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Guidelines for Safe Electrical Systems

By Alex Stark. Copyright and all rights reserved.

The following set of guidelines outlines basic considerations for the design of safe electrical systems. These are to be taken only as a guide, as this practice involves many technical and analytical tools which are beyond the scope of this document. For optimal results, always consult with a professional practitioner.

You are also encouraged to visit our Guidelines for Healthy & Healing Environments which describes feng shui criteria for health homes and offices, and our Guildelines for Non-Toxic Environments, which summarizes main concerns in Green Building.

General Considerations:

1. Electrical and magnetic fields (EMFs) are ubiquitous in modern life. Despite their obvious convenience, however, they are being linked increasingly with health problems and illnesses.

2. Studies are not yet conclusive, but electro-magnetic fields are now implicated in the following illnesses:

Impaired Immunity
Hormonal Imbalances
Dizziness & Nausea
High Blood Pressure
Chronic Fatigue
Tumor Promotion
Bladder Cancer
Liver Cancer
Colon Cancer
Kidney Cancer
Breast Cancer
Lymph Node Cancer
Brain Tumors
Endocrine Tumors


Crib Death
Birth Defects
Still Birth

Memory Loss
Suicidal Tendencies
Learning Disorders

3. Upon closer scrutiny, however, it is apparent that electrical fields and magnetic fields (generated by electrical use) have different effects on the human body:

MAGNETIC FIELDS affect the somatic/cellular level:
Stimulate Cancer Cells
Affect Calcium Binding
Affect Chromosomal Changes
Can Lead to Miscarriages
Affect Hormone Levels

ELECTRICAL FIELDS affect the Psyche and Nerves
Can promote Aggression
Can promote Nervousness
Are linked with Confusion and Irritability
Can create and exacerbate Insomnia
Are linked with Depression

4. Electrical fields can be stopped with shielding, whereas magnetic and microwave fields are much harder to stop. Consequently, it is much more urgent to control magnetic and microwave field exposures.

5. Current research seems to indicate that although field strength and length of exposure are primary factors, it is repeated fluctuations, repeated exposures, and interactions of different EMF types which may account for the more severe cases.

6. In addition, electro-magnetic fields interact with the global magnetic grids, to create situation that are even more dangerous. Analytical and technical tools for evaluating global magnetic fields are difficult to work with, as they require very precise measurements over long periods of time. They are beyond the scope of most electrical inspectors.

Main Generators of Electro-Magnetic Fields (EMFs)

1. The first thing to do is determine the location of obvious large-scale sources such as RADAR, TV, and MICROWAVE ANTENNAS. Improvements in technology have made it possible to construct ever smaller emitters. In some communities advocates are demanding full disclosure of antenna locations and intensities.

2. Keeping in mind that hills and buildings may shield some radiation, safe distances from TV, RADAR, and MICROWAVE installations should be 400 feet minimum from the emitter itself, with a 1/2 mile of cautionary discretion. In all cases avoid being in the direct path of the signal.

3. CELL PHONE ANTENNAS are another untested source of EMFs. New designs are trying to hide these as health concerns continue to mount. Unfortunately, there are no reliable guidelines for avoidance. It is therefore important to remain alert to research and to neighborhood installations.

4. POWER PLANTS are the next area of concern. Maintain at least 300 yards from power generators to avoid levels of radiation known to cause illness. Feng shui has more stringent standards, with 1 mile being the minimum.

5. ELECTRICAL DISTRIBUTION GRID WIRES have various levels of power. Health experts advise prudent avoidance, with these distances as absolute minimums, depending on the electrical load on the wires:

660 KV –250 yards
330 KV — 200 yards
220 KV — 150 yards
110 KV — 100 yards

Despite these assurances, feng shui experts recommend total avoidance. Even the sight of an electrical tower is considered detrimental.

6. Some INDUSTRIAL INSTALLATIONS are extremely dangerous as they generate fields many times greater than tolerable limits. Electrical trains lines are one example. As a rule of thumb, try to remain at least 300 yards from any larger electrical installation or industrial site, but always check for electrical and magnetic fields for added safety.

7. UTILITY WIRES carry less power, but can still be dangerous, depending on distances.

8. TRANSFORMERS in particular generate large magnetic fields. Although a limit of 2 milligauss is considered safe, many individuals are sensitive at loads much smaller than this. Contemporary transformer designs have reduced the size and profile of new installations, but even innocuous looking devices can generate fields strong enough to impact health.

9. Seemingly harmless COMPONENTS of your home’s electrical system can generate huge fields, although these tend to drop off quickly with distance. Examples include electrical meters, duct fans, and most motors. A bed located on the other side of this wall would definitely be affected with very large fields.

10. Despite the larger loads in outside utility wires, INDOOR WIRING can be much more dangerous because it is closer to our bodies.This is particulalrly true for wires that run close to beds or desks, or to any location where humans tend to stay for long periods of time.

11. Unfortunately, BUILDING CODES require wires and outlets near beds and desks for their obvious convenience. This places them too close to sensitive parts of our bodies.

12. UNGROUNDED or IMPROPERLY INSTALLED WIRING can create dangerous situations. It is important to check outlets for proper grounding.

