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Had an interesting call from a client that has questions about EMF. Seems that the buyer of his home wants to have an EMF test due to the high tension lines (correct term?) close to his home. While I have heard of this type of testing I've never went out of my way to become better educated regarding the subject. In fact I live 500' or so away from them and besides the noise it creates on some of the HF bands they never really cross my mind.

Is there any formal education that one can go through to become "certified" (if there is such a thing)?

Any solid documentation out there regarding health issues or lack thereof?

Any associations, like ASHI, that EMF testers can belong to?

Thanks.

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It's voodoo,

People are worried about EMF based on a discredited study of a single town in England (Wales I think) where there was an unusually high number of kids with leukemia or something like that. It's my understanding that no agency (EPA,CDC, AAS, European health agency) has been able to duplicate the tests.

ONE TEAM - ONE FIGHT!!!

Mike

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Had an interesting call from a client that has questions about EMF. Seems that the buyer of his home wants to have an EMF test due to the high tension lines (correct term?) close to his home. While I have heard of this type of testing I've never went out of my way to become better educated regarding the subject. In fact I live 500' or so away from them and besides the noise it creates on some of the HF bands they never really cross my mind.

Is there any formal education that one can go through to become "certified" (if there is such a thing)?

Any solid documentation out there regarding health issues or lack thereof?

Any associations, like ASHI, that EMF testers can belong to?

Thanks.

More to the point, if someone does the test, what are the acceptable and unacceptable levels of EMFs?

- Jim Katen, Oregon

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It's voodoo,

People are worried about EMF based on a discredited study of a single town in England (Wales I think) where there was an unusually high number of kids with leukemia or something like that. It's my understanding that no agency (EPA,CDC, AAS, European health agency) has been able to duplicate the tests.

ONE TEAM - ONE FIGHT!!!

Mike

I think that was part of the plot to an old Eddie Murphy movie? The Distinguished Gentleman...

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When I was four my brother dropped a brick on my head while we played illegally at a house under construction. At the ER they installed something very much like Richard's headgear before they stitched me up, so that ever since I never needed a radio to be able to pick up any station I wanted to.

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I don't want to break the mood, but I had a client a few months ago who was concerned about buying a house that was near transmission lines. Cancer was apparently rampant in her family and she didn't want to move into a house that would place her in a higher risk category.

It's sort of like the recent mold discussion--if someone is reasonable and concerned, then I think it's incumbent upon me to do what I can for them. I referred the buyer to an IAQ firm I trust, the owner of which told me he rents a Gauss meter (something I'd never heard of till then) and performs a test. Like Jim K. said though, the IAQ guy said there was no real standard by which to determine whether an EMF should be considered a hazard or not.

Following the referral, I never heard back from the buyer, and I don't know if it was because of the EMF issue or something else.

Junk science? Maybe. Probably. But if I thought cancer was lurking in the darkness, waiting for an opportune moment to put a headlock on me, I'd probably avoid transmission lines, too.

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We sit inside of a building with an electromagnetic field surrounding us. We sit in cars with an electromagnetic field surrounding us. We walk through commercial buildings surrounded by electromagnetic fields. Yeah, I guess there's a lot of reason to be worried about powerline radiation when we're spent our entire lives surrounded by it.

ONE TEAM - ONE FIGHT!!!

Mike

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We sit inside of a building with an electromagnetic field surrounding us. We sit in cars with an electromagnetic field surrounding us. We walk through commercial buildings surrounded by electromagnetic fields. Yeah, I guess there's a lot of reason to be worried about powerline radiation when we're spent our entire lives surrounded by it.

ONE TEAM - ONE FIGHT!!!

Mike

Indeed . . . but you utterly miss the point, Mike.

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While I continue to completely disregard all warnings about EMF, cell phone signals next to my noggin, and related electro-magnetic pollution of our environment, there's a substantial body of work that indicates it's not good for us.

To come out and state this stuff is bad for us means, in short, the end of the entire telecommunications industry, modern appliances, and pretty much everything related to what we consider a "modern life".

So, there's going to be a never ending howl from industry that ideas such as EMF being dangerous are completely nuts, the domain of wackos.

