Expertise and commentary by an ES Engineer
I had been MCS for 18 years last summer, and was having the time of my life. That spring was a very good year in the desert for blooms, and I used my digital camera to show my friends and family what was blossoming in our neighborhood.
The digi-cam could reproduce close-ups with interesting detail, and the bright yellows and magentas were accurate and striking. I could enlarge and crop just like I had in my old profession as a graphic artist. All of this could be produced in my husband's travel trailer where 2 computers, a scanner, and printer were kept. My friends and family said they liked the images, so I shot, designed, and printed notecards for 3 months. I studied a web design program and posted a site where I received orders for 2 more months. This topped the achievement and excitement of making art even before I had MCS.
Because I had tried graduate school in the early 90's and had a collapse due to chemical exposures, I knew it was possible that the printing and design could end. I was especially concerned about the printer ink. The printing took many hours to complete some large orders. The fact that all these chemicals were contained in a trailer about 50 feet from the house made this work possible.
After 4 months of making the cards, occasionally, I had noticed a vibration in my forehead while I was using my laptop. The old laptop is what I had been using day after day for 3 years, to produce and maintain an MCS support website. It was a symptom that came and went, so I attributed it to a chemical reaction. The symptom did not recur for 3 weeks.
One morning, I was holding the digital camera to my face, and aimed for a shot of a bird at the feeder, while I was standing under an electric ceramic heater. The vibration in my forehead was so intense, that perspiration and a wave of nausea followed. I pushed the camera away from my face. The electrical sensitivity was more than a suspicion, as hard as it was to admit. I waited to see if I would start to react to other appliances, and certainly when I used the computers in the trailer. Yes, now I became "keyed-up" with rapid heartbeats from working in the trailer. The quartz heater with a fan in the TV room produced the same reactions. Soon, I noticed EMF reactions to the refrigerator, stove, and phone. It is important to note that I noticed the EMF symptoms when I was in my home, which is the safer environment. Many extremely sensitive MCS persons experience what is called a masking over of symptoms. When there is a large number of pollutants in an environment, a general sense of malaise takes over and "masks" specific reactions to a certain degree.
I asked my ES friend for help. I borrowed a Tri-field meter with a 100x probe, and he walked me through the house to look for electrical problems. He reviewed the floor plans of my house and the trailer. After all the readings were completed, we discovered that I had a few crossed wires. Fixing this would help reduce my load. The most important advice was to not enter the trailer again. I asked, "Even if everything else is turned off?" He said, "No, it's a " hot" box." The 10' x 15' aluminum travel trailer had far too little space with too many electrical appliances and devices.
Computer printers are especially high in EMF. I had been working within 2 feet of this for several months. Extremely EMF sensitive persons have to work at least 30' away from a computer printer. The computer might have to be at a distance of 150' in another building. With extreme EMF sensitivity, cooking, driving, listening to music, watching TV, and talking on the phone, may cause intolerable symptoms.
I considered not using any computers at all for about a month, but decided to retreat back to what I had tolerated for 3 years. I moved my bed to a better corner of the bedroom for EMF that was determined by the Tri-field meter. I was told that reducing my sleep time exposure is very helpful. My ES friend mentioned that the northwest Arizona area tends to have very low EMFs, due to either the " 'Delta' power distribution system or the lack of water, which tends to carry stray ground current back to the power plant." Aluminum foil on the cords to my laptop reduced some EMF symptoms. Even though I took it down every night to store it out of the house, and the foil cracked, it still seemed to make a difference. My ES friend recommends grounding your computer and other materials for shielding the wires. "If you lay a bare wire inside wrapped around the cord for at least 4 feet, it will make sufficient contact with the foil to then connect that to the ground wire at the plug. That's not much of a ground, but it's good start. For things that must be moved, foil won't last. In this case, if the foil was very helpful, there is nickel plated copper mesh that wraps around the cord sort of like an ace bandage on a bum knee. It doesn't work as well as foil, however; no mesh does."
