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Contact Current Research Timeline: What Do Studies Say About Touch Current?

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The contact current research timeline shows us not only that modern science recognizes the harmful effects of touch current, but also that we’ve known this for a long time now.

There have been many research studies on the biological effects of contact current over the years. And it turns out that any amount of electric current passing through your body is harmful—even if it’s in amounts that don’t produce any sensation.

This post will focus on looking at those research studies and understanding the dangers of contact current. And besides that, you’ll also learn what you can do to reduce the contact current risk in your home. So, let’s begin.

What is Contact Current?

Contact current or touch current is the concept of a human being touching an electrified surface and the current flowing through their body to reach the source.

contact current research timeline
Touch Current

When we talk about contact current, we’re usually referring to current energy at imperceptible levels. You can’t feel it or even know the surface is electrified unless you test it with an appropriate meter.

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Sometimes, if the current is strong enough, you may feel a little tingling sensation. And in cases where it’s super strong, contact current can cause severe injuries, and it can even be fatal.

That level of contact current only occurs if there’s a serious problem in your home’s electrical system. If that’s the case for you, you’ll need to get a certified electrician to fix it as soon as possible.

On the other hand, the imperceptible levels of contact current can occur even if there aren’t any problems in your home’s electrical system. And dealing with this situation requires additional effort. More on that later.

A Quick Overview of How Current Works

Before moving further and looking at the research on contact current and its biological effects, you need to be familiar with how current works. Only then can you fully understand why contact current is even a problem in the first place.

The nature of current is that it comes from a source and needs to return to the same source. This is known as completing a circuit.

contact current research timeline closed circuit

Here’s one real-life example of this. Imagine flipping a light switch. Here are some things that happen immediately after the switch hits the ‘on’ position.

  • The current starts coming from your breaker panel through a wire
  • The incoming current releases energy into the light bulb, which lights it up
  • And the current again returns to the breaker panel, where it came from, using the neutral wire

And the light bulb doesn’t turn off because this is a continuous process until, of course, you flip the light switch to the ‘off’ position. Then the circuit is no longer closed, and the electricity won’t flow to your bulb anymore.

So, because current needs to go back to the source, it takes any and all available paths. And when you touch an electrified surface, you become part of that circuit, and the current will flow through your body.

This is called contact current— because you’re literally making contact with the current when it’s on a path back to its source, making yourself part of the circuit.

Learn more about contact in the post, “Contact Current: Is Touch Current Something You Should Be Worried About? And Why?”

Here are some ways you get exposed to imperceptible levels of contact current in your home.

Ways You Get Exposed to Contact Current

When current goes back to your breaker panel, it sends the current to the power grid, which then transfers it back to its original source. But, despite the fact that the demand for electricity is massive today, utility companies haven’t exactly upgraded our electrical infrastructure to support the demand, so they dump the current into the ground. This creates ground current pollution.

I have written a separate in-depth post about ground current pollution. So, you can give it a read.

Most of the current dumped on the ground find its way back to the source. But some of it goes to the [supposed] non-current carrying conductors in your home, like the equipment grounding conductors, metal water fittings, and water and gas pipes.

When ground current moves through these channels, it can create a potential for contact current.

Besides that, NEC violations, faulty appliances, and things like grounding mats and sheets can also be a source of your contact current exposure. And that’s not exactly good for your health.  

Contact Current is Harmful

Of course, electrocution is always a significant threat when it comes to being in direct contact with a massive amount of current. But as I already mentioned, currents that are imperceptible are also unsafe.

Experts say that prolonged exposure to contact current can cause you to develop severe health effects, including chronic diseases like leukemia.

Contact Current Research Timeline

We have plenty of research studies demonstrating a tangible link between contact current and health problems like childhood leukemia. Let’s have a look at the contact current research timeline and see what we’ve found so far.

1998: When we Found 1 mV/m

In 1992, the US Congress funded the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) to work on a study to find out if there’s any link between prolonged contact current exposure and diseases like childhood leukemia.

After a lengthy study consisting of many experiments, in 1998, they found a very important number— 1 mV/m.

They concluded that exposures creating an internal electric field at strengths greater than approximately 1 mV/m is associated with cancer (e.g., cell proliferation, disruption of signal transduction pathways, and inhibition of differentiation).

They said, “It has been generally believed that the energy associated with ELF-EMF is not sufficient to cause direct damage to DNA. However, it has been postulated that indirect effects might be possible by ELF-EMF altering processes within cells that could subsequently lead to changes in DNA structure.”

