Building Biology 101:

Building Biology 101:

Just Because You Can’t See It Doesn’t Mean It’s Not There (and What to Do About It)

Written by Angela Self, Certified Building Biologist | Founder + Principal, Vital Spaces

electromagnetic specturm

Would you hold a microwave close to your ear? I hope not. Aside from the obvious fact that carrying around a microwave by your head looks bizarre, did you know that cell phone radiation essentially mirrors what microwaves emit?

Currents flowing through appliances can contribute to headaches, and voltage in homes could be linked to insomnia. These are classified as electromagnetic radiation (EMR) and this article will help demystify the science behind the unseen: electric fields, magnetic fields, and radio frequency… and help to explain the connections between associated health issues. Simple ways to reduce your exposure are available, but full assessment and correction only occur through measurement with proper meters and
qualified professional assistance.

Cancer is linked to all forms of EMR. Electric and magnetic fields did not exist until the late 1800’s, and there has been a significant rise in radio frequency with cell phone and other wireless technologies.

Did you know there is a pervasive, fundamental frequency at approximately 10Hz, found not only in humans but also in the ultra-low vibrations of the Earth? Each organ has a unique frequency: the heart with 1.2 Hz, connective tissue with 4-18 Hz, and brainwaves with about 2 to 20 Hz. While electric and magnetic fields might be in the extremely low frequency (ELF) range, they remain unnatural for the human body. Radio Frequency is at an even higher range, resulting in greater health implications.

Electric fields are present wherever there is voltage: wiring needs to be “live” or “hot.” It is hooked to an electrical power supply. Sources include electrical devices such as lamps, computers, refrigerators, power cords and electrical wiring in walls, floors and ceilings. Electric fields are strongly linked to circadian rhythm and melatonin production in the body; insomnia, in many cases, is significantly improved when electric fields are addressed. Other health issues can include the impact on the heartbeat and immune system, muscle and nerve pain, changes in cells to include enzyme activity, cell division and DNA synthesis. Easy ways to reduce electric fields are distance (at least 6 feet), unplugging, and shutting off the circuit to affected areas. Shielding is also an option for electric fields.


Magnetic fields occur where currents flow to power an object. Magnetic fields permeate most materials, which makes them difficult to contain without shielding. Sources include electrical items with transformers, such as kitchen appliances, microwave ovens, baby monitors, dimmer switches and fluorescent lighting. Improper home wiring will also cause elevated magnetic fields. Therefore, start from the beginning and ensure that your living and office spaces are properly wired for optimal health and protection.

When a home or office is wired properly, the current going to and through the space should equal the electricity going out along the same path. This creates a “zero net current.” Older spaces with knob and tube wiring are at particular risk. Significant biological risks associated with magnetic fields include leukemia, tumors, migraine headaches, pain, depression, irritability, insomnia and disorders of the hormone, nerve, heart and cardiovascular systems. In the case of magnetic fields, distancing yourself is beneficial. You can also turn off or unplug appliances.

With more and more communicating technologies, we are exposed to more radio frequency than ever. Radio frequency refers to communication signals such as radio waves, television stations, cell phones, wifi, Bluetooth, cell towers and antennae, as well as other things we don’t think about such as cordless phones, Apple TV and Nest thermostats.

If your electric (or gas) company is no longer sending out someone to read your meter, you may have a “smart meter” that records consumption of energy used in intervals of an hour or less. This smart meter then communicates that information back to the utility for monitoring and billing. These are intense signals.

All the more common, in very short order, are refrigerators, dishwashers and HVAC systems that may be equipped with wifi. This is being touted to save consumers money, but the unspoken implication is that radio frequency will be everywhere in your home, the place you relax and heal your body.

Radio frequency is associated with many ill-health effects, and the radio frequency chart from Bioinitiative (view it at shows the dangers with included Building Biology (BB) guidelines. Of particular concern is the wifi in schools, as it is a particularly strong form. Children
are more susceptible because of their developing nervous systems; additionally, their brain tissue is more conductive. Radio frequency penetration is greater relative to head size, and
children will have a longer lifetime of exposure than adults.

There is research indicating a link between autism and radio frequency. This is quite a battle in today’s society where entire cities are wifi enabled and cellular towers are everywhere. Fortunately, it can be controlled at home through hard wiring, minimizing sources, and cutting off the wifi while sleeping. A Building Biologist can help you with other methods of shielding.

As wonderful as it is to be living in this age of advanced technology, let us not forget to be responsible and above all protect ourselves and our children. Technological advancements are coming at lightning speed, so be vigilant with education and making cautious decisions.