Did you know that, as well as your electronic gadgets, the electrical wiring in your home also emits radiation? The EMF from the power outlets in your wall, extension cords, radiant floor heating, and other ELF sources can significantly increase the EMF pollution in your home.
But these EMF emissions are unlike those from your gadgets and network sources. They’re lower in energy, but research studies say that they’re equally harmful.
In this post, we’ll discuss ELF-EMF from different sources and its impact on your health. Besides that, you’ll also learn what you can do to protect yourself and your loved ones from this exposure.
So, let’s begin.
What is EMF?
Before moving further and digging deeper into the EMF emissions from electrical sources, let’s take a moment to understand what EMF is in the first place.
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EMF, short for electromagnetic fields, is an umbrella term for invisible energies, often referred to as radiation. There are many types of EMFs operating on different frequencies, which are categorized in the electromagnetic spectrum. See the image below.
The electromagnetic spectrum hosts many types of EMFs ranging from those emitted by power lines and electrical outlets all the way up to dangerous radiations like X-rays and gamma rays.Learn more about EMF and the EM spectrum in my separate post “EMF in Simple Words.”
Extremely Low Frequency (ELF) Radiation
Extremely low frequency EMF, or ELF-EMF, sits on the lower end of the electromagnetic spectrum.
It’s divided into two sections: ELF electric and ELF magnetic.
It has significantly less energy than radio frequency or microwaves (the types of EMF radiation your wireless devices like cell phones and WiFi routers use). But just because it has less energy does not mean it has less power (EMF energy and power are two different things).
How Are You Exposed to ELF Radiation?
When we generate, transmit, distribute and use electricity, it exposes us to ELF radiation. Sources like household wiring, power lines, and even your electrical appliances like refrigerators, vacuum cleaners, TVs, computer monitors, and electric blankets emit ELF.
So, basically, if there’s anything electrical running around, you’re in ELF’s presence.
Have a look at some of the ELF sources.
As I already mentioned above, ELF is divided into two categories, ELF electric and ELF magnetic. And power lines are one of the strongest sources of electric ELF.
According to the European Union, “ELF electric fields tend to be strongest close to high voltage power lines (up to 5 kV/m and in a few cases more), and ELF magnetic fields are particularly strong near induction furnaces and welding machines (up to a few mT).”
Your household wiring plays a significant role in the level of ELF you’re exposed to in your home.
The actual amount of EMF radiation can vary widely depending on how your home is wired. Many electricians don’t think about EMF exposure when installing your wiring. So certain wiring patterns can lead to much higher levels of EMF.
The electrical wiring and power outlets in your home are yet another source of EMF that adds to the cumulative amount you’re exposed to daily.
Where there’s current flowing, there will be electric fields present. Because of this, your devices like your fridge, TV, lamps, vacuum cleaners, and even hair dryers are huge ELF sources.
Radiant Electrical Floor Heating
As I already mentioned, your outlets and electrical wiring are huge ELF sources. But what about something like radiant electric floor heating?
These are even bigger ELF sources because, instead of being in one place like power outlets, radiant electrical floor heating covers your entire floor. So, if you have radiant in-floor heating in your home and you walk around with socks or in bare feet, you can expect to come into close contact with a considerable amount of ELF radiation.
Experts say that some of these heating systems produce up to 100 mG (milligauss) of EM radiation. And just like with electric blankets, the radiation could penetrate several inches deep into the body.
How Strong is the ELF in Your Home?
Having electricity and electrical appliances is standard in the modern world. But how much ELF are you exposed to in your home exactly?
The answer is— it depends.
As the American Cancer Society notes:
“How much electromagnetic radiation you are exposed to depends on the strength of the electromagnetic field, your distance from the source of the field, and the length of time you are exposed. The highest exposure occurs when the person is very close to a source, putting out a strong field and stays there for a long period.”
And where might you stay for a long period? At your work desk, on the couch, in your bed… The latter is particularly important because we’ll likely spend 6-8 hours or more in bed each night. Also, if you really want to know how much ELF is coming from your outlets, there’s a way you can test it. Visit my “EMF & Product Testing” resources for more information.
Health Effects of ELF Radiation
In a time when our exposure to electromagnetic radiation is increasing at an alarming rate, the burden on the proverbial camel’s back is getting heavier—and ELF is yet another straw.
Exposure to ELF EMF radiation is linked to negative health outcomes, including:
In 2001 the International Agency for Research on Cancer concluded that prolonged exposure to power-line frequency ELF-EMF is a “possible” human carcinogen
A 2021 meta-analysis of 33 studies also concluded that “significant associations were observed between exposure to ELF-MFs and childhood leukemia. Furthermore, a possible dose-response effect was also observed.”
And a recent 2022 systematic review and meta-analysis published in the latest issue of Reviews on Environmental Health concluded that prolonged exposure to magnetic field electromagnetic fields sets up a stage for the development of childhood leukemia.
