Which are the low frequency radiation sources that surround you?

Do you know what kind of radiation is emitted from power cables, building electrical installations, electrical appliances, electrical appliances, transformers and other sources that surround you? Are there any health risks?


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Where does low frequency radiation originate from

Electricity is transferred from power plants via high voltage lines (100-500kV) to substations. There the high voltage is reduced using transformers and electricity is transferred to medium voltage power lines (20-40kV). Again the medium voltage is reduced by transformers and electricity is transferred to low voltage power lines (110-480V) which finally bring electricity to our building electricity meter and from there to our individual electrical panel and the cables in walls, lights, wall outlets and electrical equipment.

All these conductive parts of the power network generate electrical alternative current (AC) fields due to electrical voltage. When electrical current flows through the conductors (when there is electricity consumption) AC magnetic fields are also produced.

The alternating current is called this way because the electrons in the live conductors switch movement direction 50-60 times per second (frequency 50Hz in Europe, 60Hz in the USA).

Are there any health effects?

According to the International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation, "The interaction of time-varying electric fields with the human body results in the flow of electric charges (electric current), the polarization of bound charge (formation of electric dipoles), and the reorientation of electric dipoles already present in tissue" and "The physical interaction of time-varying magnetic fields with the human body results in induced electric fields and circulating electric currents." [1]

Low frequency radiation has been linked to miscarriages during pregnancy, leukemia, breast cancer and skin, insomnia, thrombosis, damage to DNA, diabetes, multiple sclerosis, neurotic disorders, depression etc. Because of their link to childhood leukemia there have been classified as possible carcinogens in 1998 by the National Environmental Health Institute (NIEHS) [2] and in 2001 by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) of the World Health Organization [3].

“Very recently, new research is suggesting that nearly all the human plagues which emerged in the twentieth century, like common acute lymphoblastic leukemia in children, female breast cancer, malignant melanoma and asthma, can be tied to some facet of our use of electricity. There is an urgent need for governments and individuals to take steps to minimize community and personal EMF exposures.” Samuel Milham MD, MPH, Medical epidemiologist in occupational epidemiology. [4]

Learn more about the health effects

Low Frequency Radiation Sources 

Electrical devices

When we plug an electrical device to a power socket electric fields are produced due to voltage.

When we turn it on magnetic fields are also produced due to the flow of electricity.

Devices with bipolar plug which does not ground usually emit higher electric fields.

Higher magnetic fields are usually produced by devices:

  • with high consumption such as the kitchen, electric heaters, floor heating, boilers, etc.
  • which use low voltage so they contain a transformer such as: electric chargers, electric alarms, laptops, low voltage lights etc.
  • that contain electric motor as the refrigerator, blender, vacuum cleaner, fans, hair dryers etc.

Laptop radiation

Using laptop is an important source of exposure to artificial radiation for a large portion of the population.

Because of it's direct contact with our body electromagnetic fields emitted from the laptops expose us to radiation values that are frequently higher than the recommended safe exposure limits.

Types of radiation produced by laptops:

  • low frequency electric and magnetic fields due to the battery, the cables and the electric circuits
  • high frequency fields because of WLAN (wi-fi) antennas used to connect wirelessly to the internet.

There is research which links using laptops with DNA damage and degradation of the reproductive capacity.

See related article: EMF - an infertility cause you should be aware of

See more of information in our article about the effects of the wireless Internet.

Laptop radiation reduction tips:

  • unplug it from the outlet and use only with it's battery (static fields biologically less aggravating than alternating fields)
  • further the laptop away from your body by using an external keypad and placing it on a laptop stand, which also lifts the laptop screen to an ergonomically correct height and helps avoid future problems in the neck
  • turn off the wireless function of the laptop when your are not connected to the internet
  • replace the wireless connection with a wired internet connection by using a network cable to connect the laptop to the modem
  • alternatively use powerline adaptors (Broadband over power lines or power-line Internet). Put a Powerline adapter into an outlet and connect it to the router and install other Powerline adapters in sockets of remote rooms, where you want to have internet connection. This technology, however, is not the ideal substitute for wired ethenet networking because it transmits high frequency signals to the electric cables of the house (still in most cases better than wireless).

 Electronic devices

Many electronic devices deform the simple sinusoidal signal of 50-60Hz with harmonic of thousands Hz.

The phenomenon is called "dirty electricity" because it contributes to premature aging of electrical equipment. fluorescent light bulb

fluorescentDevices which 'contaminate' the mains are:

  • fluorescent and energy saving lamps
  • AC adapters
  • dimmer switches with electronic volume control
  • inverter air conditioners
  • inverters for photovoltaic systems
  • TVs, computers, microwave ovens etc.

The current widespread use of such devices alters the waveform of low frequency radiation, which means that the radiation we receive today from the cables of electricity, electrical installations and electrical appliances is more aggravating.

"Dirty electricity" has been associated with Attention Deficit Syndrome (ADD), multiple sclerosis and diabetes [5].

Cables of building electrical installations

The in wall electric cables produce electric fields towards lower voltage points (such as the human body) 24 hours a day and also produce magnetic fields when pwoer is consumed (when we turn on the lights, operate electrical appliances, etc.)

Deficient grounding or errors in the cable insulation often give unusually high measurements of electric fields.

High magnetic fields around the house often created due to incorrect wiring (such as neutral conductor connections from different circuits) which are a risk for fire or electric shock.

Electromechanical installations

High electric and / or magnetic fields may be emitted by:

  • electrical panels
  • transformers
  • lift mechanisms
  • generators (inverter) and chargers of photovoltaic system
  • boiler etc.

Building heating system

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Houses using electric heating systems might have higher levels of magnetic radiation.

High electromagnetic fields are created by types of underfloor heating which do not use plastic water pipes but live conductors. The exception is underfloor heating with armpower transformerored power cables (which nullify electrical AC fields) and dual core (twin-core which reduces the magnetic AC fields).

More about radiation from the different heating systems ..

Power line cables and transformers

Learn more about radiation from the high and low voltage cables..

[1] ICNIRP Guidelines for Limiting Exposure to Time varying Electric, magnetic and Electromagnetic Fields (up to 300GHz)

[2] http://niremf.ifac.cnr.it/docs/niehs98.pdf

[3] http://monographs.iarc.fr/ENG/Monographs/vol80/mono80-6E.pdf

[4] Camilla Rees- Magda Havas, Public Health SOS - The Shadow Side of The Wireless Revolution

[5] Havas M, (2006) Electromagnetic hypersensitivity: Biological Effects of Dirty Electricity with emphasis on diabetes and Multiple Sclerosis.