I learned about dirty electricity in more detail last year when I was at a health conference. Dirty electricity (DE) has been around since the invention of electricity and has been a known phenomena since the 1950’s, but the amount of DE that we experience on a daily basis has gotten much worse in recent years.
Changes in our utility services and greater use of energy efficient devices has increased our exposure to DE. Wireless technology has also increased DE in our homes, schools, and workplaces. I originally discussed DE in my last smart meter article. Below I will explain how to limit DE in your home and other locations.
Read on to find out what DE is and where it comes from, the health issues it can cause, and what you can do to protect yourself from it. Be sure to read all the way through to make sure you are protecting yourself the correct way.
Dirty Electricity Explained
Dirty electricity (like EMFs and wireless radiation) is another form of electrosmog. Also known as harmonic frequencies, electrical pollution, or electromagnetic interference, dirty electricity (DE) can be caused by harmonics and transients.
Normally, electricity should operate at a consistent frequency of 60 hertz (Hz) in North America (or 50 Hz in Europe). In a perfect world, the sine waves created by an electrical current should remain consistent – a smooth sine wave.
More often, however, harmonic distortions occur in our electrical wiring. Spike-like transients, which are present for only a limited time period, also occur. A lightning strike, for example, would be considered an extreme version of a transient. DE, on the other hand, creates spikes in the electrical wires which causes “electrical noise.” Most commonly these spikes are in the radio frequency range of 2 to 100 kilohertz (KHz), but could be higher.
Source #1 – DE is created in many ways. Many modern appliances and electronics, for example, need DC power to operate. These devices include a transformer that converts the AC power in the building wiring to the DC power needed to run the device. The conversion process creates an interruption in the electrical current, which in turn creates a spike that results in DE.
Source #2 – The greater use of energy efficient light bulbs and electronics has also made DE worse. Beginning in the mid-1980s, in an attempt to reduce electricity consumption, certain light bulbs and many electrical devices started to include a “switch-mode power supply.” A mini-transformer in the device intermittently draws power and causes frequent interruptions in the electrical current. This may save power but also creates DE. (Specific sources listed below.)
Source #3 – DE can additionally happen as a result of stray electrical current in the ground. Originally, all return electrical current was sent from a house or building back to the utility substation through the neutral wire on the utility poles. However, since the early 1990s these neutral wires were not big enough to carry the larger electrical loads created by more densely populated areas, so utility companies in the United States have been allowed to return electrical current through the ground back to its substations. (Grounding rods are used on homes and on many utility poles.)
This “stray” electrical current eventually returns back to the substation, but in the mean time it can also be captured by a building’s metal plumbing pipes and grounding rods, causing DE to enter your home from other sources. People and pets can also pickup this stray current when walking on the ground.
Source #4 – DE can be a result of wiring errors inside the home. Normally, the hot and neutral wires in an electrical cable, when run parallel to each other, cancel each other out. Slight deviations from this, incorrect connections at the electrical panel, or damaged wires inside a wall can cause havoc. Arcs or sparking can also occur along the wires through normal use of house appliances and equipment. (Newer building codes require arc-fault interruption devices to help address this issue, but they do not eliminate the DE.)
Source #5 – Wireless devices contribute to DE as well, in two ways. First, the frequency from a wireless device will to some degree conduct along a building’s copper wiring. In addition, the battery chargers used on these devices also contain mini-transformers and continue to pull power from the outlet even when the device is not plugged in.
Health Effects of Dirty Electricity
The resulting spikes (or “electrical noise”) from dirty electricity (DE) do not stay in the electrical wires. Instead, the DE actually radiates off the building’s wiring into the various rooms where you live, sleep, work and go to school. If you were standing in the middle of a room with DE, it will affect you on an energetic level and can cause physical symptoms similar to other sources of electrosmog, like EMFs and RF radiation.
A device in one room can also potentially affect the wiring or outlet on the other side of a building.
