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EMF and Power Lines: Should You Be Concerned?
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Picture the view outside your front door. The odds are good that it includes some power lines overhead, or signs indicating that they are buried below. For anyone living “on the grid,” power lines are an inescapable part of daily life. Most of us use electricity on a daily basis, and for many, life without it would be quite difficult. Power lines provide us with electricity, so while they can be an eyesore, most of us don’t question their existence.
If you’re familiar with EMF radiation, however, power lines are also a concern. Fortunately, there are things you can do to lower your overall exposure. We’ve put together this helpful guide to detail not only why you should be concerned about radiation exposure from power lines, but also what you can do about to protect yourself and your family.
EMF radiation from power lines
Power lines emit extremely low frequency (ELF) EMF radiation, although some emit more than others. High voltage power lines emit more, and EMF from a high-voltage line can be detected up to 300 meters away. Buried lines are also a concern — the electric field generated is dispersed by the ground, but the magnetic wave is actually amplified. That’s a bad thing when you consider that most of the negative health effects are brought on by magnetic field exposure, not electric.
ELF-EMF radiation from power lines is not regulated in the United States, although other forms of EMF radiation are. This means there is no limit on the amount of radiation a power line is allowed to produce.
Side effects of power line radiation exposure
The lack of regulation on ELF-EMF radiation from power lines is particularly alarming when you look at the health risks associated with exposure. More research is needed to conclusively tie power lines to any one medical condition. Still, numerous, compelling studies do exist. Some studies relate to power lines specifically, while others deal with ELF-EMF radiation in general.
It is possible that the distance between a power line and your home is enough that you wouldn’t notice any effects from its radiation. Just because a study links a disease to exposure to ELF-EMF radiation, that doesn’t mean a power line generates enough to hurt you. That being said, however, power lines can contribute to your home’s cumulative radiation levels. And the studies we’re about to talk about indicate that you should be concerned with your cumulative exposure.
A Norwegian study looked at residential and occupational exposure to high-voltage power lines and a person’s risk for developing malignant melanoma. Researchers found no real increase in risk for those whose primary form of exposure to high-voltage power lines was occupational. For those whose exposure was primarily residential, however, there was a definite increase in melanoma rates for both men and women. The findings support the notion that a home’s proximity to power lines could put its inhabitants at risk for illness.
A few studies have looked at ELF-EMF radiation and its ability to induce miscarriages in pregnant women. One study from the Kaiser Foundation Research Institute in California looked at women who had found out they were pregnant prior to 10-weeks. The women were asked to wear a meter that measured their exposure to magnetic fields. The women with the highest rates of exposure also had the highest rates of miscarriage, particularly miscarriage prior to 10-weeks. This increased risk was found at rates of exposure above 16mG in particular.
Swedish researchers looked at rates of neurodegenerative diseases in welders and others whose occupation requires a high level of ELF-EMF exposure. The highest exposure group had an increased relative risk of dying from Alzheimer’s or ALS. This was determined by looking through death records to determine both the profession and the primary cause of death. While these rates of exposure are likely much higher than what an individual would experience from a power line, extended exposure to power lines could still, in theory, contribute to the development of Alzheimer’s or ALS. More research is definitely warranted.
Children are at particular risk from ELF-EMF exposure. In one study by researchers at UCLA and other universities, scientists looked at data on childhood leukemia and the proximity of a child’s birth address to a power line. At distances of less than 50 meters, there was a small increased risk of developing childhood leukemia. This increase was not noted at further distances.
The takeaway is that the more distance you can create between your family and a power line, the better. Children are thought to be particularly susceptible to the effects of EMF radiation because of their soft bones and weaker immune systems. It’s possible, however, that adult leukemia could also be tied to power line exposure.
Other side effects
While they have not been studied, anecdotal evidence suggests that there are other health effects associated with exposure to power lines and other sources of EMF radiation. In sensitive individuals, some of those symptoms can include depression, fatigue, irritability, and itchiness. People suffering from sensitivity to electric and magnetic fields may notice that when they are in an area with high EMF levels, they experience symptoms. When they leave the area, the symptoms are almost immediately alleviated.
For an EMF sensitive individual, entering a home that is too close to a power line may bring on symptoms. If you have symptoms that seem to appear when you’re at home and that disappear as soon as you leave, consider that it could be due to ELF-EMF radiation from power lines — or even just EMF in general.
Protecting your home
Now that you know why you should be concerned, you probably want to know what you can do about it. You can’t exactly control the proximity of your home to a power line unless you opt to go off-grid completely. And while that may be a feasible option for some, for many it’s simply not realistic. If you’re worried about your family’s exposure but aren’t in a situation where you can move, it can be frustrating and scary. It can feel like forces beyond your control are harming your family’s health.
