Electromagnetic Radiation Specialist Reveals the Hidden Dangers of Electric Fields

Story at-a-glance

  • The four primary sources of electromagnetic fields (EMFs) are electric fields, magnetic fields, radio frequencies and dirty electricity from harmonic frequencies
  • Unshielded plastic-jacketed (Romex) wiring is a common source of electric fields, which are an unknown type of EMFs in all homes
  • Wiring errors, found in up to one-third of homes in the U.S., along with current on grounding paths (incoming metal water service supply pipes and TV cables) are common sources of magnetic fields
  • Electric and magnetic fields must be measured separately, and some older EMF meters are not sensitive enough, only measuring extremely high electric fields that are far above what the Institute for Building Biology and Ecology considers potentially harmful. Newer digital versions of these combination meters, on the other hand, have now come out that are much more sensitive and do a good job of measuring AC electric fields
  • EMFs create high levels of oxidative stress that damage DNA and mitochondria. Excessive charges also alter cellular function, and magnetic fields impair energy production
  • EMFs also impair reproductive function in men and women, have neurological effects that raise your risk of anxiety and dementia, and may alter your microbiome, which can have significant health effects


This is an older article that may not reflect Dr. Mercola’s current view on this topic. Use our search engine to find Dr. Mercola’s latest position on any health topic.

By Dr. Mercola

In the featured video, Xiren, host of Know How Things Work, interviews Oram Miller, building biology environmental consultant, electromagnetic radiation specialist in Los Angeles, and director of learning and development for the Institute for Building Biology and Ecology (IBE, www.hbelc.org).

Many of Miller's clients have electromagnetic sensitivities, but some simply want to have as healthy an environment as possible. In some cases, he'll assess electromagnetic field (EMF) levels in a home before the client purchases the home or moves into an office space. In addition to writing about the health hazards of EMF on his website, www.createhealthyhomes.com, Miller also lectures on this topic, and has been interviewed a number of times.

He has also co-written a book called "Breathing Walls,"1 which details design protocols to avoid and eliminate mold and chemical outgassing in new and remodeled homes.

One key focus of this EMF interview, which is typically overlooked, is the importance of measuring electric fields and not just magnetic fields. Electric fields are sort of the "unknown EMF," Miller says, but can have just as detrimental an effect on your health as other more well-known EMFs on everybody's minds today.

Factors That Affect the Health of Your Home

As mentioned in this interview, a wide array of factors affect the health of your home — and you. This includes factors that affect indoor air quality, such as mold, chemical outgassing, radon, asbestos, lead, natural gas, carbon monoxide and more. Then there's the EMF sources:

  1. AC electric fields at 60 Hz (the "E" component of EMF) from house wiring and corded appliances (especially ungrounded ones; cords that have only two prongs rather than three)
  2. AC magnetic fields at 60 Hz (the "M" component of EMF) from power lines, wiring errors on house wiring, current on grounding paths, and from motors and transformers ("point sources")
  3. Radio frequencies (RF) from cellphones, smart meters, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth in just about everything these days
  4. "Dirty electricity" from transient voltage spikes from 2 to 100 KHz

Wiring errors, found in up to one-third of homes in the US, along with current on grounding paths such as incoming metal water service supply pipes and TV cables, are common sources of magnetic fields. IBE recommends a knowledgeable electrician and plumber to remediate and correct these problems.

Likewise, unshielded plastic-jacketed (Romex) wiring is a common source of another type of EMF, called electric fields, which are an unknown source of EMFs in all homes. Unfortunately, many in the EMF community don't know that electric fields hide within their homes and often don't look for them when measuring EMFs, Miller says.

Yet, electric fields have long been one of the most disease-causing types of EMFs in homes over the decades (with wireless devices now fast catching up and dirty electricity also being widely present).

