Radiation from Domestic Appliances

No Radiation from My Appliance!Mains-electric-powered appliances produce an electromagnetic field (EMF) known as Extremely Low-Frequency radiation (ELF).

Those are the only two abbreviations you need to know for this whole article!

Why is it called ELF? Because the frequency of the mains electric power (50 or 60 cycles per second)  is extremely low compared with radio waves, light waves, or x-rays whose frequencies are in the millions, billions or trillions of cycles per second.

Just by itself, ELF is harmful to your health. This is not a fairy tale.

But many kinds of home appliances also create another type of EMF known as radio-frequency EMF. For example

  • cordless phones
  • wireless baby monitors
  • wireless doorbells
  • wireless intercom systems
  • wireless routers
  • wireless modems
  • computers (if operated in wireless mode)
  • wireless networking equipment
  • wireless gaming equipment.

New types of wireless appliances come onto the market every year, and quickly find their way into our homes.

A Sea of Electromagnetic Pollution

We-live-in-an-invisible-sea-of-EMFIn fact, most of us live in a sea of electromagnetic radiation, created largely by appliances and devices which have been installed, or brought into our home.


Both kinds of radiation (ELF and radio-frequency) have been shown, in hundreds of scientific studies and research projects, to be bad for our health.

It can be hard for us to accept this, because we have all grown up using electrical appliances. (Our parents and grandparents used them, so surely they must be harmless?)

But our exposure to EMFs is probably 100 times greater than it was for our grandparents.

Actually, there are now so many published studies pointing out the damaging health consequences of EMF exposure that it is hard to keep up. They are coming out faster than you could read ’em!

If you find that hard to believe, just look at this excellent compilation of EMF Research Papers from Powerwatch.

Managing ELF in your home

We will look at radio-frequency EMF later on. For now, lets see how to manage the ELF radiation generated within our homes.


Different kinds of radiation behave in different ways. The magnetic portion of ELF radiation penetrates all materials with ease, including bricks, concrete, lead and other metals, and of course, your own body.

But although the source may be strong, ELF radiation quickly fades away with increasing distance. So to avoid it damaging you, all you have to do is keep out of reach.

Sound advice, but not always easy to follow. For starters, how do you know how far the EMF reaches?

Trifield EMF MeterThis is where an EMF meter comes in really handy! Instead of guessing at the strength and extent of the electromagnetic field, you just press a button (or turn a knob) and the meter gives you the reading.

Start with the meter up close to the appliance. Then move the meter further away, until it shows zero EMF and you are smiling. You soon get to learn how strong and how extensive the EMF is around each appliance, so you’ll know where the safe zone starts.

A low-frequency EMF meter can also measure EMF from wiring, power lines and sub-stations. Should you have one? Absolutely, Yes! Every home should have one, in my opinion.

A low frequency (ELF) EMF meter does not have to cost a great deal, either. The best ones cost under $150, but you can get useful ones for around a quarter of that price.

Personal Grooming Appliances Also Emit Radiation

Hairdryers, electric shavers, electric toothbrushes and similar personal grooming products can create very high (20-200 milligauss) magnetic fields at their normal operating distance. By comparison, EMF strengths as low as 2 milligauss are thought to increase the risk of leukemia and cancer in susceptible people.

For personal grooming appliances it makes good sense to minimise the duration of use, while maximising the distance – as far as practicable. But there’s not much you can do about maximising your distance from your electric shaver!


Are you sure I have to worry about my hair dryer's EMF?Drying your hair can be made safer (if you have the time) by letting your hair dry naturally until almost dry, then finishing it off with your hair dryer.

Most personal grooming devices are designed to be used for only a minute or two, so they should not add much to your daily EMF load. But it is still worthwhile to look for low-EMF devices if you can find them. (You will need an EMF meter to test them.)

Older devices generally produce a higher EMF. Newer ones can be up to 10 times lower. That is probably because there is more interest in EMF today than previously. Electrical engineers understand how to minimise low-frequency EMF, and they usually apply this knowledge when creating new products.

EMF Radiation in the Kitchen

Kitchens can be areas of high EMF, especially while meals are being prepared. Stoves, hotplates and hobs, microwave ovens, serving trays and dishwashers can all produce very substantial EMFs. You need to keep at around 2 feet away.

In fact it is easy for the person cooking an evening meal to be subjected to EMFs of 5-10 mG for up to an hour, a very substantial exposure, even for healthy adults.

With some electric stoves this would definitely be too close. But this lady cooks on gas!Don’t stand next to the oven or stove while you are not actually working there. Taking one pace away from an appliance will usually reduce EMF by 80% or more.

Refrigerators and freezers produce most of their EMFs close to the back of the unit and usually near the floor, where the motor is situated.

Vacuum cleaners, washing machines and tumble dryers generally produce high EMFs. Don’t stand too close for too long.

(Appliances that are switched off create no magnetic EMF, but may still produce an electric field, usually small.)


Radiation from heating appliances

An electric blanket produces EMFs of up to 5 mG at contact. Use it only to warm up the bed before you get into it. Then switch it off.

Spend 8 hours in bed with an electric blanket and you could be getting a daily dose of 40 milligauss/hours – far too much for anyone – and you have not even got out of bed yet!

Water beds are not good either – they have to heat the water, even in summer, and the heating element creates an EMF.

Electric heaters can produce high EMF. Don't get too close!Electrically heated carpets and rugs, under-carpet and under-floor heating all produce substantial EMFs. Try to use them to heat up your rooms while you are elsewhere, and switch them off while you are present. Especially don’t lie on the floor when the heating is on!

Electric heaters are nice too, but if you sit on top of them you could be absorbing more than just heat. At close range, some heaters produce over 100 milligauss of EM radiation. Ouch!

Managing Radio-Frequency EMF

Radio-frequency EMF is probably more harmful to health than low-frequency EMF, especially when it carries pulsed digital signals.

If you use wireless devices in you home, you can be sure they will create an extensive EMF  which may pervade your entire house, and even affect your neighbours.

Radio-frequency EMF has the ability to travel great distances, which is exactly why radio signals are used for wireless communication. They can also travel through many materials that you would expect to block them, such as brick walls, wooden floors, tiled roofs and ceilings, and windows. However, the radiation strength is diminished when it travels through dense materials.

Digital Cordless PhoneRadio-frequency EMF can be screened by metal sheets, special paints and special metallised cloths, but it can be hard to get a good result from screening.


The radiation bounces off the screening material and goes off in many directions. (Earthing the screen helps prevent this.) It also bounces off walls and floors.

Obviously, the easiest way to minimise this kind of radiation is not to bring these wireless devices into your home, but to use wired alternatives instead.

If this is not an option for you, then at least make sure that wireless devices are only turned on when they are actually required.  At other times switch them off – especially at night – so that your body has a chance to repair, while you sleep, the damage caused by this EMF during the day.

If you need to use wireless equipment, then a radio-frequency EMF meter will help you determine the strength of the field in various parts of your house. Then you can minimise your exposure by avoiding radiation hotspots.

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