EMF EMI Surveys / RF Radiation Measurement Commercial / Industrial EMF Inspection & FAQ Reference Page
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Q. What EMF safety levels or limits for EMFs exist?
A. There are many set by different countries and organizations. The following links are only a partial list as suggested guidelines for EMF safety shift over time and there is no agreement based on the epidemiological difficulties in establishing what is considered “safe”.
* Effective January 1st, 2019 ScanTech no longer performs residential testing OR consulting for homeowners and tenants – all services are COMMERCIAL ONLY. Instead I will redirect you to a page for resources to other companies and common questions – CLICK HERE.
I am leaving this archived page for informational use – please disregard any statements implying or stating I still do residential work.
Q. What is EMF? / What are EMFs?
A. EMF is an acronym for an Electromagnetic Field or in some cases, Electromotive Force which generally describes a voltage potential between two points without current flow. In most contexts, however, EMF involves both voltage and current. The main characteristics which distinguish an EMF are:
- Type of field such as Magnetic, Electric or an RF field in which case both the magnetic and electric fields are “coupled” or interrelated with each other.
- The periodic nature of the field such as whether it is DC (Direct Current) or Static, AC (Alternating Current), or quasi-DC which means a slowly time varying field.
- The amplitude or strength of the field which is measured in several different ways depending on the type as given above.
- The frequency of the field which in the case of DC / Static fields is 0 Hz (Hertz) which is 0 cycles per second and 60 Hz for AC fields used in the North American Power grid. Europe uses a 50 Hz system.
- The carrier of the EMF which is either conducted (such as through a wire or waveguide) or radiated through the air / space such as from an antenna which is typical for wireless applications.
EMFs are a term used to describe a number of fields which are present just about anywhere on Earth if for any reason you have the Earth’s DC Magnetic field which averages 550 mG (milliGauss) which is a magnetic flux density unit.
Q. What materials can shield from EMF?
A. It depends on the field characteristics as described above but in general you can:
- Electric fields are typically shielded with metal, or metal mesh, but just about any material with a dielectric constant can provide attenuation (a reduction in field strength) depending on the frequency, direction the field is coming from and the composite thickness of the shielding.
- RF fields can also be blocked by the same materials as electric fields above, but the amount of attenuation is even more sensitive to frequency and directionality (which are related to each other) In general, the higher the frequency, the more directional it becomes. Lower RF frequencies tend to penetrate through material more readily, and high frequencies are also attenuated by water or materials containing water. (such as trees or other foliage) This is why cell phone reception can be reduced in heavily wooded areas as the RF energy is absorbed by water in the plant leaves.
- Magnetic fields are the most difficult to shield against and usually require some kind of ferromagnetic material mixed with alloys like nickel, cobalt, etc. and in some cases are enhanced by composite layers of a paramagnetic material like aluminum. Hydrogen annealed plate is also a material used for certain applications. Also, because magnetic fields are circular / curved in nature, effective shielding necessitates the shape of an enclosure. This means more material and magnetic shielding is very expensive. There is also a technique known as active magnetic shielding / cancellation but like shielding, the cost is typically prohibitive for the residential market. (starts at $20 – 30 K+)
The distance from the EMF point source also determines how effective the shielding is as the CLOSER you can get the shielding to the EMF, the more it tends to stop.
Q. What EMF levels are unsafe or high?
EMF levels are not easy to characterize unless they (AC magnetic field, electric field) are at quasi-zero (as low as can be detected with conventional meters) which is difficult to achieve unless you are in a remote area with no electrical infrastructure. Then you could say zero is LOW compared to urban and most suburban areas. There is always a DC magnetic field due to the Earth (~550 mG) and the only way to lower that is through resculpting of the field with shielding, certain ferrous metal configurations (such as in a large office building) and active field cancellation. But why be concerned about the Earth’s field since humans have lived with it throughout written history? For now, I will defer the subject of geopathic stress for another post. Due to the number of RF transmitters on Earth, GPS & communication satellites and background RF from lightning and cosmic sources, there is theoretically no zero as long as you have a receiver / antenna gain setup that is sensitive enough.
As for unsafe, I would say any level which could cause malfunction through interference of important equipment, (such as medical equipment or a biomedical implant) or due to a wiring error is cause for concern. The latter being because elevated AC magnetic fields from a wiring error almost invariably indicates that someone either did not know what they were doing on installation or purposely cut corners.
What EMF levels are directly unsafe for humans? (aside from potential equipment malfunction)
- Any EMF field (typically RF or Radio Frequency) which could cause thermal tissue heating such as from a high powered microwave antenna
- EMF fields (DC magnetic) which are strong enough to turn metal objects into projectiles (MRI rooms) or crush appendages by wedging force (ND 45 magnets)
- EMF fields (Electric) which are strong enough to arc current through a human being to ground (lightning or very high voltage equipment found in substations) at close range
- EMF fields which generate optical energy strong enough to cause eye damage such as laser beams (yes a laser beam is on the electromagnetic spectrum UV-VIS-IR range)
- EMF fields which have enough photon energy to ionize tissue and cells (UV radiation, X-Rays, 2ndary Cosmic Rays, etc.)
- EMF photons of extremely high eV (electron Volt) energy from nuclear radiation sources such as gamma radiation
Beyond these examples and categories, what is considered high and / or unsafe depends on who you ask but here is a page devoted to the complexity of this question:
Q. What EMF levels are typical for a home / office environment?
A. These EMF level ranges are based on the AVERAGE of thousands of surveys in the normal ambient environment and does not include strong point sources such as breaker boxes, appliances, near a wireless router, etc.
