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Stray Voltage Human Health Series

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Posted:
12 July 2000

-------- Original Message --------
Subject: stray voltage human health stories
Date: Tue, 11 Jul 2000 16:30:10 -0500
From: Chris Hardie <chardie@lacrossetribune.com>
Organization: La Crosse Tribune
To: Roy Beavers <guru@emfguru.com>

Roy:

I'm forwarding these attachments in case you have an interest in linking, posting or distributing.

Chris Hardie
Local News Editor
La Crosse Tribune
 


The following articles are from the LaCrosse Tribune

Published on Sunday, July 9, 2000

'I saw lightning come out of my hands'

By CHRIS HARDIE Local news editor

Copyright 2000

Wisconsin farmers have complained for years about the harmful effects of stray voltage, but little is known with certainty about how it affects people, a La Crosse Tribune investigation found.

Stray voltage is electrical current that leaks from power lines into the earth. At its worst, some say, stray voltage cripples, maims or even kills cows and other animals.

Many think what happens to cows also happens to humans. No specific research has been done, but the debate is heated, and mounting evidence points to a possible link between stray voltage and human health.

Dr. Henry Anderson, chief medical officer for Occupational and Environmental Health in Wisconsin, said he is not aware of any specific studies looking at stray voltage and its effect on humans.

``We're a long ways from being able to document some thing at this point,'' Anderson said.

But a review of public and private documents and dozens of interviews with farmers, medical experts, state and utility officials, shows Wisconsin farmers have complained about fatigue, aches and even more serious ailments for years.

Some farmers say their health already has been damaged.

Carol and Mike Gunner's dream of a family farm ended in April 1996. The Gunners bought a farm in Clark County near Granton in the fall of 1995, lured by a state program recruiting farmers.

``I was heading out to a place in the fence where it was easy to crawl under and all of the sudden I got it,'' Carol said. ``I saw lightning come out of my hands.''

Carol said a strong spike of electricity traveling through the ground knocked her off her feet. She was barefoot.

Carol struggled to get up and made her way to the barn where Mike was milking.

Mike said he immediately knew something was wrong when Carol staggered into the barn, hardly able to walk or speak.

``Her skin was gray,'' he said.

Four years later the Gunners have no farm, no cows and have left the state to live in Idaho. They are both disabled with long-term health problems. Doctors say the problems were caused by stray voltage.

In a lawsuit filed last year in Dane County Circuit Court, the Gunners claim that stray volt age not only cost them 68 cows and drove them out of farming and into bankruptcy but also caused them severe and permanent injuries. Their injuries are severe enough that Carol has been certified disabled by the Social Security Administration and Mike is in the final stages of his disability proceedings.

Clark Electric and Federated Rural Electric Insurance Corp. deny responsibility for the stray voltage claim, including the Gunners' accusation that Clark's electricity damaged their health.

``Clark Electric's investigation did not show that Clark Electric was contributing to any elec tric problems on the farm,'' said Rhea Myers, an attorney with Weaver, Van Sickle and Anderson in Madison.

The Gunners are not alone in their complaints about stray voltage. In 1995, during Wisconsin Public Service Commission stray voltage hearings, farm families throughout the state said they were concerned about their health.

``I couldn't hardly stand milking,'' testified Roy Lemmenes, a former dairy farmer near Waupun. ``I physically couldn't hardly take it. So that should tell you that this is just a little light in the tunnel. And the oxygen is being burnt out or the canary is dying. There is more to it than just these animals.''

Linda Kulig of Whitehall testified that her family ``suffered headaches, nauseated burning lungs, sleepless nights, pressure behind the eyes, rapid heartbeats, fillings in our teeth felt like they were being pulled out of our mouth. We were forced out of our home. It was a total nightmare.''

The Public Service Commission did not take action on the human health issue.

``Human health was not part of the issues list,'' said Mark Cook, manager of the PSC's Rural Electric Power Services Program. ``The PSC doesn't do research. If there is a human risk, the department of health would have to say to look at it.''

The state has not studied stray voltage and any potential connection to human health. But recent concerns about the issue prompted Dave Jenkins, Wisconsin Federation of Cooperatives manager, to ask the Rural Energy Management Council to look for and compile any medical research.

A Florida doctor who specializes in electrical injuries says he has treat ed two dozen farmers from across the country for injuries he says are caused by electrical current in the ground.

``I believe it's lots more common,'' said neurologist Hooshang Hoosh mand. ``The reason I've seen so few is a lack of awareness because of the phenomenon. There is no textbook or medical articles written because of this phenomenon.''

But other doctors aren't so sure.

``Some people think (stray voltage) causes cancer, chronic fatigue syn drome and fibromyalgia, but there's really no scientific proof,'' said Dr. John W. Williams Sr., medical adviser to the National Farm Medicine Cen ter in Marshfield, Wis., and medical director of the Occupational Medical Services at the Marshfield Clinic.

