By Deanna Minich, PhD, FACN, CNS
The invention of electricity revolutionized society. Just think about how many devices you use on a daily basis that requires it: lights, heat, air conditioning, washing machine, dryer, dishwasher, most ovens and stovetops, microwaves, refrigerators, computers, telephones, smartphones, tablets, the internet. The list goes on and on.
We have become so spoiled by the convenience of electricity that sometimes we forget about the harm. I am not talking about to the environment; that is an entirely different conversation. No, I’m talking about the impact of dirty electricity on our health.
What Is Dirty Electricity?
Dirty electricity does not refer to the pollution that is a byproduct of non-clean power production, such as the use of coal or fossil fuels. It is the electromagnetic pollution that radiates out of electrical wires.
Dirty electricity, also known as high-frequency voltage transients, sits in a frequency range between extremely low at 50/60 Hz, which is associated with typical electricity, and radio, which reaches 300 MHz to 2.5 GHz. It will carry some of the negative characteristics of both, but since it is not a major source of electromagnetic pollution, it is not as well studied as the other two. However, that is changing as more and more studies are looking to see if these electromagnetic frequencies impact human health.
It is a common problem and generally comes from electronic equipment. Some sources you probably have at home include:
- Energy-efficient appliances
- Dimmer switches
- Plasma TVs
- Energy efficient lights
- Power tools
- Cell phone antennas
- Broadcast antennas
- Entertainment units
The electricity bothering you might not even come from your own house; if you share a transponder with your neighbors, then you might get some of their electromagnetic pollution.
The Cause of Diabetes and Obesity?
The introduction of electricity might correlate to the rise of many of the common chronic illnesses of modern society, including diabetes, obesity, and cardiovascular disease. There is a hypothesis that the disorders known as the “diseases of civilization,” which include the above metabolic diseases as well as cancer, increased in a parallel manner with the introduction of residential electricity.
According to this hypothesis, the lifestyle changes, including reduced physical activity and changes in the diet, that occurred due to industrialization are not the sole reason for the rise of these diseases. Electrification provides another key element in the equation. The researcher explored the validity of the hypothesis through reviewing the mortality rates of those with and without residential electricity in the U.S. between 1920 and 1970. There were significant increases in cancer deaths and diabetes rates in the urban population compared to rural populations, which could be explained by many factors. A more direct association was that there was also a difference in death in rural areas that correlated with the difference in the residential electrical offerings from state to state.
Is there more to this than just promising correlative data? There are those who think there are too many confounding issues and an instance of ecological fallacy. However, other studies point to these frequencies playing a role in the development of diabetes.
A study found a significant correlation between obesity, diabetes, and dirty electricity. To determine a relationship, the researchers looked for any association between generator use, which has dirty electricity, and high BMI and/or high fasting blood glucose levels. The researcher found that many of the smallest islands around the world also have some of the highest rates of obesity and diabetes. Out of the top 10 countries with the highest average BMI, eight are small islands that rely on diesel generators. In terms of diabetes, seven of the top 10 countries with the highest fasting blood glucose were also islands. Additionally, the non-island countries that made the list also have higher levels of dirty electricity, including the United States. These figures demonstrate an association between high levels of dirty electricity and high levels of diabetes and obesity.
One study looked directly at the impact of high frequency voltage transients on blood sugar. It was a small study with just four cases, two medicated type-1 diabetes patients and two non-medicated type-2 diabetes patients. The researchers measured blood sugar levels and electromagnetic frequency ranges at random times throughout the day. There was a positive correlation between the two. One interesting development was that the researchers found that sitting at the computer increased one of the participant’s blood sugar, and for every minute that passed after the person moved away from the device, the blood sugar dropped as much as 2 mg/dL per minute. There were similar instances of blood sugar levels dropping when other participants moved away from areas with dirty electricity.
Another case study found that the electrical frequencies interrupted the healthy benefits of exercise. The researchers compared one of the participant’s blood sugar levels after working out on a treadmill to walking through a mall. As expected, the blood sugar level decreased from 212 mg/dL to 130 mg/dL when walking through the mall. Conversely, it increased from 180 mg/dL to 211 mg/dL after the participant exercised using a treadmill, which radiates dirty electricity.