AC Magnetic Field 1 – 10 milliGauss (urban area or office space)
AC Magnetic Field 0.2 – 4 milliGauss (suburban area)
AC Magnetic Field 0.1 – 1.0 milliGauss (rural area)
AC Magnetic Field 3 – 15 milliGauss near strong powerline influence
AC Electric Field 0 – 10 V / m (Volts / meter) though higher near wall wiring
DC Magnetic Field 0.4 – 1.0 Gauss (primarily the Earth’s DC magnetic Field)
RF Fields 0.1 – 2.5 uW / cm^2 (microWatts per centimeter squared)
EMF TESTING / COMMERCIAL SAFETY LEVEL SURVEYS:
Q. Do you perform commercial EMF inspections for property and real estate?
A. ScanTech performs non-destructive testing, surveys and scanning of energy fields, electromagnetic force, sound and background radiation with regards to power lines, transformers, substations, cell towers, natural stone, radon, radiation and radioactive materials, etc for commercial and industrial clients only.
We do not inspect for structural, plumbing, foundation or any other aspect of the home or building except certain parts of the heating / air conditioning (HVAC) system for possible indoor air quality issues. Unusual EMF readings MAY suggest an electrical wiring issue, but only a licensed electrician can make that final determination.
Q. Are you certified in EMF / Electromagnetic energy surveys and testing?
A. There is currently no such thing as Certified EMF Inspector as far as the United States industrial and scientific community at large is concerned and I don’t see that materializing anytime soon. What I do have is my extensive education, experience and multiple certifications in industrial safety and hygiene. (listed elsewhere on this site)
I have Bachelor’s Degree in Electrical Engineering and have nearly completed my second degree in Biomedical Engineering so I understand both the physics and physiology of bioelectromagnetics plus I have performed THOUSANDS of surveys over 20 years which qualifies me to be an EMF consulting expert. That along with my previous technical experience as a radio / electronics technician, semiconductor failure analysis applications specialist, telecommunications worker, nanotechnology research and lab manager, etc. which spans 35 years + gives me an extensive and well-rounded background to draw from.
I am also a licensed Mold Assessment Consultant in the State of Texas, and an AARST-NRPP Certified Radon Tester which does require a knowledge of actual building science.
The nearest thing to a certification in this would be a CHP or Certified Health Physicist designation as they do cover non-ionizing radiation as well as nuclear radiation.
Q. What about the EMRS (Electromagnetic Radiation Specialist) designation from the Building Biology Institute?
A. There are a number of “self-referential” certifications and degrees offered on the Internet and the only organization that recognizes the EMRS Certificate is the issuing organization BBI. I don’t have the course material to make a hard judgment, but based on the fact that it APPEARS that you can get it in only 3 weeks of 5 days each. (page 11 of their prospectus) There are a number of self-paced home 200 level Internet courses (about 12) that are listed on page 16 but I don’t know if those are core or ancillary.
While I DO have some respect for the BBI in terms of their purported goal to make living spaces healthier and their coursework probably contains some science, the problems I have with the EMRS designation is that:
1) It takes a relatively short time to be considered a “certified professional” compared to a BSEE (several years) or a CIH which requires references and a solid work history in health & safety
2) I don’t know how much accepted hard science that is relevant to EMF and human biology is taught in the course
3) But I definitely disagree with them on the points of so called “dirty electricity”, the concept of body voltage, the exceptionally conservative EMF safety levels that are promoted without any viable proof that I can find and an apparent tendency to push questionable methods and solutions to EMF levels which I do not consider to be a problem in the first place
4) Classroom instruction is not a substitute for long years of experience measuring EMF in a wide variety of environments
While I know there are good, well-meaning people who have gone through the course, it does not in my mind automatically confer expertise on these individuals. I do believe that there are some EMF consultants that happen to have the EMRS and are also proficient, so I am not saying it is a bad thing to have. If I could justify the $5555 price tag, I might be tempted to take it myself. But for that money, I can get education in topics that I know are beneficial and based on more solid ground. For instance, I took a course in Medical Imaging for a semester and what it taught me about X-Rays, ultrasound, MRIs, CT scans, etc. has been valuable in my business as well as in personal health management.
Q. How long does it take to perform an EMF inspection?
A. It depends on factors such as the amount of square footage (interior and exterior) to be inspected, the type of report needed (verbal or written) and whether the issue requires any additional troubleshooting or consulting. Typically a 2500 square foot home will take an hour or less with a written report and average sized lot. Very large dwellings can take up to 2 hours and smaller (apartment or condo) units may be in 30 minutes or less.
Q. How soon can you come out?
A. Depending on current schedule, it usually takes at least 1-2 days to get an inspector onsite, but in some cases same day service is possible depending on the time of day. Rush fees may apply depending on the circumstances.
Q. What kind of ROI (Return on Investment) do I get when I hire ScanTech to do EMF testing?
A. Several things including Peace of Mind, documentation, expert consulting on energy fields and other environmental factors which may impact you and your employees health, and time / money saving advice on what you can do and what you PROBABLY shouldn’t do.
Very often business owners may consider extreme and life disrupting steps which may be financially expensive, time consuming, COMPLETELY UNNECESSARY or even harmful. Examples would be installing unnecessary shielding, buying expensive gadgets that may actually make things worse, or even relocating. A comparatively affordable service visit can save your family LITERALLY tens and hundreds of times over the cost of an inexpensive survey.
EMI / EMF / EMC INTERFERENCE ISSUES: MYSTERIOUS PROBLEMS & ANOMALIES:
Fresh insight, fast response and effective resolution on complex energy field / EMF / Electromagnetic Interference (EMI) and RF (Radio Frequency) issues which are disrupting sensitive electronics or company / commercial workflow.
COMFORT, PEACE OF MIND AND AVOIDING ENVIRONMENTAL ILLNESSES & DISEASES (NO LONGER OFFERED FOR RESIDENTIAL)
Anomalous energy fields have been allegedly linked in some studies to symptoms such as headaches, dizziness, fatigue and sleeplessness. While ScanTech does not dispense any medical advice, we can survey your sleeping area for elevated levels of EMF, RF radiation or geomagnetic disturbances and then make suggestions on rearranging the placement and position of your bed or other furniture used for resting.
