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STATIC ELECTRICITY AND EFFECTS ON HEALTH

Electric and magnetic fields produced by artificially generated electricity are prevalent in our environment. Static electricity produced by electrical equipment and friction of synthetic furnishings, is also very much evident in our modern homes, offices and in motor vehicles. An increasing number of people are developing a hyper-sensitvity to excessive exposure to these artificial fields of energy. The condition is becoming known as ELECTROSTRESS Hyper-sensitivity (EHS) can develop due to unremitting exposure to the many sources of static electricity and electropollution in our environment today.

The hyper-sensitive individual can react adversely to any frequency in the electromagnetic spectrum including static electricity, experiencing stress, leading to a variety of symptoms. Ranging from moderate to severe in intensity. Some reported effects are:

muscle weakness, draining of energy, excessive fatigue

clumsiness, person becoming accident prone

dry eyes

memory lapses

behaviour problems.

Little is known of, or documented on the effects of electrostatics on the human system. Anecdotal evidence from electrically sensitive people, working and living in an artificial electrical atmosphere , suggests that it may be a problem of considerable proportions. In Sweden and UK there are studies underway to determine the extent and cause of electrosensitivity.

We are all familiar with the naturally occurring static electricity associated with thunderstorms, which is generated in the upper atmosphere by the friction of air molecules resulting in lightning displays.

Most people are not aware that static electricity is also generated by the friction of clothing against upholstery fabric in motor vehicles and footwear against floor coverings. Most of these items consisting of synthetic materials, all known to generate static charges. Many are familiar with the spark and 'ZAP' or mini shock produced by the discharge of static electricity on touching the car door after leaving a vehicle, or on removing synthetic clothing, combing or brushing hair with nylon comb/brush or even on touching another person. These effects are observed in cold or hot, low humidity atmospheric conditions. Static produced under these circumstances may be ignored by some individuals, no more than a nuisance to others, but for the hypersensitive individual, it can be a source of profound stress.

For those people who have developed a EHS to static electricity, or electric and magnetic fields, these experiences can be painful, stressful and debilitating.

STATIC ELECTRICITY is also produced by photocopiers, air conditioning, computers in the office, home appliances such as hair dryers, dishwashers, washing machines, cooling fans and any other equipment or appliance where there is friction of air molecules. In the printing industry it was found that certain machinery had created static charges which resulted in electrostatic field values equal to those to be found near high voltage power lines.( Ref., Electrostatic Fields in Industry Chapter 4 page 53)

One computer operator was literally thrown from his chair by the force of the static voltage discharge as he switched on the computer in his office. It is entirely possible for these static charges to damage some computers. (SMH 29.6.1992)

As much as 35,000 volts of static electricity can be produced by walking across a carpet, 12,000 volts from a vinyl floor, and 18,000 volts from a work chair padded with urethane foam. These readings were obtained in conditions of relative humidity of 10-20%, a dry atmosphere. Lower values of static charges were obtained in relative humidity conditions of 65-95%, a moist atmosphere. The lower the humidity, the higher the incidences of static charge generation. (Reference, A Basic Guide to An ESD Control Programme ,Simco 1995)

STATIC ELECTRICITY is a hazard in industry where there could be accidentally triggered explosions due to the close proximity of volatile substances and static sparks.

In the hospital operating theatre there must be no synthetic fabrics that could generate static sparks.

Where explosives are used, the operator of the detonator must be 'earthed' so that he does not accidentally trigger the detonating device with the static charges that his body may carry.

Anti-static solutions are sprayed on machine benches and cuffing benches in clothing factories to prevent static 'cling' from synthetic fabrics during manufacture of goods

Packaging of goods where handling of plastic bags can produce considerable static charges on the body mass of the packer draining the energy of a 'sensitive' operator. process workers in the electronics industry must use static control methods in order to prevent static charges transferring to the delicate electronic components and causing malfunction to the product.

It is reported that most Mazda new model cars, have a small anti-static panel near the inside door handle - this panel is earthed and requires a light touch to comfortably discharge static from the body. Anti- static straps attached to the rear of a car have been found to benefit the electrically sensitive person, and will reduce stress from any driver though 'sensitivity' may not be evident.

There are suppliers of STATIC CONTROL products to industries where the presence of static electricity can create a risk of an explosion, fire or where the products handled by personnel are at risk of degradation.

We have adapted the use of the anti-static mat for use as a means of reducing the static charges, which result in much discomfort for the electrically sensitive person. It can be used in many situations to relieve or prevent the build-up of electrostress.

The ANTI-STATIC MAT is placed partially under the keyboard of a computer or electric typewriter, allowing for frequent hand contact with the MAT. Developing a routine of frequently touching the MAT will allow accumulated static to be discharged harmlessly to ground, via the earthing system of the electricity supply. The MAT does NOT use any electricty. It can be used while ironing, using electric typewriters, the telephone and computers Discharging static by touching the MAT in these circumstances is found to reduce electrostress.

For further information on static control products contact; Betty Venables Phone (02) 9540 3936

 References:

Hidden Hazards Prof. R Laura & J Ashton, Bantam Books (1991)

Electropollution R Coghill, Thorsons publishers London (1990)

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