``Five hundred years ago when Columbus was exploring the world and the people thought the world was flat, that's where our level of knowledge is.''

Williams said some have accused the Marshfield Clinic or the entire medical community of ignoring stray voltage because of power company influence.

``Nothing could be further from the truth,'' he said. ``If someone had good information tying this to human health effects, we'd like to be the first to discover that.''

Yet detailed medical records from the Marshfield Clinic and other doctors say the Gunners suffer from electrical injuries.

``There does not appear to be any question that this results from the stray voltage problem,'' wrote Dr. David Bjarnason, a rheumatologist with Marshfield Clinic after a 1998 visit and consultation with Carol.

Hooshmand, who has studied neurology for 35 years and specializes in electrical injuries, examined Carol in 1999 and found her feet and hands to be colder than the rest of her body.

``This patient has findings typical of electrical injury with entrance through the feet and exit through the hands,'' Hooshmand wrote.

Some, like Blair, Wis., electrical consultant Dave Stetzer, believe that the stray voltage is getting worse because of poor power quality that puts an additional strain on the nation's aging grid system.

``America is a superpower, but it's got the grid of a Third World nation,'' Energy Secretary Bill Richardson said in a May 11 Wall Street Journal article.

The Gunners claim that poor power quality on their farm led to their declining health.

Mike Gunner said utilities need to invest in updating their electrical systems so that the stray voltage problem can be solved before it even starts.

``I think this problem can be worked through, but I don't think the gov ernment is giving it the attention they should,'' he said. ``There is a boiling point and it is already boiling among the constituents in Wisconsin and overflowing in some rural cities.

``Some say it's a farm problem, but it's a health issue and an economic issue. I hate to sue anybody and you never make any progress pointing fingers. We would have rather had our problem solved on the farm when we still had an operation to save.''

Chris can be reached at chardie@lacrossetribune.com or at 791-8218.
 
 


 

Published on Sunday, July 9, 2000

Farmers bear burden of stray voltage

By CHRIS HARDIE Local news editor

Copyright 2000

Wisconsin isn't the only state where farmers claim stray volt age has affected their health.

The La Crosse Tribune talked with three other farmers -- one in Minnesota and two in Michigan -- who all have been patients of Florida neurologist Hooshang Hooshmand, who spe cializes in electrical injuries.

Dave Lusty said he lost his farm once because of stray voltage problems. He doesn't want to lose it again.

Yet the 63-year-old dairy farmer from Miltona, Minn., near Alexandria in the west- central part of the state, said chronic injuries make it tough to keep going. The worst days are when the bottoms of his feet get so sore from what he says is stray voltage that the skin starts to peel.

``I get calluses on the bottom of my feet. They're just getting fried to beat hell.''

Lusty said he was treated by Hooshmand, who determined that the electricity was entering his body through his feet and exiting through his upper body.

``It's mainly my shoulders,'' Lusty said. ``My shoulders have had it. Their recommendations are I should have replacement done.''

Lusty has lived on the farm since 1976. He said stray voltage problems led to financial problems that resulted in losing the farm land in the middle 1980s. He bought it back in 1986.

Wes Lane, supervisor of technical services for Otter Tail Power, said he has tested on the Lusty farm ``numerous times.

``From where we stand, we feel he does not have a stray voltage problem,'' Lane said. Otter Tail has done some work on the power line serving Lusty's farm and first tested his farm in the early '80s, he said.

Lane said the tests show readings below a level of concern. ``We feel there is nothing more we can do there.''

Lusty said he knows there still are stray voltage problems on the farm and plans to keep fighting, although he has never taken legal action against the utility.

``My health isn't so great, so I can't work that hard either, but we have to continue milking cows. That's all there is to it.''

Lusty said he takes medications mainly for pain relief and has to hire out a lot of the strenuous farm work.

``I've never received shocks that I knew I was being shocked, but obviously I've had these currents going through my body a lot. I've witnessed cows standing there and suddenly hitting the floor as though lightning had struck there. Their legs went out as fast as you can blink an eye.''

Two states to the east in Michigan is where Vern ``Butch'' Lanphear knows what kinds of battles Lusty has endured. The state's attorney general has filed a complaint against the state's second largest utility, Consumers Energy, for putting too much electrical current in the ground. Consumers has denied the charge.

Lanphear, 49, settled a stray voltage lawsuit with Consumers several years ago and looked for a new location to start over. He settled near Centerville in the southwest corner of the state and now says he has stray voltage problems with another utility.

Lanphear says his electrical injuries came when the power company was testing on the farm. After the company did some work on the power panels, Lanphear said, he was asked by the company to check the main power panel.

``The panel was energized and it went in my right arm and put an inch hole in my shin in my left leg,'' Lanphear said, describing the entrance and exit of the electricity. He said a power company employee witnessed the accident, but the utility has denied Lanphear was injured. Lanphear has filed a lawsuit against Fruit Belt Electric Cooperative.