Q. How much is an EMF survey / how much does a residential EMF survey cost?
A. In the beginning nearly 20 years ago, I charged around $150 – $220 depending on the size of the home as a larger home takes longer to do a survey on. I found that the “pain point” or limit that most homeowners were willing to pay was around $200 + and above that point the “decline” status started to sharply increase. The exception was doing EMF surveys in distant cities which had no EMF consultants to speak of in which case I would try to “bundle” several clients at once in order to give them a discount. Then it was more like $350 + depending on the logistics. I remember one weekend in Houston where I did 7 jobs and 3 of them were back to back on time but with no rest in-between which is VERY challenging because you want to answer the homeowner’s questions without rushing them and at the same time make your other appointments on time.
But I am not an event planner and prefer not to do more than 2 jobs in a day.
Not too long ago, I had a friendly competitor (a company that preferred residential and did not like traveling outside of the DFW Metroplex) that recently retired. Their flat rate was $400 with a stipulation on size and travel distance. Frankly, I was a bit annoyed (at myself to some extent) that someone who did not have nearly my experience and education in this field was charging a significantly higher rate in Dallas / Fort Worth than I typically charged unless it was bundled with another service like air quality and radon / mold testing or a very large property. But he is a nice guy who did me a solid or two and he has the right to evaluate what his time was worth.
Now I understand there is a company in Houston that charges around $1000 for a residential and I am including this just to give you the range of what to expect. So now, you can probably expect to pay between $400 – $1000+ for a residential survey but what kind of answers you get from that, I can’t say with any confidence as I have never hired or worked with them. Again, I am a bit surprised by some of the relative newcomers (less than 5 years in business) because I have done thousands of surveys, have a degree in Electrical Engineering, and have a strong background in biomedical / bioelectromagnetics and I never charged that kind of rate except for the largest houses (upwards of 10,000 sq. feet) located in other cities. But this is capitalism, it’s a free market, and they can run their business how they see fit without my approval.
But I would be very careful about a business that does an assessment and then also sells products to “mitigate” that issue. In the more heavily regulated areas of mold services, it is ILLEGAL in the State of Texas to do the initial testing AND to perform the mitigation as that is considered a conflict of image. I have never sold products, and if I make recommendations to purchase anything I always give a brand / model number so the client can decide where to purchase it from such as Amazon, LessEMF.Com or other appropriate retailer.
Q. What factors influence the price or cost of EMF testing or an EMF survey?
- Distance to site which affects travel time and costs
- Square footage of the area to be surveyed plus the number of potential point sources
- The type of concern and criticality / risk involved including effects on personnel, workers with biomedical implants, and sensitive equipment
- The time factor in which the EMF survey needs to be completed (rush jobs cost more)
- Deliverables such as how detailed the report and the amount of consulting needed to address the client’s concerns
Q. EMF / EMFs: should I worry about them?
A. Unless you have a biomedical implant (which is becoming more common) then my extensive research and long experience in the field of bioelectromagnetics says NO; at least as far as the RADIATED EMF electromagnetic fields go.
However, there are other potential hazards to consider in conjunction with electrical power lines and other related infrastructure:
1) EMF 60 Hz Power Lines: be sure that your home is not in the “fall zone” which is the height of the high voltage power line vs. the distance from your property, including your fence if you have one. Ideally, the distance should be greater then the height with some extra safety room. So the question to ask is: “If a windstorm, tornado and / or structural defect brings the tower or one of the high voltage phase lines down, could it physically impact and / or cause an electrical fire?”
I have actually seen high voltage power line not only go right over someone’s backyard, but in one case, the most EXPENSIVE home I ever surveyed (well into the 8 figures) had HV lines running directly over the home as the builder lied on the permit and had it classified as a “REMODEL” which it wasn’t. I have photographic proof of the lines and the blueprint. How the builder got this past the inspectors, I don’t know except that I am sure it had to do with money.
2) EMF Green transformer boxes with High 60 Hz Magnetic Fields: These are invariably used in new suburban neighborhoods where the secondary feeders are buried underground in which case the transformers are either out in the alley, or by the front yard sidewalk in the utility easement strip depending on if the secondary feeders are in front or out back. While they look imposing and do have a strong magnetic field at point blank range, the falloff is VERY rapid and falls off with 1 / r^3 which means that EMF levels fall of to ambient within a foot or two. Unless the transformer itself is electrically defective (which can cause a wide range of problems) I wouldn’t worry about it.
3) Internal Electrical Issues 60 Hz EMF: The most common problem I saw with magnetic field issues INSIDE of a home was 3 way lighting (one light controlled by two switches) in the kitchen / living room / some bathroom) in which the electrician used two wire runner instead of 3 wire runner which winds up separating the current and thus elevates the magnetic fields. Another problem was a borrowed neutral or separate breaker circuit and this was found in cases where an auxiliary system such as landscaping lighting or pool equipment was hooked up at the last minute or after the home was finished and the electricians would just hook into any available power they could find.
The elevated EMF is only a clue that something is amiss as the above practices are prohibited by the NEC electrical code. So the biggest concern is not the magnetic field itself, but how it was caused by improper wiring. If the home is improperly wired, then there could be other dangerous conditions that should be investigated.
4) Microwave Radiation Cell Towers / Cellular Phones / Wireless Routers / Computer Monitor EMF: I used to work on cellular phones at the component level in the 1980’s while I was still in high school. These were large metal boxes that were installed in a vehicle (typically under the driver’s seat) and had to have external antennas installed on the car. In sharp contrast to the concerns about the EMF put out by these systems these days, I had more than one customer ask me to “bump UP the power” so that they had better range and clarity of conversation. These units had a typical radiated power of 2 Watts – 4 Watts. Compare this to cell towers that usually run at less than 0.5 Watts and cell phones that radiate considerably less.
