FEB - The Swedish Association for the ElectroSensitive


This is a translated information document from the Swedish FEB-association. 
Copyright (C) 1994 FEB


FEB - The Swedish Association For the Electrically and VDT Injured TECHNICAL GUIDE for the Electrically Sensitive

The Purpose of this manual

..is to provide people who have become hypersensitive to electricity with some advice on how to manage everyday life in their normal enviroment. The object is mainly to reduce the electric and magnetic fields by which we are surrounded.

Most of those who suffer from hypersensitivity to electricity experience tangible problems when they are exposed to certain types of electric equippment.

The only common characteristics of these devices, as regards their effect on the enviroment, are, as far as we know today, that they all generate electric or magnetic fields.

The measures described in this manual are all directed towards decreasing the exposure to electromagnetic fields, as this has proved to be the most successful way to deal with hypersensitivity to electricity. People who are suffering from this affliction have at least experienced an improvement int their condition when reducing their exposure.

The former part of the manual is concerned with the origin of electric and magnetic fields and how they are extended. The latter part contains practical advice on how it is possible to decrease some of the electric and magnetic fields by which we are surrounded in our everyday life, employing very simple solutions. This manual is not to be regarded as a guide to so-called "electrical sanitation". 

Current, voltage and different types of fields

VDTs, computers and most other electric appliances generate (emit = radiate) alternating fields, magnetic as well as electric. They also often emit radio waves (i.e. electromagnetic radio frequency fields).

For instance, as soon as a power cord is connected to a wall socket, an electric field will appear. The cord is now a live wire and will consequently generate an electric field. When the voltage is switched on, an electric field will appear at all times.

When an electric appliance is connected to the cord and then switched on, there will appear an electric current, which in turn will generate a magnetic field surrounding the cord.

A current in a live wire will at all times generate a magnetic field surrounding the wire. However, magnetic fields generating from individual wires are of little importance. The sources that generate powerful magnetic fields are to be found in electric equipment containing conductive wire that has been wound thousands of times in order to intensify the magnetic fields.

Electric motors, transformers, loudspeakers and monitors are examples of equipment containing such wire windings.

This means that an electric appliance (e.g. a standard lamp) when connected to an outlet (which has not been grounded), will immediately generate an electric field. When the lamp is switched on, there will also appear a weak magnetic field. Both fields will disappear as soon as the appliance is disconnected from the outlet.

Oscillations and frequencies

In the electric mains, we now use an alternating current (a.c.), which means that the current is continuously changing its direction. In Europe the normal standard is fixed at 50 changes back and forth per second, i.e. the frequency is 50 cycles per second (c/s). The American standard is 60 c/s. When an alternating current is used, the electric and magnetic fields will continuously change their direction, and consequently electric and magnetic alternating fields will appear. Modern electronic equipment, as well as some late model lamps are, however, fitted with frequency converters, in order to make the voltage change direction at much shorter intervals than the original 50 c/s of the mains. We are now talking about thousands of cycles per second, kilo cycles (kc/s), and in some cases even of millions of cycles per second, mega cycles (mc/s). As regards satellites and cable-TV we are confronted with incomprehensible billions (thousands of millions) of cycles per second, giga cycles (gc/s).

A previously unknown environmental factor

Due to the presence of high frequency fields in everyday life, man is now exposed to an electric and magnetic environment that is without precedent in the history of mankind. This dramatic, but invisible change has taken place only during the very last few years. This is why it is erroneous to dismiss hypersensitivity to electricity by saying that we have been exposed to electricity during entire 20th century without having been affected by it.

We are now being exposed to a totally different type of electricity. Today, at their jobs, in stores, and in their homes, people are surrounded by an ever growing invisible, dense, electric vibrating mist, the biological effect of which we only now are beginning to comprehend.

We know that people who are hypersensitive to electricity respond to equipment generating magnetic and electric fields. It is possible that radio waves too, may have a negative effect. As yet, however, we are unfamiliar with which fields or frequencies (or combinations of different fields and frequencies) that are causing the problems. Furthermore, people react differently to the same phenomenon.

Measuring electric and magnetic fields

Electric fields generating from the mains are easily detected with a simple voltmeter. When exposed to electric fields generating from the mains, the device will give a buzzing sound and a light will be turned on. Measuring instruments that will provide more detailed information are far more expensive.