The simple solution is to distance oneself from the source of generation. A cell phone moved 3' from one's head effectively removes all risk. Don't stand with your head against the microwave when warming up your coffee. Don't buy a house directly under high tension power lines.

You know.....that sort of thing.

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We sit inside of a building with an electromagnetic field surrounding us. We sit in cars with an electromagnetic field surrounding us. We walk through commercial buildings surrounded by electromagnetic fields. Yeah, I guess there's a lot of reason to be worried about powerline radiation when we're spent our entire lives surrounded by it.

All true. However the EMFs from power lines can be several orders of magnitude greater than those from the other sources you mentioned.

I use an aluminum ski pole to extend my reach when I do my exterior inspections. When I inspect houses that are very close to those power lines, I can feel the ski pole vibrating in my hand. In one case, I was barely able to hold the thing -- it felt as if someone were holding a pad sander to the other end of the thing, it was vibrating so strongly. That doesn't happen near cell phones, clock radios, or electric blankets.

I also find the NRC report more disturbing than reassuring. At its heart, this study says, "An association between residential wiring configurations (called wire codes, defined below) and childhood leukemia persists in multiple studies, although the causative factor responsible for that statistical association has not been identified." In other words, no one's arguing that there seems to be a correlation there; they just don't have a cause, or mechanism, to explain it.

I just finished reading "The Ghost Map." It's an account of the 1854 cholera epidemic in London. The scientific community of the time believed that Cholera was the result of breathing unhealthy air (of which there was plenty in London at the time). One doctor, however, believed that it was spread by ingesting water from a certain pump. He had no idea how this water could transmit the disease, germ theory was still decades away, but his careful analysis of the correlation between the sickness and the water formed the basis of his opinion. It was a bold opinion because the water from this particular pump was cleaner looking and better tasting than the water from all of the surrounding pumps. In fact, Dr. John Snow died many years later without having any idea of *why* the water transmitted Cholera. The story is a great lesson for epidemiologists everywhere. (I don't particularly recommend the book, however. I find the writing style to be repetitious and kind of annoying.)

In any case, I'm not writing off the possibility of health effects from power lines.

- Jim Katen, Oregon

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We sit inside of a building with an electromagnetic field surrounding us. We sit in cars with an electromagnetic field surrounding us. We walk through commercial buildings surrounded by electromagnetic fields. Yeah, I guess there's a lot of reason to be worried about powerline radiation when we're spent our entire lives surrounded by it.

ONE TEAM - ONE FIGHT!!!

Mike

Indeed . . . but you utterly miss the point, Mike.

No, I don't think I missed it at all; but I think you missed mine.

It's pointless to indulge a client's (or one's own) fears when there is no proven body of science to justify the fear and absolutely no way that you can ever completely remove the source of the fear.

For example, I'm more afraid of rats than I am of death. I know that I can't change the fact that rats are in some crawlspaces and attics. I have a choice; accept it as a fact and continue to do what I do, or get out of the business, because there's absolutely no way that I can ever change the fact that there are going to be rats in some attics and crawlspaces.

People with fears of electro-magnetic fields have even less of a choice; because about the only way they'll ever be able to avoid them is to get on a non-motorized sailboat and find an island somewhere with absolutely no electricity or radio towers, etc.. and completely withdraw from society. Oh, well, I suppose they could commit suicide, but that would be a little weird considering their fear of cancer has that whole accelerated death thing that goes along with it that they are hoping to avoid by avoiding EMF. Even then, out on an island and isolated from everything else, they'll still be surrounded by the earth's electro-magnetic field.

Maybe it's just me, but I think that junk science should get very short shrift in this business. Convince me that it's something to worry about that we can change and I'll get behind any effort to educate folks about it and ensure they avoid it. Until then, I don't have time to waste explaining to folks how they shouldn't be afraid of the bogeyman.

ONE TEAM - ONE FIGHT!!!

Mike

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The problem with EMF's is there isn't consensus on what is a problem level of exposure. It's not junk science, it's almost common sense. Electromagnetic field has bad effects on lots of test animals. How much it too much? No one can say with certainty.

I've got a long time customer, brilliant pediatric transplant surgeon, Harvard Medical, Rhodes, published in multiple times in Lancet, etc., etc......lotta smarts going on in there. Right wing Republican, conservative as the day is long, brooks no silliness nohow 'bout nothin'.