It is in the interests of cell tower / cellular providers and cell phone manufacturers to use the LEAST amount of power and to direct it away from the ground as this reduces the number of towers needed and also increases the battery life of cell phones as they continually “ping” the nearest towers on a continual basis.
There is a concern I have about cell phones, wireless networks, PCs, etc. but it has nothing to do with the radiated RF power which is often minuscule. (wireless routers are also about 0.5 Watts) The main concern is the effect on our communication and interaction with others. You have no doubt walked into a restaurant and seen everyone completely focused on their phone, couples in the same room texting each other, and an entire generation who is brought up with the idea that you need a PHYSICAL EXTERNAL DEVICE in order to communicate with another human being. For thousands of years we have communicated face to face, and this has changed how we fundamentally relate with one another.
Then there is the issue of “blue light” and how our circadian rhythms are being disrupted. In a recent discussion during a lecture for another certification I am pursuing, someone brought up an interesting article on the “Carcinogenic Effects of Night Shift Work”.
So while I may not agree with the DIRECT cause and effect issues that some alarmist organizations connect the dots with in terms of EMF radiation exposure, I believe them to be a necessary counterpoint view that we should not completely dismiss. While the science and epidemiology of EMF may be difficult to pin down or agree on, the social effects are DEFINITELY there.
Also, the “Distraction Effect” of cell phones cannot be argued which is why virtually every state has laws that regulate the use of mobile devices while driving. They reduce situational awareness which can be as low-level as walking into a tree or other obstacle while texting and also becoming an easy target for crime. (plus a lot of individuals are mugged FOR their cell phones) Any common factor which can cause a fatal car accident (the number one cause of occupational deaths in the United States is commuting to work) should not be overlooked.
5) EMF from Electric Power Substations: In all the surveys I have performed, I have yet to find any appreciable direct effect from the EMF emanated by an electrical substation on nearby home or other properties. Mainly, this is because substations have a substantial utility ROW (Right of Way) property buffer that keeps them far enough away from other private structures that they are not an issue or concern. Now the high voltage lines which run in and out of the substation are a different story, but per # 1 above, my primary concern is proximity of lines such that they could physically land on property and electrocute or ignite flammable structures.
6) Distraction / Misdirection Effect in lieu of other more prevalent and harmful health issues – The Upside Down View of Risk Assessment:
Most other EMF Survey Companies: “Everything that is wrong with you such as energy levels, health, insomnia, etc. is because of Factor X EMFs which we can help you fix.”
ScanTech is about reasonable, holistic balance between proven risk factors and navigating to a place without fear.
Q. How far away do I have to be from a power line or power lines to be safe? Or what is a safe distance from power lines that falls within EMF safety levels?
A. The only CERTAIN answer to this is to not touch or make physical contact with an electrical line or wire. Otherwise, there is no firm answer to this because:
- Power lines vary greatly in their magnetic field levels and falloff with distance
- Factors such as physical configuration, load and phasing make a huge difference in the EMFs radiated by the lines
- Much of the EMFs in your home are hidden and not obvious because many power lines are buried, you have breaker boxes behind walls or from point sources that you may not suspect.
- There is no broad agreement that EMF fields found in homes are harmful, how to judge exposure, and confounding factors such as air quality, radon, diet, exercise, stress, etc.
I wrote a special article dealing with this subject which can be found here:
A Basic Introduction to the Anatomy of Your Home’s Powerline
Q. I’m not near any power lines, or they are xxx feet away. Could I still have elevated fields in my home?
A. One of the largest sources of EMF in the home is improper wiring. ScanTech’s experience can help pinpoint likely areas of concern and make appropriate recommendations. Odds are, you may have other things to worry about besides EMF, such as electrical circuits that aren’t properly wired to code.
These violations & faulty wiring can cause safety issues such as overloads, electrical shock and even fires. Often, dimmer switches and three-way (multi-locational) switches have excessive EMF due to a lack of adherence to NEC (National Electric Code) specifications.
Power lines themselves can be unpredictable as to the amount of EMF that they emanate at any given distance. We have seen levels as high as 250 mG, to as low as 2.0 mG directly beneath electrical lines. This wide disparity in readings is due to varying current, structural dimensions and phase arrangement. Also, excessive EMF can emanate from buried power lines and improperly grounded water or gas mains.
The only way to be sure is to do a proper survey.
Another thing to consider is that many power lines or current carrying conductors are buried underground. I have often found elevated levels in a residence or business due to a subterranean conduit or improperly grounded sewer pipe, water line, sprinkler system, telephone/cable service, etc. Even gas pipes carry voltage in order to prevent corrosion, but these typically don’t emit fields strong enough to be concerned about except in cases of improper contact or the adjacent installation of other lines.
Q. Are there industrial / commercial applications for EMF / RF surveys?
A. Yes, in cases of worker safety and concerns, equipment interference from EMI (Electromagnetic Interference) and with the increasing adoption of RFID (Radio Frequency Identification), Bluetooth, and other wireless information services there is a rising need for proper mapping and awareness of electromagnetic energies which permeate our working / living spaces.
This is particularly true of biomedical implants which are becoming increasingly common; not only because of the growth and aging of our population, but because there are medical implants which address a variety of conditions besides just heart issues as pacemakers do. There are a variety of neurostimulators such as VNS, SCS, Deep Brain Simulators, insulin infusion pumps, etc. that are discussed in more detail at this link: http://www.scantech7.com/pacemakers-biomedical-implant-electromagnetic_interference-emi-surveys-dallas-fort-worth-austin-houston/
Also, certain types of equipment such as scanning electron microscopes (SEMs) used in nanotechnology are very sensitive to magnetic fields due to the nature of their focusing mechanism. RF interference can also occur in industrial settings such as a semiconductor fab plant with many machines generating excessive RF which can damage or interfere with computer controls.