When measuring different types of fields, one should bear in mind that people do not always react in a way that corresponds to the measuring instrument that is being used. A measuring instrument will only measure a specific type of field lying within one or a few defined frequency ranges (i.e. the instruments band width). No information is given on fields lying outside of these limited frequency ranges. Even more unusual is information regarding what is known as wave form and transient contents.

In short, you will only find out how the instrument is responding to the fields, but nothing about what the fields contain. This is why individual instruments are unable to give a satisfactory description of the total electric and magnetic environment.

If you are experiencing problems, even though the measuring instrument has a low reading, you should not dismiss your problems as being imaginary. You should trust your own body signals. There have been instances where people who are hypersensitive to electricity have responded more to so-called reduced-emission VDTs than to ordinary VDTs.

The fields generating from reduced emission VDTs may not only have an average of lower readings; the fields themselves are different. This means that the field strength within certain frequency bands may have been raised as compared to other monitors.

LCD-monitors, for instance, generate substantial high-frequency fields due to the background lighting. You should always be careful, even when you are dealing with so-called reduced-emission monitors. Monitors that are void of electric or magnetic fields are non-existent.


The electric term grounding is frequently to be found in the text. Grounding means that the equipment is connected to an electric ground. Measures that include grounding are subject to considerable security risk and such work should at all times be carried out by a qualified electrician. When an increasing amount of equipment is connected to the ground, there will be a demand for a ground leak security system. This too must be installed by a qualified electrician.

It is by no means certain that the electric fields will be completely eliminated by grounding. The origin and extension of an electromagnetic field may be quite difficult to survey. Local disturbances and individual conditions can make it difficult to reduce the fields to a level where they cease to cause problems.

Electric fields

Electric fields generating from an electric appliance can usually be shielded by completely encapsulating the appliance in a conductive cover (made of metal sheet or foil), which is subsequently grounded (the principle is called ÓFaradays cageÓ). Whether the shield is made of thick sheet metal or very thin foil, is of no importance. A very tight net of metal will also be sufficient. If the cover or shield is constructed by assembling different parts, then all of the parts must have conductive contact with each other, and also be grounded. If the cover is not grounded, it will have no shielding effect whatsoever. Instead, the effect will usually be the opposite; the fields will be strengthened. All appliances should be connected to grounded outlets.

Metal objects

that are located in the vicinity of an electric field can Ópick upÓ the electric field , so that the metal object will generate an electric field. This phenomena is called a capacitance coupling. Example: A cord that is connected to the mains is placed close by a metal tablestand. If the stand is placed on an insulating floor, the entire metal stand will generate an electric field. What to do: Disconnect the cord (or change it to a shielded cord) or ground the tablestand. The same phenomenon causes old electric cables, wires for loud-speakers, telephone wires, aerial wires, metal beds, radiators, ventilation conduits, sheet metal fronts, tin roofs, reinforcing iron etc. to generate electric alternating fields.

Equipment that has been switched off

but is still connected to the mains, can - if not properly shielded and grounded - generate strong electric fields. It is a good idea to disconnect the cord to those appliances that are not being used.

Electric cords

connecting appliances to the mains, generate electric fields even though the appliance have been switched off. It is better to disconnect the cord, rather then just turning off the switch. The fields generating from a cord can be weakened by using a shielded cable; these cables may, however, be hard to obtain.

Electric installations

Electric wires

in the walls are located with a voltmeter. One of the reasons that you are not feeling well, may be that you are sensitive to the hidden wires in the walls. When it comes to shielding the electric fields, wood or plaster partitions and plastic tubes are not very suitable. Concrete walls are better for shielding the electric fields generating from the wiring. The wiring will function as long transmitting aerials for electric fields. The fields partially come from the ÓcleanÓ 50 c/s voltage of the mains, but also from high-frequency disturbances in the mains. Fluorescent tubes, energy-saving lamps, computers, thyristor couplings, TV-sets etc. are all emitting high frequencies back into the mains. Thus, electric equipment can cause disturbing fields which are distributed via the mains and carried far away from the initial source of disturbance.

There are some suspicions that hypersensitivity to electricity is triggered by high-frequency electric fields. The electric fields generating from the wires are easily eliminated by removing the fuses. You can, for instance, try and see if it will make you feel better if you remove the fuse for the bedroom during the night (be sure to check that the freezer is not turned off as well). Automatic fuses with buttons make the connecting and disconnecting of fuses easier.