2000: The Possible Role of Contact Current in Cancer Risk

A 2000 research study by EPRI (Electric Power Research Institute) said that “residential electrical wiring safety practices in the US result in the possibility of a small voltage (up to a few tenths of a volt) on appliance surfaces with respect to water pipes or other grounded surfaces.”

Not all electrical fixings in US homes are set up precisely according to the National Electric Code. And though, in most cases, this doesn’t cause immediate problems, it can expose you to imperceptible levels of contact current.

National Electrical Code Handbook

This research study consisted of a computer model based on a 40-house (single-unit, detached dwelling) neighborhood with full electrical service. These houses were to represent the US grounding practices.

The researchers found that in most US homes, people are exposed to contact current of more than 1 mV/m— the contact current safety standard according to the NIEHS.

They concluded the study by saying that the dose estimate of US residents’ contact current exposure is sufficient to potentially initiate problems like childhood leukemia.

2001: Contact Current-Induced Electric Fields in the Human Body

Researchers from the University of Victoria, Canada, performed a study in 2001 to deeper understand the potential effects of contact current on the human body.

Their primary goal was to understand how prolonged exposure to contact current affects the bone marrow.

For this study, they used an anatomically correct adult model and a proportionally downsized child model. Upon testing, they found that as low as 1–10 μA of current into the hand is sufficient to produce electric fields in the bone marrow of both adults and children that exceed the 1 mV/m benchmark.

The presence of electric fields in the bone marrow can heighten the bone marrow mesenchymal stem cells (BSMCs).

BSMCs are multipotent stem cells found in the bone marrow that are important for making and repairing skeletal tissues, such as cartilage, bone, and fat found in the bone marrow.

And a fluctuation in their functioning can result in several problems.

Besides that, the capacities of osteogenic and chondrogenic differentiation can enhance while adipogenic differentiation weakens.

These stem cells are responsible for repairing, restoring, replacing, and regenerating the important cells in your blood, brain, bones, and other organs. And the things these cells do are complex and highly regulated. Any disturbance in their functioning isn’t good for human health.

2002: Contact Current in Homes & Childhood Leukemia

Building on previous research studies, EPRI again performed a study in 2002. Their experiment wasn’t based on computer simulations this time. Instead, they measured magnetic fields and two sources of contact current in 36 homes in Pittsfield, MA.

These sources were:

  • The voltage due to current in the grounding wire, which extends from the service panel neutral to the water service line
  • The voltage between the water pipe and the earth, attributable to ground currents in the water system and magnetic induction from nearby power lines.

They concluded the study by saying that prolonged contact current exposure from the water line in the house and children bathing on the endpoint with contact current could explain the association between high residential magnetic fields and childhood leukemia.

2004: The Contact Current Meter (CCM)

2004 marked the year when a portable meter was developed that was capable of measuring low-frequency currents that flow in the human body. These meters are known as CCM or contact current meters. And these meters utilize the human subject’s body impedance as the sensing element.

contact current meter

These meters allowed scientists to measure the current flow in most of the body with high sensitivity.

CCMs can be used in many work and domestic environments. The only drawback is that since these meters aren’t waterproof, you couldn’t use them in wet environments, like bathtubs, for example.  

And this is important because children may be exposed to potential differences between water fixtures and the earth, and we can’t test that because of these restrictions.

Also, you can’t use CCMs in high voltage environments due to concerns with workmen wearing electrical conductors, for example, the cable assembly.

2005: EPRI’s Summary

After thorough research on the potential link between contact current and childhood leukemia, EPRI published a summary in 2005, and here’s what it said.

“Research conducted over the past 5 years has addressed the hypothesis that the reported association between residential magnetic fields and childhood leukemia may be explained by exposure to contact current.”

They further mentioned that the way electrical wiring systems are set up in US homes, with multi-grounded neutrals, can electrify water fixtures of a bathtub, sink, or shower and the drain. Anything made of conductive material can carry this current. And when a human being touches these surfaces, they can be exposed to contact current.

Dosimetry modeling indicated that modest and realistically anticipated currents can produce electric fields in the bone marrow.

Dosimetry is a process of measuring radiation exposure from x-rays, gamma rays, or other types of radiation used to treat or detect diseases like cancer.

And as I already mentioned above, the presence of electric fields in the bone marrow can result in various problems.

The Research Didn’t Stop

After EPRI published its research summary, the studies didn’t stop. Many researchers continued to dig into the matter. And today, we have concrete evidence that prolonged exposure to contact current can result in problems like childhood leukemia, bone marrow issues, complexity in stem cells’ healing capabilities, and more.

Also, it looks like the presence of contact current is common in most US households. So, what can you do?

Can You Stop Your Exposure to Contact Current?

