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Navigating Electromagnetic Frequency (EMF) Radiation

Navigating Electromagnetic Frequency (EMF) Radiation

Convenience and technology go hand in hand.  If you want to save money at your store, the store’s “app” gives you the deals straight to your cellphone.  Smart doorbells and smart thermostats keep us safe and comfortable.  Baby monitors and cameras help us to keep an eye on the kids.  What could be better than knowing and doing more than your parents ever could?

The only problem with these perks is the energy they emit while helping you.  It’s called electromagnetic frequency radiation, or EMF for short.  Now, don’t get me wrong.  Anything that uses electricity, even a washing machine motor from the 1960’s, will have an electricmagnetic field associated with it, because that’s what electricity does.  Electrons move inside the electric supply cord, back and forth at the rate of about 60 cycles per second (60 hertz) in the US.  When the motor is energized, the electrons moving through the coils of the motor generate an electric field that spins the drum, and another motor that pumps out the water.  Electricity is right up there with indoor plumbing as something we wouldn’t want to be without!  

There is a big difference, however, between the way an old washing machine and a new cellphone use electricity and emit radiation.  The old washing machine had two modes, on and off, and it used power straight from the wall (110-120 volts alternating current, 60 hertz) with no transformers, inverters or rectifiers involved.   The cellphone, however, could never be plugged into the wall because it uses low voltage (12 volts) and “direct current” (DC).  The charger is plugged into the wall to convert high AC to low DC voltage to feed it to the sensitive electronics of the phone.  The phone, once charged, is essentially a battery with several different modes and the ability to radiate signals in a radius around it (about 30 feet for Bluetooth).  This generates two different problems with it: the way the charger manipulates electricity (taking the AC and converting it to DC and lowering the voltage) and the way both the charger and cellphone emit radiation.

“Dirty electricity” is admittedly not easy to understand.  After all, electricity is promoted to be the world’s cleanest energy, right?  We are enticed to replace everything that emits carbon with newer appliances that are “greener” for the planet with “no” emissions.   Yet, there is no such thing as free.  There are trade-offs for every convenience and savings in the pocket don’t always mean a savings to our peace of mind or health.

Since dirty electricity can’t be seen, smelled or touched, the best way to describe it is in pictures.   The photo below is of an alternating current electrical signal.  (If you don’t understand the difference between alternating and direct current, here is a really good video). The bright green line is clean power, which in alternating current is a smooth rolling sine wave (the peaks and valleys occur 60 times per minute, hence 60 hertz).  The green fuzz is dirty electricity, which is made up of jagged spikes that cause more radiation and can cause damage to equipment.  Where does the green fuzz come from?

Source: What is Dirty Electricity?

The green fuzz, or dirty power, is what is left over when you convert AC into DC or maneuver it in other ways.  Here is a video that visualizes what the little transformer/rectifiers on your cellphone charger and laptop chargers are doing to convert the power from the wall (120 volts AC) into usable power for your device (12 volts DC).  Chopping up the signal and smoothing it out causes some power “noise” and energy wastage.  Have you ever felt the transformer plug of the phone, or of your laptop computer?  Heat is another sign that there is energy being wasted.  

The green fuzz is not just ruining a nice picture of a sine wave.  The spikes and unpredictable energy can cause damage to electronics as well as to our bodies.  Dirty electricity can cause the following health issues (What is Dirty Electricity?) :

  • Headaches

  • Sleep Disturbances

  • Fatigue

  • Tinnitus

  • Cognitive Impairment

  • Heart Arrhythmia

  • Mood Swings

  • Weakening of the nervous, endocrine and immune systems

  • Increased risk of serious chronic illnesses such as cancer

Why does dirty electricity affect us?  Because we, as humans, run on electricity too.  The nervous system that regulates many functions in our bodies is electrical, and its sensitive equipment and signals can be affected by outside electromagnetic radiation.  For example, scientists have known for a while that some types of EMF radiation can actually cause bone to grow, and calcium channel blockers (which are frequently prescribed for heart arrhythmias) block EMF effects because they block electrical activity in the body. (Electromagnetic fields act via activation of voltage-gated calcium channels to produce beneficial or adverse effects)

Many health effects are only manifested when a major change occurs, like the installation of a smart meter on our home, or a newly installed cellphone tower coming online nearby, or moving into an apartment with wi-fi signals surrounding yours.  However, symptoms can also be gradual as well.  Like the effects of mold and mycotoxins, EMF radiation seems to affect those who are most sensitive to them.  When most of the population are not affected outwardly, regulation of new and more profuse radiation is not a priority.  However, quantified effects on our microbiology such as blood, organs and DNA through research should be enough to increase awareness of its dangers.