I also confided in a friend who had had severe ES sensitivity for many years and had recovered to a great extent. Years ago, she could not drive or cook for herself. Her advice was crucial for me at this time. She said, "Don't be afraid." She found that there is a strong emotional component to ES, because fear can exaggerate the symptoms. She noticed that when she was in a time of high stress, that she started reacting to the phone, the day before a dreaded trip. She has worked hard to find peaceful resolutions for her conflicts and to get where she is today. She added that I got overloaded with EMF, and needed some time to unload. I learned about the ways that you can do this, and it is called "grounding."
This conversation was crucial to me. I needed to be calm, to face what was ahead. Because of extreme chemical intolerance, I cannot use Intertherm heaters which are safer for ES, have little safe clothing and bedding, and winter was approaching. I wondered if the ES would progress and I would react to my car. I could not replace or fix the hot water heater that burned out due to my chemical sensitivity, and had to stand in front of the electric heater after bathing. This exposure brought about a jittery reaction that made it hard to concentrate on the tasks of driving to town for food and visit doctors.
By calming my fears, I realized that I had to take one day at a time and not jump to conclusions. I became focused on what I could do about my situation and work around the limitations.
Within one month of staying out of the trailer, I noticed the ES diminishing. In 2 months, my reactions were one quarter of what they had been originally. At present, the ES has not totally been eliminated and I still watch my exposures and will never work in the trailer again.
My 1996 laptop with a speed of 100 megahertz, and 1.2 gigabyte hard drive, was showing signs that it might not last the year. I had read an article a couple of years ago for MCS persons, that concluded that laptops with LCD screens, are preferable to desktop computers. I found a great deal on a new laptop with a speed 25 times faster and 30 times the hard drive space. I was amazed that I could use it for hours the first time. I had chemical reactions but they were tolerable. Toward the end, I got some very strong EMF symptoms, but hoped that it was just because of the higher speeds generated by playing a game. As soon as I stopped the game, the reactions seemed to get better. The next day I had a chemical hang over from this exposure and stored it in my husband's trailer.
A week later, I used the laptop again, and within 5 minutes, had a very strong EMF reaction. I asked my ES friend if there was a way to shield it to make it useable. He said that the shielding would only be helpful for someone who had a mild reaction after using it for several hours. We were able to return the laptop within the required time, but not without a 15% restocking fee, which was quite an expensive trial.
We tested the desktop computer in the house, that I had been using in the trailer. My ES friend suggested that the desktop might be useable as long as it was in a safer EMF environment, and we used USB extender cables to keep the computer as far from me as possible, which was 6 feet. The computer has an LCD monitor and was 6 times faster than my old laptop. This was a lot more tolerable. The LCD monitor was problematic, but was much more tolerable than the new laptop. A distance of 18" is recommended between you and the monitor. To increase the distance between you and a laptop computer, an external keyboard and mouse is recommended. My friend has found that, "It helps many because it reduces the switching power supply and disk drive motor magnetic field exposures. One brand of an external keyboard is a Keytronic, which is low in cost and can be shielded inside if necessary."
I am taking more recovery time before I experiment with the desktop computer. I will also consider networking with the computer in the trailer via the old laptop, or look into getting another used laptop with slightly higher speeds. All networking cables should be run through galvanized steel conduit. For now, my old laptop continues to work, I can still use my digital camera, and for that I am thankful!
Comment by an Electrically Sensitive (ES) Engineer
ES is a lot easier to avoid than it is to cope with. I am always distressed by the denial about ES by the larger MCS community. I was the same way myself and could have avoided serious health consequences if only I'd known more about it. One of the typical disasters is the "desperate to work person with MCS" whose plan is to work on computer from home. This scenario almost always ends in significantly increased debility and a whopping case of ES. It is crying shame that there is no support for development of extremely low EMF computer setups for these people. Likewise, a recent discussion with a Arizona Power Service (APS) transmission "engineer" about reducing a secondary distribution line ground current problem shows that the power companys still don't understand the problem at all. Even "no cost to APS" solutions are met with obstructionism. It appears the biggest problem in solving power line EMFs is the institutional ignorance of many power company "engineers." I put that in quotes because real engineers are problem solvers, not pedantic, stonewalling obstructionists.