It is hard to imagine because we can’t see it, taste it or smell it. Most people can’t feel it either unless they become sensitive over time. It is the continual spiking in the currents that can be especially detrimental. DE can spike to frequencies that are similar to high powered electrical lines and the microwave radiation created by wireless devices.
This is not good for our bodies, which are electrical in nature. Many of our body’s systems run electrically, including our brain, our heart, and the peristalses in our GI tract. Even our cells and neurons communicate electrically. In fact, medical devices, such as the EKG used to measure the heart and the EMG used to measure the muscles, are actually taking electrical readings.
DE can effect any of these body systems and possibly much more.
Commonly reported heath effects from DE include sleep disturbances and fatigue, headaches, tinnitus, cognitive impairment, heart arrhythmia, and mood swings.
Other known health effects as a result of continual exposure to DE include asthma, chronic fatigue syndrome, diabetes, ADD and ADHD, autism, depression and neurological disorders – many of the illnesses we find epidemic in today’s world. Some have also linked DE to higher suicide rates. (Click here for links to references.)
Pier reviewed studies have shown that when someone is exposed to DE and then the source is removed, the following physical changes occur over time:
- blood sugar normalizes
- free radicals in the blood are reduced
- pH in the saliva will change
- neurotransmitters (especially dopamine) gradually normalize
Cancer can be another result. In fact, Dr. Sam Milham, a physician and epidemiologist who has spent decades researching DE, was able to show how cancer rates spiked as cities became electrified over time. He has also studied a number of “cancer clusters” within the United States that show a strong correlation to the amount of surrounding DE. (ALS and leukemia also have a strong correlation to DE exposure.)
Another series of studies was able to show a direct correlation of milk production in cows to the amount of DE exposure. The higher the readings on a DE meter, the less milk the cows produced. What about human breast feeding?
Specific Sources of Dirty Electricity
Dirty electricity (DE) sources can be found both inside the house and outside the house.
Inside the House: Many of the devices you use inside the house can cause and/or increase the amount of DE. These include:
- Lighting Dimmer Switches – These will interrupt the normal current which in turn creates DE. (Although some newer, more expensive brands are available that do not create DE, it is best to use typical on/off switches.)
- Compact Fluorescent Lights (CFLs) – CFLs contain mini transformers in their base which continually converts 50 kHz and 100 kHz (depending on the brand) down to the required 60 Hz, causing continuous spikes. This can affect the light fixture, the cord of the light fixture, and/or the wires in the wall. (Other energy efficient light bulbs like certain LED bulbs may do this as well, especially older versions.) CFLs also emit RF radiation and contain mercury, which is another reason to get rid of them.**
- Fluorescent and Halogen Light Fixtures – In this case, the light fixture itself will house a ballast that continually converts the electricity to the correct current which then creates DE.
- Electronics with a “switch-mode power supply” (SMPS) – SMPSs are typically used in energy efficient equipment such as security systems, AV equipment, printers and copiers, and other energy efficient appliances with motors. (You should also know that newer appliances are starting to include Wi-Fi transmitters in order to communicate with your electrical smart meter. Click here to learn more about smart meters.)
- Televisions (especially Plasma TVs) and Computers
- Induction Cooktops
- Wireless Devices – Including wireless modems and routers, cell phones, wireless security systems, and other smart home devices.
- Battery Chargers for Wireless Devices – For reasons explained above, these power cords should be unplugged from the wall when not in use.
Some of these DE sources are easy to remedy. If you have dimmer switches, for example, you can replace them with standard light switches. (In the mean time, use the dimmer switch in full on or full off mode, not in dimmer mode). You can also replace CFLs and old LED bulbs and certain electronics.
