I’ve researched “dirty electricity” and in this article I explain why I strongly believe that it’s part of a scam made up by a few unscrupulous businesses that are selling expensive devices to measure and “clean up” “dirty electricity” (Stetzer Electric is one such company).
WHAT DO “DIRTY ELECRICITY” PROMOTERS CLAIM?
- That “dirty electricity” causes cancer
- That Stetzer devices reduce “dirty electricity”
- It’s not mentioned on their website, but Stetzer salespeople are claiming that solar panel invertors significantly increase “dirty electricity” in a home. (Funny how “clean energy” now produces “dirty electricity”! The coal industry must love this scam!)
I’ll deal with each of these claims below.
WHAT IS “DIRTY ELECTRICITY”?
No matter how hard I looked I couldn’t find a definition of “dirty electricity”!
“Dirty electricity” is a term that’s only used by people who sell devices to clean up “dirty electricity”
or people who are reporting on, or talking about, the claims made by those sellers.
It’s not a technical term used by scientists or electrical engineers.
The closest they come is on the www.stetzerelectric.com home page where they say:
“Over the past decade, Dave Stetzer has focused on troubleshooting power quality problems, specifically the problem of dirty electricity (electrical pollution, “stray voltage”),”
So it appears they are saying that “dirty electricity” is the same thing as “stray voltage”.
Stray voltage is a well defined and widely used term in the electrical industry; it even has its own Wikipedia entry (wikipedia.org/wiki/Stray_voltage ). It refers to problems that occur when electrical wires aren’t properly grounded or have become damaged and the nearby surfaces become electrically charged so that people receive a shock when they touch them (some times very small and sometimes big enough to kill).
The Stetzer devices don’t claim to do anything about this type of stray voltage so it’s not clear why they’ve used the term on their site.
The Stetzer measurement device that’s used to measure “dirty electricity” in buildings is called a “Microsurge Meter” which implies it measures very small surges (spikes) in electricity.
I finally discovered what Stetzer means by “dirty electricity” from the following diagram and the accompanying description in an obscure document on the Stetzer website. (The red and blue writing and arrows at the top of the diagram are mine.)
Here’s the original source of this image: www.site.stetzerizeraustralasia.com/uploads/Milham_Morgan_2008.pdf
The red line is what they’re calling “dirty electricity” and it’s what they claim their filters remove.
Even though the “dirty electricity” line(red) looks very big, it’s actually very small in comparison to the normal electricity line(blue) because its measured using milliVolts instead of Volts.
The diagram explained:
- Australian electricity is 250Volts 50Hz, but in the USA, where this diagram comes from, it’s 120Volts 60Hz.
- It’s Alternating Current (AC), as opposed to Direct Current(DC),therefore, 60 times per second (60Hz) the Voltage switches from an average of -120V to +120V (it actually peaks at +170V and -170V but averages to 120V). [Blue line.]
- The red line shows the electrical “noise” on the line.
Noise is tiny variations in voltage that occur much more frequently than the blue line.
If it was drawn to scale the red line would be 1000 times smaller and superimposed along the blue line
so that if you zoomed in to the section at the top of the blue line, the voltage would have lots of miniscule variations: 170.01V, 169.99V, 170.04V, 169.95V etc.
- It’s these tiny variations that Stetzer imply are the cause of health problems.
- And they claim their filters remove some of these tiny variations. But they only claim to remove some of the variations – between 4000Hz and 100000Hz.
- They don’t remove the variations between 0Hz and 4000Hz.
- These tiny variations are echoes of the main 50Hz electrical signal.
- These echoes bounce around in the wires and interfere with each other to produce this noise.
- These tiny echoes (henceforth referred to as “dirty electricity”) are 1000 times weaker than the mains electricity in your wires.
- Stetzer does not claim that the normal, “clean”, 50hz electricity harms you in any way. They’re solely concerned with cleaning up “dirty electricity”, which is 1000 times weaker.
CAN “DIRTY ELECTRICITY” AFFECT MY BODY?
Unless you’re touching the “dirty electricity” it can’t directly affect you.
The only way it could possibly affect you is indirectly, via the electromagnetic field it creates around itself.
Normal (AC) electricity produces a constantly changing electromagnetic field – waves of change rippling away from the source – electromagnetic radiation.
Electromagnetic radiation can be good or it can be bad – it all depends on the size of the waves!
It takes on many forms, but the only difference between each form is the length of the wave.
Normal, visible light is electromagnetic radiation.
Radio waves, UHF and VHF TV waves, microwaves and x-rays are all electromagnetic radiation.
When you stand in sunlight you’re bathing in electromagnetic radiation.
Even when you stand in a natural forest you’ll be surrounded by electromagnetic radiation in the form of:
- visible light
- ultraviolet light
- infra red light
- radio waves
- TV signals (UHF VHF)
- mobile phone and wireless data microwaves.
Harmful Electromagnetic Radiation
Harmful electromagnetic radiation has a short wavelength.
A short wavelength means more waves per second pounding the object – and thus more power.
Electromagnetic radiation from electricity in your house is at the extremely weak end of the scale. It only has 50 waves per second (50Hz). Visible light has about 1000 trillion waves per second and is therefore about 100 trillion times more powerful!
And yet, visible light still isn’t powerful enough to cause cancer in our bodies.
Only electromagnetic radiation with higher frequencies than visible light is powerful enough to create cancer.
That’s why ultraviolet light causes skin cancer but normal, visible light doesn’t.
Two other factors that influence the strength of the electromagnetic radiation are:
• the power of the source that’s producing it and
• the distance from the source.
