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Is "Dirty Electricity" Making You Sick?
Is "Dirty Electricity" Making You Sick?
In the 1971 film classic, Clint Eastwood’s character is called “Dirty” Harry because although he always does a good job, he also has a bad streak. If you think about it, electricity works in much the same way. We turn it loose everywhere we go—from home to car to office to mall—and somehow, almost miraculously, it manages to make all the lights go on, ensure all the gadgets and gizmos run, and do just about anything we ask of it. But while electricity is doing all of our bidding for us, it also stirs up an invisible and destructive mess at the same time. This is known as transient electromagnetic fields, or “dirty electricity.”
How does electricity get dirty?
The electricity that powers up coffeemakers, lights streets and keeps commuter trains running all over the country travels on almost 160,000 miles of high-voltage transmission lines called “the grid.” This grid is so antiquated, it costs the U.S. electricity industry billions of dollars because of micro power surges that act like rust on expensive machinery, gradually wearing down the machinery until it fails. And it can be wearing on the human body as well.
The most common complaints from people who are living in homes contaminated by dirty electricity are sleep disruption, headaches, dizziness, depression, lack of concentration, and muscle fatigue. These are symptomatic of stress-related disorders caused by overstimulation of the sympathetic nervous system that elevates cortisol, which eventually leads to adrenal burnout and a dysfunction of the immune system. When the immune system is stressed, then a whole host of health disorders can emerge, such as short-term memory problems, irritability, anxiety, headaches, inability to concentrate, and heart irregularities.
The U.S. electrical grid is polluted by what’s called invisible dirt––high- and mid-frequency signals–– that may not only be responsible for damaged machinery, but also for a host of physical symptoms in people, from headaches and joint pain to memory loss and seizures. A 2008 report in Electromagnetic Biological Medicine found that dirty electricity elevated blood sugar levels in electrically sensitive diabetics.
Here’s how dirty electricity happens: Power is transmitted to your city via high-voltage (66,000 to 765,000 volts) transmission lines that run on those erector-set looking towers. These transmission lines take power from its source––a coal, nuclear or natural-gas plant––to the vicinity of your city, where it terminates at a substation. In the substation, the voltage is lowered to 4,000 to 69,000 in preparation to be sent to homes and businesses via local distribution lines. This voltage is much too high to be safe in a building, so when the power reaches our neighborhoods, it’s stepped down to 120 to 240 volts by those barrel-shaped transformers you see on power poles, and then it’s fed into your home or business.
Many years ago, before the discovery of solid-state devices that are now found in all electronic equipment and allow high-frequency transmissions, the electricity that powers our homes, buildings and factories was like a meadow in the country—gently varying, quiet, harmonious and clean. Today, our electricity is no longer any of those things. It is contaminated by high-frequency transients––momentary spikes or surges in voltage that occur over a short period of time––and harmonics––electrical frequencies that cause transformers and electrical power panels to become mechanically resonant, emitting a vibration and buzzing sound––described as dirty electricity or dirty power.
Research by Magda Havas, PhD, tells us that this dirty electricity may indeed be biologically active and potentially responsible for an array of human disease symptoms. Havas concludes that if her results are “representative of what is happening worldwide, then electromagnetic pollution is adversely affecting the lives of millions of people.”
Unzap your home
You can’t turn off dirty electricity, but you can take steps to mitigate its effect on your health.
“When filters to reduce the dirty electricity are installed in homes and schools, symptoms such as chronic fatigue, depression, headaches, body aches and pains, ringing in the ears, dizziness, diabetes, impaired sleep, memory loss and confusion are reduced,” says Larry Gust, owner of Gust Environmental, a California company that specializes in indoor environmental mitigation.
Dave Stetzer, an electrical quality expert, along with Martin Graham, PhD, professor emeritus in the College of Engineering at the University of California at Berkeley, have developed a filter that can reduce the amplitude of these higher-frequency voltage surges. This filter is not unlike the power-surge strip you have for your computer.
Stetzer and Graham have also created a microsurge meter to measure the extent of your dirty electricity problem and help determine how many filters an individual home or business needs. The filters and microsurge detector are small enough to plug into a normal electrical outlet. Stetzer estimates that the average home needs about 20 filters, or Stetzerizers, to neutralize dirty electricity. Stetzerizers can be found at www.stetzerelectric.com.
Here are some things that can contribute to dirty electricity in your home:
• Electrical code violations
• Loose or poor connections in your electrical system that may be arcing (when an electrical current jumps between normally non-conductive current, creating a plasma discharge or a spark)
• Connections between the neutral wire and the electrical ground wire that divert the neutral return current to another path, such as water pipes, gas pipes, heating ducts, air-conditioning Freon lines, grids for dropped ceiling panels, metal studs or conceivably any metal in your home
• Switches that are old, worn or poorly made that may be arcing
• Neutral wires whose insulation has been pinched or punctured, causing an inadvertent connection between neutral and ground wire
• Tree branches that scrape or bump overhead wires (your utility company may trim them for you)
• Dimmer switches
To fix these problems:
• Talk to your electrician about harmonic filters or line/power conditioners, which are recommended for the protection of expensive electronics such as home theater systems. They basically suppress voltage spikes coming from the utility power system, and as an unintended benefit clean up dirty electricity in some frequency ranges––filtering out transients and harmonic distortions.
• Contact your utility company to check the power lines that run into your home to make sure all connections are secure. Some may be so old, worn and corroded that the flow of return current is impeded.
• Install a radio frequency (RF) filter on your phone line, which can also bring dirty electricity into your home. RF filters are designed to reduce high-frequency white noise on phone lines, which can be picked up via the air or on electric-utility ground currents.
For more information on dirty electricity visit dirtyelectricity.org.
Note: This article was excerpted with permission from Zapped: Why Your Cell Phone Shouldn’t be Your Alarm Clock and 1,268 Ways to Outsmart the Hazards of Electronic Pollution by Ann Louise Gittleman (Harper One, 2011). For more inforamtion about Zapped, click here.
Ann Louise Gittleman, PhD, CNS, is an award-winning author of 30 books and a highly respected health pioneer. Gittleman was recognized as one of the top 10 nutritionists in the country by Self Magazine and has received the American Medical Writers Association Award for Excellence. For more information, visit www.annlouise.com or www.areyouzapped.com.
February 23rd, 2012