The researchers found that the presence of ELF higher than 0.4 microteslas (4 milligauss) “can increase the risk of developing leukemia in children, probably acute lymphoblastic leukemia. Prolonged exposure to electric appliances that generate magnetic fields higher than 0.4 µT like electric blankets is associated with a greater risk of childhood leukemia.”
Besides childhood leukemia, research studies have also found a robust link between prolonged ELF exposure and brain tumors.
A 2020 study published in The Journal of Environmental Research says there’s an increased risk of brain tumors in populations living near power lines.
These are just two of the many health effects associated with prolonged ELF exposure. Others include:
- Concentration difficulties
- Heart palpitation
What Can You Do?
So, now that you’re familiar with ELF-EMF and its impact on your health, I’m sure you’re wondering if there’s anything you can do. And the good news is that there are things you can do to protect yourself and your loved ones from these effects. Have a look.
Minimize Use & Maximize Distance
As we repeatedly say on the SYB blog, there are two main rules when it comes to EMF radiation and protecting yourself and others. And these rules are “Minimize Use & Maximize Distance.”
Minimizing use simply means to avoid using EMF sources when you don’t need them. In the case of ELF, you can turn off your lights and appliances when not in use.
All radiation types are bound by one rule— the power of EMF weakens with distance.
This is called the inverse square law in physics, and it says that “the intensity of an effect such as illumination or gravitational force changes in inverse proportion to the square of the distance from the source.”
To protect yourself from strong ELF exposure, simply move your body away from the ELF source. Here are some examples of how you can apply “Minimize Use & Maximize Distance” in real life.
Keep Your Furniture Away from Outlets
As I already mentioned, while all the electrical wiring in your home is a source of EMF, power outlets are often a more significant and concentrated source–especially when they have something plugged into them.
That’s why SYB Healthy Living Tip #59 is “Move Your Furniture Away From Outlets.”
By increasing the distance between your outlets and where you and your loved ones spend your time, you can make a significant reduction in your exposure.
Limit The Amount of Time You Are Running Your Extension Cords
If I had to bet on it, I’d say you have at least one—if not several—extension cords running through your home. Like everything that conducts electricity, extension cords (and their cousins, power strips) emit EMF radiation into your home. We can’t change that, but we can manage how we use these cords in our homes to reduce some risks.
Going back to the two rules of EMF protection I outlined above, it follows that you should limit the amount of time you are running your extension cords and shut them off when not in use.
You should also keep them far away from your body. This means placing them in areas you are not frequently sitting near, lying on, or walking across.
Extension Cords and Power Strips: There’s More You Can Do
When it comes to extension cords and power strips, it turns out there is more that you can do.
Here are several other tips to help you manage your extension cords:
- Keep your cords neat and tidy. It’s important not to loop them or run them over each other. If you loop your extension cords or have them run over each other, it can cause an increase in EMF emissions.
- Get rid of any cords that have obvious wear and tear or are falling apart. This risks higher EMF emissions and, more importantly, is a significant fire hazard. Check your cords every few months to ensure they are still safe and working properly.
- When you run your cords, run them flat. Do not criss-cross them, bunch them up or pile them up on top of each other. Doing anything other than running your cords flat could increase EMF exposure.
And that’s why SYB Healthy Living Tip #83 is “Manage Your Extension Cords.”
Choose Your Radiant Floor Heating Wisely
It’s important to note that all electrical heaters produce EMF radiation. But unlike other forms of electrical heaters (which tend to be localized in one area of your home), radiant in-floor electrical heating tends to be located throughout your home.
This means that the source of EMF is not localized–the EMF floods your entire home.
If you do choose to install radiant heating, we recommend that you do a little research and go with one that says it releases less EMF radiation.
Also, consider limiting the amount of time you use that floor. For example, you can consider turning on the heat before you get home and then turning it off when you arrive. This will limit the direct contact you have with it.
A more ideal way to go is to look into installing a fireplace or wood-burning stove for added heat. Gas heaters may also be better than exposing yourself to harmful radiation. Even a different type of electrical heater will be safer, as you can easily maximize the distance between your body and the source of the EMF emissions.
Purchase EMF Shielding Products
Another option you can consider to reduce EMF radiation in your home is to purchase shielded extension cords for your home. Shielded cords protect you from being exposed to EMF radiation from the power that is conducted through your extension cords.
ELF-EMF is a huge problem, and so is RF from your devices like cell phones, tablets, laptops, and WiFi routers.
But even if you manage to reduce these EMF risks, the problem with modern technology isn’t solved completely. Experts say that prolonged tech use can harm you physically, mentally, psychologically, and emotionally.
But since technology is such an important part of our lives, we can’t just quit using it. So, the best option here is to try and build a healthier relationship with technology.
How do you do that?“The Healthier Tech Podcast” by SYB has a huge panel of experts sharing tips on making your tech use a safer, healthier experience. We’re available on all major platforms, so give it a listen.