Dangerous Magnetic Fields of Telephone Handsets

By Kim Goldberg 

Thought you were being electro-safe by using good, old-fashioned corded phones in your home instead of cordless phones or cell phones? 

Well, you were half right. You have eliminated a significant source of radio frequency (RF) emissions in the bio-toxic 900-2,400 MHz range by using a wired rather than wireless phone. 

The earpiece of any telephone handset  (corded or not) emits a massive magnetic field, far above safe limits for exposure - especially for something pressed to your head while in use. (Photo © Kim Goldberg)

The earpiece of any telephone handset (corded or not) emits a massive magnetic field far above safe limits for exposure – especially for something pressed to your head while in use. When I measured the earpiece on my phone, it was emitting a magnetic field ranging from 250-1,300 nanotesla. Safe is under 30 nT. (Photo © Kim Goldberg)

But you’re not out of the woods yet. The handsets for corded phones (and no doubt cordless phones too) emit a massive magnetic field from the earpiece—yes, that thing pressed against your skull for hours at a time. 

Bottom line, for those who don’t want to read to the end: Use the speakerphone function on your corded phone. Keep the handset away from your skull. 

I had begun to get suspicious about telephone handsets after several electrosensitive people I have been interviewing for my Refugium project told me they can only use a phone (corded, of course) for a few minutes at a time, or they can only use it on speakerphone. 

I had also been trying to suss out why my own right ear has been chronically blocked for years and now starts heating up and ringing when I am on the computer for extended periods of time. 

While seated at my desk using the speakerphone function of my phone, the magnetic field is a mere 24 nanotesla. Safe is anything under 30 nT. (Photo © Kim Goldberg)

While seated at my desk using the speakerphone function of my phone, the magnetic field is a mere 24 nanotesla. Safe is anything under 30 nT. (Photo © Kim Goldberg)

I have never owned and rarely used any wireless devices in my life. So I began asking myself: Could the handset for my corded phones (I have 4, one for each room) be affecting that ear? 

Last night I whipped out my trusty ME 3030B analyzer from Gigaherz Solutions in Germany, and my jaw dropped at what I discovered. 

I set the meter to magnetic field mode, and placed it to the earpiece of my primary phone (which has a power cord, transformer and onboard electronics including call display, answer machine, and speakerphone). The magnetic field reading was fluctuating wildly and continuously from 250-1,300 nT.  (That’s 2.5-13 mG. To convert from nanotesla to milligauss, divide by 100.)

Safe is anything under 30 nT !

My cheaper corded phones with no power cord but just a single line to a phone jack were emitting magnetic fields from the earpiece ranging from 215-600 nT.

What do these numbers mean? 

The 2008 Building Biology Evaluation Guidelines document classifies a magnetic field of 100-500 nT (1-5 mG) as being a “Severe Concern” in a sleeping area. And more than one electrician and building biologist has told me there should be no areas of your home above 30 nT (0.3 mG). 

Power transformers, those black boxes you plug into the wall for some of your home appliances and electronics, generate dangerously high magnetic fields. Do not sleep or sit next to one. This is the transformer for my phone, generating a magnetic field reading of 1,963 nanotesla. (Photo © Kim Goldberg)

Power transformers, those black boxes you plug into the wall for some of your home appliances and electronics, generate dangerously high magnetic fields. Do not sleep or sit next to one. This is the transformer for my phone, generating a magnetic field reading of 1,963 nanotesla. Safe is anything under 30 nT. (Photo © Kim Goldberg)

So I had to ask myself: How good can it be to have that massive magnetic field clamped on my skull every day? And yes, it was usually clamped on my right ear—and for decades now. 

The good thing about magnetic fields is that they drop off very quickly with distance. Even a few inches can make a difference. I detected absolutely NO additional magnetic field above the ambient room level of 24 nT when I moved the meter just a few inches down the handset to measure the mouthpiece instead of the earpiece. And more importantly, I measured no additional magnetic field at the point of my body when I am seated at the desk and using the speakerphone function of my phone.

I can only assume that there is a power transformer located in the earpiece speaker of every telephone handset, because transformers are the main generators of magnetic fields in home appliances and electronics. 

The external transformer (black box) on the power cord for my primary phone generates an enormous magnetic field where it plugs into the wall (about 1,500 nT, but sometimes maxing out the meter beyond 1,999 nT). However, that field has disappeared by the time I move 6 feet away to where I am seated while using the phone. 