EMC (Electromagnetic Compatibility) dictates design issues with EMI in order to ensure smooth, error free operation when multiple machines are emitting energy fields which could conflict with each other.
Radio frequency interference, RFI, is any undesirable electrical energy with content within the frequency range dedicated to radio frequency transmission. Conducted RFI is most often found in the low frequency range of several kHz to 30MHz. Radiated RFI is most often found in the frequency range from 30MHz to 10GHz.
Q. How accurate are your EMF surveys?
A. Though the accuracy of our digital EMF gaussmeters are ~3%, there are other factors to consider. Load, time of day, equipment fluctuations and other point source interference can cause variations in readings. The other main issue is getting the exact location of the measurement as inches can make a significant difference. Having good maps and blueprints available will greatly enhance the quality of your survey. In addition, our laser measuring tape is accurate to within 1 millimeter at over 200 yards and can perform as built style surveys for an additional fee. When it comes to EMF surveys, one of the most critical factors is professional judgement in knowing WHERE to use the gaussmeter / RF meter and HOW to interpret the results. Unless a meter is poorly made or substantially inaccurate (more than 10%) a professional inspector does not require high precision such as found in a laboratory.
But regardless of the factors involved, the results of our inspections are consistently accurate enough and ScanTech emphasizes critical thinking skills to make an informed decision on the health and safety of your staff and employees.
Q. Do you measure EMF in the form of cell phone / microwave tower / RF emissions?
A. Yes – our RF meters are sensitive enough to pick up on radio frequency emissions well within the suggested safety guidelines by the various engineering / government agencies such as the FCC, ICNIRP, ANSI / IEEE and others. It can also pick up on personal RF from handheld cell phones, cordless phones, and wireless base stations / routers.
What sets it apart from other standard broadband meters is the manner in which it calculates complex RF field exposure and gives an actual safety percentage estimate over a period of time. It is also adjustable by frequency band and even safety standard. (such as non-enforceable 10 milliWatt OSHA Nonionizing Radiation 1910.97 limit or the 1 microWatt Salzberg Innen 2002 standard or the enforceable IEEE C95.1-1999 standard)
Q. How often do you find an EMF issue?
A. Enough to where it is worth paying for a survey – at the least for the peace of mind that comes with making an informed choice or decisions about where you live.
Q. I am a realtor – how often will an EMF issue discourage my clients from completing a real estate transaction?
A. In most cases, the issues found (if any) are easily remedied by minor electrical repairs. The information that ScanTech provides helps clients to feel good about the home in question and can even encourage a faster, smoother close.
Only in certain instances such as high-tension power lines being right next to the home AND the magnetic fields being considerably stronger than normal will remediation be expensive or near impossible. Most people will automatically be concerned by the visual, physical presence of high voltage line structures next to their living areas – a survey by an unbiased, experienced EMF survey company can assist in alleviating those concerns.
Not having a survey performed by a trained professional will only allow those doubts to linger and in my experience will often negate the sale anyway. Also, too often I have seen people buy a meter and not interpret the readings correctly, leading them to believe in a hazard that does not necessarily exist.
ScanTech’s goal is not to discourage economic trade / real estate transactions or complicate finding a suitable home, but to provide a service for consumers and commercial /industrial entities who have a right to know and make informed choices about their safety and that of their families.
Many of our initial contacts are directly from realtors who work for major real estate companies and are searching to find good answers for their concerned clients looking to buy a home near electrical power lines.
Q. Do you fix electrical issues?
A. No we cannot for several reasons including a potential conflict of interests. But we can sometimes verify the condition with a circuit analyzer and recommend several quality contractors in the area who can look at your wiring, but ONLY for commercial clients.
Q. Is elevated EMF from powerlines and cell phones dangerous?
A. Assuming that the term “elevated EMF” refers to levels that are substantially above what is typically found in a given environment (residence, office, industrial facilty) as opposed to a specific number is still a matter of opinion and controversy except in the cases of possible interference with biomedical implants.
It is not ScanTech’s role to be a fear monger, but neither will we dismiss the fact that certain studies suggest that elevated fields have been potentially linked to a variety of health issues including fatigue, headaches, dizziness, miscarriages, heart trouble, and cancer. (such as leukemia in children) Also, some studies have found that elevated EMF may interfere with the body’s healing process such as with recovering breast cancer patients.
ScanTech does not dispense any medical advice, but will instead provide survey information and resources for the client to make their own determination by comparing the readings to what is typically found in a home in that area.
Q. Are some individuals sensitive to EMF?
A. According to some double blind studies, there appears to be a small, but measurable and documented percentage of people that can at least detect, if not have adverse reactions to relatively low EMF fields. This threshold and effects vary according to the individual. In the experience of ScanTech, there appears to be a “trigger event” such as being excessively exposed to a certain chemical (resulting in MCS or Multiple Chemical Sensitivity) or disease such as the Epstein-Barr virus or Lyme Disease.
Q. What is a safe reading for EMF levels?
A. That is dependent on a number of factors such as those mentioned above. The danger is that if a number is named as a safe limit, there may be someone out there who has a reaction at that level or below, or there is always a chance that even a relatively healthy person could suffer some effects. It is best to do a personal EMF survey and review your individual circumstances.
Q. Can I shield myself from EMF or use a counter-EMF solution?
A. That depends on what is causing the elevated magnetic fields and the distances involved. Fixing a point source wiring issue is almost always cheaper than shielding or using a magnetic shield cancellation (active shielding) setup. Shielding may be inappropriate for certain scenarios and counteracting a field can be tricky, plus both are expensive.
In general, you need special materials for magnetic shielding to be effective. Most other metals and grounding techniques will only stop the electric & RF fields depending on the design.