Shielded electric wires

are wires where the live thread or the whole wire has been encapsulated in a grounded metal cover. Thus, the electric field generating from the wire is eliminated. ÓElectrical sanitationÓ of offices and homes consist among other things, of exchanging non-shielded wires for shielded ones.


such as wall and ceiling sockets, should be suited for grounding, otherwise it is not possible to ground the equipment and shield the electric fields. The plug and cord must also be suited for grounding, so that the grounded connection will reach the applicant.

Magnetic fields

Magnetic fields can usually be shielded only with the greatest difficulty. To weaken the magnetic fields generating from an appliance, it is necessary to move, rebuild or exchange the appliance. Unlike an electric field, however, a magnetic alternating field generating from an appliance will disappear when the appliance is switched off. Magnetic fields are not stopped by walls, floors or ceilings.

Increased magnetic fields

may appear in a home or in a complete building as a result of stray currents. Due to the primitive standard of distributing energy in Sweden ( i.e. four-wire network), currents may appear in the ground at the slightest disturbance of the three-phase mains. In reality, however, the mains is never in such a perfect state that stray currents will not occur.

These currents mainly follow water, gas and heat conduits etc., both on the inside and outside of buildings. Stray currents generate measurable magnetic fields, which can be very strong. Due to the fact that the source of these stray currents is extended, the magnetic fields will cover large areas, and in direct relation to the distance of the source. As a result, a great many of those living in densely populated areas will continuously be ÓbathingÓ in a vibrating magnetic field, which will be strengthened and weakened depending on the power usage during the day. Direct current (dc) rather than alternating current (ac) seems to offer a solution to some of the problems mentioned above. Apparently, most people suffering from hypersensitivity to electricity are less sensitive to direct current - their symptoms may actually disappear altogether. Installing direct instead of alternating current in a home or in an office is subject to such great technical problems that we are unable to deal with such a solution here.

Electric equipment

Battery powered

equipment will, as a rule, cause lesser problems than equipment connected to the mains. This is an easily accessible source of direct current. Note, however, that sensitive persons may also experience problems from battery powered equipment.

Fluorescent tubes, energy saving lamps, and halogen lamps

are equipment to which many people who are hypersensitive to electricity will react strongly. All of the above emit ultraviolet radiation, and they are all equipped with a drossel, a transformer, or electronics generating magnetic fields. Fluorescent tubes and other types of lamps employing gas discharge tubes are also small high-frequency radio transmitters. Energy saving lamps is another term designating these highly unsuitable compact fluorescent tubes. You should also be wary of the new high-frequency fluorescent tubes.


usually cause a lesser amount of problems. Unfortunately sensitive persons may also react to light- bulbs. Indirect lighting may improve matters.

Metal lamps

that have been grounded are in many cases excellent, since they will effectively shield the electric fields. The effectiveness of the shielding will depend on how well the light-bulb is encapsulated. You should also remember that to obtain sufficient shielding, you may also need to shield the wires (see above). Metal fittings that have not been grounded are usually quite unsuitable. The ungrounded metal lamp is like a Ótransmitting aerialÓ for electric fields (another instance of capacitance coupling).


may, due to faulty installation, cause wires and sockets to generate electric fields. Use a voltmeter to check that those appliances that have been switched off do not give readings. If a wall or a ceiling socket should happen to give a reading let a qualified electrician interchange the wires going into the switch, so that the disconnection will take place at the phase conductor.


(dimmers) are a kind of electronic ÓswitchesÓ by which a continuous softening or raising of the light is made possible. A thyristor will transform the current into short pulses. As a result, high-frequency disturbances will be transmitted into the mains. They are definitely to be avoided. Thyristors often control the starting rheostat of kitchen fans and other types of ventilation. If this is the case in your home, you should disconnect the kitchen fan or let a qualified electrician exchange the thyristor for an ordinary switch. Thyristors will occasionally also control direct action electric radiators, heating pads, the heating for water beds etc.

Small transformers

i.e. adapters of battery eliminators, are the little boxes (often black) that you will find plugged into the wall socket or fixed to the cords of calculators, radios, charging sets, doorbells etc.

They look completely harmless but they will as a rule generate very strong magnetic fields. They are also to be found in mains operated alarm clocks or transistor radios. Heating pads, blankets and water beds should be avoided at all times, even if they do not employ thyristors.