Electric and magnetic fields must be measured separately. Some of the EMF meters in use over the years have not been sensitive enough, measuring only extremely high electric fields that are far above what IBE considers dangerous. New combination EMF meters, fortunately, are now far more sensitive than older models when measuring electric and radio frequency fields.

When it comes to choosing a new home, three primary EMF sources that will cause Miller to tell a client to not purchase the home are:2 overhead or underground powerlines with excessively high magnetic fields (because shielding is not effective), a cell phone tower in close proximity, and/or ungrounded nonmetallic Romex circuits, which cause high electric fields and prevent the grounding of computers and appliances.

Most other sources of EMFs can be mitigated, including EMFs from wiring errors, electric currents on grounding paths, and RFs from indoor and most outdoor wireless sources.

Health Effects of EMF Exposure

While skepticism still prevails, there's extensive — and growing — research showing EMFs are harmful to human health. "There are considerable [biological] changes that occur," Miller says. For example, research has shown EMFs:3

Create excess oxidative stress

EMFs activate voltage gated calcium channels located in the outer membrane of your cells.4,5,6,7,8 Once activated, the VGCCs open up, allowing an abnormal influx of calcium ions into the cell. The excess calcium triggers a chemical cascade that results in the creation of peroxynitrites, extremely potent oxidant stressors believed to be a root cause for many of today's chronic diseases.

Inside your body, peroxynitrites modify tyrosine molecules in proteins to create a new substance, nitrotyrosine and nitration of structural protein.9 Changes from nitration are visible in human biopsy of atherosclerosis, myocardial ischemia, inflammatory bowel disease, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis and septic lung disease.10

Open the blood-brain barrier, allowing toxins to enter your brain

Fragment DNA

Studies have shown EMFs cause DNA fragmentation. Significant oxidative stress from peroxynitrites may also result in single-strand breaks of DNA.11

Damage mitochondria, and impair proton flow and ATP production

The enzyme ATP synthase — which passes currents of protons through a water channel, similar to current passing through a wire — generates energy in the form ATP from ADP, using this flow of protons.

Magnetic fields can change the transparency of the water channel to protons, thereby reducing the current. As a result, you get less ATP, which can have system-wide consequences, from promoting chronic disease and infertility to lowering intelligence.

Alter cellular function due to excessive charge

In a previous interview, Alasdair Philips, founder of Powerwatch,12 explained how EMF exposure alters cellular function by way of excessive charges. Essentially, the cell functions as a gel, held together by electric charge. When the charge becomes excessive due to a massive influx of electrons, the function of the cell is disrupted.

Raise the risk for abnormal cell growth and cancer, including leukemia and cancer of the brain, acoustic nerve, salivary gland, eyes, testes, thyroid and breast

As early as 2011, the evidence was strong enough for the International Agency for Research on Cancer, the cancer research arm of the World Health Organization, to declare cellphones a Group 2B "possible carcinogen."13 Since then, a number of studies have found support for EMF having carcinogenic potential, including two recent government-funded studies.14,15,16

Has neurological effects

Studies dating back to the 1950s and '60s show the nervous system is the organ most sensitive to EMFs. Some of these studies show massive changes in the structure of neurons, including cell death and synaptic dysfunction. Consequences of chronic EMF exposure to the brain include anxiety, depression, autism and Alzheimer's disease, which Martin Pall, Ph.D., details in a 2016 paper.17

Contributes to reproductive problems in both sexes

For example, prenatal exposure to magnetic fields can nearly triple a pregnant woman's risk of miscarriage. Several other studies have come to similar conclusions.19,20,21,22,23 In men, studies show EMF radiation from cellphones and laptops reduces sperm motility and viability,24,25 and increases sperm DNA fragmentation.26

Alters your microbiome, turning what might otherwise be beneficial microbes pathogenic. This too can have far-ranging health effects, since we now know your microbiome plays an important role in health.