Q. Can I use a gadget advertised online to reduce EMF or dirty electricity?
A. Often a client has purchased or is considering the purchase of some gadget or other device which claims to “clean” or otherwise negate the influence of EMF fields in their home or business and asks whether or not said Gadget X is actually beneficial. In the experience of operating ScanTech for over a decade, I have never reliably seen such a device do anything useful with respect to the client’s health concerns. (though in some cases they may believe it helps; perhaps as a placebo effect)
This is not to say that there is nothing out there at all and never will be, but I have yet to see this proven to my satisfaction. In addition, in reading the specs and literature of said device, it is often found that the manufacturer’s claims and theory of operation tends towards a mixture of pseudo-science and facts taken out of context in such a manner that they appear to violate a number of physical laws. In some cases (as is pointed out in the next question) the use of these device can be potentially dangerous.
Q. Can I ground myself, the building, or a type of makeshift / pre-manufactured EMF shield?
A. As mentioned above, grounding a shield will only affect the electric component of an EMF field – not the magnetic portion. Grounding yourself will typically only protect against static electric shock – which is normally only a concern with anti-ESD (Electrostatic Discharge) procedures where wrist straps are used to protect delicate electronic and computer components while working on them.
We cannot advise anyone outside of a licensed electrician to ground any part of a building, structure or electrical circuit as there is always the chance of shock, injury, death, fire or lightning damage from improper wiring or installation.
Furthermore, I have had clients tell me that they have used questionable devices and / or protocols that attached to the alleged ground of an outlet and then been subsequently subjected to an electrical discharge / mild shock. Whether this was due to wiring problems, poor design or user error is not known, but ScanTech strongly discourages this approach without a qualified expert present.
Q. Isn’t there some kind of government limit on EMF fields here in the U.S.?
A. There are some state ROW (Right of Way) standards that limit field strength from transmission lines, but it typically runs as high as several hundred milliGauss. There is no federal standard set; partially because EMF hazards are not officially recognized, but also because lawsuits (legitimate or not) would bankrupt the utility companies or make electricity too expensive to produce.
Recently, certain states and municipalities have started setting limits on magnetic fields due to public concern, but so far they are the exception rather than the rule.
EMF & RF SAFETY LEVELS COMPARISON
Q. What do your surveys look like?
A. Please see the page on EMF Survey Consultation Process and Procedure
Q. How much / what is the cost of an EMF survey, consulting or testing? (primarily residential only)
A. This varies according to several factors, but our residential prices are reasonable and well within the range of any normal home inspection. Factors which may affect cost are:
1) Extra distance or travel time beyond Dallas County. Mobilization expenses may apply for overnight stays. (partial payment or paid travel arrangements may also be required in advance)
2) More detailed documentation for the EMF survey such as mapping, timestamping, GPS, laser measurement, photo / video logging, datalogging or creation of embedded text graphics, movies, 3D computer animation and special presentation packages,.
3) Commercial / business property, areas with demanding environmental conditions or quality / calibration / certification standards (such as biomedical, aerospace, defense, military, R&D) or unusual technical concerns.
4) Possible health issues related to EMF.
5) Extra time beyond the normal 1 – 2 hours spent on site or in researching / corresponding with the client, scanning extra areas not normally covered (such as in the walls & floors) and troubleshooting.
6) Rush jobs, and requesting a time slot that is already booked. May require partial payment in advance. In some cases, after / before hours charges may also apply.
7) Payment other than immediately upon completion of the physical on site survey. Normally, there is an up to a 25% surcharge for billing unless other arrangements are made. Up to NET 15+ can be considered for commercial clients.
We are now set up to give a rapid quote if you can supply the following:
The address, square footage, concerns / scope of work, timeline and the detail of report you require. (from verbal only to a detailed written report with graphics)
Q. What causes EMF & Electric Fields?
A. Magnetic fields occur when current is flowing through a conductor. The actual EMF field strength is dependent on the path of the conductor and distance. In general, a two wire conductor that is perfectly balanced will have a net resultant of 0.0 mG. This is because current flowing along the return path back to ground will have a magnetic field which opposes that of the “hot” side and so it will cancel out.
In real life, it is nearly impossible to get such a perfect balance, so there is almost always some measurable field around any current flowing through an electrical path. For the two conductor scenario, the field strength will typically be an inverse square of the distance. At 2′, the strength will be 1/4 of what it is at 1′ which is an exponential decay at 1/r^2 relationship.
For a single wire conductor, (such as in ground currents) the EMF will decrease in an inverse proportion to the distance. At 2′ feet, the strength will be 1/2 of the reading at 1′. This is a linear 1/r relationship.
For coil wound transformers, (such as in an AC adapter plugged into a wall) the inverse cube will be observed or 1/r^3. At 2′, the field strength will be 1/9th strength of the measurement at 1′. (stronger rate of exponential decay also known as rapid falloff.
Electric fields occur with a voltage potential between two points, EVEN WITHOUT current flowing. Properly grounded metal conduit will shield against electric fields.
Q. What bearing does frequency have on EMF?
Quite a bit.
Simply put, the frequency is the number of vibrations per second that an energy wave fluctuates, and it is inversely proportional to the wavelength. This dictates factors such as propagation, directionality and penetration strength into various materials. (including living tissue) There are also properties of resonance, wherein a structural material may start absorbing or redirecting a much higher percentage of energy due to wavelength matching.
At higher frequencies (ultraviolet light and above) you begin experiencing the effects of ionizing radiation, which are EM waves traveling at sufficient energy levels that they begin ripping the electrons out of molecular valence shells which can translate to genetic damage depending on exposure and intensity.
The frequency can also totally change the nature and effects of the energy itself. Most of the energy we commonly experience is an EM wave of some type or another. Heat, light, radio, microwaves, etc. are all EMF, but at vastly different frequencies.