Although governments and health organizations (including the WHO) have denied that there is any risk to our health from dirty electricity, here is a short list of studies that have shown there is a cause and effect.  Since animals are even more sensitive than humans (termed “canaries”), included are a couple of real-world case studies on how EMF has affected farm animals, with detrimental effects on their behavior, output and reproduction.

The good news is that you can take control in your own home and eliminate some causes of dirty electricity.  Dimmer switches and compact fluorescent bulbs (CFLs) are some of the worst offenders, so try to eliminate these in your home.  Unplug computer and cellphone chargers whenever they are not in use, and when they are in use, keep them as far from you as possible.  

Other sources of EMF radiation can be controlled as well: 

  • Smart meters: Smart meters are power meters that broadcast a signal similar to your cellphone, to the electric company so that they can monitor power usage remotely.  Although many utility companies claim that their meters only “broadcast” less than a minute per day, the pulses sent by the meter (typically 3 milliseconds each) can be over 10,000 times per day.  (Frequently Asked Questions about Smart Meters)  If you can, opt out of having a smart meter placed on your building and have it replaced with an analog meter.  If you cannot, there are meter cages available that can significantly block EMF radiation from the meter.  This video shows how high and frequently EMF radiation can be emitted from Smart Meters.

  • Wireless routers: Unplug wireless routers at night and place them away from bedrooms or areas where people spend extended periods of time.  

  • Baby Monitors: Research the baby monitor you use to see whether it is safe, and place it a safe distance from the crib or bed.  

  • Cellphones: Restrict cellphone use by children and for adults, opt to use headsets or  speakerphone as often as possible, carrying the phone in a purse or away from your body.  

  • Solar power inverters:  the process of converting low-voltage direct current into high voltage alternating current produces dirty electricity, which can build up over time to dangerous levels inside your home.

There are two types of devices that can detect EMF radiation: a Graham-Stetzer meter that measures dirty electricity in GS units (I’ll discuss this next), OR simply an AM radio!  AM radios can pick up low-order harmonics.  Tune it down to the lowest amplitude, about 500 kHz, to start, and turn up the volume a bit to hear the static.  Bring it near a possible EMF emitter like a cellphone or its charger plug, and listen for an increase in static or “ticks” to indicate it is emitting EMF radiation.  You can also tune the amplitude up to its highest, to about 1600 kHz, to see what’s going on there.  (This setting is better for “hearing” the EMF from your cellphone, which typically broadcasts on even higher frequencies).  This video shows how to use an AM radio inside your home to detect relative volumes of EMF radiation from different appliances (the dimmer switch really puts out a lot)!  Another video shows you how to detect whether EMF radiation is coming from the line power (from the power company), or from the devices, like lighting and electronics, in your house.  

If you find you have a lot of EMF radiation with the AM radio, then you might want to invest in a more quantitative meter that shows the real levels of radiation.  With a meter designed to detect EMF radiation, you can walk around your home to measure these levels.  The original meter, called a Graham-Stetzer Microsurge meter (after its inventors) measures EMF radiation in units of “GS”.  According to Dave Stetzer, a GS unit is a measure of the energy on electrical wires generated by high frequency transients and harmonics, and is influenced by voltage, amplitude and frequency. (presentation by Dr. Magda Havas, PhD).  According to one electrician, under 200 GS is good and acceptable, but Dr. Havas has noted that those who are more sensitive and already have health issues like diabetics and multiple sclerosis patients, require readings under 40 GS.  In order to reduce EMF, a “Stetzerizer filter” can simply be plugged into any normal electrical outlet.  This video shows how to use a Graham-Stetzer meter and Stetzerizer filters to get rid of dirty electricity.  After removing as many offending appliances as possible like dimmer switches, CFL bulbs and unused electronic charges, the filters are very easy to use–just plug them in! 

If you have unexplained or chronic health issues, it’s worth exploring and measuring EMF radiation in your home.  This type of pollution can’t be seen, smelled or heard but the health effects on many people are debilitating, and intervention can provide significant relief.  We hope you will do your own research on EMF radiation!

Fire and Smoke Recovery

Fire and Smoke Recovery

Wildfires have been very destructive in the western half of the US in the late 2010's and early 2020’s.  As for the future, a 2022 report by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) and GRID-Arendal projects an increase in extreme fires by 14% by 2030, 30% by the end of 2050, and 50% by 2100, due to climate change and land-use change. (breezometer.com)  

Fire disasters, like natural disasters, do not just destroy what the fire touches.  They can disrupt major infrastructures like highways and railways, power and water, and most important, air quality.  Because fires may smolder for some time, try to prepare to deal with the effects for weeks. 

