Stray Voltage can kill

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Cows acting as coal mine canaries for stray volts

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Updated: Fri. Oct. 20 2006 9:27 AM ET
TORONTO — Canada’s dairy cows are acting as “canaries in coal mines” when it comes to detecting stray electricity in the ground that poses a significant threat to human health, experts said Thursday.

While research and courtroom victories suggest stray voltage from power lines can negatively impact on a cow’s milk production, there’s also a documented case of it claiming a human life.

Cattle herds, to the dismay of dairy farmers, are on the frontlines of detecting the problem, said Magda Havas of Trent University in Peterborough, Ont.

“We normally hear about this from dairy farmers, because the cow becomes the canary in the coal mine,” said Havas, a professor of environmental science.

“The cow, because they milk it twice a day . . .they record how much milk (they) give. If there’s a change in that 24-hour period, they can pick it up instantly.”

The problem lies in the neutral wires on hydro transmission lines which carry electricity back to the transformer to complete the circuit.

If there isn’t a neutral wire, or the one present can’t handle the load, then power will stray - travelling through yards, buildings, fields, animals and humans on its way back to the transformer.

“It would knock our cows down,” said Lee Montgomery, a former dairy farmer from southwestern Ontario.

“We’re were getting (power surges) over 1,000 volts, and I’ve got the tapes to prove it, I’ve still got 'em.”

In the late 1970s, Montgomery went from being one of the top dairy producers in the Chatham-Kent region of Ontario to ranking near the bottom.

“He went from being a top quantity as well as top quality, then he went right down,” said Barry Fraser, a former Ontario agriculture ministry worker assigned to monitor the problems on Montgomery’s farm.

That work led the ministry to concede that stray electricity could be a factor. Montgomery sued the province’s giant power utility, then called Ontario Hydro, and settled out of court.

“(The power utilities) fail to consider what effect (stray voltage) would have for people and animals who stand on that ground and are exposed to that current,” said Havas.

Last week, a jury in Washington State ordered a local power utility to pay $1.1 million in damages to a dairy farmer who argued ground current devastated his business.

The problem isn’t solely the concern of farmers.

Two years ago in New York City, a woman walking her dogs was killed by stray voltage when she stepped on a steel plate.

“We want to make sure that it doesn’t happen here,” said Havas.

“We want to get rid of the problem so that it helps farm animals, it helps farmers but it helps people in urban areas as well, before there’s a death (in Canada).”

In the majority of cases, adding a neutral wire where there isn’t already one, or a second wire to help handle the load, would solve the problem, said Havas.

To that end, legislation calling for fines of up to $1,000 for each day a utility fails to act on complaints of stray electricity passed second reading Thursday in the Ontario legislature.

The private member’s bill originated from the backbenches of the Liberal government. Ontario Energy Minister Dwight Duncan said he was “glad” to see a discussion on the “little-known issue.”

“We don’t have many neutral wires in the province right now,” said Duncan.

“We take advice from the legislature, from the people of Ontario, (but) I can’t say we’d move on it in a fast time frame.”

The problem of stray electricity isn’t confined to farm fields and city streets, said Havas.

“When you turn on that tap to get a drink of water, to do your dishes, to have a shower, there is current flowing through from the tap through your body,” she said.

“The way it comes into our house is through the plumbing. Everything is grounded to plumbing, that’s how our code works.”

Electricians measuring stray electricity coming through shower heads have found levels strong enough to seriously harm, or even kill, people, said Havas.

© 2007 All Rights Reserved.

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Ok. Now if its coming from the ground what do measure it in referance to?

I am just guessing I do not know .
I would think a large amount of this could be induced via metal fences .
I guess in order to kill a cow it must be a differential from where the front feet are to the back feet .
Or I could be from the Cows Nose touching the fence to ground.
I have heard of differentials so little but a horse can feel it front feet to back and not go through an area .
I touched a freezer in a local Grocery store and felt a tingle . Reported to management and got a meter Difference from Freezer to strips in the floor was 14 volts and I could feel it they thought it was not enough to be concerned about .
Tried to tell him 12 volts can kill and they laughed .

… Cookie

What a load of hooey!!

The regular current DOES NOT return back to the transformer “through yards, buildings, fields, animals and humans” if the lines* “can’t handle the load”*.
I’m no line worker but I know this is absurd.

These are faults, and should be treated as such.

