Can Grounding be bad for your health? Some people think so.
Whilst grounding naturally outdoors bare skin to the ground is completely safe as long as you watch where you put your feet and the ground itself is clean and uninfected and not electrically charged, grounding indoors whether by wire and rod-in-the-ground or via your home’s electrical system is thought by some people to be unsafe in some circumstances.
In their view, the problem lies with those bothersome emfs again.
Here, in very simple terms, is the argument.
We live in an increasingly wired world, and EMF emissions, also known as electromagnetic radiation, are all around us. Wi-Fi routers, cordless phones, wireless smart meters and even those possibly life-saving wireless baby monitors fill the air with microwave radiation. (According to PowerWatch, http://wiredchild.org/sciencealias/43-what-the-science-tells-us/67-what-the-science-tells-us-wireless-products.html a wireless baby monitor positioned less than 1 metre from a baby’s crib was roughly equivalent to the microwave radiation experienced from a cell phone tower only 150 meters away. Just think about that next time you stick that whiz-bang piece of hi-tech gadgetry next to the little loved one’s head.)
Just as—possibly more—troublesome are the frequencies from your home’s electrical wiring and appliances, especially the modern energy saving types. These generate ‘stray electricity’ which spreads throughout a building and even to other buildings via electrical wiring, ground and plumbing currents, and power lines. It radiates into living and work environments, exposing those inside to potentially harmful electromagnetic fields. Mounting evidence suggests that this ‘dirty electricity’, as it’s also called, has an adverse affect on health.
The problem with indoor grounding therapy according to some, is that by artificially grounding yourself by plugging your pad or blanket into an electrical socket you turn yourself into an antenna and actually attract these harmful stray frequencies to you. Worse still, in certain areas the electrical distribution produces ground current and here you may even pick up stray current back up from the ground outside.
In other words, according to this theory, grounding may do you more harm than good.
But do these arguments stack up?
Although I’m a long time grounding fan I barely know my ohm from my ampere, so I decided to put these concerns to the people at Groundology. Here’s what Seb, who has a background in electrical engineering, has to say. I’ll quote his answer in full, and then we’ll see what we make of it.
“First the question of whether it is beneficial to ground the body in an environment where Emfs are present:
The key principle to understand is that grounding has a shielding effect on the body. An analogy would be a coaxial electrical cable which has a central part carrying a sensitive electrical signal, surrounded by an outer sheath that is connected to Earth.
To get a bit more technical about it…
There are two principle mechanisms by which shielding works: reflection and absorption. When an electromagnetic wave travelling through space encounters a shield, firstly much of the energy is reflected and then secondly some of the energy that is not reflected is then absorbed by the shield. In this context ‘absorbed’ means drained away to Earth.
So yes, part of the mechanism of shielding is that very tiny electric currents flow to Earth. However, even in a relatively high EMR domestic environment, these currents are extremely small.
The exception to this is when someone is physically touching a device that has a high voltage present on the outer case. These tend to be things like laptops, tablets and mobile phones, using badly designed ungrounded power supplies. Apple devices (MacBooks, iPads, iPhones, etc.) are notable culprits, but some other manufacturers’ devices also have the same problem.
When using such devices, I recommend either:
(a) Unplug the device from its charger during use, definitely while you are grounded, but preferably at other times too if practical. (The high voltage is only present when such a device is connected to its charger.)
(b) Ground the case of the device itself, rather than your body (e.g. by placing on a grounding mat) – this will drop the voltage right down and prevent it going into your body.
I must stress that this is about direct physical contact with such devices. There is a huge difference in the amount of current that flows to Earth with physical contact to a voltage source, compared to the mechanism of shielding an electromagnetic wave.
As to the question of whether grounding the body via the mains Earth could actually introduce electrical noise into the body:
This depends a great deal on the quality of the mains Earth and the type of mains system in use. In the US, for example, the mains Earth is a relatively recent introduction and because of the way it has been implemented retrospectively in many buildings, it can carry significant electrical noise. That’s not to say that every house in the US has this issue, but there is a good reason why the US websites selling Earthing products always bundle a grounding rod kit with every Earthing product, as well as the means to connect via the mains Earth.
In the UK however, and other European countries that I am familiar with, the mains Earth is generally of a high quality. By this I mean two things:
(a) it has a low impedance to The Earth, and
(b) it does not carry any return current in the domestic electrical circuit. (Sometimes the electricity supply companies may ground the supply Neutral, but this is always outside of the domestic circuit.)
The only time that the mains Earth may carry a significant voltage is during a fault condition of a connected appliance. This can happen very briefly during the time it takes for the circuit to trip or fuse blow. This is one of the reasons why Earthing products contain a 100KOhm safety resistor – to limit any possible current to a safe level.
One further point which I think is important: while grounding is very effective at mitigating the effects of low frequency EMFs in the environment, it is only partially effective with higher frequency EMFs (such as WiFi, mobile phones, cordless phones, etc.)
While these higher frequency EMFs generally have a lower strength, some people can find them particularly problematic. So it can be beneficial to take practical measures, such as:
– use a wired landline phone, rather than a cordless or mobile, particularly for long calls;
– use a computer connected via a network cable, with WiFi disabled (e.g. ‘Airplane’ mode);
– for devices that can only connect wirelessly, switch to ‘Airplane’ mode when not in use, to avoid the constant WiFi/2G/3G/4G chatter.
Proximity is a significant factor as the EMF strength decays quickly with distance (it’s proportional to the inverse square of the distance). In simple terms, the further you are from the emitting device, the better. Dense physical obstructions such as walls also attenuate these higher frequency EMFs.
Still with me? A very comprehensive answer, and one which concurs with the majority of research I’ve done on this subject. Let’s summarise.
Stray (dirty electricity) does not adversely affect the benefits of grounding in a normal domestic environment, and will help protect against it, unless you are actually touching a device that has a high voltage present in the case, in which case you should take the precautions outlined above.
You are unlikely to pick up stray current from the ground outside the house within Europe. There is some risk of this in the US, where the electrical distribution system has developed slightly differently. Therefore the use of grounding rods rather than the domestic wiring system may be preferable, and as I mention elsewhere grounding rods are the favoured option of the purists.
The situation is not quite so clear on the subject of grounding and the higher frequency emfs created by wi-fis, cell phones and cordless phones etc. Indeed, as far as I am aware there has been very little research done on the subject. However the debate over the dangers or otherwise of wireless electromagnetic radiation generally is a long running and wide ranging one which extends far beyond the “grounding” fraternity. The jury is very much out on this issue, and until definitive evidence is produced either way you would be very wise to limit your exposure to this type of radiation as much as possible. My next book “Killing Fields” explores this issue in greater depth.
Until then, take the precautions listed above, and Keep Calm and Carry On Grounding.