If you live in an area prone to wildfires or prevailing winds that may carry smoke, here are some ways to prepare:

  • Seal doors and windows with weatherstripping, caulk and door sweeps.  
  • Find out how to adjust your HVAC system accordingly: you’ll want to close the fresh air intake and change over to recirculation, no matter whether you have central AC, a window air conditioner or portable air conditioner.
  • Purchase extra MERV 13 or higher filters for your HVAC system, to be used on poor air quality days.
  • If you live in an apartment building or condo with little control over the HVAC, consider purchasing vent filter material so you can place them in the vents into your space. Carbon vent filter material will neutralize many VOCs as well.
  • Purchase a HEPA air cleaner (non-ozone producing type) and be sure to have an extra filter or two on hand.    
  • Keep a number of N95 respirator masks on hand.    
  • Keep canned food and bottled water on hand.
  • Stock up on essentials for cleaning smoke odor: baking soda, white vinegar, rags, TotalClean


  • Try not to cook during a wildfire emergency, because cooking indoors increases small particulates and vapors in the air, and you won’t want to turn on your stove exhaust, as that will draw polluted outdoor air into the house.  Try to use just the canned food you have on hand.
  • Monitor the filters in your HVAC system and air purifiers and change them when you start to notice a color change on the front of the filter, or when the output air starts to smell like smoke. 
  • Check your local air quality and receive updates from airnow.gov . Fire and smoke maps are available under the heading fire.airnow.gov.  You can also register for a free 14-day trial of Breezometer’s Air Quality app.  Below is a diagram to understand air quality index values (airnow.gov).
  • Use N95 respirators to evacuate to a safer place if necessary.  

Source: airnow.gov


  • Don’t open windows and doors until the air quality index is less than 100.  When that happens, you can open windows fully to get more fresh air ventilation. 
  • Set up fans near doors and windows to “push” smoke odor and soot outside.

To remove smoke odor that infiltrated from outside, or if you had a fire in your home:

  • Run air purifier(s) continuously with charcoal filters. 
  • Sprinkle baking soda over carpets and rugs and leave it overnight.  Then using a vacuum with HEPA filter, vacuum out the carpets.  
  • Remove drapes, towels, and any hanging fabric exposed to smoke, and either launder it in your washing machine or send it for professional cleaning.  When washing it yourself, you can add a cup of distilled white vinegar to your regular laundry detergent to remove smoke.  Don’t machine dry the item until the odor has been removed; it may need an additional washing cycle.
  • Wipe down all hard surfaces, including walls, ceilings, floors and windows with TotalClean or a 1:1 mixture of warm water and white vinegar (TotalClean is more gentle than vinegar and can be used on stone, wood, etc.)  Dispose of rags or wash them out with mild detergent and water as you go.  

To clean fabric-upholstered items:

  • Try to remove any cushion covers that are washable.  
  • Clean bare foam cushions by using “air replacement”:  Place the cushion into a large vacuum-seal bag and sprinkle baking soda over it.  Seal the bag and use your HEPA vacuum to remove the air from inside the cushion.  Let the air back into the bag to re-inflate the cushion.   Repeat several times if necessary. 
  • Sprinkle baking soda over the piece and let it set overnight before vacuuming it off.
  • You can also move the piece outside to air it out in the sun.  
  • It’s difficult to remove smoke that’s settled into furniture, however, if it does not dissipate following using an ozone generator, you can contact a restoration company for their services if it’s a valuable piece to you.

Try an Ozone Generator to remove smoke odors:

  • Ozone generators should only be used once all surfaces that can be cleaned are thoroughly cleaned (walls, floors and ceilings too!).  
  • Ozone is not as effective in areas of high humidity, so running the air conditioner or a dehumidifier in the space to get the humidity down (60% or less) is advisable.  Central air conditioning and any exhaust fans must be shut down when using the ozone generator, though, because you’ll want the ozone to stay in the space. 
  • Use fan(s) within the space to circulate the ozone.
  • Ozone generators cannot be used in the presence of people, pets or plants, but once these are removed, they can be quite effective in removing smoke.  Follow all instructions to seal up the space and allow it to work for the full time advised before ventilating.  Contact HypoAir regarding rental of our ozone generators, or local restoration companies may rent ozone generators.    

For large areas with open walls and ceilings such as basements, garages or gutted homes, consider having them soda blasted by professionals to remove soot and smoke odor from the structure in hard-to-reach places.  Baking soda’s legendary cleaning and odor-absorption qualities can produce amazing results when combined with commercial equipment and a skilled contractor.