There has been to many reported cases over many years for me to call it hooey
This is not new it has been reported many times over the last 50 years that I know of .It seems horses are more sensitive then other animals .
Just some below

Here is a better document and some conclusions.

What Do We Know About Stray Voltage

The Science Advisors gave three main findings in their report:
• “We have not found credible scientific evidence to verify the specific claim that currents in the earth
or associated electrical parameters such as voltages, magnetic fields and electric fields, are causes of
poor health and milk production in dairy herds.”
• “At the present time, there is no basis for altering the PUC-approved standards by which electric
utilities distribute power onto or in the vicinity of individual dairy farms.”
• “There are many well-documented non-electrical factors that are known and accepted by the
scientific community, and by most farmers as well, to cause dairy cow health and production
problems. Among the most noteworthy factors are poor nutrition, poor cow comfort and hygiene, and
low or no use of vaccinations and related preventive veterinary practices. These factors should
always be addressed by those who want to improve performance of dairy herds.”

More Helpful Links

Thanks Mike the more I learn about electricity the more I realize how little I know .
No wonder so many have trouble understanding what it is and what it does.

An unknown force governed by known laws.

… Cookie

Roy, I don’t have time to read those this morning, but I’ll just say I was not implying “something” wasn’t happening. I was just saying it is absolutely NOT the “current returning to the transformer through animals, people, etc” as that article stated. Articles like that make me laugh.

I’ll also add, I DO think the whole “EMF” scare IS hooey. I live near a very “hippie” town. One lady actually had me remove the antennas from her wireless router. She didn’t want the radio waves “flying all over her house”. They gave her a headache. She was serious!
I then asked her if she had a cell phone or cordless phone. Her husband almost smacked me. :mrgreen:

All those EMF claims were documented, and then were debunked by experts. I’m not saying there is nothing going on but I am saying it is nothing that is bad enough to do anything detrimental to a living body.

lol…well now speedy…it could effect the human body if you work around it a lifetime. Studies have shown that the effects of working with electricity and the magnetic fields associated with it DOES have some effect on us Electricians…exactly WHAT effect we have no real idea right now I guess…lol

Now I did not read the article…but from what I gather it has something to do with animals and people and so on and return currents…well…I agree thats a bit hokey…maybe I should read the article first…lol

But on the comment of it not effecting cows and milk production…they have plenty of studies with the IEEE in regards to cows and equipotential planes and effects of something as small as 1-3 volts they can detect and will stress them out which in turn reduces milk production…but thats simply a by product of their stress…

Ok…Ok…I will go back and read the article since to be honest I have quite a bit of experience in talking about EMF…so let me read it when I get my coffee this morning.

Ok…I have now read the article…what concerns me is the constant use of the NEUTRAL term…they make a statement like this:

“We don’t have many neutral wires in the province right now,” said Duncan.

Which begs me to ask…how on earth does the electricity get back to the source…ahhh…maybe thats the question.


"If there isn’t a neutral wire, or the one present can’t handle the load, then power will stray - travelling through yards, buildings, fields, animals and humans on its way back to the transformer. "

I think his comment was taken out of context…I think he means poor animals and humans get in the WAY of this path…I would have to see the video of COWS dropping like flies to buy that portion…

Now…get into a improperly bonded swiming pool in that area and well…quite possible…lol


“We’re were getting (power surges) over 1,000 volts, and I’ve got the tapes to prove it, I’ve still got 'em.”


Now as for New York…he made this statement:

"Two years ago in New York City, a woman walking her dogs was killed by stray voltage when she stepped on a steel plate.

“We want to make sure that it doesn’t happen here,” said Havas.

Honestly…the problem there is they dont have an effective fault current path and the plate stays energized…call it what you will but thats simply poor design in regards to new york…solve the problem…run EGC’s as needed.

What do you think happened to me ,to me ,to me ,to me,to me ,to me ,to me ,to me,to me ,to me ,to me ,to me,to me ,to me ,to me ,to me,to me ,to me ,to me ,to me.
I’m ok,ok,ok,ok,ok,ok,ok,ok,ok,ok,ok,ok,ok,ok,ok,ok,

lol…I hear ya Young Man…yep I have the same effects…it’s the EMF…LOLOLOLOLOLOLOOL…syndrome.

Here is a good link to a site about EMF for those who want to read about it…

Would you mind reading the
“What Do We Know About Stray Voltage”
link in post #6 and commentig on it?

