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Powerfrequency EMFs

Extremely low frequency EMFs index » Overview | Power lines | Substations | Electrical wiring | Electrical appliances

Possible health impacts

Health effects associated with exposure to powerfrequency electromagnetic fields include:

  • Childhood leukaemia
  • Alzheimer's disease
  • Miscarriage
  • Dementia
  • Lou Gehrig's disease
  • Motor neuron disease
  • Brain tumours
  • Breast cancer
  • Depression

Our use of electricity generates power-frequency electric and magnetic fields (ELF EMFs). The World Health Organisation's International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) has classified ELF EMFs as a Group 2B "possible human carcinogen" since 2002. There are also other serious health effects (see box on the right), associated with exposure to higher than normal magnetic fields (normally measured in µT) and electric fields (measured in V/m). The most common sources of exposure are overhead power lines, house wiring (particularly faulty wiring) and electrical appliances in the home. It is also possible for electricity supply faults (from wiring leading from substations that supplies your neighbourhood) to create elevated fields in the home.

EMFs cannot be directly detected by our own senses. Electric fields from sources outside the home are stopped by many materials (including brick and wood), but can be produced by house wiring, particularly when faults exist. Magnetic fields only reduce with distance. Measuring the fields is the only way to assess your exposure at home, school, work and during travel. It is then possible to reduce your exposure if it is higher than average. In our experience about 30% of homes have higher than desirable magnetic fields due to the way they are wired. Some common household appliances in the bedroom, such as bedside alarm clocks, can also result in elevated fields.

We have written a range of scientifically supported articles, available for free from our article library.

If you're interested in some of the history and background of the research into powerfrequency electromagnetic fields and health effects, we have kept a summary of the research and our viewpoints on it from the year 2000.

Legal Considerations in relation to EMFs and Precaution

Brenda Short LLB(Hons) LLM, our legal advisor, has worked hard to produce an exceptional 100 page document titled "Further legal considerations in relation to EMFs, powerlines and a precautionary approach, following the SAGE report published April 2007"

Legal Considerations - Download document in full (795 KB .pdf)

Powerwatch Comments If you are concerned about possible exposures to powerfrequency electromagnetic fields, then you can purchase or hire meters such as the ELF PF4 or the MagneMeter (both of which we designed) from EMFields. They come complete with straightforward instructions, and comparison levels to see how 'safe' your readings are, and EMFields will offer technical advice on your readings if you hire directly from them.

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