In fact, the magnetic field at my seat while I am using the phone on speakerphone is just 24 nT, which is perfectly acceptable. 

(Sidebar: Do not sleep or sit anywhere near those black box power transformers you plug into the wall for various devices in your home. Position yourself at least 3-6 feet from plugged-in transformers – even if there is a wall separating you from the transformer.) 

When you buy these two Gigaherz Solutions meters together from Safe Living Technologies in Ontario (the ME 3030B and the HF 35C), you get a 10% discount and this nifty free carry case. I paid $620 for my set, including tax and shipping.

When you buy these two Gigaherz Solutions meters together from Safe Living Technologies in Ontario (the ME 3030B and the HF 35C), you get a 10% discount and this nifty free carry case. I paid $620 for my set, including tax and shipping. (Photo © Kim Goldberg)

The $620 I spent two years ago (including tax and shipping) on my two Gigaherz Solutions meters (the ME 3030B for electrical and magnetic fields, and the HF 35C for measuring RF/wireless emissions), has probably been the best money I have ever spent. I have located and reduced many sources of electromagnetic radiation in my home and life, thanks to those meters. Read my article “How Hot is Your Bedroom?”

Stay strong, live long.

Text and photos © Kim Goldberg, 2013
All rights reserved

16 thoughts on “Dangerous Magnetic Fields of Telephone Handsets

  1. Laurie Corbeil

    Thanks for this valuable discovery, Kim. I wondered why my left ear always goes deaf immediately when I am near wifi or cell towers. Here I have been damaging my hearing for years, first, with a cordless phone, and, second, with a corded phone. Shocking, indeed!

    Reply
    1. Linnhe

      I’m not anywhere near being savvy about electric and magnetic fields, black-box transformers, cordless handsets, nor converting nanoteslas to milligauss’. But, what I do know is that something’s pretty weird when I pick up my reciever and it has four metal sewing pins clinging to it! What to do, what to do … please do tell

      Reply
  2. linda

    I discovered this a few years ago with my simple Gauss meter. I thought that perhaps it was just the old reconditioned phones I had, that it couldn’t possibly be from all phones.
    They are actually allowed to make phones like this?????

    Another issue I had some huge problems with over the years until I discovered the source of the problem, is stray voltage or current on the phone line!

    This will affect me even using speaker-phone.
    Most telephone repair people play dumb about this, but I had one who let the cat out of the bag, so to speak, when he said he found some on my line at the main box down the road, and would find me a line that was clear.
    It made all the difference.

    This can be a recurring problem though, when they mess around with wires in the boxes, as I’ve had it happen several times while living here.
    My head will start to feel like there’s a swarm of angry bees in it when I am using the phone.
    I have to call repair and ask that they send someone to the main box to clear my line – I don’t know how they do that, or what is involved, but it happens.

    Reply
  3. Bruce M

    There is no power supply in the earpiece of a phone, it’s the speaker. Speakers are a coil which moves the speaker cone physically by it’s attraction and repulsion to a magnet. So all speakers will generate an audio frequency magnetic field. People with ES have been dealing with this for over 30 years. Most use either old analog speaker phones or tape a paper or cardboard cone to the handset so that the phone will be held away from the head.

    You should avoid phones with electronics in the handset, and preferably use phones of the “princess” era (earliest tone dialing) or earlier with a separate tone dialer. The newer designs can often introduce some above audio frequency emissions which can be bothersome. In modern phones, you must “cherry pick” or find one’s who’s emissions are less bothersome for you, individually. Avoid phones with any digital features such as caller id or memory if possible.

    Many of the newer speaker phone models are digital and quite bad for radio frequency emissions. Check it with an AM radio, radio shack 12-586. If you don’t know how to use an AM radio as a “near field sniffer”, you really should learn this.

    Learning how to identify and correct high frequency emissions on your home wiring is very important to reducing your daily exposure, since you are rarely more than 5 feet away from a live wire at any time.