For more computer shielding ideas Computers for the Electrically Sensitive
Wi-Fi controversy reignited in Thorold
Trio urges council to move transmitter towers for pilot project away from residential area
Posted By Tiffany Mayer, Standard Staff
Anca Gaston worries there are strings attached to the wireless broadband network being tested in a Thorold neighbourhood.
Those strings, she fears, lead to a tangled mess of potential health issues that had Gaston, along with a resident of the affected Confederation Heights neighbourhood and a Brock University employee, who becomes physically ill in the presence of Wi-Fi, urging Thorold council Tuesday night to do away with the pilot project altogether or move the transmitters to industrial areas, limiting residents' exposure to potentially harmful radiation they're emitting.
"My recommendation would be to minimize exposure...," said Gaston, a St. Catharines resident. "(It's) a frivolous technology. We've lived with cables for years."
Although Wi-Fi was too new a technology for many studies to conclude there are health risks, Gaston cited those examining potential dangers associated with radiation emanating from other communications transmitters, such as cellphone towers.
The result of such exposure can create a condition called electrohypersensitivity, with symptoms such as cognitive dysfunction, vertigo, depression, irritability and poor sleep, she said. Gaston also cited studies linking the radiation to cancer.
"The presence of Wi-Fi in the community will only worsen the symptoms of people with sensitivities (to radiation) in the community," Gaston said.
That had Coun. Tim Whalen requesting a response to Gaston's concerns from ReliaClear Canada Inc., the company that installed the technology earlier this month. He also reiterated a request for a project status report from ReliaClear, including subscription rates and customer satisfaction.
The suggestion sparked a two-hour debate on the issue, reopening a divide in council that erupted in March when councillors voted narrowly to move ahead with the project.
Mayor Henry D'Angela said ReliaClear was being singled out unfairly.
"We're not looking at the big picture here. We're attacking ReliaClear and Wi-Fi technology when there are other Wi-Fi technologies here," D'Angela said. "If we're going to single out one company, that's inappropriate. My philosophy has been to treat everyone the same."
Coun. Jim Handley feared the request, if obliged, would set a dangerous precedent for council.
"Are we going to eliminate all wireless technology?" Handley asked, pointing to cellphone towers throughout the city.
"Next week, we're going to have someone here with scientific studies about buses.... Jogging behind buses is bad.... Are we going to get rid of buses?
Handley suggested inviting a Health Canada representative to speak to council about Wi-Fi's potential health risks.
Still, Coun. Shawn Wilson said until there were proven health problems, he would be "hard-pressed to force" ReliaClear to remove the transmitters.
Wilson also said the trio was using "scare tactics" to get its wish.
"I don't mean to burst your bubble, but I could go onto the Internet and find something that says this carpet is emitting toxins...," Wilson said, motioning to the floor in council chambers.
"I find it ludicrous the presenters are coming here using scare tactics.... I can find you ... studies saying it's not (dangerous). Let's compare apples to apples," Wilson said, noting he asked ReliaClear if there were ill-health effects and was told no.
"I'm not a lawyer, I'm not a scientist. I don't take a presentation as gospel. It's a ridiculous request and I won't support the motion."
Gaston retorted by likening the issue to smoking. At one time, health officials warned of potential health effects, but it took decades for regulations "to catch up" to science, she said.
"In order to prove it's harmful, people have to get sick and die from it. That's the wrong way to prove it," she told Wilson.
That struck a nerve with Coun. Nancy Rogers, whose husband had been a smoker and died of leukemia. Rogers said there likely weren't any studies when her husband started smoking that highlighted the potential health risks he succumbed to.
The lack of conclusive studies on Wi-Fi health risks shouldn't stop council from acting now, she added, noting Thorold was one of the first municipalities to impose a ban on pesticide use, despite being presented with studies saying there were no ill effects from using the chemical concoctions to treat lawns.
