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What does 'EMF' mean?

Dangers Of EMF And Power Lines

Gary Ginsberg (Toxicologist) gives expert video advice on: What does 'EMF' mean?; What are the hazards associated with exposure to EMF?; Should I have my house tested for EMF? and more...

What does 'EMF' mean?

It comes from high voltage power lines and it means Electric and Magnetic Fields; these are force fields that come from wires that are conducting electricity through them.

What are the hazards associated with exposure to EMF?

You may know from the physics experiment that you did in high school, that if you put a compass on a wire – let's say there's electrons going down the wire here – you put a compass on that wire, it will deflect the needle from true north to some other direction. That's because there's a magnetic field that is coming off that wire. Now what's the big deal about that? Well magnetic fields may affect the way our body works.

Should I have my house tested for EMF?

Most homes are far enough from the high voltage power lines that they would be outside of this field strength that would be of a concern. So if your home is more than 300 feet, or roughly a football field away from these distribution lines that are coming into neighborhoods with multiple wires and multiple arms, if you're more than 300 feet away from those, you are outside of its force field. You don't have to test for EMF. But if you are within 300 feet then you probably should find out what the Milligauss level, which is the unit of measure of the magnetic field strength, what the Milligauss level is at your home. Especially if you have young children, because again that is the major health concern, the association between magnetic fields and childhood leukemia. And it's a fairly easy test to do, although most people don't have the equipment to do that test sitting around their house. Rather you call the utility, and the utilities are usually pretty good about coming out and giving you a reading. It's a fast test, you can get real time measurement in this part of the yard versus over here on your back porch versus over here where the kids play. And readings that are significantly above background, and by background we mean anywhere from say 1 - 10 Milligauss, so if you're above that range, you are clearly above what is the background level, because there is some EMF in every home. There's EMF that can come from electric blankets, a running washing machine, a TV set, compute monitor -- but if you're above 1 - 10 Milligauss on an average basis everywhere in your yard, that's above background and that is something you might want to do something about.

What is 'background EMF'?

Background, in regards to EMF, means that there are other sources of these kinds of magnetic fields so there are some around the home, our average hair dryer, your average alarm clock, but also there are distribution lines that bring electricity from the street into your home. So there's wires coming into your home from the main wires out on the street even those have a little bit of a magnetic field associated with them. So there is a background level of exposure that we all have and then there's the elevated levels of exposure that you get. For example, when you go into the supermarket and that bank of coolers where the ice cream is stored and the frozen dinners that has very high EMF levels you don't spend a lot of time there your kids aren't spending a lot of time there. When you get on an Amtrak train, there's high levels of EMF associated with riding in those cars but again you're not spending 24 hours a day associated with that environment. However around a home living near high voltage power lines there's enough of a statistical link to make one have pause about having children's play scape for example right near these high voltage distribution lines.

What are the differences between transmission and distribution lines?

The kind of para lines that we are concerned about with magnetic fields are the high voltage transmission lines that are bringing power into a whole neighborhood. And so they usually have a buffer zone around them. Often they are running through fields or through woods. But unfortunately, more and more in these days where there is less and less good building lots, there is more homes or schools that are built up right close to those. And that is our concern as our power grid needs go up, as our land use needs go up, that there will be more people exposed to higher levels of EMF. The distribution line on the other hand, that is on every street and that is much lower voltage. The transmission line higher voltage. The distribution line lower voltage.