The medium through which it travels also changes certain properties – sound is an energy that uses air as a medium as opposed to EM waves in low frequency radio. (a 10 KHz radio wave is not the same as a 10 KHz sound) Sound through the air also travels at a different speed than sound through water or metal, and it much slower than EM waves which travel at close to the speed of light.
The frequency also dictates the alignment of the electric and magnetic fields. Above 30 MHz, both fields begin acting as a single cohesive wave.
A DC electromagnetic or electric field (essentially a field at 0 Hz such as the Earth’s Magnetic Field or a normal bar magnet) is one in which there is no waveform or regular periodic fluctuation of energy. DC Magnetic Fields are not generally attributed as having negative health effects – and in fact, a number of alternative health experts actually recommend using magnets for healing and fitness.
There may also be a relationship between Earth geomagnetic fields and phenomena such as telluric energy or ley lines which could influence health and quantum effects in a manner unconfirmed by science.
Example Frequency Bands
Earth DC Magnetic Field 0 Hz
Lowest end of brain waves 1 Hz
Theta brain waves 6.66
Schumann Resonances 7.8 Hz
Alpha brain waves 7.85
Beta brain waves 15.7
ELF Extremely Low Frequency 30 Hz – 300 Hz
Upper end of brain waves 45 Hz
European Power Grid 50 Hz
North American Power Grid 60 Hz
VF Voice Frequency 300 – 3000 Hz (3 KHz)
VLF Very Low Frequency 3 KHz – 30 KHz
Q. On the website page, http://www.scantech7. com/EMF_RF_Electric_Field_ Safety_Levels.htm , the following is stated: Cancer researchers concerned with recent power line issues are coming up with many reports on oncological effects of very low-level 1 mG ELF electromagnetic fields.
Leukemia studies which link low level EMF fields 2 – 4 mG
So my question is this: If the earth’s magnetic field is 58 microTesla, or about 580 milliGauss, at 50 degrees latitude (London), how can >2 – 4 mG be measured to cause cancer? We are all getting over 100 times that every day. Or I am not understanding this correctly.
This is an understandable point of confusion. The difference is that the ELF fields are artificially produced AC (alternating current) fields such as 50 Hz / 60 Hz which have a frequency / phase component to them.
The Earth’s magnetic field on the other hand is DC , (static) not AC . This is for the most part a non-varying or very slowly varying (quasi-static) field in amplitude, but there is no real frequency component associated. Different organisms react differently in either more intense, or greatly decreased DC earth fields. Some are not particularly affected and others experience significant physiological / biochemical shifts. (it is believed to be crucial to native “directional instincts” for animals for navigation)
Q. Can magnets (DC magnetic fields) heal or help in some way?
A. While this is a matter of conjecture in terms of general use by laymen, many professionals and organizations use them with no reported ill effects. Recently, even the FDA allows magnetic therapies to claim “pain relief”, “increased circulation”, and other benefits if that tells you anything.
And there ARE commercially produced biomedical devices approved by the FDA which use specially pulsed magnetic fields produced by Helmholtz coils to speed the healing of bone fractures.
The most common families of magnet materials today are ones made out of Aluminum-Nickel-Cobalt (Alnicos), Strontium-Iron (Ferrites, also known as Ceramics), Neodymium-Iron-Boron (Neo magnets, sometimes referred to as “super magnets”), and Samarium-Cobalt. (The Samarium-Cobalt and Neodymium-Iron-Boron families are collectively known as the Rare Earths.)
For best results, there are specific magnet strengths (measured in Gauss) and application methodologies practiced by various medical and alternative healing practitioners. ScanTech cannot make any specific recommendations except that you do your own research, try to document results with hard data, and beware of anyone making exceptionally claims or charging large amounts of money.
Be aware, that getting good empirical data can be difficult even for experienced researchers who are well grounded in bio-magnetic medicine, statistics, etc. And even if someone has impressive credentials and references, that does not mean their solution will be right for you.
Q. Can’t I just buy a meter and measure it myself?
A. It is likely that you won’t buy the right EMF meter for your needs. A GOOD, true RMS, 3-axis digital non-frequency weighted and calibrated reference EMF meter will run at least several hundred dollars – considerably more than getting a proper EMF survey from ScanTech.
Furthermore, many of the popular meters that consumers purchase are just downright inaccurate (I have seen by a factor of over 50 times) and are not appropriate for a professional EMF home inspection. My blog at discusses a very interesting case study of this issue at:
in which two meters (both Trifield 100XE models) that were recently purchased gave wildly varying results and could have potentially misled the consumer to the point of making a serious mistake in evaluating a property / real estate transaction if they had not contacted ScanTech.
I am aware they are rated well by Amazon, but none of the reviews that I looked at mentioned comparing the accuracy of the meter against any sort of known reference. While I think well of the manufacturer of the meter in general, I personally contacted an electrical engineer who worked for the company as I was looking for the frequency weighting chart, and I was informed that not only was it unavailable for this meter, this particular model is NOT considered suitable for a proper professional survey by the maker themselves which should tell you something.
I do use the Natural EM version of the Trifield meter, but only because I sometimes find the analog display useful for detecting fluctuations. So it isn’t necessarily useless, but I have seen influence people walk away from properties when there was no cause for alarm.
Also, the EMF meter apps that you can now download for Android and iPhone ONLY measure the DC geomagnetic field of the Earth which is an entirely different magnetic field than what you get from 60 Hz power lines and the harmonics. It is fun and educational to play with, and while I have it on my phone, I never use it for actual EMF testing as I have more professional gear available. The reason the sensor is even on there is so that the phone can sense orientation with respect to the ground and adjust the view screen accordingly.
Doing a proper survey means more than just reading a meter; it is having the experience and professional judgment to determine the accuracy of the equipment used, finding the source of the magnetic field, the underlying cause and likelihood of mitigation if any.