``We don't believe he was shocked,'' said attorney David York, who represents Fruit Belt. ``It was witnessed by one of our employees, but (Lanphear) said he wasn't injured and said he didn't need to go to the hospital. Two weeks later he started complaining.''

Lanphear said he went to the doctor to the next day. He said the utility was notified within several days of his injuries.

``I've been to Dr. Hooshmand for two years,'' Lanphear said. ``He got me around to at least functioning. I have to have a lot of (nerve) blocks every couple of months and a lot of medication. I have some memory problems and problems with nerves.''

Lanphear said he is aware of four other farmers in Michigan who have been or are patients of Hooshmand's.

One of those is Michael Van DenBerg, 31, of Plainwell. VanDenBerg grew up with stray voltage, and his parents, Paul and Judy, were featured on ``60 Minutes'' in the early 1990s in a segment about stray voltage.

``When I was little, probably about 8 or so, my job was feeding calves,'' VanDenBerg said. ``I walked barefoot across the yard, and it felt like needles were stab bing you. If you put your foot in a mud puddle it felt like bee stings.''

VanDenBerg said he missed the last few months of his senior year in high school after he was shocked in the bathtub. Doctors could not find the source of his numerous health problems.

His parents settled out of court with Consumers Energy in the late 1980s, but the farm continued to have electrical problems, VanDenBerg said, and his health continued to deteriorate, with weakness in his legs and arms. He improved after a visit to Hooshmand, who also diagnosed brain injuries.

Consumers spokesman Charlie McGinnis said the utility is not responsible for any electri cal problems the VanDenBergs may have. He said a jury reject ed claims by the VanDenBergs in a 1995 trial and the court ordered the VanDenBergs to pay $290,000 in costs and attorneys fees.

``If he has a problem, it is not a result of Consumers Energy system,'' McGinnis said.

VanDenBerg, who still lives on the farm, says he is enrolled in law school being paid with state rehabilitation money so someday he can represent him self in a lawsuit against the utility.

``We've been hit in just about every different way,'' VanDen Berg said. ``In Mom and Dad's case, the utility was supposed to fix it, and they signed an agree ment that they wouldn't sue them again. I'm not the kind of person who will roll over and play dead. I'm trying to get better.''

Hooshmand says he plans to publish a medical paper based on his clinic's observations and treatment of patients with stray voltage symptoms.

``We are flooded with patients with electrical injuries of different kinds, and it will take us at least a year before we can publish the data,'' Hooshmand said. ``Even after it is published the problem is understanding these theories.''

Dr. John W. Williams Sr., med ical adviser to the National Farm Medicine Center in Marsh field, Wis., said he needs to see more medical information about stray voltage before deciding whether there is a link with human health.

``I personally take the opinion that we haven't proved it one way or another, so we need to keep an open mind.``
 
 


 

Published on Sunday, July 9, 2000

Doctor: Low-level current can hurt humans

By CHRIS HARDIE Local news editor

Copyright 2000

The key to understanding how stray voltage affects human health is a better understanding of the effect of electricity on the body, according to a neurologist who specializes in electrical injuries.

Dr. Hooshang Hooshmand said he has treated two dozen farmers from across the country for health problems he said are caused by stray voltage. Continuous expo sure to even low levels of electrical current can damage human health, he said.

Hooshmand said no studies have specifically looked at the long-term effects of low-voltage current on humans, although he plans to release results of his research in the next year or so. It is possible that the low- voltage injuries may go beyond the farms, he said, affecting people in homes as well.

``It's quite probable, but there's no way to prove this as the issue has not been addressed or studied,'' Hooshmand said.

Dr. John M. Williams Sr., medical adviser to the National Farm Medicine Center and medical direc tor of Occupational Medical Service at the Marshfield Clinic in Marsh field, Wis., questions Hooshmand's linking of neurology and stray volt age. ``I would question the amount and magnitude of exposure to be able to draw a cause-and-effect relationship,'' Williams said.

Hooshmand operates a neurology clinic in Vero Beach, Fla., has published books and numerous articles on electrical injuries and is a frequent guest lecturer. He has practiced medicine for over 40 years.

Exposure thresholds

The Wisconsin Public Service Commission has defined stray voltage as at least 0.5 volt -- or 1 milliamp -- of electricity measured at the point of cow contact. That level is at the minimum threshold for human perception.

According to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, the maximum current an average man could grasp and let go is 16 milliamps. A current of 20 milliamps or higher if applied across the chest for an extended period of time could result in death from respiratory paralysis.

Hooshmand said most medical experts forget to apply the basics of Ohm's law, which states that current, or amperage, is equal to voltage divided by resistance. In humans, the main form of resistance is skin. And when skin is wet or broken, a person's resistance is lowered, Hoosh mand said, meaning the body is affected by low voltages or currents.

