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About Electromagnetic Fields from Power Lines
Let’s talk about what these electromagnetic fields (EMF) are in the first place.
EMFs are physical fields that consist of both electric and magnetic components that can come from man-made or natural sources, and the energy they emit is known as electromagnetic radiation (EMR).
This radiation is non-ionizing and low in frequency.
Our own planet, for example, has its own electromagnetic field that is powered by the earth’s core, and it is beneficial to all human life.
In other circumstances, EMFs can also be generated when there is a thunderstorm. During these times, lightning creates an electromagnetic field from the current that it produces.
Unfortunately, power lines can create EMFs too – the artificial kind that disrupt our body’s own natural fields.
These power lines are used to connect electricity to users from the power stations.
They can carry high voltages up to 400,000 volts, sometimes even more. When these power lines transport high levels of voltage, they also happen to create a magnetic field that we identify as EMF.
The electromagnetic radiation that is emitted from power lines is lower in frequency than ones from gamma rays or microwaves. However, they can still contain a very high level of energy.
In fact, power lines with high-tension can generate high-energy electromagnetic fields.
When measuring the strength of any given EMF and its radiation output, remember that the higher the electric current, the stronger it is.
And as you move farther away from the field, the strength decreases.
The Danger of Living Near Power Lines
Several studies have found that exposure to strong EMFs cause complications to your health. Some of the diseases and conditions that are linked to EMF are:
- Reproductive problems such as birth defects and miscarriages
- Hormonal imbalance
- Cancer in the breast and brain
- Diseases in the blood and heart
- Sleeping disorders
- Leukemia in children and adults
- Blood disorders
- Alzheimer’s disease
- Decreased libido
Read more in our complete guide to power line risks here.
Determining if Your Home Is Too Close
The location of your home, especially its wiring and design, can determine how safe you are from radiation hazard.
The biggest misconception here is that the bigger the power line is, the more dangerous it can be.
But actually, size doesn’t matter.
Voltage output (and the magnetic field generated), along with distance, are the biggest factors to consider.
Typically, suburban power lines create smaller EMFs. However, power transmission lines that carry high levels of current can produce a magnetic field with a strength that measures above the normal household ambient levels.
For those power lines suspended on poles in your neighborhood, houses along the street are usually affected. These lines can emit unsafe EMFs that extend up to 15 meters away.
Underground cables can still affect you, too, but these types produce less EMR.
The highest levels of EMF are usually created in commercial and industrial sectors during the day. Meanwhile, residential areas tend to experience higher levels of EMF during the night.
Before we move on, it’s important to note that the strength of an electromagnetic field is directly proportional to current flow.
If you want to know how strong your exposure is, you will have to understand the amount of current they carry through line measurements.
Measuring EMF from Power Lines: A “How To” Guide + Tips
The best way to protect yourself from the health risks of power line radiation is to take measurements.
Power lines differ in radiation emissions.
For street pole power lines with 33 kV, the strongest ones produce around 0.5 milligauss at a distance of 25 meters.
The lines with high voltage transmission lines of 400 kV create less than 0.5 milligauss at a 200-meter range.
So you should be concerned if your house is situated either:
- Less than 25 meters away from street pole power lines
- Or 200 meters away from major power lines
If either of those two conditions apply, you may want to get a Low-Frequency Gaussmeter. This meter is used to detect power line radiation in your area.
When using the device, make sure that you measure both when your main switch is turned off and when it’s on.
This way, you can see if the EMF is coming from your house-wiring or the power lines.
It’s also helpful to take measurements in the spots where you spend most of your time.
For most people, that would mean checking the intensity of the magnetic radiation in your kitchen, living room, and bedroom.
You also want to measure the areas outdoors where you hang out. To get the most accurate picture of your exposure, take measurements of these locations at different times of the day.
In assessing the result, you’ll have to remember this:
If your meter shows a reading more than 1.0 milligauss, you need to consider the health risks of your location.
On the other hand, if the result shows a reading less than 0.5, then you should be good to go. You may also want to consider instruments that can measure ambient EMR.
Here are some common devices you can use for measuring:
As previously mentioned, this meter can measure low-frequency magnetic radiation that’s emitted from household appliances, ground currents, and power lines.
It is best to get the one that is isotropic and can display 0.1 milligauss.
Oddly enough, a simple radio can be useful in detecting low radio frequencies and dirty electricity that is created by electronic equipment and energy-efficient lights.
An RF meter can detect and measure the radiation produced by cellphones, cell towers, and wireless computer networks. Be sure to purchase one with an isotropic antenna.
These meters are used to detect dirty electricity. They’re nice because they provide a digital scale for easy readings.
Now that we have the necessary instruments, it’s time to measure the ambient EMF.
First of all, remember to turn off the switch on your master breaker panel. Take your gaussmeter and set it on the magnetic range that is most sensitive.
Then, while you roam around the house, stop every 10-20 feet, ensuring you are roughly 6 feet away from a wall.
Now, stand very still as you take the reading or just place the equipment on the ground.
The lowest result is the reading of your ambient level. This reading is subject to change depending on the weather and time of day.
Usually, if you are in the suburbs, the ambient level is around 0.1-0.5 milligauss.
But, if you live in rural areas, the range is usually from 0.01 to 0.1 milligauss.
Next, turn on your RF meter that is on a microwatt/m2 scale, and walk around your house. You should be at a distance of 10 feet from any structure when you take measurements.
Record the results for all sides then compute their average.
The RF meter should show the averaged levels of ambient radiation that is produced from communication systems.
There’s a pretty good chance that the readings will fluctuate. When this happens, try to do a second measurement around the house.
Remember to turn the breakers back on once you’re done.
READ NEXT: Guide to Blocking EMF from Power Lines
Frequently Asked Questions
How far does EMF travel from power lines?
When power lines carry high levels of current at high voltages, they create EMFs in the surrounding area. Some research estimates that these fields can extend a 300-meter distance from the power line.
Is it safe to live near power lines?
Numerous studies have linked living near power lines to health risks. The closer and the longer you stay near a high voltage power line, the more you are exposed to dangerous EMFs and the more your body will be affected by them.