EMFs Explanation


During recent years, questions have been raised about the possible health effects of 60-Hertz (power frequency) electric and magnetic fields (EMF), which are found wherever you have electricity.

EMFs are present wherever electricity flows - around appliances and power lines and in offices, schools and homes. Most, but not all, childhood studies have reported a weak association between estimates of residential magnetic field exposure and certain types of childhood cancer. Worker studies have shown mixed results. Given the uncertainty of the issue, the media and scientific communities have been unable to determine that EMFs affects our health nor have they established any standard or level of exposure that is known to be either safe or harmful.

Many researchers believe that if there is a risk of adverse health effects from EMF, it is probably low, but warrants further investigation. Recent concern focuses on exposure to magnetic fields rather than electrical magnetic fields.

A number of research studies are now underway to determine if magnetic fields do pose any health risk and if so, what aspect of the fields might be harmful. For example, at this time no one knows whether the length of time in a field, the field strength, going in and out of a field, or combinations of these with other factors might be relevant.

Late in 1993, the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) voted to adopt many of the recommendations of the EMF Consensus Group - an advisory board made up of private citizens, consumer groups, health and state officials, and labor and utility representatives. The CPUC interim decision includes developing design guidelines for utilities to use in reducing EMF from new and upgraded facilities, developing public information and research programs directed by the California Department of Health Services, and offering free measurement services for homes and businesses. Financial support by utilities of the $65 million Federal Research Program was authorized. This annual bill insert was prepared as the result of cooperation between California utilities the CPUC and the state Department of Health Services.

Studies of EMF have not shown that people need to change the way they use electric appliances or equipment. But if you feel reducing your EMF exposure would be beneficial the following steps can be taken.

at home:

  • Keep telephone answering machines and electronic clocks away from the head of your bed
  • Don't stay any closer than necessary to electric appliances
  • Use personal appliances such as hair dryers, less often or for less time
  • If you use an electric blanket, turn it off before going to sleep

at work:

  • Locate sources of EMFs in your work environment and spend break time in lower-field areas