Why Some People Develop Symptoms and Others Don't  

Researchers agree that nearly all people exposed to EMFs are in fact biologically affected by them. However, only one-third develop symptoms. The difference between these individuals and the two-thirds that do not develop symptoms is that asymptomatic individuals still have the capacity to repair the cellular damage that is being incurred.

That doesn't mean you'll remain asymptomatic forever, though. Once the accumulated damage reaches a certain level, symptoms will begin to develop. Common warning signs and symptoms include ringing in the ears, dizziness, heart palpitations, headaches, insomnia, foggy thinking and chronic fatigue.

Over time, the cellular and mitochondrial damage being generated can set the stage and contribute to any number of health problems, including cancer. However, it's important to remember that the primary hazard of EMFs, including cellphone radiation, is not cancer but, rather, systemic cellular and mitochondrial damage, which threatens health in general and can contribute to any number of health problems and chronic diseases.

Protecting Yourself From Excessive EMF Is Important for Optimal Health

There's no doubt in my mind that EMF exposure is a significant health hazard that needs to be addressed — especially if you're already struggling with chronic health issues, as your recovery will be severely hampered if your body is constantly assaulted by these unnatural fields. As stressed by Miller in this interview, be particularly mindful of electric fields, as these often get overlooked, as well as the many wireless devices you keep close to your body all day long.

The good news is there are a number of ways to reduce unnecessary exposure to EMFs — be they electric fields, magnetic fields, RF and/or dirty electricity — and many are quite inexpensive or free.

One of the best prevention strategies I've found so far is to reduce exposure to voltage transients that are on your electric wires typically in the 2 to 100 KHz range (commonly referred to as "dirty electricity"), while also reducing exposure to extremely low frequency (ELF) electric field frequencies in the 60 Hz range. Both are especially important to do during sleep, as this is a most important time for your brain.

During deep sleep, your brain's glymphatic system is activated, allowing it to detoxify and eliminate accumulated waste products, including amyloid-beta proteins, which are a hallmark of Alzheimer's disease.

In addition, 60 Hz AC electric fields from the hot (live) wire of plastic-jacketed circuits found in walls and floors extend 6 to 8 feet into a room, as well as from plastic power cords that you plug in. These electric fields encompass your entire body when you sleep, even when you shut lights off, as most beds are near a wall. They are not, however, as much of a problem for most healthy people in the daytime, except when you are near lamps or use ungrounded computers.

Electric fields come from voltage, not current, and pass right through sheetrock and plastic insulation. It is important to know that electric fields at 60 Hz from house wiring and plastic cords are always present, even in homes with little or no dirty electricity. Electric fields are not reduced by plugging in dirty electricity filters but rather by turning off breakers, using metal-clad circuits in walls, and by rewiring lamp cords with shielded cable, such as MuCord.

Electric fields from house wiring and plastic cords within 6 to 8 feet of your bed prevent the release of melatonin from your pineal gland at night when you sleep. Melatonin prevents hormone-dependent tumors, infections, insomnia, chronic fatigue and fibromyalgia. It also promotes detoxification of the liver and lymphatic system, helping to avoid multiple chemical sensitivities.

Improvements in these conditions are reported by clients of building biologists who reduce AC electric fields in sleeping areas as part of their routine EMF evaluations. Avoiding AC electric fields at night allows the body to spend more time in deep, restorative stage four sleep every ninety minutes during our sleep cycles. This results in more restful sleep and more energy in the daytime.

In most areas, the only way to accomplish this is by turning off the electricity around your bed by flipping the circuit breaker(s) that run to and through your bedroom. Miller advises this is best done in conjunction with a trained building biologist (http://hbelc.org/find-an-expert). Electricians can then install a cut-off switch so you can shut these circuits off remotely from your bedroom.

Remedial Strategies to Lower EMF Exposure

Below are several suggestions, many by Oram Miller himself, that will help reduce your EMF exposure. You can also find guidance and solutions for mitigating electric and magnetic fields at the end of Miller's "Healthy Wiring Practices"27 document. There, he also discusses specific workarounds for various devices, including cellphones, MacBooks, Roku and Apple TV.