Reducing your exposure to contact current is possible. You just have to identify and fix what is electrifying a certain surface. To help you with this, you can hire a certified electrician or a certified building biologist who can do the diagnostics and take necessary actions.

But sometimes, the source isn’t in your control. So, even if your electrical system is set up according to the National Electrical Code, there will still be contact current present in your home. And it can get to you through products like grounding mats and sheets.

To help you with that, we, in collaboration with Andrew Mcafee, designed the NCB.

Use The NCB With Your Grounding Products

The NCB or Nuisance Current Blocker is a ground-breaking, patent-pending invention by Andrew McAfee, designed to make your grounding sessions a safer, healthier experience.

Adding the NCB to your grounding sessions prevents contact current, dirty electricity, and electric field EMF from reaching your body.

And using the NCB is extremely easy. Just plug the NCB into the wall, and then plug your grounding product into the NCB. That’s it!

NCB from SYB contact current research timeline

You now have protection over all these hazards, and you’re ready to experience the true benefits of grounding your body.

And – VITALLY– the NCB maintains an effective “ground-fault path” to trip a breaker. You may not know what that means, but it’s really important. Because if, for some horrible reason, an electrical cord is cut or something else goes wrong, it can electrify your grounding mat, causing you to experience an electric shock.

When you purchase the NCB, you also get a complimentary 15-minute consulting session with its inventor, Andrew McAfee. (A $99 value.)

Check out the NCB from SYB on our website.

Arm Your Home with the NCB Pro

If you live outside the US and Canada, you can consider getting the NCB Pro.

It does everything the NCB does, as well as addresses local or in-home current sources from appliances. So, in simple words, it offers powerful protection for the whole grounding system in your home.

Just note that the NCB Pro requires professional installation. This is because, unlike the NCB, which plugs into your wall outlet, the NCB Pro attaches to the grounding conductor.

NCB Pro from SYB

You can get a certified electrician or a certified building biologist to set this up for you.

Also, with each purchase of the NCB Pro, you get a complimentary 30-minute consulting session with its inventor, Andrew McAfee. (A $198 value. You’ll receive the booking details via email 15 minutes after your purchase.)

So, if the expert you hired isn’t familiar with the NCB Pro, you can have Andrew guide them.

And just like the NCB, the NCB Pro also maintains an effective “ground-fault path” to protect you from free-flowing electricity on your grounding product.

Check out the NCB Pro on the SYB website.

Final Thoughts

Contact current is harmful. And so are dirty electricity and magnetic fields. Over time, they can cause you to develop serious health problems. And you can avoid all that by simply taking precautions like:

  • Ensuring the electrical system in your home is up to the National Electrical Code
  • Getting in touch with a professional to ensure these problems won’t arise in the future
  • And getting the NCB or the NCB Pro to eliminate hazards that aren’t in your control

It goes without saying that contact current, dirty electricity, and magnetic fields aren’t the only hazards that stem from modern technology. The EMFs we face daily also pose a significant risk to your health and wellbeing.

Visit the SYB Blog to learn more about EMF’s hazards and what you can do to ensure that you can live a safer, healthier life alongside technology.  

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About the Author

R Blank is the CEO of Shield Your Body, which he founded in 2012. With hundreds of thousands of customers in over 30 countries, and having been interviewed on platforms including Dr. Phil, ABC news television and ElectricSense, R is an internationally followed expert on issues of EMF, health and safety. He also hosts “The Healthier Tech Podcast”, available Apple, Spotify and all major podcasting platforms. In the past, he served on the faculty at the University of Southern California Viterbi School of Engineering as well as the University of California, Santa Cruz. Previously, R ran a software engineering firm in Los Angeles, producing enterprise-level solutions for blue chip clients including Medtronic, Apple, NBC, Toyota, Disney, Microsoft, the NFL, Ford, IKEA and Mattel. He has spoken at conferences around the world, including in the US, Canada, New Zealand and the Netherlands, and he is the co-author, along with his father Dr. Martin Blank, of ‘Overpowered‘ from Seven Stories Press about the science of health effects of EMF radiation. He has an MBA from the UCLA Anderson School of Management and received his bachelor’s degree, with honors, from Columbia University. He has also studied at Cambridge University in the UK; the University of Salamanca in Spain; and the Institute of Foreign Languages in Nizhny Novgorod, Russia. Read more about R and SYB or connect with R on LinkedIn.

Have a Question?

I take pride in designing great, effective products, based on real, measurable science – AND taking the time to ensure that each and every one of you has the information you need to understand EMF and make informed decisions.

So if you have a question, just email me and ask.

R Blank

R Blank