  • Spray deodorizers or fresheners to “cover up” the smell of smoke, because they do nothing to remove the contaminants, and many have toxic ingredients in them.
  • Attempt to live in spaces with heavy smoke damage until they are cleaned.  “Third-hand smoke” is the term used for the way carbon and chemicals in the smoke react to the materials in your home, and it can make you very ill.
  • Neglect flood remediation if the smoke damage was part of a fire in your home and fire response crews extinguished it using water.  Building materials must be removed or dried thoroughly within 48 hours in order to prevent mold growth. 

Photo by Daniel Tausis on Unsplash

Micro- and Nanoplastics are everywhere

Micro- and Nanoplastics are everywhere

Children especially are moved with compassion for animals.  I remember learning as a child that non-biodegradable plastic often ends up in the ocean, and sea animals like birds and fish can get entangled in plastics like 6-pack rings, so I started to cut apart the rings before throwing them away so that the animals wouldn’t strangle.  Later I learned that some plastic bags were being manufactured as “biodegradable”; this was some relief to my mind.  However, the newest question is, into what are they degrading?   It turns out that plastics are coming back to us in invisible ways when they break down into microplastics and nanoplastics.

Microplastics, artificial polymer particles with size less than or equal to 5 mm, were initially reported in 2004 (2022 study: Nanoplastics and Human Health: Hazard Identification and Biointerface).  They are produced from disintegration of plastic products, from the ubiquitous plastic shopping bags to a child’s toy stroller to an empty jug of laundry detergent. Small millimeter-sized pieces of plastic seem like they would produce a lot of plastic “sand” that could be filtered out of water or even pass through our digestion system unchanged.  Yet microplastics are not the end product; nanoplastics are.  Nanoplastics are particles with a size ranging between 1 nm and 1 μm, which cannot be seen by the human eye.  

Nanoplastics come from a lot of different sources and some surprising ones.  We’ve written about different harmful nanoparticles that can be emitted into the air and water: from ceramic coated cooking pans, 3D printers, dust particles, from combustion engines, graphene, household cleaning products, and microfibers that get released in your washing machine and dryer (some of which are actually nanoplastics).  Here’s a new one to us: huge amounts of nanoplastics are released by car and truck tires every year by the simple acts of driving and braking.  

According to National Geographic, “Tires are actually among the most common plastic polluters on earth. A 2017 study by Pieter Jan Kole at The Open University of The Netherlands, published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, estimated that tires account for as much as 10 percent of overall microplastic waste in the world’s oceans. A 2017 report by the International Union for Conservation of Nature put that number at 28 percent.”

“Today tires consist of about 19 percent natural rubber and 24 percent synthetic rubber, which is a plastic polymer.”  Considering that each (car) tire will lose about 1.5-2 lbs of weight over its lifetime, which is the wear of rubber and plastics from it, millions of tires on our roads add up to tons of micro- and nanoplastics.  

Nanoplastics are dangerous to the environment and to us.  The following diagram shows the many ways our bodies are exposed to them:

(Source: 2022 study: Nanoplastics and Human Health: Hazard Identification and Biointerface)

Oral ingestion has been the most studied route, and as we understand how nanoplastics affect our food sources (fish and meats, plants, water, etc.), we can understand how they build up in our own bodies.  There are surprising methods of ingestion, though–namely in the packaging of foods that are not expected to release plastics.  For instance, it was discovered in 2019 that steeping tea in plastic bags releases billions of micro- and nanoparticles into the tea. (study)  Even “healthy” foods like apples and pears have been found to have 100,000-200,000 plastic particles per gram, which are thought to be taken up through contaminated water and the plant’s root system. (greenpeace.org)

Other routes of ingestion are gaining attention, however.  Inhalation is acutely dangerous, because inhaled nanoparticles are able to deposit deep in the lungs where they induce oxidative stress and inflammation; they also accumulate at sites of vascular disease. (2017 study).  The lung’s ample surface area enables particles to quickly accumulate to large concentrations in the lung and lung-associated tissues. (physicstoday.org)  Dermal exposure can occur when taking a shower or using personal care products like soaps, lotions and deodorants.  