``The main thing that misleads doctors and vets in regard to recognizing this condition is the fact that they say such a low voltage can't harm,'' Hooshmand said. ``There are two extremes of voltage. There is a lot of electric exposure from lightning carrying up to millions of volts. And yet if the skin is dry and the length of lightning is short, it causes deflection of lightning to the next object.

``If a person is exposed to only 110 volts in a bathtub, it kills far more quickly than if the voltage is 500 volts or 10,000 volts or a million volts for a very short length of time. If the length of time is prolonged, even a small voltage will kill you, even if it's 1 volt or one-half volt. It depends on how long that flow of elec tricity goes into the body.''

Hoosh mand's analysis of resistance is shared by the National Institute for Occu pational Safe ty and Health, which says under dry conditions the body's resistance can be has high as 100,000 ohms. Ohms are a measurement of resistance. ``The presence of moisture from environmental conditions such as standing water, wet clothing, high humidity or perspiration increases the possibility of low-voltage electrocution,'' says an institute article called ``Overview of Electrical Hazards'' by Virgil Casini. ``Wet or broken skin may drop the body's resistance to 1,000 ohms.''

Hooshmand said humid and wet conditions in dairy operations lower the farmer's resistance, allowing more current to enter the body. That makes it even more hazardous than someone severely burned in an electrical accident, Hoosh mand said, because it attacks and breaks down the body's nervous system. That makes the body susceptible to a variety of ailments.

``The less burn of the skin, the more damage to the nerves and the brain,'' Hooshmand said. ``The higher degree of burn is only a sign that the skin is dry and is putting up a big fight. Lucky are the ones who have a lot of skin burn.''

Hooshmand says electricity first attacks the sympathetic nervous system in the body, which naturally conducts electricity that controls the body's vital signs by flowing along the walls of blood vessels. ``The moment they are stimulat ed, the nerves cut off circulation and the tissues start dying.''

Continued exposure to low voltage also results in a breakdown of the immune system, Hooshmand said, resulting in a host of disorders, including cancer.

``That's the one that is the most serious long-term consequence of long-term exposure,'' he said.

Because the nerves are so small, conventional medical tests such as CAT scans, magnetic image resonance and X-rays do not detect the nerve damage, Hooshmand said. That's why he measures temperature differences with infrared imaging.

Dr. John Moulder, a radiation oncology specialist who studies electromagnetic fields and human health at the Medical College of Wisconsin in Milwaukee, said the United Kingdom has human exposure standards for currents induced by mag netic fields, setting a limit of 10 milliamps between 10 and 1000 hertz.

``Clearly there is some data on what directly applied (extremely low frequency) electric currents do to people, animal and cells,'' Moulder said. ``It is not trivial to estimate what sort of current densities would occur in a human who was serving as a conductor of ground currents.''

The Mayo Clinic Family Health Book says the nervous system is complicated and electricity can cause a variety of dis orders: ``Diagnosis can be difficult because the symptoms and signs are numerous and diverse.''

Williams said he needs to see more specific medical research on the topic. He said one of the challenges in studying the human health effects of stray voltage is how it is measured.

``When you look at exposures, what you're interested in is the magnitude and period of time being exposed to. As far as measuring stray voltage, instrumentation isn't available to hook up to a human and measure that.''

Dr. Henry Anderson, chief medical officer for occupational and environmental health in Wisconsin and a member of the Rural Energy Management Council, a state committee looking at all sorts of electrical issues -- including stray voltage -- said defining exposure is important.

``The critical factor we feel is to come up with something that can be measured so we can see how common it is,'' Anderson said. ``Part of the difficulty is what is being measured. How do you measure and how reproducible is it?''

Impact of higher frequencies

Some researchers, such as Marjorie Lundquist, a bioelectromagnetic industrial hygienist from Milwaukee, believe that the electrical currents affecting both ani mals and humans are higher frequency than 60 hertz electricity.

Lundquist is working with Blair, Wis., electrical consultant Dave Stetzer and Berkeley, Calif., electrical engineer Mar tin Graham in accumulating studies and analyzing data from dairy farms where they have measured high frequency current. Their studies show that milk produc tion is adversely affected when a spike of high frequency current is measured in the barn.

Stetzer, who also has accumulated data on human health, says the currents are measured even when the power to the farm has been shut off.

Stetzer and Graham say the high fre quencies are the result of poor power quality and harmonics, or distorted electrical waves, that flow from utilities' wires through the earth from grounding rods. Stetzer has measured the high fre quencies in barns, homes and businesses.

Graham, in a 1999 letter sent to the eight scientists who participated in a 1998 Minnesota Public Utilities Commission study on earth currents, said the voltage is electrical pollution.

