SOUTH REDONDO BEACH (CBS) — A group of SoCal mothers believe electricity is making their families sick. CBS2’s Paul Magers spoke with these residents to find out why they think nearby power lines and their neighborhood substation is creating unsafe living conditions.

“This is my hair loss from one shower,” said Lori Barber, a resident in the Knob Hill neighborhood, as she held up a large clump of hair.

(credit: CBS)

“I absolutely worry about health issues, I have three young children,” remarked Doris Donlou-Richmond, Barber’s neighbor.

Mary Contreras is yet another local mother who said her daughter has been experiencing a variety of gastrointestinal problems and that half of her esophagus is paralyzed — all for unexplained reasons.

These women live in a neighborhood lined with schools and churches and a Southern California Edison substation, which sends out electricity to the city of Redondo Beach.

The substation is immediately apparent when first entering South Redondo Beach. Many residents said they did not even realize the substation was there until after they purchased their homes. The first five homes to be built on the Barber family’s street were used to house the Edison employees that worked at the facility. Edison had initially planned to tear them down and expand the substation. Instead, the company sold the homes in the ‘90s.

The Barbers bought one of those residences in April 2010 and their baby Adelaide was born in November of that same year. Three months later, the Barbers said their daughter was diagnosed with unexplainable gastrointestinal issues.

“I can’t help but believe it’s related to living here,” Barber said. “I have a 14-month-old baby girl that was just in the hospital last month with issues that we still don’t 100 percent have answers for or that just don’t make sense.”
Contreras lives around the corner, directly behind the substation, and also became concerned when her son and daughter became ill and she began to suffer headaches daily.

“My son, he was diagnosed with a tumor and with a lot of joint problems,” Contreras said.

(credit: CBS)

These residents believe electromagnetic fields (EMFs) generated by the Edison power lines are the root of all their health problems, despite there being no definitive proof.

Barber’s husband, Tom, showed us the power lines surrounding his home.

“We have a situation that we have electricity from high from both sides, high from over there and underground from in front of the house,” he said. “You’re in your own boxed-in microwave.”

The residents have already asked for Southern California Edison employees to measure the EMFs in all of their homes. Edison notes on its paperwork that one milligauss is the average reading in most houses. The company reported that this community had readings that ranged between 4.1 and 32.6.

Edison said EMF readings vary based on what is inside a home and that not all readings relate to power lines.

Doris Donlou-Richmond has EMFs ranging from 5.4 to 13.9 on her property and an electrically-charged gas line. The gas company marked her meter “11 Volts” – alerting employees to stay clear.

“It’s been three and a half years, they haven’t resolved the issue, and there’s no notation on my account other than they are not allowed to touch my gas line due to it being electrically charged,” Richmond said.

Another neighbor purchased the Edison home closest to the substation. Simona Wilson believes something called “stray voltage” has been seeping into her shower and has jolted her body, causing nerve damage.

“When we learned about Simona’s situation, we kind of thought it was interesting, and we started reaching out to people,” Barber said.

Wilson vacated her home last September and has filed a lawsuit claiming that Edison was aware of the stray voltage for the past 20 years. She recently underwent a hysterectomy, a medical issue she also believes is linked to the Edison substation.

“I just feel horrible that we’re sitting here together while one of our neighbors is having surgery,” said Barber, adding, “Obviously, we’re not the only people on this block that have an issue and if you didn’t raise hell about it [SoCal Edison wouldn’t] come to your house.”
CBS2 took these residents’ concerns straight to Edison.
“Certainly, I don’t dismiss customers’ frustration but to sort of characterize that we have not been engaged in trying to solve issues, you know, it’s unfortunate,” said Steve Conroy, of SoCal Edison.

“The first complaint that we actually received was around 2004, and it had to do with an issue of stray voltage,” Conroy said.

(credit: CBS)

Edison later corrected that comment in an email, stating they made disclosures about EMF readings and were aware of stray voltage issues as early as 1999 — years before some of the women involved moved into the neighborhood.

Conroy went on to cite scientific studies to suggest that there was no direct correlation between EMF levels and health concerns.

