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Electric and Magnetic Fields (EMF) Radiation from Power Lines

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This page provides information on the invisible lines of force that surround any electrical device that is plugged in and turned on.

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Overview

Electric and magnetic fields (EMF) are invisible lines of force that surround any electrical device that is plugged in and turned on. EMF are made up of waves of electric and magnetic energy moving together (radiating) through space. Electric fields are produced by electric charges and magnetic fields are produced by the flow of current through wires or electrical devices.

EMF is commonly associated with power lines. A person standing directly under a high-voltage transmission line may feel a mild shock when touching something that conducts electricity. These sensations are caused by the strong electric fields from the high-voltage electricity in the lines. They occur only at close range because the electric fields rapidly become weaker as the distance from the line increases.

Many people are concerned about potential adverse health effects. Much of the research about power lines and potential health effects is inconclusive. Despite more than two decades of research to determine whether elevated EMF exposure, principally to magnetic fields, is related to an increased risk of childhood leukemia, there is still no definitive answer. The general scientific consensus is that, thus far, the evidence available is weak and is not sufficient to establish a definitive cause-effect relationship.

In 1998, an expert working group, organized by the National Institute of Health’s National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS), assessed the health effects of exposure to extremely low frequency EMF, the type found in homes near power lines. Based on studies about the incidence of childhood leukemia involving a large number of households, NIEHS found that power line magnetic fields are a possible cause of cancer. The working group also concluded that the results of EMF animal, cellular, and mechanistic (process) studies do not confirm or refute the finding of the human studies. The International Agency for Research on Cancer (WHO) reached a similar conclusion.

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Who is protecting you

In the U.S., there are no federal standards limiting occupational or residential exposure to power line EMF.

About seven states set standards for the width of right-of-ways under high-voltage transmission lines because of potential for electric shock.

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What you can do to protect yourself

People concerned about possible health risks from power lines can reduce their exposure by:

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Resources

California Electric and Magnetic Fields (EMF) Program exit EPA
April 9, 2012. California Department of Health Services
This page is about finding a rational and fair approach to dealing with the potential risks, if any, of exposure to EMF in California.
Electromagnetic Fields  exit EPA
April 9, 2012. World Health Organization
This page provides information about electromagnetic fields, answers to frequent questions, international research projects and links to additional resources.
Electric & Magnetic Fields
April 9, 2012. U.S. National Institutes of Health, National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences
This document provides basic information about electromagnetic fields, information regarding health effects and other related links.

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