In a previous post we discussed the health effects of microwave radiation coming from cellular and cordless (DECT) phones as well as wireless (WiFi) networks.  There is, however, a broad range of electromagnetic frequencies that we are exposed to – some natural and some manmade.


Although it can be precisely measured, there is little consensus about what intensity of electromagnetic fields is harmful. There is even less consensus about differences in sensitivity between individuals.  One person may be able to operate a laptop while talking on a cell phone while sitting under an array of fluorescent lights and not, seemingly, register any ill effects.  On the other hand, there are those who are sensitive to electromagnetic fields and can quickly develop a headache from using a cell phone, for example.  There are still others who are hypersensitive to electromagnetic fields, feeling the effects of electrical devices as buzzing sensations that travel up through their limbs.  


For those who can reliably report these symptoms, this is a very real issue.  But most importantly, are these individuals our proverbial canary in a coal mine?  Though they may be experiencing effects from a low dose of electromagnetic frequencies, might we also, unknowingly, be suffering health consequences.  And do those consequences accumulate over time?  


A phenomena that implies this effect are cancer clusters.  Whenever a number of individuals contract a similar type of cancer beyond expected averages, an environmental cause is implicated.  In some cases this can be due to a chemical exposure such as agent orange or its derivative DDT.  In other cases, prolonged exposure to high-tension power lines or defects within the AC lines supplying power to our homes and work have been correlated with cancer clusters.  In the case of the latter, this is colloquially referred to as dirty electricity.  


Dirty electricity is generated many ways.  The technical term for dirty electricity is transient voltage, that is to say, an electrical current without a place to go.  In the case of an overcharged circuit, transient voltage will reverberate throughout the circuit, travel through conductive material within the walls, and even creep into the air space.  One example of this is a dimmer switch.  When the potentiometer of a dimmer switch is dialed down, it is effectively holding back voltage which may overcharge the circuit.  This effect can very precisely be measured with a trifield meter.


The ballasts of fluorescent bulbs, particularly compact fluorescents, also have the potential to produce transient voltage as they modulate the current to these bulbs.  As they step down the current to allow for these lower wattage bulbs, any excess current also potentially overcharge the circuit.


Faulty wiring or improper grounding can also contribute to the problem.  The practice of grounding all circuits to a copper rod in the foundation of a building can itself contribute to dirty electricity.  If the number of electrical devices plugged into the circuits of a building exceeds its grounding capacity, the overcharge stays within the circuits.  The entire building then buzzes and this transient voltage can be readily measured at the outlets along the affected circuits.


The real problem with dirty electricity stems from its insidious nature.  Few recognize the problem and even fewer know how to measure and remedy the problem where it exists.  We will explore the history of dirty electricity and solutions in a follow up post.

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