Fortunately, you’re not powerless. There are a few things you can do to help lower your risk of EMF-related health effects.
Test your levels
The first thing to do is purchase a good consumer-grade EMF meter. These are pretty readily available online, and they are a useful tool to have if you’re trying to reduce your exposure to EMF radiation. When purchasing an EMF meter, look for one that can detect ELF and RF radiation. To detect radiation from power lines, in particular, the meter must be sensitive to extremely low frequencies. Power lines emit frequencies of 50 or 60 Hz, depending on the country.
One EMF meter that we recommend on this site is the TriField TF2. The TF2 is generally regarded as one of the most accurate on the market, and it’s able to detect all forms of EMF radiation. If you don’t have an EMF meter and are looking for a good one, the TF2 is worth the investment.
After purchasing an EMF meter capable of detecting ELF-EMF radiation, the next step is to take a couple of readings. You’ll want to do this in each room of the house. Write down your readings for each room, or record them in a spreadsheet. Do this twice — once with your home’s electricity shut off at the main switch, and once with it on.
The purpose of taking the reading with the power off is to determine how much radiation you’re receiving from nearby power lines. And the reason for taking the measurement with the electricity back on is to see if the reading is significantly higher than the powered-off reading. If it is, that means you have a high amount of EMF radiation being generated by the electronics in your home.
Ideally, you want your reading to be under .5mG. If this isn’t the case, there are things you can do.
Nearby power lines can contribute to ELF-EMF radiation levels, so if your reading with the electricity off was outside of the safe range, power lines could be a concern. It’s obviously not possible to move the power line, but what you can do is reduce your overall EMF exposure.
It’s worth mentioning, too, that if your reading spiked up when the electricity was turned back on, you have a large amount of EMF radiation being produced by your electronics in the home. One potential and often significant source of ELF-EMF radiation in the home is dirty electricity. Solar power, LED lights, and energy-efficient devices and appliances are all potential sources of dirty electricity. Take the necessary steps to reduce the amount of dirty electricity in your home, and your overall levels should drop.
The best way to discharge a large portion of your home’s dirty electricity is to install a filter. The majority of filters on the market are very easy to install — they plug directly into an electrical outlet. If you need to reduce your exposure to ELF-EMF radiation, install at least one plug-in filter on each circuit of your home. Some circuits may require more than one filter, depending on the room and the devices plugged in — use a dirty electricity meter or your EMF meter to ensure you have enough filters installed.
If you noted that one room or area had a particularly high reading, it’s possible that just the portion of your home closest to the power line has unsafe levels of ELF-EMF radiation present. You may be able to reduce that measurement by painting two layers of EMF protection paint on the walls nearest the power line. Most EMF protection paint needs to be grounded, so you will need to enlist the help of a qualified electrician after the painting process. EMF protection paint can be expensive, but it’s also highly effective.
If you’re hesitant to paint your walls, then shields, barriers, and fabrics make a great alternative. They tend to be cheaper than paint, too. There are a variety of materials that absorb EMF radiation, including nickel, copper, and aluminum. Whether you buy copper fabric or a dedicated EMF shield, you can hang this on the wall closest to the power line and it should help lower the room’s overall EMF levels.
If possible, you can also take proximity to power lines into consideration when designing your home. For example, don’t have the kids’ rooms on a wall that faces an exterior power line. If a bedroom has a wall close to a power line, position the bed so that it’s against the opposite wall, as far away from the line as possible. And if the bed must be against the wall nearest the power line, invest in EMF paint or a shield to help guard against EMF while you sleep.
Power lines are unavoidable. They also represent a real threat to public health that simply has not been studied enough. The research is clear: ELF-EMF radiation and, by extension, power lines, can cause negative health effects. Some of these include cancer and childhood leukemia, neurodegenerative diseases, and miscarriages. These health effects justify further research into the health effects of power line exposure.
Perhaps more important than knowing the negative health effects is knowing what can be done about it. More research is needed there, too. Our need for electricity isn’t going away anytime soon, so it’s important to learn how to coexist with the necessary technology. It’s possible that more regulation around power line radiation could spur the necessary technological advances to reduce our exposure.
Until that happens, however, the best you can do is safeguard your home as much as you can. The tips in this guide are a great place to start, especially when it comes to reducing your ELF-EMF levels. Lowering your overall EMF exposure is key to reducing your risk of experiencing negative health effects.