An EMF Story: Tale of a Former Computer Programmer

by Katharine Auslander, M.E.S.
UPdate Winter 1997

     It started for me in the early 1970’s.  I worked as a computer programmer at a large computer installation.  I worked very long though enjoyable hours.

     In 1981, my body began to fall apart.  I began to suffer constant back pain and frequent “colds” in the winter.  Over the years, I acquired more symptoms.  It was not until 1990 that I could relieve the symptoms somewhat by rotating my foods.  This was the recommendation of a Doctor of Environmental Medicine who tested for and found that I had a number of food and chemical sensitivities.

     I then began to read everything that I could find about environmental sensitivities including the Way Canary.  One issue in particular was devoted to electro-magnetic sensitivities.

     Electro-magnetic fields are produced where electricity flows.  The electric fields (measured in volts per meter) result from the strength of the charge.  Magnetic fields (measure in milligauss) result from the motion of the charge.  While electric fields can be blocked, magnetic fields pass through almost all objects without being significantly affected.

     “There is clear evidence that 60Hz fields can produce various hormonal and other changes in living things...possible risks of concern include the promotion of cancer (i.e. helping birth defects) and various neurological effects such as chronic depression.”

     It is also possible to be sensitive to EMF’s according to researchers who work in custom-built test centres.

     The Way Canary previously mentioned reviewed various instruments that measured magnetic fields.  I bought one in 1991 and found very high readings in my home especially when the furnace was on.

     There is much disagreement about what constitutes a “safe” reading.  At that time, Sweden had a suggested standard of 2 milligauss or under as being safe.  Recent authors suggest that readings should be 1 milligauss or under.  With the furnace on, I was getting readings of 7.5 - 10 milligauss in the livingroom and bedrooms.

     My health has always been worse in the winter.  I was sensitive to natural gas and formaldehyde and I began to suspect EMF’s as well.  To test out my theory, I deliberately went near to computers which I had not been around for some years.  Within seconds, my jaw trembled and I got very irritable.  So I knew I had a problem but I did not know what to do about it.

     In 1992, at a Consumer Health Show, I met Andrew Michrowski of Essentia, an Ottawa-based company.  They were just starting to do house surveys of EMF’s and geopathic zones.  I arranged to have one done.  They took many readings over the four floors of the house, indicated that there were health concerns, but were very vague on what could be done.

     We began to live in the back half of our house where the readings were lower.  I located an electrical engineer who was interested in solving this kind of a problem.  Over the next two months, he spent some 10 billable hours in the basement trying to ameliorate the situation.  He found that part of the problem was caused by the amount of current the ground wire was carrying.  He moved the ground wire from the basement ceiling to the basement wall so that to lower the EMF’s on the first floor.

     He found that the cable TV ground was carrying a .9 amp direct current.  The cable TV ground was attached to the water pipe which eventually went to the gas water heater which was connected to the gas piping which went to the furnace.  So the .9 amp direct currently eventually reached the furnace motor and caused it to generate so much electricity that the furnace ground could not carry it all.  So this was why the situation was worse when the furnace was on!  When we disconnected the cable TV ground, there was still a problem.  At this point, the discouraged electrical engineer said that was all he could do.

     In 1996, I contacted Andrew Michrowski again in an attempt to get clearer recommendations.  As luck would have it, he had been working with Canadian Housing and Mortgage Corporation in the intervening years and had surveyed many houses.  They had discovered amelioration techniques.  He suggested he to another survey of our house.  At this visit, he found the readings lower than before but still a health risk.  He recommended:

1. putting a piece of PVC into the water pipe as it entered the house to stop any electrical current coming in on the pipe;

2. using ground rods installed in the earth outside the house as close as possible to the electrical panel as a replacement to grounding on the water pipes;

3. grounding the TV cable to the wire between the electrical panel and the ground rods.


     Eventually, Dr. Michrowski gave me the name of a very able electrician, Michael Lizotte, who was interested in doing this kind of work.  Some years ago, Michael had become interested in what could be done about EMF’s.  He had a friend who was a chiropractor and very concerned about EMF’s.

     In July of 1996, Michael made the changes and the magnetic fields now measure under 2 milligauss even with the furnace fan on.  I am delighted and expect to enjoy a healthier winter!

Morgan, M.G., Prof. Electric and Magnetic Fields from 60 Herz Electric Power:  What do we Know about the Possible Risks?  Carnegie Mellon University, 1989

Katharine Auslander has a Masters of Environmental Studies.  She is also a freelance writer in the area of environmental health.