Green Lifestyle

Published on December 20th, 2015 | by Guest Contributor


What is EMF and How to Test EMF using a Gauss Meter

EMFs, or electromagnetic fields, are forms of energy that are often referred to as electromagnetic radiation. EMFs are present within nature (as lightening and in the Earth’s magnetic field), but the increase in electronic activity around the world has created some concerns about the overexposure to EMFs in our daily life.

EMFs are typically characterized by wavelength or frequency into one of two radioactive categories:

Screen Shot 2015-12-18 at 4.31.37 PM

graphic from NIH

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) follows with a chart of the electromagnetic spectrum, a grade school lesson that’s important to revisit! As you can see, computers, radios, cell phones, microwaves all create EMFs, but in relatively small amounts. Surprisingly, a remote control produces the most EMFs of all these gadgets.


graphic from NIH

Conspiracy theories abound about the electrosmog that surrounds us, and the potential dangers to our health. Mercola, a health website that tends toward the alarmist, has this to say about EMF:

“Chronic exposure to even low-level radiation (like that from cell phones), can cause a variety of cancers, impair immunity, and contribute to Alzheimer’s disease and dementia, heart disease, and many other ailments.”

The NIH, a slightly more authoritative organization, states that while there are still speculative concerns about the connection between EMFs and health issues, current research continues to point to a weak association between EMFs and purported ills. However, both the NIH and the World Health Organization concur that more research is needed as scientists have not yet conclusively determined that EMFs are NOT linked to various cancers and health problems.

NIH also reminds us that the strength of EMF radiation is strongest at the source, so to reduce exposure, keep electronics off of the body, and try to keep a distance between electrical appliances and outlets around the home. If you are curious about the EMF levels in your home, it’s easy to test using an at-home tester. These are also often used to test for paranormal activity, so they have a slightly negative reputation too.

Screen Shot 2015-12-18 at 5.02.22 PMWe recently reviewed the Lutron Pocket EMF tester (model 822-A) at our home and business. This electromagnetic field radiation tester measures 20 micro Tesla x 0.01 micro Tesla, or 200 milli Gauss x 0.1 milli Gauss. The display is 13 mm LCD, and is small and easy to transport in a toolbox. It’s only 131 x 70 x 25 mm (about five inches by 3 inches).

The Lutron includes EMF measurements for both UK/Europe (the milliTesla (mt) and the common US measurement, the milligaus (mg). The conversion is 1 Tesla = 10,000 Gauss.

The Lutron is a single-axis meter, meaning that it only detects  EMF fields that cross the meter at a right angle (90 degrees), matching the large white arrow on the face of the meter shows (thanks to this ghost hunting reference for explaining that).

Most of the electronics in our home, including television, laptop computers, cell phones and toaster oven, gave off minimal EMFs, and actually substantially lowered my concern about EMFs in our home. We had learned that computers give off more EMFs while charging than while unplugged, but we couldn’t get a reading to show that. Read more about how to check for EMF levels (and what to look for) here. To get really precise about measurements and unit, check out this excellent article on conversions of electricity measurements.

According to Create Healthy Homes, the safe levels to look for when measuring are less than:

  • 1.0 milliGauss (mG) for AC magnetic fields
  • 100 milliVolts (mV) for AC electric fields
  • 10 microWatts/meter squared (uW/m2) for radio frequencies while you sleep (I was also taught to try to get clients below 100 uW/m2 in the daytime)
  • 25-50 Graham-Stetzer Units (GSU) for “dirty electricity”


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