“There’s no evidence to say EMF is safe,” according to Dr. De-Kun Li, Ph.D., of the Kaiser Foundation Research Institute. He has studied electromagnetic fields and possible health effects for 15 years.

Li said no one is certain which EMF levels are safe and which are dangerous. However, his research recently linked EMF exposure to miscarriages and asthma. He says even though there is no federal standard on EMFs, people need to take precautions.

“My study shows above two milligauss could be potentially problematic, particularly when exposed for a long time,” Li said.

That limit is way below the EMF readings in the South Redondo Beach neighborhood. That’s why Barber said she and her family moved out last November.

“I’m leaving,” Contreras said. “I can’t stand to put my children, and my husband and myself at risk.”

“If Edison is not willing to buy back our house or give us back what we’ve put into it, we’ve potentially lost it,” Lori Barber said.

And, for many families in the area, there are still too many questions left unanswered.

“I want to know why I have electricity in my gas line and I want it fixed,” Richmond said.

“There are substations in neighborhoods that don’t have EMFs or stray voltage – so, why does this one?” Barber asked.

Some residents said they were concerned about the possible effect of the electricity on nearby schools.

Alta Vista Elementary School sent a note home to parents after CBS2 reported on the situation earlier this week, saying both Southern California Edison and the gas company have checked the school and believe there’s no threat.

Edison representatives said they will work with Simona Wilson’s family on the stray voltage issue and said she could even hire the contractor of her choice to fix the problem. Edison also said they were working with the gas company to determine if there was any stray voltage on the gas line.

Comments (30)
  1. HBIC says:

    How about moving instead of the blame game. Get a life it could never be genetics? Remember back in the day cousins married cousins.

  2. MIKE says:

    wearing a chain around your waist that drags behind you is supposed to get rid of any static electricity that builds up within the body by directing it from your body into the ground. Preventing the buildup of static electricity preventing the possibility of a spark/spontanous combustion occurring if somebody happens to touch you, LOL

  3. Mike says:

    Dont worry we aren’t going anywhere… you will always here from us!!

  4. Daniel says:

    It looks like Edison has some real grounding and insulation issues/current leakage. The soil in the area is probably sand which is a very poor medium for effective grounding, also the homes sitting on the same soil would have the same problems. The charged Gas line is just more proof to that; it picks up residual voltage from the substation grounding system that would have otherwise been safely discharged in to the ground, it might actually touch the grounding electrode. That is why the Gas Company can not do anything, is hard to “change” the soil. Bottom line is that a substation should never be built on sandy soil or at least not close to residences. This might or might not cause people to get ill, it will however cause electric shock if it gets worse or conditions change, the gas pipe could get more voltage. To fix this, or at least test it properly, Edison would have to shut down the power and retest/fix their Grounding System. Get a lawyer and make Edison get to work, it won’t go away.

  5. Cynthia1969 says:

    There’s no fixing this problem – I had the stray electrical surges from the lines at my last house and so did the neighbor behind me. I’d wake up with my leg burning in the same spot at the same time around 4 am. Move to a city that doesn’t have above ground lines that’s what I found worked. Once your sensitive to it even small amounts willl make you ill. It’s not worth fighting over just get out.

    1. Mehoe says:

      There was a story about a woman who was soo sensitive to electricity that she couldn’t even wear a electric watch or use a phone
      I heard she became Amish
      Find a good electrician and they should be able to fix the problem

  6. SoCalEdisonSucks says:

    So Cal Edison is absolutely a nightmare when it comes to customer service. They’ve shut down power at our office several times withouth notice and have scheduled week after week that there will be shut off times, and then never notify that at the 9th hpur they changed the date. So our poor IT people spend each weekend working really early or really late hours trying to protect our server. I’ve called them myself only to have to jump through every hoop for a rep and manager………………….So Cal Edison Sucks!!!!!!!

    1. Mehoe says:

      Might be a good idea for you to go off the Edison system and go green!

