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Living near power lines is something most of us don’t even think twice about.
We live in an age of technology where social media and automation dictate our decisions.
In powering all these things, we need electrical energy, and we get that from power plants that generate power from different natural sources. This, in turn, is directed to power distribution centers and then to consumers via power lines.
Power lines are everywhere.
There are reasons why people actually want to live near them. Sometimes, people just like the easy access to energy.
We live way out in the country, so if our power goes out due to a fallen tree or other damage, it can take a day or two to get it restored.
Other times, it’s just because the location is cheap or near work.
While these are valid reasons, there’s a trade-off you need to know when it come to living next to power lines.
What Is It About Power Lines That Is Bad?
Power lines are beneficial in transporting the energy we all need. As discussed above, most countries that have electricity transport it through overhead lines at various voltages.
What few people realize is that all those overhead lines produce electric and magnetic fields.
Most studies claim that the direct impact of magnetic and electric fields created by the transport of energy are at its optimum level when directly under the line, and then radiates out and decreases with distance.
The term used to describe this radiation is “Electro-Magnetic Fields” (EMF) and is used to describe radiation frequencies that are beyond the range of visible light.
This means you can’t see the waves, but they do exist. They affect our bodies every day, but we can’t feel it.
In many cases, the bodily impact of living near high-EMF sources like power lines don’t surface for years to come.
The World Health Organization describes such effects as “electromagnetic hypersensitivity” or EHS, which refers to a set of diverse and non-specific symptoms people feel when exposed to EMF.
EHS ranges from dermatological effects to psychological impacts.
Since power lines emit EMF, living near them is cause for concern – a concern most Americans don’t even know exists.
Potential Risks of EMF Exposure from Power Lines
Several studies have concluded that the electromagnetic radiation produced by power lines breed tangible impacts on humans.
Since health is wealth, people really need to take a closer look at such risks.
A comprehensive review of EMF effects on human health and behavior, conducted by Rubtsova, included the following:
- decrease in visual and motor reaction time
- chronic mental disorders
- and much more
The two main health problems associated with power lines and EMF are cancer and mental health issues like suicide and depression.
Power Lines and Cancer
On Child Leukemia, Wertheimer and Leeper published a study in 1979 claiming that childhood leukemia was higher in households located near electric power lines.
Although in 2019, cancer.gov noted that there is no association whatsoever between power lines and leukemia.
Power Lines and Mental Health
There are numerous studies on the association of mental health and exposure to EMF.
Suicide from exposure to EMF and their relation to power lines was the focus of Baris and his team from McGill University in Montreal.
This study specifically paid attention to male electrical utility workers from the Canadian Province of Quebec in 1996. The study concluded that there was evidence of association.
Depression from exposure to EMF from power lines was the focus of Verkasalo and his team from the University of Helsinki, Finland. This study found a relationship between the rate of depression and exposure to power lines.
Since awareness of EMF is just now coming into the limelight (largely thanks to the rise of 5G), studies are not quite conclusive as to the relationship of these risks towards human life.
But this doesn’t mean the risk isn’t there. It simply means we’re just now starting to investigate it.
Power Lines and Economic Impact
Life is difficult nowadays – alongside the age of technology is the age of competition.
The extent of having health concerns equates to a loss of productivity, which in turn becomes a liability to employers.
A lot of people are uninformed about the dangers of EMF radiation. Most of the people who live near power lines are likely to be industrial workers.
If society doesn’t err on the side of precaution and education, the impact of such exposure is sure to become a public policy problem.
In the future, when it is proven that people are ill affected by power line radiation, it might be too late to reduce its impact.
As a result, the workforce will be greatly impacted with more and more people developing chronic illnesses and depression, leading to more “sick days” and slashed productivity.
Power Lines and the Environment
Who says it’s just a human problem?
Animals and other ecosystems are also affected by power line radiation. In fact, EMF or “electrosmog” is characterized as an environmental pollutant.
Of course, animals can’t make informed choices. But we can all protect these ecosystems by having havens or sanctuaries far from power lines.
This is important because all our resources come from nature.
Imagine eating a hamburger sourced from a diseased cow sick because it was exposed to radiation or consuming mutated vegetables caused by cellular alteration.
What Do the Experts Say About Power Line Radiation?
The scientific community is pretty sure there are perils behind radiation exposure.
This is why research is still ongoing, sometimes proving and other times disproving the relationship between power lines and EMF (outcomes are probably dependent on who funded the study…but that’s a rant for another day).
Let’s look at some studies:
One 2014 study conducted by Dib and Mordjaoui came to the conclusion that “one must respect the precautionary principle and revise the current threshold values that have become inefficient.”
Their study concentrates on improving their city in Algeria in addressing electromagnetic pollution by assessing power lines.Djalel Dib and Mourad Mordjaoui
Another study conducted in 1997 concluded that the risks were so much so that more research was needed to better understand the impacts of exposure in regard to people’s health.Verkasalo PK - Department of Public Health, University of Helsinki, Finland
Experts are clear.
They understand that radiation has substantial risks. Even though there is a lack of conclusion, the scientific community advises the public to be wary of the potential harms it can bring.
Now that you know the risks, there are two ways to measure that risk:
- Distance (how far you are from the source)
- Output (how much radiates from the source)
What Is a Safe Distance from Power Lines?
Both high-voltage transmission lines and power line vicinities constitute a radiation hazard.
Notice that it’s not the size of the power line nor the length of the power line that’s the issue. The strength of the electromagnetic field, particularly its magnetic strength, in relation to where you live is what’s essential.
That’s why, as a precautionary method, it is best to keep a safe distance from power lines if you can help it.
The safe distance from an EMF source is defined as the distance needed to drop human exposure below a certain safety level.
Ideally, the recommendation is to live as far as possible from these power lines.
If you’re within the range of a transmission tower, studies suggest you’re more likely to develop cancer. When as far as 834 m away from the tower, you may still end up with issues related to diminished calcium flow.
Even to as far as 1.4 km, you can experience altered biorhythms and have concerns associated with stunted growth.
How to Measure EMF From Power Lines
Electromagnetic fields can be measured easily with the help of a gaussmeter, otherwise known simply as an EMF meter.
If you want to check how much energy is emitted in a particular area, this is the go-to tool.
In measuring power line radiation levels, keep in mind that most high voltage transmission lines at 400kV typically exhibit less than 0.5 milligauss EMF at a distance of 200 meters.
The strongest street pole power lines at 33 kV frequently emit less than 0.5 milligauss at 25 meters.
As such, it appears that the smaller the transmission, the lesser the EMF emitted.
Once you assess how much EMF is emitted per voltage transmission, you can then determine the power line risk in your area.
If you have access to a gaussmeter, and your meter shows less than 0.5 milligauss, then you probably don’t have much to worry about.
If the reading is high, and you’re already experiencing health concerns that may be related, it might be time to reconsider living near power lines.