Is It Safe to Live Near Power Lines?


The debate as to the effects of living close to power lines, is one that has been going on for years. Extensive studies have shown that the risks are not huge, but they also cannot totally rule out smaller problems that may be caused by proximity.

electromagnetic fieldsSource

Electromagnetic fields are made by everything electrical, they are everywhere in our lives, from the appliances around us, to the wiring that powers them all the way to the power lines that conduct it to our homes and businesses. We are all exposed to them at some level, every day.

Early studies found correlations between EMF’s and health issues, including various cancers and heart disease. However, the majority of these remain unsubstantiated. The only current exception to these is the association with leukemia in children. This has sufficient evidence that the International Agency for Research on Cancer states it may be a carcinogen.


The first of these that was able to find a seemingly verifiable link to childhood leukemia with EMF exposure was in the early 1970’s. After that time, there have been myriad studies that showcase weak correlations between the two. Utilizing magnetic field strength as a quantifiable causation factor, it has been found with exposures greater than 0.3 to 0.4 µT may possibly lead to a doubled risk of leukemia. Little risk exists under this level.


As you can see, birds don’t care about cancer.



Even if the proximity of the residences from the power lines may be used as a crude unit of exposure1)something that is still not clear, the results still merit attention. Despite much wide and varied speculation on the subject and the many studies that have been conducted, we still possess a very limited understanding of the health issues it may cause. The underlying mechanisms that EMF could trigger aren’t yet known, which is why it is so hard to calculate outcomes in different situations. It is easy to say it was the powerful power lines that caused something, they are everywhere in this day and age, however you cannot discount other factors and focus solely on EMF.



If the correlations of proximity found in some of these studies do actually show a causal relationship, then what may be the potential problems?  If you use the current leukemia rates in children, and  also assume that a significant portion of the population live very close to these high voltage stations, we should be seeing a significant rise in children with leukemia. To negate this risk would be almost impossible. The government would have to move all the extreme voltage lines 200 yards from any residence. It could be done of course, but with so little quantifiable evidence it is doubtful the expenditure would be sanctioned. Although it may well be argued that this would prove consistent with more obscure properties of the precautionary principle, with the available data, you would do better and achieve much larger risk reductions if you directed your resources to more established risks.


Avoid them
Living near power-lines has been AT LEAST linked to long-term health issues.

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1.something that is still not clear