  7. Lily says:

    They have to sue them. Maybe you can’t get Erin Brockovich, but definitely try to get your money back. People need to be aware that the South Bay area is maybe one of best areas in So Cali to raise your family, but it has these mini electrical fields in neighborhoods everywhere. Then there are also those huge gas plants in the South Bay area. Remember that many areas in the South Bay was used to be for farming. I love to visit that area a lot, but living there for your health is not worth it.

  8. Tax Payer says:

    Why did they purchase a home next to a sub station? (if that’s even the cause)
    I wonder how many electrical devices they have inside their home?
    How about the soil and/or the fumes from the harbor and refineries
    Time for them to become Amish,
    Oh wait those oil lamps can put out fumes that may cause cancer

  9. Linda says:

    Has anyone contacted the former tenants who were employees of Edison to see if they’d been affected while they lived there? The power lines were there altho the substation was under construction. If they’d been affected, maybe this info should have been included as a problem on the listings for the houses????

  10. robert says:

    This is a real problem. It has been an issue for many years and it does cause illness. If you aren’t a head in the sand jack@ss like the people making aluminum foil coments you can learn and take steps to protect your family and your loved ones. Go to ELECTROSMOG21 and EMFWATCH on youtube.

  11. Karma says:

    Rude! It must be nice to sit and make ignorant comments…..let your child or parent be affected by some awful illness and then make these comments. Is it so hard to believe that these big companies put people’s health at risk daily…its just collateral damage, if a certain percentage become ill or die as a result of emf, it’s all in a days work….sad people would make fun of such a big problem……karma

  12. Olga says:

    Call 512-218-4100 and Ask Greg Dockery what’s happening and how to fix this problem.

  13. John says:

    There is no doubt that the EMF is causing all these health problems. No doubt. It is clear that California Edison is not going to want to admit this and that is going to generate quite a battle. Unless the residence arm themselves with solid evidence, they will not win this battle. Money doesn’t talk, it SCREAMS!

    To understand this problem, these people need to be shown how to test for the problem to prove their case. This cannot be done with a gauss meter! Energetic testing can be done to prove their case. The problem can also be fixed using the right energetic techniques, but again it is not going to be done by the so called experts because those people can be paid off and they are looking in the wrong direction.

    Some simple tests can show the problems, but these residents need to talk to the people who truly know what is going on.

    good luck

  14. kerry says:

    This is definitely a case for Erin Brockovich!

  15. DD says:

    The residents of Chino Hills have been embroiled in a “safety” battle against SCE for some time. We are truly sorry to hear what you’re going through.
    And for those who have posted these nasty comments, you are no better than the utility we’re fighting.We’re talking about people’s lives.
    The public is supposed to be protected from reckless utility companies. No area should be too dangerous to buy in or live in.
    If this was happening to the sarcastic bunch commenting here, they’d have a far different opinion.

  16. Scott Hunter says:

    “Currents of Death” by Paul Brodeur is a good start. Even Russia has EMF exposure limits. Here in USA, cash is more important then people.

  17. tom says:

    People always complain about Electric causeing elf. Or when power goes out.
    Turn your power off learn live with out it. But know you need it for lights computes to stay warm. Stop complain when your power go out. In this live every thing breaks. If you what power then stop complain when electric company’s need more money to up grade the grid.or let go back to the 60 liven when ever thing closes at 8 pm no more 24 hour living get rid of all your electric toys stop the blame game

    1. robert says:

      In Tom’s fractured mind it is either get cancer or go Amish. Obviously idiots aren’t able to comprehend that there is any in between ground. What an ignoramus. This type of sheep-a-fied citizen ;obviously passed up the through the public school system; is what is dragging this country down. This is the type of American voter who has caused the decline of this country and the rise of the corporation as the masters of the populace. Tell people happy stories about toxic subsatnces and then tell them what to by during the commercials while they swill on their beer watching their favorite sports team while they develop their heart felt opinion on important subjects like ” is Kim Ks @ss too big or just right. The proletariat will be the downfall of us all ( look it up Tom)

  18. White Zone says:

    Are there other layers of radiation compounding the problem such as wifi, water, gas or electric smart meters.? None of this is healthy for anyone. And it continues to proliferate unchecked year after year. We are the lab rats!
    See: or

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