This guide will cover the important information that’s available right now and the steps you can take keep yourself and your family safe.
What We Know
Recent studies have revealed that children who grow up near electricity pylons have an increased risk of developing leukemia, sometimes suffering an increase of 70% from the average. Competing studies and voices within the scientific community have contradicted each other, some supporting the claim that living near pylons can be dangerous, and others rejecting it. It can be hard to figure out what to believe.
The study most often referred to is one done by Dr. Gerald Draper of the Child Cancer Research Group at Oxford, and was published in the British Medical Journal. It found that children living within 200 metres of a pylon were 70% more likely to develop leukemia. Those living fewer than 600 metres from power lines were 20% more likely to develop leukemia.
The evidence the researchers found makes it clear that there’s some connection between living close to electricity pylons and leukemia, but those involved have said that it doesn’t necessarily mean that the pylons themselves are causing the disease.
As with any study, it’s possible the results were simply due to chance. The researchers were unable to find a biological mechanism by which an electricity pylon could cause cancer. That doesn’t mean that it’s impossible, though, and the evidence is too strong to be ignored in good conscience.
So is it dangerous to live near an electricity pylon? There’s evidence that it is, but it hasn’t been proven yet. It might not be a good enough reason for people to move out of their homes, but it’s certainly something to consider when moving or considering a new house.
Other EMF Health Risks
An electricity pylons health risk from EMF might not be the only thing you need to worry about.
You’re probably already familiar with at least one health risk related to EMFs, even if you don’t know it, that being sunburns. When the clouds part and the sun shines down, it brings ultraviolet radiation with it that can damage the skin in the short term because of its high frequency and energy content.
Over a long enough time, ultraviolet radiation can also break the bonds between molecules inside your body. When this happens in the DNA, it can cause cancer, most often skin cancers. This happens because ultraviolet radiation is ionizing, meaning that it has enough power to knock ions and other small particles out of place.
Fortunately, no household appliances produce ionizing radiation. It is created by X-ray machines and CT scanners, but it only becomes truly dangerous at high levels of exposure. The other forms of electromagnetic radiation produced by cell phones, internet routers, and power sources aren’t ionizing, but that doesn’t mean that they have no negative effects.
The International Agency for Research on Cancer, run by the World Health Organization, has found that non-ionizing radiation is “possibly carcinogenic to humans.” Research has been conducted that suggests a link between EMFs from appliances and cancer, but as with the pylons, there is no commonly accepted mechanism to prove that link as causation.
Even if EMFs directly increase the risk of cancer, the evidence suggests that the increased chance to develop cancer is small. It’s up to the individual to decide whether they are willing to take the risk at this point, but it’s clearly a topic that deserves to be studied more thoroughly.
The Danger Zone, and How to Find It
The nature of electromagnetic fields is to rapidly weaken the farther they are from their source. This happens more slowly the more powerful the source is, but there’s always a safe distance. For a 400 kilovolt pylon, the electricity pylons safe distance is a minimum of 50 metres, but if you can avoid it, you shouldn’t live closer than 100 metres to one, and the farther away you can get, the better.
When the power lines are underground, the shielding cover of the cable dampens the field, and having another building between you and a power line will decrease the risk of it doing anything to hurt you. Other electronics and power sources can generate EMFs as well, though pylons tend to make the most powerful fields. The strength of the field within one house might be completely different than the next one down the street.
In addition to the kind of low frequency EMF that can be produced by power lines and outlets, there are higher frequency EMFs used in radio and wireless internet. Studies concerning these kinds of EMF and the negative effects that have been associated with them have been inconclusive as well, but similar concerns have been raised concerning their safety.
The only way to know the exact power of an electromagnetic field is to measure it. With living near pylons or other EMF sources being a potential health risk, those kinds of measurements might be worth taking. EMFs are measured by EMF investigators, specialists with the equipment necessary to find out how powerful the electromagnetic fields are in a specific area.
The process of testing the electromagnetic fields in an area involves using a device that works much like an aerial, picking up on the frequencies of energy nearby. These devices can be used to measure the total amount of electromagnetic radiation or the amount of radiation on a specific frequency which might be more harmful than others. The devices need to be calibrated and sometimes positioned in multiple places around a space in order to produce an accurate reading.
An electricity pylon EMF survey will tell you the strength of the electromagnetic field, and the team that conducts it can provide advice on whether or not the levels they find are safe. The regulations concerning EMF levels in residential areas in the UK are based on ICNIRP Guidelines, which makes it especially important to get an electricity pylon survey if you’re considering a home near one. There’s nothing keeping houses and schools from being built in areas that might have dangerous levels of EMFs, so it’s down to the individual to make sure that the places they frequent are safe. If you find yourself living with a pylon near house and home, it’s a good idea to get the EMF measured by a professional.
Other Circumstances for EMF Testing
A good bit of the EMF testing being conducted these days is on residential areas and homes, requested by families that are concerned about the health effects of the fields around and within their houses, but the possible health risks of EMFs don’t become less serious outside of the home.
Anywhere people spend significant amounts of time should ideally be tested for EMFs as long as there is a chance they create significant health risks. This includes schools, hospitals, and workplaces, especially since these sorts of institutions require more power and tend to use the kind of machinery that will generate more powerful electromagnetic radiation than EMF sources found at home.