Sensitives Know Best, BUT is Sensitivity Real?

EMFs and IAQ

“Sensitives” Know Best

A client called me some time ago, because she said she was having problems sleeping. I asked why she was calling me. My reputation preceded me. Oops. She said she’d bought a house in the country, previously built, and lived-in, by a chemically sensitive person (being he was chemically sensitive, he must have known the right things to do in building this house . . . ). Nonetheless, over the period of her first six months there her sleep pattern had progressively gotten worse. Trying to get her to technically describe the home, so I wouldn’t have to make a visit, was pulling teeth. Finally my thick brain began to clear, and I took a shot in the dark. Shut the power off before going to bed, I said. What, you think I’m a fool (she thought)? That simple? [[ There is a remarkably similar parallel to this, 2 Kings: 1-14 ]] Nonetheless, she obliged and turned the power off before going to bed.

She called the next morning (like I need to know people’s every move . . . ), and she said she slept well. I told her this was a simply a fluke. A time-and-chance coincidence. So I said, try it again tonight.

She called the second morning, and I had to hold the phone at a distance, her being so jubilant she was effectively yelling. She’d slept great, better that night than the entire past six months. Knowing I was right on target, I then told her I knew from the first phone call what the problem was. But I needed her to know what the problem was by direct observation. Now I could work with her.

There is a myth among the sensitive community at large: 1) I’m chemically sensitive, but not so electrically; 2) I’m electrically sensitive, but not so chemically. But I beg to differ. I submit that anyone with any environmental sensitivity, has an impaired immune system, by whatever cause (genetics, age, sex, bungee jumper, rugby player, etc.), and will have a global sensitivity to lots and many exposures, some more evident than others. So when I hear talk of one of those myths, and table complaints, I try to get to the real root of the problem.

This client’s problem, and the previous owner’s, was that they felt they were chemically sensitive, and totally disregarded any possibility of electrical sensitivity. This client’s home was spartan of electronic novelties, partly because they “hurt” her, somehow. But the home was wired with Romex, the default electrical wire type in the majority of North American homes. This produces a pervasive alternating electric field in every cubic inch of living space, the only variant being the intensity by location. It appears to be associated with a childhood leukemia peak at ages 2 - 4. My perception is that this field is a biological irritant in and of itself, emphatic arguments by others to the contrary notwithstanding. Expose an individual to an irritant long enough, and this can bring on disease. The rest, as they say, is history (even if in future sense).

Part of the solution was disconnecting the wiring to her bedroom to eliminate the electric field therein (well, reduction by only 98% or so, but I think you get the gist). An electrician then installed a run of armored cable to the attic, and from there ran armored cable to her bedroom’s points of use (outlets, lights, etc.), so she could have power, if and when she so desired, so she could get on with her life. I thought that was the end of it.

This client had the resources to later build a home. The fact aside that she was excruciatingly analyzing every component chemically, she had installed Armored Cable (AC). This type of cable is inherently shielded, so it “eliminates” the electric field, similar to having the power turned off. She then relayed by email, that she walked into her new home when nearly finished, and said she knew the power was on, because she’d flip a switch and lights would come on, but gone was any adverse biological perception of that presence.

I wish her “Thank You” was something I could have taken to the bank . . .


Sensitivity is Not Real (it’s probably in someone else’s imagination)

Over one summer I had the unique opportunity to have some involvement with two individuals, each more than 1000 miles distant from the other, with identical problems, Mold.

Mold is ubiquitous. It’s a natural recycler, of anything organic. You breathe in hundreds of mold spores daily, if not hourly, depending on what you’re doing. But enough of a good thing . . . (I think they help keep your immune system “triggered,” and on the alert), in excess, they can be a real problem. The fact aside that they eat their surroundings, including your house and home, provide a substantially dense presence, and you may end up being lunch.

However, on the other extreme, you cannot create a mold-free environment, unless you have another planet you’d like to chat about. I suspect even in the Space Station, and the shuttles to and from, there is a distinct and detectable mold presence, although I have not pursued investigating this in the available literature. So when I hear someone tell me they need a mold-free home, because they’re “sensitive to mold,” I cringe, and do my best to not denigrate the (possible) client.

But back to my epic, both of these clients experienced enhanced local mold growth due to water leakage / intrusion. The natural thing to do is to first stop the leakage, then remove the enhanced presence ( (the short version at, although these publications refers to aftereffects of a flood, they apply equally to localized enhanced growth), and get on with life. But both of these individuals employed “experienced contractors” who specialized in “mold removal,” because they perceived it was “more than a small job.” Part of what most of these contractors do, or want to do, is treat the area affected, or even the entire home, with fungicides, or other agents with similar function.

However, without first giving it some thought, and maybe putting the cart before the horse, both clients decided to stay home while this process was ongoing. Both events happened during a warm season. Both homes had central HVACs. Both HVACs are by default “closed” systems. That is, they circulate air, filter, cool, and dehumidify it in the process. However, they do nothing to remove aromatics (VOCs) from the air. So any chemical producing aromatics (know any that don’t?) will have its aromatics going round and round, and in the client’s lungs, on a persistent and regular basis. Opening the windows intermittently, may help, but until the aromatics are reduced to insignificant levels, any human exposure can be problematic. Read the SDSs (safety data sheets) and most of these compounds are documented as not recommended for excessive, or repeated, exposure. What are “insignificant levels?” What is “excessive?” To that I would answer: what is the individual’s initial sensitivity level (remember the variables: genetics, age, sex, bungee jumper, rugby player, listen to Alice Cooper music, etc.)? One of these clients was female, the other male. Both were adults, high conscious level, one might think. Both had what I suspect an initially strong immune system (both having an initially impaired immune system is an exceedingly improbable probability).

There are secondary effects to consider also. Some of these “mold-killers” chemically interact with their surroundings, to produce subsequent irritants. Ozone, for instance, is known to react with certain fabrics and carpeting, to produce secondary aromatic irritants, not to mention that it is a primary irritant to human mucous surfaces (nose, throat, lungs, etc.).

As the linked USEPA publication suggests, protect yourself, if you decide to take this on yourself. For particle masks, use an N-95 or N-99 (yes, the latter exist and are available, I have a dozen or so), and if you have a beard, shave to properly use the mask. Although a foregoing post indicated smaller particles sling around the mask easily, that related to Chinese disease masks, which may be nothing more than loose bandannas ((remember the “keeping up appearances?”) used to be walking into a public place with one on, people would duck for cover, now they duck for cover if you don’t have one on!). A properly functioning face mask, will have a snug fit over its entire edge contact with your face (wearing one of these is also likely to make people suspicious, in a public place . . . ). Proper clothing is also essential. If you decide to get adventurous, don’t take on cleaning up after mold with Bermuda shorts, and a tank top, despite temperature possibly in the 90s. That’s because contact dermatitis is an additional problem beyond the scope of this short blurb, and any mold colony of significance, will have enough chemicals to cause local skin reaction, or possibly systemic toxic effects. The USEPA has some helpful documents related to mold and IAQ at on today’s date.

Cheers! (not just EMFs!)