What could be the physiological reason for this association? It could be that the electromagnetic frequencies stress the body. Stress has a known influence on obesity and metabolic disorders. Studies have found that electromagnetic fields and non-thermal RF radiation lead to a production of stress proteins. When the body is under stress, it releases norepinephrine, which increases blood glucose levels and releases insulin.
An Association with Neurological Disorders
The frequency levels of dirty electricity also might cause neurological disorders or imbalances in neurotransmitter levels. There have been case studies of improvements in multiple sclerosis through installing a filter that reduces the frequency levels to the 50 Hz of regular electricity. One example was a patient with MS who had difficulty walking, requiring a cane, and issues with swallowing, tremors, and fatigue. After three days of using filters to reduce the dirty electricity, he saw improvement and was able to walk without a cane, although his symptoms reappeared in areas with dirty electricity. Although this study only demonstrates symptom improvement through decreasing these frequencies, it does suggest a potential correlation.
Another study found that neurotransmitter levels changed after filtering out dirty electricity. Seven volunteers in a library known to have high levels of dirty electricity provided a urine sample prior to installing electromagnetic filters. At this point, they all had abnormal levels of dopamine and or phenylethylamine (PEA). Over the course of the year in which the urine levels were tracked after putting the filters in place, the levels of dopamine and PEA rose to high normal levels. The authors compared to this to another observation in which there was a drop in these levels after the installation of a cell-phone tower, demonstrating that these higher frequencies impact neurotransmitters, which could cause a variety of symptoms.
Increased Cancer Rates
The higher frequency of these electromagnetic transmissions might also lead to a higher risk of cancer. One study looked at the association between dirty electricity and cancer rates. A middle school in California appeared to have higher cancer rates in their teachers than the general population. The researchers looked to see if dirty electricity might be the reason. After reviewing the association between the traditional electromagnetic field of 60 Hz, they found no association. However, after measuring for the higher frequency rates of dirty electricity, they found a significant positive correlation. There was a 64 percent attributed risk of cancer from exposure to this frequency. Additionally, working at the school for just one year raised the risk of developing cancer by 21 percent. The researchers postulated that it was due to the high frequency voltage transients acting similar to ionizing radiation on cells, causing cancer.
There have been studies that have demonstrated the carcinogenic properties of other electromagnetic frequencies. For example, a study found an association between cancer and proximity to living near a cellular telephone base station. The researchers believed it was due to the radiofrequency radiation, but another researcher postulates that it could be due to the electricity especially based on the findings from the California school.
Filtering Out the Dirty Electricity
If you live with dirty electricity and feel that it might be the source of some of your health problems, there is hope. There are devices that filter this frequency range for a cleaner electromagnetic field. Graham/Stetzer or GS filters are some of the most common ways to help reduce it. When these filters were placed in a school in Minnesota, 64 percent of the teachers saw improvement in general weakness, asthma, headaches, overall mood, skin irritation and other symptoms after the GS filters reduced the dirty electricity by 90 percent.
There is interesting research in this field, but there has yet to be a consensus. Many of the studies are case studies or small studies relying on non-double blind studies and/or self-reporting. A systematic review determined that the current research “does not stand up to scientific scrutiny.” However, that does not mean that there is no correlation between dirty electricity and disease, including obesity, diabetes, neurological disorders, and cancer. It just means more studies, especially those using double-blind experiments and more standardized research parameters, are necessary before the medical community comes to a consensus.
What is known is that some individuals are more sensitive to electromagnetic fields. Additionally, low frequency magnetic fields and ELF electric fields are classified as potentially carcinogenic. If these other electromagnetic frequencies have the potential to cause harm, it is reasonable to assume that dirty electricity can as well. As the above studies demonstrate, there is the potential for individuals to be sensitive to dirty electricity, and it could contribute to chronic illnesses.
If you feel that your symptoms change based on your environment and that electricity might be the culprit, it might be beneficial to see how you could filter out the high-frequency voltage transients. There are several GS filters and similar devices on the market that you can find to install in your home or office to see if it helps your health.
Deanna Minich, PhD, is a functional nutritionist and mind-body medicine health expert and author of Whole Detox. See her website, www.deannaminich.com, and Facebook page, Deanna Minich, PhD, for more details.