This week on IAQ Radio we are going to talk about an IEQ issue we do not hear a lot about, electricity and electromagnetic frequencies (EMF’s). EMF’s and other issues related to electrical currents are increasingly part of our indoor environment, we keep adding them yet we do not know much about how they affect the health of occupants or if they affect health.
This week on IAQ Radio we are going to talk about an IEQ issue we do not hear a lot about, electricity and electromagnetic frequencies (EMF’s). EMF’s and other issues related to electrical currents are increasingly part of our indoor environment, we keep adding them yet we do not know much about how they affect the health of occupants or if they affect health. Is it possible that they have affects we don’t understand? We do know that when installed improperly electric systems can cause a variety of issues. We also know how to find improper installations and to how to reduce the potential for exposure. Sal will walk us through the issue in layman’s terms and give us ideas on how to find and fix issues. LEARN MORE this week on IAQ Radio! Sal La Duca is an Environmental Consultant specializing in the built environment, with over 40 years’ experience in instrumentation and controls. Mr. La Duca started out as a Nuclear Reactor Operator / Reactor Technician (Instrumentation and Control Technician – Nuclear) on the USS Mississippi . After discharge, he was offered employment by Jersey Central Power and Light to help built a Radiological Survey instrument repair facility at their Oyster Creek Nuclear Power Plant in Forked River, NJ. From there he migrated to the Communications department, where he performed installation, calibration, and repairs of various generations of remote-control supervisory equipment for power system control. In 1994 he incorporated and began offering Electromagnetic Field services to clients. In 1999 he sought and acquired additional training with the Institute of Building Biology and Ecology, and expanded service offerings to include Indoor Air Quality. Since then he has added IAQ certifications through IAQA and ACAC. Most importantly he has real world experience on residential, commercial and industrial projects and takes a practical approach to the topic.
- Sal La Duca credits the US Navy Nuclear Reactor technician and operator training for his knowledge and understanding of things electrical. He credits encountering and resolving IEQ problems in his own home as piquing his long-term interest in IEQ.
- 20 years ago, when Sal purchased his home when the heat was on and the windows were closed; he gasped for air. After removing the dusty, old carpet he could breathe.
- He was only sleeping an hour at a time and discovered that the home had foil thermal insulation in the walls. After removing the foil insulation, he slept well.
- Coincidentally, his infant nephew also experienced poor sleep duration. He recognized the power cord next to the crib as the smoking gun. The power cord was energizing the mattress base and causing the baby’s sleep problem.
- 200 KiloVolt or higher power transmission lines have well defined corridors. While familiar with the hazards and risk of electrical and magnetic fields, the primary issues prohibiting schools and residences from proximity to power lines are: 1) need to maintain safe distance to avoid fallen power lines and the need for the utility to have right-of-way to control vegetation and insects.
- Looking at housing near powerlines? Consider exposure to insecticides and herbicides. Even distances of 100-500 feet may be insufficient distance when lines carry 200,000 volts or higher. A power outage in Ohio in 2003 is attributed to vegetation. Trees between powerlines and homes can buffer electrical fields. The buffering is maintained even in winter, when leaves are gone.
- Electrical fields indoors depend on the home’s wiring type, Magnetic fields depend on errors in how wiring is hooked up in the home.
- Two types of fields, 120 volts is constant in powerline 24/7 creating electrical field. Current passage to run lighting produces magnetic field.
- The main electrical hazards to powerline workers posed by constant power are: burns, electrocution and death. Magnetic fields within buildings are variable. A study of powerline workers in Ontario, Canada found the longer and higher their exposure to high voltage the greater their likelihood of developing leukemia. Another study showed incidence of leukemia in young children when their homes were hooked up to electrical power.
- Epidemiology studies are done 10-20 years after the exposure. It’s easy to make short term conclusions. Not serious consideration to government or industry unless immediate hazardous to life and health. When leukemia is known to be risk exposure to electricity, we should also consider the lesser worrisome health issues that it causes.
- Workers in special protective gear can safely work on live 350,000 volt lines, where the magnetic field hazard is a quantum level higher than what we normally encounter.
- Harmonics occur in multiples of 60 Hertz. Harmonics can cause electric devices malfunctioning. Some homes are electrically cleaner than others so devices (i.e. stereo system) work better.
- The basic residential electric circuit has 2 wires, one wire carries the full 120 volts and the other wire carries zero. When a home has 3 dozen circuits or so, some traveling clockwise about the home, and some counterclockwise, with 3 or 4 switches grouped together in a box with 2 wires carrying 120 volts and 2 wires carrying zero, its easy to glob together return wires. This results in return currents that take multiple paths back to the panel, and associated Magnetic fields. Diagnosis involves turning off all circuits, lifting a return and checking for electrical continuity. Any continuity indicates a problem. Problems are traced by injecting a signal. There is no need to open walls to correct the problem. Wires can be pulled out of the switch box and connections corrected. Unfortunately, most electricians haven’t perfected this art.
- Power from the road to the home uses 3 wires from 3 separate sources and needs a backup for the neutral wire. The power goes into a circuit breaker. For existing construction, Sal has no preference as to type of circuit breaker. GFIs will remain tripped due to wiring error. Arc Fault detectors are pricey $30-$40 each may be worth the investment in new construction or if building is gutted. Both GFI and Arc Fault will instantly identify bad circuitry. Clean water isn’t highly conductive. Dirty water is highly conductive. A device plugged into a GFI and accidentally dropped into clean water may not trip the breaker. Arc Fault will trip and provides an additional safety factor.
- On electrical wire and wiring- Wires run through the home to distribute power. Wiring has a longer lifespan than switches. Old knob and tube wiring should be deenergized and removed or abandoned. Plastic clad, Romex wiring is easiest to work with and installed by default in 85%-90% of North America. Shutting off power to bedrooms with Romex wiring may improve sleep. Metal clad BX is preferred as it shields electrical fields and is most resistant to rodents. Unequal Voltage distribution within the home is a fire hazard. The incoming power is grounded to water pipes, hardwired phone system, etc.
- Safety tip: electrical current can be flowing from everywhere to anywhere, always wear rubber gloves when undoing anything metallic.
- Electrical systems degrade over time.
- Smart meters are a wide topic. Smart meters have been used industrially for years. Power companies need to monitor their industrial customers to ensure they have adequate power available 24/7. Home monitors document the time and amount of power usage. Home smart meters have wireless connectivity and transmit constantly like smartphones. Water, electric and gas utilities may each use their own smart meter. There is radio frequency exposure and introduction of harmonics (the latter on electric utility smart meters). An all incandescent home will have noise from smart meters. This noise can exacerbate tinnitus.
- As the 3-LED circuit testers will lie to you in 3 prong outlets, Sal recommends using a neon screwdriver.
- Lighting preferences- Some types of lighting are superior to others. Fluorescent, Compact Fluorescent and LED aren’t clean. LEDs and fluorescent lights create harmonics which can exacerbate tinnitus. Incandescent or quartz halogen are what Sal recommends.
- Anti-dimmer. Dimmers cause a sharp rise in current resulting in radio frequency noise that is irritating.
- Flat screen TVs are a step backwards in electrical cleanliness because they use switching power supplies to DC voltage that create harmonics and rebroadcast into home. Filters can be integrated to minimize feedback.
- Electrical fields charge particles. High voltage air currents cause dust to charge and plate out on surfaces where it accumulates.
- Beware of simultaneous bright and dim lights, because this is an imbalanced Voltage condition, a failure of main neutral coming from the utility, and is a fire hazard.
- Source of free training: http://electriciantraining.
- Sal’s web site is www.emfrelief.com