”) on certain subjects. Nor does it guarantee ethical behavior or good critical thinking skills. I have a saying about medical doctors: “Most physicians are poor physicists” and I have found it to be true most of the time. Then again, I have known an anesthesiologist who started off with an Electrical Engineering degree so there are always exceptions.
13) “But they have a Certification as an EMF Expert”. Again, this goes back to bequeathing titles on someone and it magically making them an expert. I realize that taking courses and getting certifications are valuable and do hold some credibility up to a point, and a great deal of it is based on context. Did someone just take a series of online courses and pass a single exam? There is a big difference between learning and having a lot of hands on experience but it is best to have both. I attained a Bachelor’s degree in Electrical Engineering years after I learned how to troubleshoot and repair electronic circuits for a living so I had a unique perspective walking into class. Often, I could understand the APPLICATION of a theory that my professor was expounding on and became known for being rather… outspoken and asking questions beyond the course curriculum because I had experiences that I wanted to understand better. Many of my classmates just wanted to get an “A” and move on. (not all of them, and very understandable when you are just out of high school) Most of my teachers were very appreciative that I was paying attention and engaging with them instead of checking Facebook every 30 seconds, texting, etc.
I have a number of degrees and over 350 completed college credit hours with a second engineering degree in Biomedical Engineering just around the corner so my journey in education continues.
However, one of the major driving points is that a formal college degree is not just a piece of paper. It reflects a commitment to stick with every class (even the ones that are not of interest or not well taught) and dealing with the college administration while paying for this experience out of your own pocket. It wasn’t only my knowledge base that changed; there were also noticeable changes in my critical thinking skills, discipline and ability to focus which has a direct impact on my ability to work in this field.
14) Measuring body voltage – only good for detecting the relatively faint signals of electrical activity in the heart, brain and muscle. (EKG, EEG & EMG respectively) What is is with respect to ground is relatively meaningless as induced voltage does not penetrate very far into your body due to the attenuation factor of 10^6. Grounding is also a metaphysical term that can describe eating, meditating, or even gardening that has been appropriated by the misinformed. You do not need to have a wire attached from your body in direct electrical connection with the Earth. It is dangerous to attempt to do so through any type of electrical infrastructure and I have known people to shock themselves by trying as they are making the assumption that their home is wired correctly or that they know what they are doing.
15) Homeostasis and cell repair by the body is a regular process in healthy individuals and overcomes a lot of changes in our environment to keep us alive. This fact seems to escape a lot of EMF alarmists who forget how resilient we are as organisms.
16) Parametric or Multi-Factorial Issues in Accidents and Health and why EMF is such a distant and unlikely suspect.
Many health problems are rarely due to one factor there are several to consider:
A) Diet (do you really think your body can make a healthy liver cell from Cheetos and Diet Coke?)
C) Sleep Patterns
E) Immune System Functionality or Disorders
F) Hydration or lack thereof
G) Stress (definitely a factor in an increase of illnesses and accidents)
H) Psychological health (depression, etc.)
I) Environmental Factors (home building materials, mold, etc.)
J) Occupational Hazards (travel, heavy industrial environments, exposure to toxins, etc.)
17) A false sense of security which is related to upside down risk assessment: “I’ve done X, so I don’t need to worry about the other letters of the alphabet.”
“Get going, Simon. Just don’t be distracted by the what-ifs, should-haves, and if-onlys. The one thing you choose yourself – that is the truth of your universe.” – Kamina (Spirit Advisor) from Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann