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Mountain Medicine: Create a safer home environment

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A new and often overlooked area of home safety is assessing the home environment for electromagnetic pollution. Electromagnetic fields (EMFs) are energy waves that surround electronic devices.

Everyday electronic devices and appliances such as microwave ovens, computers, stereo equipment, TVs, clock radios, cordless and cell phones, space heaters, fluorescent lights, wiring and electric blankets have EMFs that can extend up to several feet around the device. These EMFs also can travel through the body, as well as walls, floors and ceilings. Most homes and workplaces are filled with electronic equipment and appliances that emit higher levels of EMFs than recommended.

According to natural health expert, Andrew Weil, M.D., "Electromagnetic pollution may be the most significant form of pollution human activity has produced in this century, and it is all the more dangerous because it is an invisible, insensitive 'toxin.'"

EMFs can affect us because human beings have their own biochemical and electric responses (e.g. brain and heart functions, nervous system and digestion). Some people are very sensitive to EMFs and experience one or more non-specific symptoms that may include:

-- Poor concentration, memory loss and/or foggy thinking

-- Skin symptoms like itching, rashes, prickling, flushing, burning or tingling

-- Nervous system symptoms like fatigue, stress and sleep disturbances

-- Depression

-- Dizziness

-- Burning eyes

-- Muscle aches, pains and weakness

-- Heart palpitations

-- Ear, nose and throat symptoms

-- Digestive disorders

More serious symptoms can include infertility, childhood leukemia and cancer.

Individuals who may be at greater risk to EMF exposure include pregnant women, infants, children, the elderly and people who have low immunity.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), "While some individuals report mild symptoms and react by avoiding the fields as best they can, others are so severely affected that they cease work and change their entire lifestyle. This reputed sensitivity to EMF has been generally termed electromagnetic hypersensitivity or EHS."

The WHO and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) include EMF information and research on their websites.

Because we depend so heavily on electricity and electronic devices, it is nearly impossible to completely avoid exposure to EMFs. It is possible, however, to reduce exposure to EMFs by moving furniture or relocating electronic devices.

Household EMFs can be assessed with a hand-held Tri-Field EMF Meter that measures electrical, magnetic, radio and microwave signals. These readings can help you see where these fields exist and how strong they are. Especially important areas to test are bedrooms, the home office or den and kitchen, where family members spend longer periods of time. After a local nurse tested her Flagstaff home, she reported, "I was shocked to see how far my clock radio emitted EMFs. I've been sleeping with my head by that radio for years, but not any longer. Using the meter and moving my clock and some other electronic devices makes me feel a lot safer."

If you are interested in assessing your home environment for EMFs, easy-to-use Tri-Field EMF Meters are available for rental through FMC's Childbirth Education Department. Contact the Childbirth Education Department at 773-2309 or visit; click on the Childbirth Classes link.

Kathy Greenberg, R.N., B.S.N., C.C.E., C.B.C., is the Childbirth Education coordinator at Flagstaff Medical Center. Is there a health topic you'd like to know more about? Please write to Mountain Medicine, c/o FMC Public Relations, 1200 N. Beaver St., Flagstaff, AZ 86001, or visit FMC's website at


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