Radio waves produced by a giant commercial radio antennae are much more powerful than those produced by a tiny back yard enthusiast’ antennas.
Electromagnetic radiation drops off in strength very quickly with distance
– the strength at 2 metres is only one quarter of the strength at one metre, and
the strength at 4 metres is only one sixteenth.
HOW DO HIGH ENERGY ELECTROMAGNETIC WAVES CAUSE CANCER?
High energy electromagnetic waves are strong enough to knock some electrons out of their orbits around atoms.
When atoms in the DNA in a cell are mutated by the loss of electrons those cells replicate those mutations – this is cancer.
Only electromagnetic waves with a frequency higher than that of visible light have sufficient power to knock electrons out of atoms. This powerful type of radiation is known as ionizing radiation.
Everything below the frequency of ultraviolet light is known as non-ionizing radiation because it can’t knock electrons from atoms.
The electromagnetic radiation emitted by electricity is so much weaker than what’s required to dislodge electrons from atoms that scientists are certain that there’s no short term danger.
They also think there’s no long term danger, but they’re still in the process of conducting the long term research (because long term research takes a long time to complete.)
Consider this analogy:
Imagine you’re holding a beach ball in front of you.
High energy electromagnetic waves dislodging electrons from DNA atoms
is like cyclonic winds blowing a beach ball out of your hands.
But the “wind” created by electricity is like that of a small child blowing on the beach ball
– there’s no way it can blow the beach ball out of your hands.
The long term trials are investigating whether the child can blow the beach ball out of your hands if it continues to blow on the ball for 30 years.
Nobody can think of a logical way that a long term tiny force could blow an electron out of an atom.
CAN “DIRTY ELECTRICITY” CAUSE CANCER?
Stetzer claims that “dirty electricity” is just tiny variations in the voltage of electricity.
These fluctuations occur between 4000 and 100,000 times per second and therefore they’re producing electromagnetic radiation at those frequencies – which happen to be in the mid to low radio waves.
Commercial AM and FM radio stations broadcast at much higher frequencies than those Stetzer claims to remove.
Plus the fluctuations in the “dirty electricity” voltage are 1000 times smaller than those of normal electricity and therefore the radio waves emitted by “dirty electricity” are extremely low power.
Therefore, if the extremely weak radio waves produced by “dirty electricity” are causing cancer then the much stronger, commercial radio and TV waves that fill your house and the environment would be creating many thousands of times more cancers!
But they’re not.
Nobody’s suggesting that radio waves cause cancer.
Not even Stetzer!
Stetzer don’t tell you that what their filters “clean up” is extremely weak radio waves,
because customers wouldn’t buy their filters if they did.
They’ve made up “dirty electricity” to try to scare people into buying their filters!
DO INVERTERS USED WITH SOLAR PANELS INCREASE “DIRTY ELECTRICITY”
As we’ve described above, “dirty electricity” is just the tiny echoes which show up as minute fluctuations in voltage.
Most electrical devices that you plug in will contribute to these tiny echoes (or “dirty electricity”),
and therefore solar panel inverters will also contribute their share,
but they won’t significantly increase the tiny echoes.
Even if they were significantly increased, it wouldn’t make any difference because all they do is produce very weak, harmless radio waves.
DOES EXPOSURE TO ELECTROMAGNETIC RADIATION PRODUCED BY ELECTRICITY CAUSE CANCER?
The scientific consensus is that it doesn’t.
The concern first arose back in the 1970’s
when a few early studies investigating the rate of cancer of people living directly below high voltage electricity lines found some clusters of cancer, suggesting there might be a weak relationship.
Thousands of follow up research studies over the last 30 years that have tried to replicate the results have been unable to reproduce them, strongly suggesting that the conclusions of those early studies were flawed.
When a team of scientists do research and publish some surprising new results the scientific world doesn’t immediately believe the results, because the results may be incorrect for a number of reasons, such as:
• The team of scientists made mistakes in their calculations.
• The team made a mistake in the way their experiment was conducted.
• The team used faulty equipment which produced incorrect results.
• The team faked their results.
• The results were just a statistical anomaly, like tossing a coin and it coming up heads 10 times in a row – it’s not very likely but it is possible, and if you toss the coin enough times it will happen. Every week somebody wins the lottery and that’s not very likely!
The above mentioned problems occur frequently in scientific research and that’s why scientific results aren’t believed until they’ve been reproduced a few times by independent teams of scientists.
The failure of many teams of scientists to reproduce the results of the early studies suggests the results where just statistical anomalies.
If the issue wasn’t such a high profile thing, with the potential to affect many people, the scientific community would have stopped researching this long ago and concluded that electricity doesn’t cause cancer.
The only reason they keep researching is because the long term studies haven’t yet completed.
The preliminary results of the long term studies show that there’s definitely no significant link with cancer.
If the link was as strong as between tobacco and cancer it would have been obvious long ago!
If there is a link it’s so small that scientists can’t tell if it’s a real link or if it’s just statistical noise.
If it exists (it probably doesn’t) the magnitude of the increased risk is something like increasing your chance of getting Leukaemia from 1 in 900 to 1 in 850 (not exact figures, just indicative of the magnitude).
Mobile Phone Radiation
The electromagnetic radiation produced by mobile phones is much more likely to have health effects than that produced by electricity because mobile phones emit much more powerful microwaves instead of weak radio waves
and because you hold the phone right next to your head the distance from the source of the radiation is very small.
Information from the World Health Organisation
For more information from the World Health Organisation about electromagnetic radiation and research into it’s effect on health, go here:
“Dirty electricity” is just very weak, harmless, radio waves.
The term has been invented by unscrupulous companies to scare decent people into buying their expensive devices.