How to Reduce Electro-Magnetic Fields

1. It is important to first determine whether electro-magnetic fields are emanating from the electrical system within your structure or from external sources. In order to determine the load placed on your home by external wire service, it is important to measure field levels inside the home with the house power off at the main switchboard. If you get readings with the power off, this means that the problem is external to your own installation and remediation will have to be done by the electrical utilitiy or other authorities.

2. If you have access to a Gauss Meter (which measures magnetic fields), you can determine your own levels of safety. The maximum exposure recommended by US experts is 2 milligauss, although in Europe 1 milligauss is recommended, especially for sleeping. Measurements have to be taken at different times of day, as usage peaks and ebbs depending on demand.

3. If a field is measured above the threshold level of 2 milligauss, experts recommend correcting the problem or moving the person or function to a safer location. Although I prefer the European limit of 1 milligauss, it would be much better to register in the area of 0.2 to 0.5 milligauss.

4. If your structure is free of external influences, but you are still getting a reading higher than 1.0 milligauss, the first thing to do is to check for simple errors in wiring. Improper wiring is the leading cause of stray electric and magnetic fields. The most common problem with indoor wiring are circuits that are “out of phase”, in which wires have been switched, are not connected, or are broken. Use a three-prong tester to determine the condition of your house wiring. One common problem is a neutral or ground wire that is not connected; sometimes a ground wire is broken, or the water utility has inadvertently replaced a grounding pipe that is leaking electrical fields into your water lines (see below for additional information on electrical fields in water pipes).

5. You should also check for the integrity of underground cables. Underground electrical lines, if properly installed, can greatly reduce electromagnetic fields when compared with overhead lines. Older underground lines, however, may not be adequate and should be monitored. Always check for the location of the wires.

6. In addition to wires, electrical appliances such as hair dryers, alarm clocks or blenders also generate EMFs. Some should be avoided completely because the fields they generate are either too high, are too close to our bodies, or have other unwanted side effects. A hair dryer, for example, can generate as much as 10 milligauss and is typically used very close to the brain.

7. Digital clock radios and alarms should be located at least 3 feet from the bed. Older analog models are even more injurious.

8. Microwave ovens should never be used because they break down proteins and enzymes in foods. If they are unavoidable, remain at least 8 feet from them while in operation.

9. Other appliances can be used with caution, provided you keep safe distances. This is particularly important with children and in bedrooms. Keep children at least 5-6 feet away from TVs.

10. Any appliance with a motor generates a large magnetic field. That includes vacuum cleaners, dish washers, washing machines, dryers, sewing machines, and all power tools. Try to keep your distance while in operation.

11. Some EMF sources are invisible. These include electrical radiant coils, mechanical equipment, duct fans, and transformers, as well as the neighbor’s appliances on the other side of party walls. It is imperative to take readings in bedrooms, offices and other living spaces to determine their EMF loads.

12. Computers pose new problems, as codes are unclear and misleading. European manufacturers are much more stringent than Americans. If possible, use the Swedish standard for TVs, computers, and wireless networks.

13. More recently, cell phones have been studied for their health impact. Results are sketchy, but point to abnormalities in cell development and tumor promotion, as well as sleeping problems and headaches. If possible, minimize cell phone use and handle with a hands-free kit.

14. Some individuals are much more sensitive to electrical and magnetic fields. You can test for subtle effects by using kinesiology or medical dowsing.

15. In new construction it is possible to design systems that avoid bringing electrical wiring too close to beds, desks, and other high-usage areas. Wires that run behind headboards are particularly worrisome, as your head can be within inches of live wires and their corresponding fields. To control this problem, it is possible to run separate wires to outlets on either side of a bed or desk, avoiding one wire that connects the two outlets behind the headboard or a wall unit.

16. It is also important to provide adequate electrical supply in any room, to avoid adding power strips or extension cords, both of which will carry significant electrical fields, often close to the user’s body.

17. Electrical layouts should also consider placing entertainment equipment, computer areas, kitchen, laundry, and mechanical appliances, and HVAC equipment away from sleeping zones, nurseries, studies, or any other space that is used frequently.

18. New technologies make it possible to shut down circuits completely. It is possible, for example, to shut down service to an entire bedroom or zone within a house in order to avoid fields altogether. Relay interruptors and demand switches are among these. These send a radio signal when you turn off a iight or a switch that shuts off electrical supply to an entire loop in the wiring layout. You can also use a common safety outlet and trip the safety button when you go to sleep. The safety switch can be installed in any outlet between the bedroom and the main.

19. It is also possible to install additional circuit breakers for bedrooms and nurseries, as well as demand circuit breakers for other sensitive areas.

20. Plumbing is often part of the electrical system that feeds your house. This is due to the fact that most electrical systems are grounded to metal water pipes. If one house’s system is unbalanced, the entire plumbing grid can become unbalanced. This means that your neighbor’s problem quickly becomes yours.

21. To check for stray fields in the water pipes, measure the electro-magnetic fields near plumbing fixtures with the power on and with the power off. If the POWER IS ON and you get a reading, the problem is in YOUR electrical system; but if the POWER IS OFF and you get a reading, the problem is in YOUR NEIGHBOR’S electrical system.

22. If the problem is in YOUR electrical system, check for grounding and improper wiring throughout the structure.

23. If the problem is in YOUR NEIGHBOR’S electrical system, it is possible to isolate your house from stray electrical fields in your neighbor’s water lines by introducing a section of plastic pipe to insulate your plumbing system from the incoming water main. This effectively eliminates contamination of your system.

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