``These voltages cause currents to flow from foot to foot through the legs and groins of humans working in these electrical polluted areas,'' Graham wrote. ``I am not aware of any research that shows that such currents flowing through the groins of humans has no adverse effects. The symptoms described by humans who have had prolonged exposure to such elec trical pollution are very similar whether they reside in Minnesota, Wisconsin or Michigan. I call this phenomenon electrical poisoning.''

In a letter sent to the Rural Energy Management Council, Lundquist urged the state to take quick action on a policy decision that requires electric current to flow back to substations on power lines, not through the ground.

``Ultimately, the Public Service Commission will have to deal with this kind of problem,'' Lundquist wrote. ``But if the REMC recommendation were to make mention of the fact that all mammals, including human beings, are similarly affected, it might highlight the impor tance of quick action.''

Stetzer said the human health con cerns are not just on the farms.

``It's probably more so in the city than in the country,'' Stetzer said.

Hooshmand said higher frequency causes more damage, but it is not as important as amperage and skin resis tance.

``You can push it to the point that the frequency band goes beyond electricity and does no harm to the body,'' Hoosh mand said. ``It's how much electricity and how low is the resistance of the skin.''

Electromagnetic field factor

Both Williams and Anderson said studying stray voltage health effects is difficult because some people also discuss health problems caused by electromagnetic fields from power lines or electrical wires. But even the hundreds of studies conducted on EMFs are not conclusive.

``All those are quite different from our understanding of the issues of stray voltage,'' Anderson said. ``The electricity literature is tremendous. But when you sort through that to any studies specific to the farm issues of stray voltage, I really haven't found any. ``

But the spikes in voltage, or transients, would cause stronger magnetic fields from power lines and home wiring because of their higher frequency, Lundquist and others believe.

A study published by the National Research Council in 1997, ``Possible Health Effects of Exposure to Residential and Electric and Magnetic Fields,'' con cluded that there was no evidence that 60 hertz electrical fields posed a human health hazard.

But the study said further research on fields affected by transients or harmonics could be considered.

``The frequency and strength of fields are such that transients can induce cur rents that are larger than thermal noise; thus, magnetic fields associated with transients to which individuals might be frequently exposed could be considered in future research,'' the study says.

Moulder said if power frequency fields cause biological effects, the higher frequency the greater the current induced in the body.

Don Maisch, an Australian researcher who has written 22 papers on health effects from exposures to electromagnetic fields, runs the EMFacts Consultancy in Tasmania. Maisch said he has found ``a clear connection with ground currents in homes and ill health'' and has pub lished a study on a connection to chronic fatigue syndrome.

``What is important is that any study that just looks only at the incidence of cancer and EMF exposure is missing the real problem: a general adverse effect on the immune system status that as time goes on may manifest in any number of health problems,'' Maisch said. ``Prolonged EMF exposure over a certain intensity should be considered as an immune system stressor. How people react to that stress very much depends upon their biological makeup.''

Anderson said EMFs should be viewed separately from stray voltage.

``Certainly there are electromagnetic fields everywhere, but all those are really quite different than our understanding of the issues of stray voltage or the harmonics of things that they're measuring,'' Anderson said.

The effects of electricity Voltage itself can cause biological change in the body, says Robert Becker, a researcher in the field of biological elec tricity who was twice nominated for the Nobel Prize. Becker, in his book ``Cross Currents,'' which examines the positive and negative effects of electricity on health, said currents in excess of 1 milliamp may damage cells and that any voltage above 1.1 volts can cause electrolysis in the cells, which breaks down water molecules and produces gases that are toxic to cells.

``It should be apparent that electrical currents administered to the body may have purely physical side effects of an undesirable nature,'' Becker wrote. ``In addition '85 extremely small electrical currents have a variety of biological effects. Most people who employ or pro mote electrical currents for treatments are either unaware of these effects or choose to ignore them.''

``Electrical effects are a very complex thing,'' Anderson said. ``Finding a cellular effect or change has been difficult to identify. There are more associations identified without knowing what the mechanism is. Whether you have shocks at very low levels, being able to document something has been very difficult.''

Anderson said people who believe their health has been impaired by stray voltage should seek medical help. Doctors can then try to determine all the environmental factors affecting that person and what might be causing the health problems.

Because studying the human health effects of stray voltage is so complex, Anderson said, the quickest solution is continued animal research. If research shows that animals are affected by high frequency readings, for example, the exposure could be corrected, which may also benefit humans.

``We're a long ways from being able to document something at this point,'' Anderson said. ``It's easier to identify fixes and correct things than wait to have to prove there is a human health effect. We would prefer correcting a situation and moving on from there.``
 
 


 

Published on Sunday, July 9, 2000

PSC hearing criticized by some

By CHRIS HARDIE Local news editor

Copyright 2000

The hell may be over for Dorothy Wozniak, but the experience is burned into her memory.