Nighttime remediation

Flip off breakers (or a remote switch) at night to circuits in and around your bedroom to reduce 60 Hz AC electric fields. If you have metal-clad wiring and can keep your breakers on at night, use manual or remote plug-in switches at outlets to kill power to plastic lamp cords within 6 to 8 feet of the bed, or rewire lamps with MuCord from LessEMF.com.

Almost all dirty electricity in the bedroom will automatically be eliminated when you sleep if you flip off breakers to reduce 60 Hz AC electric fields, because dirty electricity rides on the voltage, which will be switched off. If you have metal-clad wiring, voltage will stay on.

In that case, use filters to remove voltage transients from your electricity and use meters to confirm that they are in a safe range. Keep filters more away from the bed, as they emit a localized magnetic field of about 2 to 3 feet.

Use a battery-powered alarm clock, ideally one without any light. I use a talking clock for the visually impaired.28

Consider moving your baby's bed into your room, or keep doors open between your bedrooms, instead of using a wireless baby monitor. Alternatively, use a hard-wired monitor.

If you must use Wi-Fi, shut it off when not in use, especially at night when you are sleeping.

For more extensive RF shielding, you can consider painting your bedroom walls and ceiling (and floor, if necessary) with special shielding paint, which will block RF from inside, as well as outside sources, such as cell towers, smart meters, radio/TV towers, and neighbors' Wi-Fi routers and cordless telephones in an apartment or condo building.

Windows can be covered with metal window screen or transparent film. Line your curtains with RF-shielding fabric. For your bed, consider a shielding bed canopy.

Daytime strategies to reduce unnecessary EMF exposure

To reduce an important type of EMF exposure during the daytime, consider using Stetzer filters to decrease the level of dirty electricity or electromagnetic interference being generated. You can also take these with you to work or when you travel. This may be the single best strategy to reduce the damage from EMF exposure coming from voltage transients since it appears that most of them are generated by the frequencies that the filters remove.

Avoid daytime 60 Hz electric fields when using your computer by making sure it has a three-pronged, grounded plug rather than a two-pronged, ungrounded plug. Disconnect the two-pronged adapter on your Apple MacBook transformer and connect a grounded AC power cord.

If your PC laptop has a power cord with a two-pronged plug, connect a USB Ground Cord from LessEMF.com to a USB port on your computer and a properly grounded outlet. You can order shielded AC power cords for any PC computer tower or iMac from Safe Living Technologies (slt.co) or Electrahealth.com.

You can connect to the internet with iPhones and iPads while in airplane mode using a Lightning to Ethernet adapter and putting the device in airplane mode. You will need a Cat-6 or 7 shielded, grounded Ethernet cable as well as an Ethernet grounding adapter kit from Electrahealth.com to avoid electric fields.

Metal lamps emit high electric fields because the metal, especially in floor lamps, amplifies electric fields. Reduce this by rewiring with shielded MuCord from LessEMF.com.

Keep unshielded power cords away from your legs and feet at your home (and office) computer to avoid electric fields while you work. Transformers plugged into surge protectors under your desk emit high magnetic fields. Move them more than 2 to 3 feet away from your feet.

Connect your desktop computer to the internet via a wired Ethernet connection. Then, just as importantly, be sure to put your desktop in airplane mode. Also avoid wireless keyboards, trackballs, mice, game systems, printers and portable house phones. Opt for the wired versions and disable Wi-Fi and Bluetooth whenever possible.

Ideally, work toward hardwiring your house so you can eliminate Wi-Fi altogether. Remember to always manually shut off Wi-Fi and Bluetooth on your router and computer when you do so. That does not happen automatically when you plug in an Ethernet cable.

