Electric and magnetic fields are invisible yet present wherever electricity flows, surrounding any wire that is conducting electricity. Electric power lines, home wiring, video display terminals, and household appliances all generate EMF.
The issue of possible health effects from electric and magnetic fields has been the subject of much debate. Many studies have been performed throughout the world with results that are often hard to interpret and sometimes conflicting. While some studies found an association between exposure to magnetic fields and certain types of cancer, other studies have not. As a result, many questions remain.
Electric fields are created by voltage – the higher the voltage, the stronger the field. Anytime an electrical appliance is plugged in, even if it isn’t on, an electric field is created in its vicinity. These fields are easily blocked by walls, trees and even your clothes and skin; the farther away you move from the source of the electric field, the weaker it becomes. Moving even a few feet away from an appliance makes a big difference in the strength of the field that you’re exposed to. Electric fields are measured in kilovolts per meter (kV/m).
Magnetic fields, measured in milliGauss (mG), are produced by electric current and only exist when an electric appliance is turned on – the higher the current, the greater the magnetic field. As with electric fields, the strength of a magnetic field dissipates rapidly as you move away from its source. However, unlike electric fields that are easily blocked by ordinary materials, magnetic fields do not interact with and are not affected by walls, clothes and other barriers.
There are no federal standards limiting residential or occupational EMF exposure. The EMF levels produced by appliances vary from manufacturer to manufacturer and model to model. The designs of many newer model appliances, in general, often produce lower fields than older models. There is no federal certification program on EMF levels so beware of advertisements on appliances making claims of federal government certification of low or zero EMF levels.
World Health Organization International EMF Project (external link)
National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (external link)
National Grid (UK) Operator of England and Wales transmission network (external link)
EMF Research and Public Information Dissemination Program (external link)
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