More than four years ago, Wozniak was one of many Wisconsin farmers who testified during Wisconsin Public Service Commission hearings on stray voltage, saying she was tired of the ``pain and sickness.''

``I just know that I have lived in hell on that farm for the last 15, 20 years,'' she told the commission. ``The cows and calves quit dying, but what about my grandchildren down there? Nobody has proved it hurts cat tle more than it hurts humans. Any one of you must realize that if those calves are dying that it's bad for our kids, too. When are we going to start realizing that these currents are hurting us as well as our cattle?''

Wozniak was a legal party to the proceedings of Docket 115, which sought to redefine stray voltage. But despite testimony from Wozniak and at least 17 others who asked questions about human health, the commission did not address human health as an area of concern.

``I can't think of any time that we got together and testified that the health issue wasn't brought in,'' said Wozniak, who quit farming three years ago. ``Why did they have the hearings?''

Others who participated in Docket 115 also have questioned the process. Frank Jablonski, an attorney hired to represent the Wisconsin Farmers Union, said the hearings had a narrow focus.

``There are a lot of people who think that the PSC unreasonably limits testimony in public hearings,'' Jablonski said. ``It's a question in my mind.''

Donna Paske, a PSC hearing examiner who presided over the public hearings, declined to comment on the specific testimony from 115, but said the hearings followed PSC procedure. In a preconference hearing held in October 1995, 12 issues were outlined. Human health was not one of them.

Paske, who has since retired, called the hearings ``the fact-finding part of the whole process.'' A transcript of the hearings is prepared and then reviewed by the PSC commissioners, who make the decisions.

``It is extremely political, there is no question,'' said attorney Scott Lawrence, who partici pated in the hearings representing several farmers. ``Whether it's on the rule-making process or the investigation on individ ual farms, the spin they put on this stuff is very political.''

Scott Neitzel, who was a PSC commissioner during Docket 115, declined to discuss many of the specifics of the docket without reviewing it. ``I don't like talking about stray voltage. Everyone is sue-happy in that business. There are strong opinions on all sides.''

Neitzel served four years as a commissioner, who are appoint ed by the governor. He is now a vice president at Madison Gas and Electric. Neitzel said the PSC hearing process is good for ``ferreting out the facts.

``I think it's a good process,'' he said, ``but one that is some times overburdened by a lot of non-germane information.''

Commissioners can consider any testimony in the hearing process to make their decisions, Neitzel said.

Neitzel said if human health was not part of the issues list for Docket 115, it is because it did not come through the prehearing conference. ``If an issue didn't show up in the prehearing conference, the experts on all sides didn't think that was a necessary component of this particular docket,'' he said.

A La Crosse Tribune review of the testimony shows that some citizens questioned the scope of the hearings. (The verbatim testimony is in italics.)

Donald Hoffman, who testified at the Green Bay hearing, asked why stray voltage in hospitals and its effect on humans was not being considered.

Chuck DeNardo, an engineer for Wisconsin Electric, testified that stray voltage was only an animal issue.

``Stray voltage is not in hospitals. It's defined in Wisconsin as an animal contact voltage and there aren't any animals in hospitals. ... They don't have stray voltage in hospitals because stray voltage is associated with production animals, production agriculture. It's not associated with hospitals. It's an entirely different question in hospitals.``

Hoffman replied: ``But ain't there humans on farms? Don't you care about the humans on the farms? Or how about in your houses? Is there stray voltage in households? Don't you care about those people? You just care about the people in the hos pital? Once you get out of the hospital, you don't care?''

DeNardo said Hoffman was ``confusing the issue of power quality with that of stray voltage.``

Hearing examiner Paske asked Hoffman whether he thought the scope of the docket ``should include people.``

``Is that what you're getting at? And the reason I'm asking the question is because the utilities do not determine, the Commission determines what the investigation is going to be about and they -- and the utilities do not. So, if you think the Commission should be looking at a broader question than they're looking at, you should say that. But they don't have anything to say about what the Commission decides.``

Hoffman replied, ``So, in other words, you're more worried about the animals than you are about the people?

Paske: ``What I said was, this case is about stray voltage in dairy animals; and, if you think the Commission should be look ing at something else in addition to that, you should say that.``

Hoffman: ``OK. Yes, that's what I'm saying, yes.``

Paske: ``That's what I thought.''

Hoffman: ``Because the farmers here are complaining about themselves and their children and everything '85 They should look at the animals and the humans, too, is what I'm say ing.''

Paske: ``That's what I thought you were getting at.''

Marjorie Lundquist, a bioelectric hygienist from Milwaukee, has written letters to PSC commissioners, Gov. Tommy Thompson and other top state leaders critical of the PSC and the state for failing to solve stray voltage problems she believes are causing both animal and human health problems.

``Much time and effort has been spent by the Wisconsin Public Service Commission to give the appearance of addressing citizen health concerns about electric power systems, while actually making certain that no effective action would occur,'' Lundquist wrote in a letter to Thompson.
 
