Power Lines and Cancer: Are Power Lines Dangerous to Human Health?

Home owners and parents are often concerned about the potential for electromagnetic fields (EMF) from high voltage lines to cause cancer. What is the truth? The simple answer is that there is no data which proves that electromagnetic fields are harmful.

Numerous studies have been done over the past 25 years evaluating EMF and biological effects. One of the most comprehensive evaluations was the study mandated by Congress, managed by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, over a period of several years (1992-1998). The net result from all these studies is that there is no correlation between EMF and cancers.

Several studies have also tried to create the results in the lab. For example, scientists would expose an animal or a human volunteer to EMF then observe any biological effects. The reports state that the supposed damage to health by power lines could not be reproduced by EMF exposure in the lab.

Furthermore, there have been studies done on people who work close to the lines and these studies show that the health of the individual is good. Specifically, studies have been done on linemen (people who work on power lines as a career), and farmers (who often have large towers in their fields.) These studies show that you can work near or even at these lines for many years without any effects to your health.

In addition to the official health studies of EMF, a brief look at the strengths of electromagnetic fields will tell us that the EMFs from power lines are relatively safe. Scientists have measured the EMF at various distances from power lines of all voltages. This data shows that the energy of the EMF decreases dramatically within a short distance. This data can be summarized by two key facts:

• Within 100 feet of a power line, for the majority of lines, the energy of the EMF decreases by approximately 85%.

• At 500 feet from the power line the EMF becomes negligible, even for the highest voltage lines.

It should be noted that the electromagnetic fields can itself induce electricity in another conductor (including the metal of a tractor). If that happens, a person working nearby can sometimes get a small shock, even when not touching the line. However, those who work on or near these lines say that this small shock is more annoying than harmful.