In addition, there is other equipment that we have on hand such as geomagnetometers, (for Earth Magnetic Field measurements) RF meters, digital Geiger counters, ion counters, etc. which are often called into service to address various onsite issues and concerns.
Our newest RF meter is a spectrum analyzer which can graphically measure, datalog and analyze the broad EM spectrum which comprises nearly 100% of all wireless and data communications. It is FAR more accurate than typical broadband RF meters which can be off by as much as 1000 X due to frequency variations – particularly in the evaluation of exposure limits.
Q. Is your meter accurate?
A. The primary EMF AC gaussmeter used has NIST traceable certification and is guaranteed by the manufacturer to stay within calibration for ten years. This meter is also cross-checked against other EMF meters for additional corroboration on accuracy.
There are some articles I have written discussing meter accuracy which are discussed here:
Q. What is the advantage of using a reference grade triple axis meter?
A. It is far more accurate due to the fact that it measures fields in all 3 dimensions as opposed to only one at a time. For instance, you may have a high reading in the x direction and a low one in the y direction. If you only happen to pay attention to one axis, then you are not getting the true reading and may either miss an issue, or be misled into thinking there is one.
Q. Well, I can get that meter and still do a survey, right?
A. Certainly, but our surveys are typically less expensive than buying a quality meter. In addition, we use a specially designed rig to maintain the meter a preset height (1 meter according to IEEE standards for EMF testing) above the ground at all times. This makes our surveys inherently more accurate than an EMF meter that is hand held.
And reading a meter is only a small part of the equation. The years of experience that ScanTech has in residential, commercial and industrial evaluations of over which include over 1,000 EMF surveys will save you a great deal of time and aggravation in figuring out whether you have a problem and the most cost effective means of resolving it.
Our background covers many disciplines and we are the best qualified company in this region to do risk assessment and mitigation consultation. Again, we have other equipment on hand to help troubleshoot and analyze virtually all of the energy fields in your environment.
Q. The EMF / RF meter that I bought doesn’t agree with yours / a third party survey company / etc. What is going on? Whose meter is more accurate?
A. This can be a very tricky question to answer as meters do not all agree with each other due to differences in construction and calibration. For EMF meters, things to consider are single axis vs. triple axis, true RMS reading, digital vs. analog, accuracy, calibration, frequency range and weighting. Most lower quality meters will GENERALLY agree with each other within 1 – 2 milliGauss except in the area of single axis vs. triple axis as individual magnetic vector components can vary wildly from each other. Better quality meters will agree within about +/- 0.2 milliGauss.
While many EMF meters are calibrated to 60 Hz, the frequency weighting from one meter to another can cause disparate readings to be observed depending on the exact power harmonics and frequencies mixed in with the 60 Hz.
RF meters can vary even more due to the fact that radio frequency energy is very difficult to measure accurately with the sharp differences that antenna design, location and orientation can make. Getting a reading within 3 dB (which is a 50 % variation) of the true value is actually considered quite good, as RF is measured more degrees of magnitude (logarithmic powers of 10) rather than in a linear fashion.
Regardless, we prefer to focus on the sources of elevated EMF and find solutions rather than worry about meters agreeing with each other.
Q. Can I rent the EMF meters from you / someone else?
A. To rent our equipment would require a deposit in the amount of the gear + all fees and potential loss of use surcharges. In other words, this would be much more expensive than just having us do it, and ScanTech is not set up with a legal rental agreement of any kind, so renting equipment is completely against multiple policies.
We come with the meter – absolutely no exceptions.
As for renting from someone else, we always purchase our own equipment outright so we have no idea who to recommend, nor would we want to be liable for referring you to someone that didn’t satisfy your needs. Finally, we feel that it would be a disservice to our clients to use this sort of gear unaided as it is very easy to misread meters and come to the wrong conclusions about local energy fields and make erroneous, expensive or dangerous mistakes as a result.
However, if for some reason time, budget or other factors make it unfeasible for us to come on site, then the consultation described in the next heading may be of aid to you.
Q. I already have my own EMF meter / meters – what can you tell me about the readings I get?
A. If we are not on site witnessing the measurements ourselves or how the EMF meter is being used, then we cannot take responsibility for any actual risks, nor can we guarantee how well our advice will apply to your particular situation. Also, we may or may not own your particular brand of meter and be familiar enough with it’s operation and/or peculiarities to be as authoritative as we would like. Also, see above where some meters can be blatantly inaccurate.
We no longer offer consulting services for out of area residential clients – please see above.
We do offer COMMERCIAL phone and email consultation – prices vary depending on the nature of the project and research required.
In either case, it is often useful and even essential to send wiring diagrams, maps, a short narrative and anything else which may be relevant to your issue. If there is excessive documentation or research required, (more than a few pages or a few minutes) then other consulting fees may be applicable.
We will respond as soon as possible. (within a day during a normal business week)
Q. Can you recommend an EMF meter to me?
A. We can recommend a particular EMF meter / gaussmeter for your needs for a generally small consulting fee.
MORE INFORMATION ON EMF TESTING AND INSPECTION TOPICS FOUND ON THESE WEBSITES
Blog on EMF Testing, Power Lines & Safety Levels (and some information on indoor air quality testing / radon testing as well)
More detailed technical information on magnetic, electric and RF fields including smart meters
Q. Can I buy an EMF meter in the Dallas – Houston – Austin – Fort Worth area?
I get asked this from time to time and I don’t know any stores in these metropolitan areas where you can buy a quality 3 axis AC gaussmeter / EMF meter / high frequency RF meter whose accuracy I could trust. Fry’s Electronics used to carry a small selection, but they are now effectively out of business.
If you are interesting in buying one online, for a small consulting fee we may may be able to suggest a model and vendor right for you.
Please note that by accepting consulting in this manner you agree to hold ScanTech harmless in connection with any information given, whether explicit or implied through misinterpretation, implementation, misuse or other consequences by the paying client or any other third parties.
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