    The standards for magnetic fields proposed by Baubiology have been inadequate for people for ES for decades. The average home is 0.1-0.2mg in the living areas, according to data collected by the EPRI, our arch enemy. Many people with ES are reactive to magnetic fields at 0.01mg and below. I personally need 0.002mg or below. Baubiologist’s are often well intentioned but have made many people with MCS/ES homeless and destitute after building homes by their advice which they could not live in and could not sell for anywhere near the cost of construction. Some very well known Baubiologists focus only on “body voltage”, a rather bogus measurement, and ignore wiring errors, high frequency noise on the wiring from switching power supplies, etc. One famous one charges about $1500- $2000 for this silly body voltage measurement throughout your home, a 30 minute job using $20 in equipment. Many Biobiologists promote Stetzer “filters” (really just a metal film motor run capacitor at an inflated price and with lots of marketing hype), which are technically a joke of a filter, totally ineffective for the well known, significant common mode noise generated by switching supplies. Their meter shows only differential noise, the capacitors convert differential to common mode, so while the meter shows improvement, you will not be able to feel or measure a significant improvement in radiated emissions.

    A consultant of some real value must understand the engineering field of EMC, and one would expect them to spend a lot of time inside your power panels and house finding and fixing wiring errors, and identifying sources of high frequency emissions. This can be very time consuming, and in most cases you are far better off getting your own meter and educating yourself. In most cases, when I have done phone based troubleshooting with people with ES, their own home wiring problems and electronics are the primary source of their exposure. This 24/7 exposure is what has led to their hypersensitivity. There is little hope of improvement until that constant exposure is corrected.

    Reply
    1. Kim Goldberg Post author

      Hi Bruce. Thanks for posting. I agree with you entirely on your statement in your final paragraph that “in most cases you are far better off getting your own meter and educating yourself.” I am always urging the same. This is why I bought myself two high quality meters a couple of years ago and have learned how to use them and use them frequently – the HF35C for measuring RF, and the ME3030B for measuring magnetic fields and low frequency electrical fields.

      Reply
    2. Elan

      Bruce,

      This is great information. Thank you. At this point for EHS sufferers I think having a few rooms in the house without any power is ideal and especially each night where sleeping. Time to get in-room switches for entire circuits if they aren’t convenient to turn off at the breaker panels.

      Reply
  4. chiliv369

    Now I’ve gotten worse that even using the speaker phone after awhile affects me((
    I use a battery operated calculator as I am an accountant and I feel ‘spun’ from that too!

    Reply
  5. Iyad

    I have a question, so landlines don’t use electromagnetic fields or give off radiation that cause brain cancer, right? I work at a call center where I conducted a lot of calls on a landline, and just wanted to make sure landline phones do not cause cancer.

    Reply
    1. Kim Goldberg Post author

      My understanding is that you are safe with a landline in that regard – no pulsed RF transmitting, and so no brain cancer from whatever is attached to your head/ear at a call centre. However, I suspect a call centre has a lot of sources of electro-magnetic radiation, so there could be some other health problems. I am quite sure, for example, that an electro-sensitive person would not be able to tolerate working in a call centre. But I think you don’t need to worry about brain cancer.

      Reply
  6. Terry Sinclair

    I am disconnected the landline phone and it still produced a strong magnetic field using my trified meter.it is probably static field.Nevertheless I am staying clear with head contact.It is still a strong magnetic field.

    Reply
  7. Terry Sinclair

    I did some further research on this subject.
    Actually there is a magnet and a electromagnet interacting to produce sound in landline speakers.The electromagnetic field alters with the voice from the other end through the line changing the vibration generated into sound in simple terms
    So I think that makes the electromagnetic field pulsatile or variable,.So is it really safe esp close to one’s head even though the electromagnet field is perhaps weak?.I am not sure about static magnetic fields close to the brain either.Not much info on this topic.For prudent avoidance I shall limit for now.

    Lyn Mclean in “The Force .Living safely in world of electromagnetic pollution says landlines phones emit low magnetic fields unless in close proximity to AC wire..
    Trifield meter are for pulsatile AC magnetic fields ,flat an non flat response type.Flat types compensates for fequencies outside 60 Hz range where non flat type over reads as high mG.My trifield is non flat response type maybe giving ” falsely ” high mG reading when tested on my Nd magnet as a comparison to my landline..Non flat type meters will give high reading outside the 60 hertz range unlike the flat type.Perhaps my non flat trifield is misinterpreting my static field as a high frequency giving higher readings. My magnet faintly attracts the landline phone meaning the magnetic field from the landline is actually weak.I tested measuring magnetic fields on 2 different model landlines.Both registered less than 10 mG on my trifield. This readings may be erroneous in my 2 cents opinion.
    Sorry for the confusion and the terminology used .This is not my department. But I have keen interest in EMF.
    Perhaps some expert can shed my light.

    Reply

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