Outside the House: Devices outside your house need to be considered as well. Stray electrical current in the ground was explained in the previous section. Other sources may be causing DE current to enter the home through the electrical wiring or through metal plumbing pipes. The items below may be difficult to remedy without the use of special filters and can include:
- Smart Meters – Wireless smart meters, which are directly connected to a building’s electrical main, add pulsed frequencies to the electrical wiring in the building, creating DE. Even if you do not have a smart meter, your neighbor may have one that is sending out signals that affect your home. (Older PLC or digital electrical meters may also create additional frequencies when it transmits data over the power lines. Analog meters are the safest.)
- HVAC Units – If your home’s air conditioner and/or heating unit is considered “energy efficient,” it is most likely run by a variable speed motor which creates DE in the house wiring. (You should also know that if you do not request otherwise, newer HVAC units are often controlled by wireless technology which causes additional issues.)
- Solar Panel Systems – Solar panels use inverters to convert the solar power to usable power. This process creates DE. (Safer inverters are available but you need to do your research.)
- Neighboring House – Electrical transients (or DE) that occur in your neighbor’s house (from their equipment) can travel along connecting plumbing pipes or electrical lines and even the ground back into your house.
- Nearby Cell Towers and Radio Towers – These towers have a huge inverter or switch power supply that converts the incoming AC power to DC power to run the transmitter (and charge their large backup batteries). Cell towers that are close to you may be transmitting the resulting DE into the surrounding electrical grid and can end up in your house wiring. (Solar power and wind power facilities can do this as well.)
- Nearby Electrical Substation or Transformer – Similarly, energy from high powered utility equipment can create DE in surrounding buildings or homes.
One way to reduce the effects of stray ground currents and prevent them from entering your house is to replace a two to three foot section of the plumbing main where it enters the house. Replacing part of the metal pipe with plastic stops the magnetic current from entering the rest of the house. Find out how here. (If you have a metal-type sink, it may also be emitting this stray current.)
How To Measure and Limit Dirty Electricity
The good news is that there are ways to limit the dirty electricity (DE) in your home. Optimally, you want to remove as many of the sources listed above as you can. Changing light bulbs, for example, is an easy fix. (Incandescent bulbs are the best.)
There are also filters that you can add to your electrical outlets to help balance the electrical transients (spikes). The one I am most familiar with and use myself is the Stetzerizer filter, which is backed by many years of research and case studies. When plugged into an outlet, it works to reduce the transients in the electrical lines and, therefore, reduces the DE emitted into a room.
You can’t use a typical EMF meter to check for DE in your home. A special DE meter is typically required. However, you can use a cheap handheld AM/FM radio instead. Put it on the AM setting in between stations (so you have white noise or static) and walking through the house or building moving it along walls, ceilings and floors. The static will dramatically increase when you are near a DE source. (You can see how the author of the book Dirty Electricity, Dr. Milham, does this here.)
If you want to get more detailed, you need a special meter. The best one I have found is the Stetzer meter, which is an easy-to-use propriety meter specifically developed for DE after years of research. It takes a reading that encompasses multiple factors, collectively called Graham-Stetzer (GS) units. (As opposed to other meters that only record the voltage in the wire.) Professionals might use a spectrum analyzer and an oscilloscope.
I met David Stetzer, the co-creator of the meter and filters, while at a conference one year. When I explained to him our smart meter situation (see this article), he educated me on other steps we should be taking. I purchased one of his meters and checked every electrical outlet in the house. We were surprised at what was found.
Ideally, a reading should be under 30 GS. Even under 50 GS is okay for most people. (50 GS correlates to 2 kHz.) Optimally, you want to take two reading at every outlet in the house, writing down the readings as you go.
First, take the readings at every outlet with all the electronics turned off and unplugged. Larger appliances should be turned off (including your HVAC unit) and your lights should be turned off at the switch or unplugged. These readings will help you determine if the DE is coming from outside the home through connecting plumbing pipes, electrical lines, or neighboring ground current. (This is also important if you live in a multi-unit building.)
Next, plug in and turn back on all the lights, equipment and appliances and use the meter to take measurements once more at every outlet. Now, if you get a higher reading at a particular outlet, you know the culprit is in the house. Most likely it is an adjacent appliance/device or the lighting source in the room (or possibly in the adjacent room). Turn off and on various devices until you find the culprit.