 


 

Published on Sunday, July 9, 2000

From the hearings

Compiled by Chris Hardie

These are quotes from citizens who testified during the Wisconsin Public Service Commission Docket 115 public hearings on stray voltage in 1995.

Nov. 7, 1995 hearing at Fond du Lac

Paul Petrie:

``I'm another stray voltage case. I stuck 20 years into a dairy farm. I lost it all.

``My wife could feel it before I could. And the only time I could feel it if I had a cut finger and I touched the bulk tank, then you could feel it. My daughter couldn't put her hands in the water. I couldn't feel it. Then once it got so bad, I could feel it in the system.

``So there are animals just as people that are sensitive to electricity and there are people that are not. There are the same things with animals. And I can prove it.``

Kathy Waldschmidt:

``We didn't have any prob lems until the fall of 1992 that we were concerned over except that my husband had testicular cancer and was told the cause was environmental.``

Nov. 8, Green Bay

Garth Sellen, Lena:

``I want to mention some thing here that it's just not cattle that stray voltage affects and I've talked to other people that have talked about when they had stray voltage and how their health was failing.

``Voltage doesn't just affect the cows. It affects the people that have to work in that system everyday. We don't feel it as much because we've got shoes on, we've got rubber soles, we've got boots, you're wearing gloves. But the cows that stand in that have to try to adjust and they're a tough animal but they're not that tough. Sooner or later it wears them down.

``I've got a son that's 21 years old. He's been on the farm with me all his life. At 4 or 5 years old, he started coming out to the barn and working. He's had trouble with his hands and joints and his knees to the point where I used to carry him down stairs. He'd have to warm everything up and sit there for a while, work his joints and hands back and forth to get his fingers to move decent and he could come out to the barn and start working.``

Robert Peterson:

``I've been fighting with stray voltage for over 20 years; and, as the gentleman just spoke, I've got health problems. I was at the doc yesterday; I have trouble -- this is the second time I tore the rotator cuff in my shoulder. He did tests yesterday, all the cords and tendons in front of my chest and back are all shot, just deteriorated, rotted away. They don't know why.``

Green Bay, Nov. 9, 1995

Allen Manza, Denmark:

``These cattle grow old very quickly. I would really hate to see what it's done to the people or to the farmers. ... I think stray voltage tears the hell out of any cow's immune system. What does it do to people's immune system. Cattle seem to get sick very easily.

Carl Porior, Pound:

``A half of volt is far worse to my mind than five volts. Because five volts you'll find. Half a volt you won't. Half a volt works at cows over time; works at people over time... I think stray voltage bothers people and I think that can be verified over time and I know what the university studies say and show and I agree under ideal conditions one volt might be no prob lem; but, when we get out on these farms, farmers -- and there's moisture, there's manure, these cows are standing in that all day like has been said and it's a stress on these cows and over time it takes its toll.

Roberta Hallada, Coleman:

``And we ourselves -- I got boys that grew up on the farm from being out in the barn at 4, 5, 6, 7 years of age. They're now in their 20s and they're little old men. They have aches and pains, they have bad knees, they have bad hands and they have bad joints. Their backs are hurting. It's not just the animals. That half a volt. I mean, to us a half a volt is nothing. We don't have the -- we don't feel it the way a cow does. At least the major ity of us don't. But cow is so super sensitive compared to a human being. When you can fell it, you know darn well that cow is really in misery.

There are times when we can feel it. You'll get nearby the barn or something and the hair on the back of your hands will stand up. You know it's there and they can't tell us that it isn't and they can't tell us that they can go up to one because they're going to have so many farmers out that I hope you people aren't hungry because you're not going to eat.``

Chippewa Falls, Nov. 13, 1995

Dorothy Wozniak, Stanley:

``I'm 62, my husband is 67. He's had quadruple bypass, he has a bad leg. We can't quit farming, because I can't sell a stray voltage farm. ... I don't know if it's because we're sitting on clay or that we -- the path of the return current, I just know that I have lived in hell in that farm for the last 15, 20 years. ...The cows and calves quit dying, but what about my grandchildren down there? Nobody has proved that it hurts cattle more than it hurts humans. Any one of you must realize that if those calves are dying that it's bad for those kids too. When are we going to start realizing that these currents are hurt ing us as well as our cattle? ``

``You're killing us, you're killing our cattle, our kids, our family, our bodies. We're all going to have cancer in no time because we're getting the effects. You're making us suffer with arthritis and pain and sickness and you name it. And plus the fact that we are almost all losing our farms because of voltage. All it does is protect the power company.``

Marilyn Briggs, Dallas:

``I come come to you as a stray voltage survivor. My family and I have walked through hell, and only someone who has survived can know what it's like. You can empathize with someone, but only if you have personally experienced it day in, day out, never a break from it, never to step back, never a chance to clear your thinking, can you understand how devastating voltage is not only to your dairy operations, but to your family as well. When we went through voltage it affected the health of our cows, ourselves, our dogs, and our other animals as well.