Despite initially rebuking Handley's suggestion to invite a Health Canada representative to speak to the issue, Whalen agreed to add it to his motion. But it came only after his original request went through several incarnations, including getting staff to research the issue.
However, city clerk John Bice told him no one on staff was qualified to determine whether the technology was safe.
Whalen, who voted against the Wi-Fi pilot project, also followed the advice of fellow councillors Mike Charron and Jonathan LePera to focus on the health risks associated with Wi-Fi technology in general, leaving ReliaClear out of the issue entirely.
D'Angela asked for an inventory of all Wi-Fi technology in the area also be done.
"What we are interested in is the Wi-Fi component, period," Charron said.
Here is my letter to the editor in response to the article in the St. Catharines Standard about the Thorold City council meeting
I am writing in response to the article “Wi-Fi controversy reignited in
Is it really necessary to have wifi transmitters on poles, blanketing whole neighbourhoods with radiation? Residents already have cable and phone lines into their homes to connect to the internet. If they choose to have wireless technology in their homes, then that is their choice. But what about residents who do not want to be irradiated by this technology? They don’t have a choice. The technology is being imposed on them against their wishes. These wifi units are transmitting into the homes of those who don’t subscribe to the service. They are emitting radiation and we all know the health harm radiation can cause.
There are already so many sources of radiation in our environment; why add another source, especially when there are safer alternatives?
As for Councillor Handley’s comment about scare tactics…. In Sept. 2007, the German government issued a warning to its citizens, “The Environment Ministry recommended that people should keep their exposure to radiation from Wi-Fi "as low as possible" by choosing "conventional wired connections". It added that it is "actively informing people about possibilities for reducing personal exposure". (http://www.independent.co.uk/environment/green-living/germany-warns-citizens-to-avoid-using-wifi-401845.html)
Are they using scare tactics? They are obviously more concerned about their citizens’ health than the money this technology would generate. They are exercising the Precautionary Principal that states, “…. Where there are threats of serious or irreversible damage, lack of full scientific certainty shall not be used as a reason for postponing cost-effective measures to prevent environmental degradation.” (Article 15 of the 1992 Rio Declaration on Environment and Development. http://www.unep.org/Documents.Multilingual/Default.asp?DocumentID=78&ArticleID=1163)
This is a United Nations Declaration that all UN members agreed to and signed.
One councillor also mentions that studies can be found saying the technology isn’t dangerous. True…. but who paid for those studies? The most reliable studies are those that are not paid for by the industry that is churning out this technology. I agree, “let’s compare apples to apples”.
This councillor also says that he asked the wifi company if there were ill-health effects from this technology. They told him there weren’t. De ja vu; remember what the cigarette and asbestos industry told us? How many years was it before government listened to the scientific studies saying these products are harmful to health? And how many people became ill or died in the mean time? Even with the knowledge that cigarettes cause illness and death, the government still allows their production, sale, and use. Why? Because there is a lot of money to lose if they are banned, by the government and the industry. Let’s weigh it out: dollars vs. healthy citizens…and the winner is… dollars….again.
The Radiation Protection Bureau of Health
, has a series of safety codes that specify the requirements for the safe use of radiation emitting devices. Limits of Human Exposure to Radiofrequency Electromagnetic Fields in the Canada from 3 KHZ to 300 GHZ - Safety Code 6 (http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/ewh-semt/pubs/radiation/99ehd-dhm237/index_e.html) Frequency Range
One problem with this safety code is that it only protects us from the thermal (cooking) effect of microwaves. It does not protect us from the biological effects of microwaves and as stated by the BioInitiative Working Group (An international working group of scientists, researchers and public health policy professionals), “the existing standards for public safety are inadequate to protect public health”.
Another problem with this safety code is that it was last revised in 1999. In the eight years since then, wireless technology has become much more powerful and its use is much more wide spread. This code is years overdue for another revision.