She thinks folks ought to pay more attention to the multitude of studies showing bad things for folks that hold a cell phone to their head all day. She says it's impossible to get research money for this area of study; gov't. won't give money to anyone trying to show danger in telecommunication devices. She likens it to the '40's and early '50's, when folks trying to show correlation between smoking and lung disease couldn't get funding because of the tobacco lobby.

OTOH, when I get customers asking about EMF's, I offer no opinion, and disclaim any knowledge whatsoever. If it isn't carved in stone, I don't talk about it much.

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I readily admit I don't know much about EMFs. To me, the question of whether they're harmful is analogous to the global-warming debate. I have an opinion on that one, but there are lots of bright, reasonable people who can make incredibly convincing arguments about whether warming’s actually occurring or not. But we don’t need to open that debate.

From what I've read about EMFs, I think they probably pose no risk. Probably. But read what Jim K.--someone who's thoughtful and who I respect--wrote, and I think there's a chance I'm mistaken.

As for my potential client who was concerned about buying a house near transmission lines, both her parents died from cancer, as well as a sister who was in her thirties, and some other family members. Neither you nor I, Mike, get to make the call about whether she's unnecessarily worrying about something that may be junk science. This particular woman had a PhD, and seemed bright and thoughtful. Maybe she wasn’t sure about EMFs herself, but didn’t want to take any chances. That’s what I meant about you missing the point. Maybe you didn’t, but it isn’t up to you to determine what constitutes junk science for another. C. O’Connell thinks radon poses no safety risks. Maybe he’s right, but there are plenty of other folks who disagree with him—strongly. I’ve read O’Connell’s pieces regarding radon, and think maybe he’s onto something, but I would never tell someone who asks for a radon test that they’re fretting for no reason; that radon is junk science.

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My father, his brother, my mother's brother and my sister died from cancer. I seriously doubt that being exposed to EMF had anything to do with it and until I know that it did, I'll be telling folks that there are lots more important things to worry about than the bogeyman.

ONE TEAM - ONE FIGHT!!!

Mike

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I'm not sold on being around high voltage lines is a problem. There is a huge human workforce out there that deals with electrical systems (from maintenance to creation of) that you would think, seeing that there are more than enough worker bees out there, that it would have a really solid base for concern if it was warranted - much like tobacco. It's not like we are the first generation with a common supply of electricity.

Actually, before this, I never gave it much thought.

On a side note - any one see the Modern Marvels episode that did a documentary on the maintenance personal that go up in helicopters to work on the high voltage power lines? Their as nutty as Iron Workers (not meant as a disparaging remark). I'd be more worried about a large gust of wind.

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. . . On a side note - any one see the Modern Marvels episode that did a documentary on the maintenance personal that go up in helicopters to work on the high voltage power lines? Their as nutty as Iron Workers (not meant as a disparaging remark). I'd be more worried about a large gust of wind.

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I believe we've discussed this one before:

- Jim Katen, Oregon

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John,

PhD or no, your client is a loon. If she is aware of the correlation and concerned about genetic predisposition, why in the hell would she even look at a house near transmission lines let alone put an offer on one? That would be a warning to me to not go into EMF with her.

Tom

The world is full of educated idiots.

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John,

PhD or no, your client is a loon. If she is aware of the correlation and concerned about genetic predisposition, why in the hell would she even look at a house near transmission lines let alone put an offer on one? That would be a warning to me to not go into EMF with her.

Tom

The world is full of educated idiots.

Your point is a good one, Tom, and I have no clue. I didn't discuss EMFs with her, 'cause I don't know much about them. I didn't even know what a Gauss meter was till I asked the IAQ guy how EMFs are measured. I simply told my potential client to call someone I trust if EMFs were a concern for her.

For the record, I don't think EMFs pose much of a risk. My business, however, is successful because of client referrals, so I try to provide the best service I possibly can. If part of providing that service includes passing along the phone number of an IAQ guy, what the heck? The potential client was kind and gracious on the phone, and I'm pretty certain she wasn't a loon. I think, maybe, she was just scared . . . and rational or not, I didn't hold it against her.

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