In our home, the first thing we do when we purchase a new electrical device is to take EMF readings to make sure they are within tolerable levels. The four things we test for are electric fields, magnetic fields, radio frequencies and dirty electricity. Many people are familiar with or at least have heard of electric and magnetic fields that are produced when devices use and transmit electricity. Many also recognize radio frequencies which are emitted by wireless devices such as cell phones, smart meters, and cell and other communication towers. However, few know of dirty power, also known as dirty electricity. What then is dirty power?
Introducing AC Current
The electricity in the United States alternates or changes direction at 60 Hz, or 60 cycles per second. This type of electricity is known as alternating current, or AC, and is the type of power that powers the outlets in your home. Most countries are running on either 50 Hz or 60 Hz AC current. 50 Hz or 60 Hz is at the low end of the electromagnetic spectrum and is considered extremely low frequency (ELF), and has a long wavelength. A normal, clean AC current wave can be represented by a smooth sine wave that goes up and down 50 or 60 times a second.
Enter Modern Electronics
Modern electronic devices often must modify the incoming power, either to save energy or because they require DC or an otherwise altered form of the electricity. Dimmer switches, fluorescent bulbs, computer power supplies and other modern devices tend to interrupt that clean sine wave. In these types of devices, a mechanism switches the current on and off hundreds to tens of thousands of times per second or even more. The rapid back and forth switching and manipulation of the current introduces transients and harmonics into your circuit and entire electrical system. These transients and harmonics are very high-frequency voltage spikes, pulses and distortions that interrupt and manipulate the normal electrical AC sine wave into a wildly fluctuating current. Basically, these modern devices create a lot of noise in the power.
Why Is This Bad?
When AC power has a clean 60 Hz sine wave, it does not emit EMF in the higher frequency bands such as radio frequencies. This is because the frequency is low. But when the normal sine wave is polluted or dirtied by transients and harmonics, you now have a jagged, irregular and altered wave pattern. Instead of a regular 50 or 60 Hz current, your electricity is now a wildly fluctuating current with high-frequency voltage spikes and irregular high-frequency patterns riding on all of the wires in your home. This high frequency noise then causes the wires to radiate high-frequency electromagnetic and radio frequency fields.
This means that one offending electronic device can create high-frequency electromagnetic and radio frequency fields that radiate from the wiring in your walls. And it doesn’t stop there.
The wiring and circuit in one room is connected to the entire electrical system in your home. Because of this, the electricity in your entire home may be polluted causing high-frequency EMF to radiate from the wiring in all of the walls in every room of your house. Sounds bad, right? Well it gets worse.
Your home is connected to the electrical utility service through the electrical grid. Your home has wires that connect you and all of your neighbors’ homes to this grid. This means that the dirty power from that one offending device you plugged in will travel along your wiring back to the grid and can affect other homes and buildings. Your one little electronic device can introduce dirty power into your neighbors’ homes. And even if you decide to throw away all of your dirty electricity producing devices, you will still be affected by your neighbors. Your neighbors’ electrical devices can still dirty your home’s electricity and cause high-frequency EMF to radiate from your walls.
Recent evidence suggests that dirty electricity may be carcinogenic and harmful to health. In a 2008 report, Milham and Morgan analyzed the effects of high amounts of dirty electricity in a school. They found that exposure to dirty electricity increased the risk that a teacher would developer cancer by 64%, and “a single year of employment at this school increased a teacher’s cancer risk by 21%.” 1
What Can You Do?
To avoid exposure, you may wish to replace your fluorescent bulbs and dimmers. Test your electrical devices for dirty power. Common offending devices include dimmers, computers, energy saving devices and power bricks for various electrical devices. You may also want to install dirty electricity filters to help clean up the circuits in your home. To learn more about mitigating dirty electricity, visit the Mitigation section of our site.
Spread the Word
You can tell others of the dangers of dirty power using our “Beware of Dirty Power” banner, shown below.
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Sources and References
- A new electromagnetic exposure metric: High frequency voltage transients associated with increased cancer incidence in teachers in a california school – Milham and Morgan, American Journal of Industrial Medicine, Volume 51, Issue 8, pages 579–586, August 2008 ↩