See the lists above for common culprits. If you find a high reading and can’t replace the item, then you need to use a filter in this location. Add a filter to the outlet and check the meter again. (You may need to use a “power cord splitter” or power strip so you have enough outlets.) If the meter lowers to a 30 GS then you are good. You may also find that if you put the filter into another outlet in the room (or in an outlet on the back of the same wall), it may lower the readings on multiple outlets.
It can take a little trial and error to find the optimal placement of filters. It is also typically recommended to use two filters at each TV and computer location, especially if you have other devices plugged into the same outlet or power strip. (As you add filters it will help to reduce the readings at other outlets in the house so every outlet will not need a filter.) A typical house usually needs about 20 filters.
In our house, we had readings in 100s range in some locations and even over 1000 GS at the electrical outlet closest to the smart meter! Ultimately, we were able to reduce our DE and get every outlet below 30 with the use of 17 Stetzer filers plugged into outlets throughout the house. (We did not have dimmer switches or CFLs in the house.)
Additional Important Information
If you plan to remediate your house for dirty electricity (DE) on your own, there are a few additional things you should know.
If it seems costly to remediate the entire house at one time, you can start with your bedroom using 2 or 3 filters. This is where you typically spend the most time and where you need to reduce EMFs the most, so that your body can restore itself while you sleep. This can be done in an office space or classroom too, where you know you or your child will spend a large amount of time. Be sure, however, to use a Stetzer meter (or AM radio) to confirm you are actually reducing the DE in the room.
The filters themselves when plugged into an outlet may cause higher magnetic fields close to the source. (Similar to any other electrical device.) Magnetic fields dissipate fairly quickly, typically within 6 to 8 inches. However, for optimal effect, you many need to move a bed or seating area so that your are not directly against a plugged in filter on a regular basis. (If necessary, you can use an EMF meter to check the range of the magnetic field.)
In some situations, there may be a wiring issue inside the wall causing the DE in which case a Stetzer filter could possibly amplify the DE rather than diminish it. You will know this when you plug in the filter and get a higher reading on the meter (rather than a lower number). Take readings as you move the filter to other outlets to see if you can isolate the problem. (An electrician may be required to correct the wiring issue.)
As noted above, DE can affect multiple systems in the body. When you clean up the DE in your home, your body may need some time to adjust. It may also need additional support to detoxify and heal. In fact, some people have found that they feel worse after they clean up the DE in their house. If this happens, there is likely other things going on in the body that need to be addressed.
Examples include the following and may required the help of a health care practitioner:
- providing additional support to detox pathways in the body that may have been restricted if you were consistently exposed to DE.
- needing targeted removal of heavy metals from the body which may have been immobilized while you were exposed to DE.
- rebuilding certain nutrients, like minerals and B vitamins, that become depleted with long term exposure to DE.
- making sure there are no other sources of EMF or wireless radiation that could be affecting you. (See this article for more information.)
Lastly, some houses and/or buildings may be more complicated than others, especially if you find that multiple outside sources are causing the DE (as indicated by high DE readings when all the electronics in the house/building are turned off). In these cases, it is advised to use the services of an EMF expert and/or someone trained through the International Institute for Building-Biology & Ecology. (See their listing here.) You may find that a whole house DE filter is a better option, which is typically installed by an electrician at the electrical panel. (Power Perfect is a good brand.)
** Caution: If you decide to get rid of your compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs), please be careful. These light bulb contain mercury and must be disposed of safely. If they break, they are considered a toxic hazard and should be cleaned up as such. You should not throw them in the trash. Some stores, like Home Depot, have drop off containers for safe disposal.
Sharon Harmon and Life Design for Health are not affiliated with Stetzer Electric and do not receive remuneration from the items mentioned above. It is a knowledgeable company and I am a happy customer.