I’m mobile and can’t post links easily.

yeah I will read it…give me a bit however as I have to go urinate…

OK…I read it and to be honest with you it was a NICE read. I am not an Eng. by trade…but I would say I agree with his statements.

The issue of the voltage on the cow will effect her behaviour and could reduce milk production…after all I TICK off my wife and she does not put out so…it stands to reason…in fact she never puts out anymore so I guess I have a Magnetic Personality…

Anyway I felt the article was fine…I have no other comments on it as the guy is more qualified than me to write it…now if he made improper statements about grounding and bonding then I would step in…but he is right about usually the neutral being undersized, improperly terminated or in fact neutral lines in the ground with damage or worn insulation can effect the ground voltage levels…all facts…

so…I have no problems with it…except in the effects of the Equipotential Plane in a case of a dairy cow…I happen to agree with the part they said evidence does show voltages can effect a cows behaviour…so logic would dictate it can effect their production…so it appears it is enough evidence for me. Also the IEEE and NFPA must believe the Equipotential Plane is needed in the case of a dairy cow senario…look at the explantion of the Equip. requirements…we cant remove voltages on the earth due to the nature of the beast…BUT we can reduce its effects by establishing an equal potential…but alas being theory and all some dont agree with that statement as well…but it works…wont remove it…but does give some level of equalization to the surrounds.

You got to admit I sure do get some interesting threads started.
Gets many people thinking and thats what NACHI is about .
We do not have too always agree .
… Cookie

**Animal research: **A great deal of research on the effects of stray voltage on farm animals has been
conducted over the past 40 years. The first study of stray voltage on dairy farms was published in New
Zealand in 1962. In this early study a series of experiments were carried out to establish the lowest level
of contact voltage at which there was a response. It was concluded that 3 volts (rms) would be a likely
minimum level for response.
A summary of the effects of the most common form of stray voltage (steady 60 Hz contact voltage) on
animals was published in 1991 by the USDA. The authors of this document reviewed the numerous
studies of dairy cow reaction to voltage and current exposure and concluded that the most sensitive cows
(less than 3 percent) begin to perceive contact voltage levels of about 1 volt causing 1 milliamp
(measured as rms) of 60 Hz electrical current to flow through the cow. As the voltage and current is
increased, a larger percentage of cows will perceive the current and behavioral responses will become
more pronounced. Numerous studies have documented avoidance behaviors in the range of 3 to 6
milliamps of current flowing through the cow. This response assumes that the cow comes into contact
with objects that have different voltages and that this voltage causes sufficient current to flow through the
cow. The authors recommended that cow contact voltage be kept below 2 - 4 volts (rms) to prevent
adverse responses.

Ok…sad fact is in tests voltage on the earth due to improper neturals and well the nature of a multi-grounded system is around 3 V…now it is better to negate the effects than to discount them…this is the preceived nature of the creation of the Equipo. Plane…atleast thats the NFPA’s stance on it.

Roy…it is not about right or wrong in many cases…it’s all about the QUEST my friend.

BTW…Mike Holt has some GREAT stuff on Stray Voltage and his thoughts on it as well…welcome to THEORY…we are still learning many things in this thing we call Paul-tricity…I mean…Electricity…sorry

Just go to his site and click on NEWSLETTERS and find the ones about Stray Voltage…

Ironically I read this info on a site that of all things sells SOLUTIONS…but I would say they made a statement in the article like this…"Electricity takes the path of least resistance. The low resistance offered by a farm’s equipotential grounding grids represents a serious threat to cows in that it provides a low resistance path to where cows are being milked. "

The first statement alone makes me question them…Electricity does NOT take the path of least resistance…it takes all paths available…proportional to the about of resistance…

Heck if that was the case…having a metal light pole with no EGC running to it and just driving a ground rod next to it would make it safe…NOT…if someone touches it at a body resistance of 1000 OHMS…and the ground rod has a perfect 25 OHMS…it is the lease resistance…so if the man touched it are we saying he would not possibly DIE?..heck no because while some will travel on the earth because it is a conductor…granted a poor one…the OCPD will never TRIP because simple OHMS LAW says…120 divided by 25 OHMS is what…4.8 Amps…will that trip an OCPD…NOT HARDLY…so when a company makes that kind of statement…I start to question ALL their research…

But alas here is their article…

Ironcially I do agree with a few of their solutions…dealing with the neutral and isolation.