But we also noticed changes in our health as well. Up until the time we were isolated, my husband's knees ached so much he didn't think that he would be able to milk cows for more than two years. After isolation his knees still hurt, but it wasn't the unbearable pain that he had experienced before. I had leg pains in my -- to the point in my legs that I couldn't milk more than a few cows before I would have to sit down. And at night I would have leg cramps -- cramps in my legs to the point that I couldn't go to sleep. Again, following iso lation the pain was still there, but it was nothing like it was before. And every time our voltage has gone down the symptoms have diminished even more.

It has to do with voltage or current exposure and its effects on us that have yet to be discovered. I also believe that voltage and/or currents do something to the connec tive tissue or the soft muscle tissue. It doesn't injure you outright, but it does make you more susceptible to those things, which my family has lots of experience with. And that includes my husband, myself, and both of my children.

Joan Matchey, Independence:

Yes, the electric utility would be very glad to raise the level of con cern, but are you working for their agendas or the public's? I have plenty of litera ture for you to read about research that has been com pleted and is ongoing in Europe and in the United States that is confirming EMF exposure is causing cancer in humans, reproduc tive and genetic changes, and cell wall changes. This is not a subject to be dealt with lightly, and we plead with you to continue the direction you have taken these past few years, and continue the research. Do not step backwards.``

Conrad Alexander, Menomonie:

``You mentioned only livestock in there. How about people? It affects people the same way it does livestock.

It seems to erase the immune system and you get sick with tumors and cancers and whatever else. I have personal knowledge of that.

``You don't want me to talk about people, but south of Stanley about a mile and a half, there was a farmer down there milking 50 cows. The wires sent into his house, in and around his house, out to the barn, and a baby died. A 3-year-old baby died in the crib of head tumors. And they found it was caused by stray voltage. Had a lot of amps in the crib itself.

About every farmer that I've talked about so far, it also affects the farmer. There is more to it than just livestock. And if you think I'm joking, please -- the majority of us have been educated -- see for yourself, go in the cities and see how stray voltage is affecting people in the cities. Study the whole thing. Do not listen to the electric companies, they will lead you astray. Find your independent electricians and study this, and follow their leads and investigate for yourself. Don't trust any thing you hear, and only half of what I see. I think I've said enough for a little bit.``

Harry Edwards, Durand:

``And you are seeing an alarming rise of all kinds of problems, health problems that have been alluded to by other people, not only in ani mals, but in humans as well. This is -- this to me seems to be far greater danger to life, especially when we are bioelectric creatures, than the safety factor that you just alluded to. It seems that we have the horse behind the cart here.

Vern Henneman, Durand:

``I think the situation is more complicated than probably what people realized when they started electrifying the country, and it's not a matter of a lot of evil people out in the world that want to do damage, it's a matter of subtle effects from ground currents and other things we do that sometimes end up hav ing affects that we didn't understand. ... But the thing that is kind of lacking right now is the knowledge about what levels of voltage and currents affect different things. I mean, we know the animals are pretty sensitive to small amounts. The gentleman is right, this is really current, because the animal has ionics fluids in its body which has low resistance, and that needs a very small radium deposit and it can give rise to a fairly substantial current, and the amount of current that's dangerous is the amount of current that's comparable to the current that the nervous system in the body carries, which is quite small.``

Marshfield, Nov. 15, 1995

Linda Kulig, Whitehall:

``The stress of living with stray voltage is devastating our marriage and family. Not only do you worry about your animal's health but your family's health as well. Our family suffered headaches, nauseated, burning lungs, sleepless nights, pressure behind the eyes, rapid heart beats, fillings in our teeth felt like they were being pulled out of our mouth. Severe breast pain, knees, hips, joints hurting, chil dren's grades going down to which we had to move out of our home and the grades drastically improved. We were forced out of our home. It was a total nightmare. And with the help of private indi viduals, an expert came in to measure with a Dranetz which is a sophisticated mea suring device. It measured 486 impulses coming into our home in one night. He said it was like our family living in a microwave oven. No family should have to go through this nightmare and have to worry about cancer. We are now electrically sen sitive from which -- this, and we have to sleep every night with the electricity shut off in our bedroom. We've learned we can't trust our government and utilities as they only mislead you.``

Maryanne Olson, Loyal:

``But getting back to this health part, for the last six years my left knee was swollen like this almost all the time. I'm not one of those that wears boots to the barn. I wear tennis shoes the year round and I change a lot of times coming in and our of the barn. And almost right away after the isolator went on, my knee problems have went away. I haven't had any problems all fall. I can walk again, I can run again. So take it from there. I know the isolator has helped us not just from the dairy part of it, as health wise too.``
 
 
 


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