Once inside the body, nanoplastics can cross the intestinal barrier, the blood-air barrier (in the lungs), blood-brain barrier and the placental barrier.  They even enter cells, as described in a 2022 study.  Cultured human liver and lung cells were treated with different amounts of 80 nm-wide plastic particles. After two days, electron microscopy images showed that nanoplastics had entered both types of cells without killing them.  Further study of the cells revealed that the microplastics affected the metabolic processes of the cells, even causing some mitochondrial pathways to be dysfunctional (these determine the aging and death of cells).  So, even though the nanoplastics did not kill the cells, they could have adverse affects on the organ as a whole.  This may be because plastics are made with hydrocarbons (fossil fuels including oil and natural gas) and many different types of chemicals.  Some of these chemicals are already known as hazardous, like bisphenols, such as bisphenol A (BPA), and phthalates, which can flow or leach into the foods touched by plastic, especially when that plastic is warmed. (consumerreports.org)

In shrimp, nanoplastics become stuck in their gills and ball up in their guts (National Geographic).  In fish, nanoplastics induced brain damage and behavioral disorders (2017 study).  Across the board, free nanoplastics in the air, soil, water and in our foods are not good.

How much microplastics are we ingesting every year?  Here are some sources:

  • With salt: Based on international research, it is possible that humans may be consuming around 20,000 microplastic particles a year with an average of ten grams of daily salt intake. (greenpeace.org)

  • They can also enter the body when we drink from plastic bottles, with people who drink 1.5 to 2 litres of water a day from these bottles taking in 90,000 plastic particles per year. (euronews.com)

  • In total, the Medical University of Vienna published a study in the journal Exposure & Health which suggests that on average, five grams of plastic particles enter the human gastrointestinal tract per person, per week. (euronews.com)  This is equivalent to a heaped dinner plate of plastic per year.

Photo source: reuters.com

What are these plastics causing?

  • Ingested particles passing through the gastrointestinal tract lead to changes in the composition of the gut microbiome. These changes are linked to metabolic diseases like obesity, diabetes and chronic liver disease.  “The particles can trigger local inflammation and immune response, and nanoplastics in particular have been found to trigger chemical pathways involved in the formation of cancer,” reads the study. (euronews.com)

  • Large polystyrene particles - around the size of a cloud or fog droplet at 10 micrometers - can make their way into the placenta, according to scientists at Utrecht University.  Their effects on the fetus are unclear. (euronews.com)

What can we do today to avoid ingesting them?(euronews.com and consumerreports.org)

  • Microwave food in ceramic or glass dishes instead of plastic containers.

  • Avoid putting plastics in the dishwasher because of the high heat involved in cleaning.

  • Avoid storing foods in plastics–so you won’t be tempted to reheat or eat from them!  Weck is a brand highly recommended for its durability.  They also have glass lids with a rubber seal, which do not contain plastics. 

  • Vacuum regularly with a HEPA vacuum, because it can help to avoid inhaling dust with plastics.

  • Avoid plastic packaging when buying food.  The obvious are those such as “steam in bag” containers and styrofoam ramen noodle containers, but you can also ask your butcher to wrap meat in wax paper instead of plastic, and you can bring reusable cloth bags instead of plastic ones to bring home groceries.

  • Try to eat seafood that does not contain the “guts” or gills of the animal, because this is where microplastics originate.  Mussels, oysters, and other filter-feeding animals, may be more likely to carry microplastics to your dinner plate. (forbes.com)  In the same way, avoid eating the digestive parts of land animals such as chicken gizzards, pork intestines, etc., even though these are considered delicacies in some parts of the world! (theconversation.com)

  • Drink filtered tap water instead of bottled water, as filtered water almost halves the ingested particles compared to bottled water.  Granulated Activated Carbon (GAC) will remove some microplastics, but nanofiltration (with a pore size of 0.001 micrometers) and reverse osmosis are the best methods to remove nanoplastics from water. This review shows which water pitcher filters are best at removing microplastics.

  • Try to avoid living near congested roadways and highways, which throw a lot of nanoplastics from tires into the air. 

  • Clothing releases a lot of synthetic particles during washing. A microfiber-catching filter in your laundry machine could keep microplastics from washing out. More importantly, try to avoid synthetic fibers altogether and instead opt for natural materials like cotton, wool, silk, and hemp.

  • Don’t use or buy cosmetics with microbeads. Cosmetics companies were allowed to add microbeads until 2015, but some still contain them.  A “Beat the microbead” app is available to show you if your cosmetics contain them!

In the future, mussels may play a large part in filtering the sea water that contains microplastics.  According to a study by the UK’s Plymouth Marine Laboratory, one square meter of mussel bed can filter an enormous 150,000 liters of water per day.  They do it without harming themselves, and expel the plastics in larger particles of feces, which can be more easily filtered from the water. (euronews.com)

It’s sad what the “convenience” of plastics has turned into: a poison to us and to our environment.  With some extra effort now, though, we can minimize the amount of plastics we ingest and put back into the environment, especially the bits we can’t even see.  

Photo by John Cameron on Unsplash