Mains operated alarm clocks or clock-radios

should be avoided in the bedroom. Exchange such clocks for a mechanical or battery powered alarm clock. On the whole, you should avoid all mains operating appliances in the bedroom.

Electric irons

may sometimes cause problems. One solution may be to use the type of iron that is not connected to the mains while you are ironing, but only when the iron is returned to the stand for heating.

Electric ranges or stoves

may cause problems. If this is the case with you, you should avoid being close to the stove for unnecessarily long periods of time. For those who are very sensitive, a solution may be to employ a gas ring. The problems may, however, also be caused by the kitchen fan (see ÓThyristorsÓ above). Avoid all types of electronic stoves, including microwave ovens.

Vacuum cleaners

have a powerful electric motor that generates magnetic fields. Late model vacuum cleaners are even worse, since they are equipped with thyristors that controls the starting rheostat. Another reason for avoiding vacuum cleaners is that you will not be exposed to pathogenic mites and other micro- organisms which will be exhausted into the air while you are vacuum-cleaning. Use a broom and damp rag instead.

Electric beaters

can preferably be exchanged for manual beaters. Nowadays you can find manual beaters that are nearly as effective as electric ones.

TV, stereo and telephone.

When you watch TV you should be seated at some distance from the TV-set and you should exercise a certain amount of caution. Many people who are hypersensitive to electricity cannot watch TV at all or even have a switched-on TV-set in their homes. Many are bothered by their neighbours TV. Do not switch off your TV-set by merely using the remote control - switch it off properly by using the switch on the TV-set. The best thing to do is to unplug the TV-set when it is not being used. You should also switch off equipment that is connected to the TV-set, e.g. video cassette recorders, cable or parabolic receivers. The same goes for stereo equipment. Badly shielded cable-TV installations can generate high-frequency leakage flux, the biological effects of which are still unknown. Remember that a TV- set generate strong electric and magnetic fields. The magnetic fields are not stopped by walls, floors, ceilings or roofs. VDTs and TV-sets are constructed by using the same basic technique and they are comparable as regards radiation.


generate magnetic fields due to the loud-speaker that is built into the receiver. In some telephones the magnetic fields are enhanced for the use of hearing aids.

They also emit high frequency signals, especially when the telephone wire connecting the house is air-born.

It is possible to ease some of the problems caused by the telephone. Below you will find three different alternatives, from the simplest (and most inexpensive) to the more elaborate (and most expensive):

  • Cut out a hole (the size of a quarter) in the bottom of a plastic cup. Use scotch tape to fasten the bottom of the cup to the receiver. You will hear just as well, but the receiver will be at a longer distance from your head.
  • Buy a stethoscope and use electricity-safe tape to fasten the cone of the stethoscope to the loudspeaker located inside the receiver. The hoses of the stethoscope can be exchanged for longer ones, so that the receiver can be placed at an even farther distance away from you. The person you are speaking with will still be able to hear you.
  • If the inexpensive solutions listed above are not sufficient you can order remodelled telephones with reduced fields. These, however, may be available in Sweden only.

Telephone circuits

often generate measurable high-frequency electronic fields even when the phone is not being used. This may explain why some people who are hypersensitive to electricity experience discomfort, not only when speaking over the phone, but also when they are just near a phone. The problem may be solved by, for example disconnecting the conduit to the bedroom. One can also install shielded grounded telephone wires.

Car phones or wireless phones

are not to be recommended! A wireless phone that is switched on will generate strong electric fields, even though no conversation is taking place.


Modern cars are filled with electric equipment. This is above all true of late model cars. The electric systems used in cars are direct current systems. The direct voltage in cars is affected by strong disturbances from accumulated alternate voltage, mainly generating from the generator and the ignition system.

Persons who are hypersensitive to electricity usually experience great differences between different car models. Older models are often to be preferred. Diesels do not employ an ignition system, but there may be an electric injection pump, which can cause disturbances. There are no certain answers - you will have to find out for yourself which cars will give you the least problems.

As far as it is possible, you should avoid using the fan or windscreen wiper. Electronic equipment, such as car stereos and car phones, will usually generate strong electromagnetic fields. It is possible to disconnect the heating conduits for the rear window and for the seats (switch is underneath the seat).

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