Are power lines bad for your Health? Why we test for EMF.

I hope to demystify this question for you.  In order to do this, we need to speak a bit about electricity.   Have you ever wondered how power lines can be so thin, yet carry so much electricity?   In some cases, they are the same size as the ones in your home!  But, there is a big difference!  The power lines you would typically see up 30 meters in the air carry 400,000 volts, but very little amperage.  An amp can be thought of as the speed in which electricity can be carried.  The greater the speed, the more conductive, and thus thickness, a wire must be given similar material.  Amperage and voltage have an inverse relationship.  You can increase decrease the voltage, but increase the amperage.  This is the principle with our power grid.  The large lines high in the sky carry 400,000 volts.  They hit a substation, where that is decreased to 13,000 volts, but increased in amperage.  Close to your house, there is a transformer that brings it down to 240 volts, split into two phases of 120 volts, that comes into your home.

The reason this is important to understand is that as the electricity travels through the wire, it creates an electromagnetic field.  This field is what the studies believe contributes to the increased rates of leukemia, especially in young children.  Before we get too concerned, I should tell you that the studies show only a weak link.  That is, while there is a sharp increase, the incidents are still very low.  I should also point out that the figure above is only representative.  In some areas, the voltage is higher than 400,000 volts.  In some lower.  Still, others step down the voltage to 69,000 volts into suburban areas, then an additional step down to 25,000 before it hits the transformer in your home.  So how much electromagnetic radiation penetrates your home varies a great deal depending on your local electric grid.  I just switched terms on you!  Did you notice?  I used the term electromagnetic radiation.  There are two types of EMF exposure: ionizing and non-ionizing.  Ionizing radiation is the kind that comes from x-rays, and ultraviolet rays from the sun (high energy).  Non-ionizing radiation comes from cell phones, microwaves, computers, house energy meters, routers and electric lines (low energy)!

Here is a representative chart to show the radiation from power lines, but keep in mind your exposure in your new home is entirely dependent on the actual makeup of the house, the terrain, the lines, and the voltage.  

Basement To Attic, LLC, is concerned about the actual levels of radiation in your home, especially if you have smaller children.  We suggest that you have this level measured at the time of inspection so that you can make an informed decision.  We offer this as an add on service to a residential home inspection.  Here is what we measure: 

Measurement and Specification

  Range Max Resolution Basic Accuracy
Magnetic Fields (50/60Hz) 20/200/2000mG
2/20/200µT
0.02/0.1/1mG
0.02/0.1/1µT
±(15%+100 digit)
Electric Fields (50/60Hz) 50V/m to 2000V/m   ±(7% + 50dgt)
RF Strength (50MHz to 3.5GHz) 0.02uW/m² to 554.6mW/m² 0.02µW/m²  
  0.02uW/cm² to 55.4uW/cm² 0.002µW/cm²  
  36.1mV/m to14.46V/m 0.2mV/m  
  0.02mA/m to 38.35mA/m 0.2µA/m  
  -51dB to 16dBm 2dB ±2dB at 2.45GHz

Below are some studies regarding the correlation. 

British Medical Journal: Is living near power lines bad for our health?

EMF Academy: EMF Radiation from powerlines – what you need to know

INTERNATIONAL COMMISSION ON NON-IONIZING RADIATION PROTECTION