This is a translated information document from the
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
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
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.
have been instances where people who are hypersensitive to electricity
have responded more to so-called reduced-emission VDTs than to ordinary
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 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.
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
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
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.
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 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
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
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
usually cause a lesser amount of problems. Unfortunately
sensitive persons may also react to light- bulbs. Indirect lighting may
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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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