Electric & Magnetic Fields (EMF)

Understanding EMF

Electric and Magnetic Fields, or EMF, are part of our everyday lives and present around appliances, electronics, power lines, and electrical wiring. Whenever there is a flow of electricity, both electric and magnetic fields are created. The term EMF used here refers to extremely low frequency (ELF) 60-hertz electric and magnetic fields associated with power delivered by electric utilities. It does not refer to radiofrequency (RF) waves associated with wireless communications such as cell phones.

There is an electric field when an appliance is plugged into a wall.  When the appliance is turned on, the flow creates both an electric field and a magnetic field. Electric fields can be shielded by materials such as wood, metal, trees, or shrubs.  Magnetic fields pass through most materials and objects. The strength of a field depends on the voltage level and the amount of current flowing through a power line, which varies as the demand for electric power changes. The strength of a magnetic field falls off sharply as you move away from its source, whether it is an electrical appliance or a power line.

EMF Measurement, Exposure, & Safety Practices

Magnetic fields are measured using a handheld meter called a gauss meter. In the U.S., magnetic fields are measured in units called Milligauss (mG).  When measuring magnetic fields, one may notice that the levels vary in different areas of the same room. These variations may be due to wiring in the walls or to changes in the amount of electricity being used. Measurements taken at different times/seasons would be different as well depending on the amount of electricity being used at any given moment.

Magnetic Fields – Outside (Maximum values may be lower for some utilities)

EMF decreases significantly with distance from the source. Therefore, EMF exposure from power lines is reduced significantly by the distance from the wires including the height of the poles.

Magnetic Fields – At Home

This chart below illustrates how the magnetic field exposure lessens with an increased distance from typical electrical sources:

The results from many research studies have been evaluated by international and national EMF research programs to determine whether EMF poses any health risk.  Given the uncertainty of the issue, the medical and scientific communities have been unable to conclude that usual residential exposures to EMF cause health effects, or to establish any standard or level of residential exposure that is known to be either safe or harmful. These conclusions remain unchanged by recent studies.

Lower Valley Energy strives to provide safe, reliable, and environmentally sound service for its members and a safe work environment for its employees. To that end, our facilities are designed and operated to comply with all applicable federal, state, and local regulations, safety code requirements (National Electric Safety Code), and health standards.

If you are concerned about the EMF emitted by a power line or substation, please contact LVE’s Conservation Department to schedule an on-site reading.
Phone: (307) 733-2446
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Helpful Links on Understanding EMF, Measurement, & Exposure