It's important to realize that if you have a Wi-Fi router, you essentially have a cellphone tower inside your home. Even more importantly, remember that the device right in front of you that communicates with the router also sends out harmful RF signals, right into your body. Most people forget about this because radio signals are invisible. You cannot see or smell them like you can cigarette smoke, and they are silent.

Ideally, you'd eliminate your Wi-Fi and simply use a wired connection to get on the internet. If you absolutely must have a router, you can place it inside a shielded pouch or wire mesh box and then move it as far away from where you sit as possible. Never have the router in a bedroom or within 15 to 20 feet of one. You can find shielded pouches and mesh boxes online, or make your own using Swiss Shield fabric.

If you have a newer, thinner laptop without any Ethernet ports, various adapters will allow you to connect to the internet with a wired Ethernet connection from any Thunderbolt, USB or USB-C port. This is also true for the Lightning port on iPhones and iPads. Keep electric field EMFs low when you do this (see above).

When looking for a corded telephone for your landline or VoIP connection, be careful not to purchase a hybrid corded/cordless model. They have a corded handset but contain a wireless transmitter inside that is always on. Look for the designation "DECT 6.0" on the box and phone, as well as a cordless extension inside the box.

Even if you never use the extension, the base unit continues to silently transmit a radio frequency signal 24/7, especially when sitting on your bedside table, desk or kitchen counter. Switch to corded landline telephones and use them when at home. Call forward your cellphone to your landline number when home and put your cellphone in airplane mode.

Avoid carrying your cellphone on your body unless in airplane mode and never sleep with it in your bedroom unless it is in airplane mode. Even in airplane mode some cellphones can emit signals, which is why I put my phone in a Faraday bag.29

When using your cellphone, use the speaker phone and hold the phone at least 3 feet away from you. Use an air tube earphone for privacy. Seek to radically decrease your time on the cellphone. I typically use my cellphone less than 30 minutes a month, and mostly when traveling. Instead, use VoIP software phones when traveling that you can use while connected to the internet via a wired connection or, better yet, use a landline telephone.

General household remediation

If you still use a microwave oven, consider replacing it with a steam convection oven, which will heat your food as quickly and far more safely. Measure magnetic fields near electronics and digital clocks at the front of stoves and dishwashers. Stand clear of these (below 1 mG). Avoid induction cooktop units altogether, as they emit very high magnetic fields far into your kitchen.

Avoid using "smart" appliances and thermostats that depend on wireless signaling. This would include all new "smart" TVs. They are called smart because they emit a Wi-Fi signal, and unlike your computer, you cannot shut the Wi-Fi signal off on some models when you connect to a wired Ethernet cable (you can with Sony smart TVs).

Consider using a large computer monitor as your TV instead, as they don't emit Wi-Fi. Also, avoid "smart speakers," which continuously emit RF signals into the room.

Avoid electric beds and chairs. If you do use them, plug them into a power strip and flip that off when sleeping or sitting in them. Avoid high electric fields from ungrounded wires and metal frames. Also avoid magnetic fields from transformers that may be right under your body, and Wi-Fi in the foot of some beds. Switch these off in all cases when sleeping.

Replace CFL bulbs with incandescent bulbs, as CFLs produce dirty electricity. Ideally remove all fluorescent lights from your house. Not only do they emit unhealthy light but, more importantly, they will actually transfer current to your body just being close to the bulbs. Many LEDs are cleaner than CFLs, but incandescent bulbs are best, including new halogen incandescent bulbs.

Dimmer switches are another source of dirty electricity, so consider installing regular on/off switches rather than dimmer switches. Central lighting control systems (Crestron, Lutron) tend to have cleaner dimming modules. Request hardwired, not wireless, keypads when using central control systems, especially near beds.

Refuse smart meters as long as you can or, when you cannot opt out, add a shield to an existing smart meter, some of which have been shown to reduce radiation by 98 to 99 percent.30

+ Sources and References

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