High Power Lines⎜Helpful Guide To Safe Home Location

high power lines

As both a retired Health Care Provider and a retired Attorney this subject is interesting from both perspectives. This is also a subject that generates some controversy. In this article we will evaluate the controversy and resolve it based upon scientific evidence.

How far away from high power lines should a home be? There are general guidelines that are applicable to many situations. But the only way to safely know the distance is to have the amount of electromagnetic force (EMF) measured to see if a home site is a safe distance away from high power lines.

In this article we will look at the controversy and at the scientific research which shows how to determine the safe distance.

The Controversy Over Whether It Is Safe To Live Near High Power Lines

There are three sources of controversy that need to be addressed before looking at the scientific evidence and drawing a rational conclusion to the question of whether it is safe to live near high power lines. These sources are:

  • Home Sale Web Sites and Real Estate Agents
  • Governmental Regulations based upon old data
  • Consumer Magazines Articles that ignore scientific data

Home Sale Websites and Real Estate Agents

One of the interesting portions of this controversy is that Home Sale websites such as Zillow and Trulia weigh in on this discussion. Home Sale websites exist for the purpose of selling homes. This places them between the proverbial rock and a hard place because many homes that both websites list may be close enough to high power lines to cause problems.

Zillow attempts to balance selling homes and the danger of a home being too close to high power lines. They claim that even though a belief in danger of living near power lines has been around for generations, that the danger has not been clearly shown. They rely on a old, in terms of medical research, study from 2006.

A 2006 Medical College of Wisconsin review of studies on the subject revealed that:
46 percent of those studies found exposure to power frequency fields had no effect on subjects.
22 percent found that exposure resulted in DNA damage.
32 percent of the studies were inconclusive.

https://www.zillow.com/blog/too-close-to-power-lines-150272/

The average person reading the above synopsis of that Medical College of Wisconsin review would likely think that there is not a real problem living near high power lines.

Trulia has a question and answer forum on it's website to deal with this question. There are some Real Estate Agents that answer the question by saying there might be a problem but studies are not conclusive.

Other Agents focus on the perception that there might be a problem with selling a house you buy that is near high power lines. This could be a problem because of the perception of health problems near high power lines.

There are some Real Estate Agents that say you can buy a house near high power lines for less than the same house in another location so that is a good deal. Even though it might take you longer to sell it and it might not appreciate as fast as a house not near high power lines.

But over all, since you paid less for the house you will probably make as much profit on a sale as you would make had you paid more for a house away from high power lines. In other words, the money made if you decided to sell the house would be about the same as made on a sale of a house away from high power lines.

So the arguments leading to confusion over the issue of whether a home close to high power lines is a health hazard from a Real Estate Agent and a Homes Selling website's point of view seems to be that it is OK to live near high power lines.

Government Regulations Based On Old Data

It is a fact of life that governments set maximum exposure standards. When these standards were set it was the belief, based upon the best information available, that those standards were safe. Most civilized countries set the maximum safe exposure to electromagnetic fields at 1000mG (milligauss).

As technology increased and as exposure to safe levels of electromagnetic radiation over time has shown that these once thought to be safe levels of exposure are not really safe, what should governments do?

Based upon the belief that the maximum safe exposure limit was 1000mG, regulations have for decades allowed high power lines near residential areas. Regulations have also allowed regular power lines in very close proximity to homes as well.

If maximum safe exposure standards were lowered to match what is now known to be the actual safe exposure limits, what would be the result?

Many people would see that as an admission of fault by government. The resulting lawsuits combined with the number of existing homes that would be declared uninhabitable would likely destroy the economy of even countries such as the United States.

Consumer Magazine Articles That Ignore Scientific Data

It is a fact of life that people tend to believe what they read. At times Consumer Magazine assigns articles to professional writers who are not experts about the subject matter they are to write about. These professional writers must research the subject matter before writing the assigned article.

It is also a fact that the quality of the article written will be in direct relation to the amount of or the quality of the research done before writing the article. When a professional writer is not an expert in a given field it is not always easy to decipher the fine nuances of the topic assigned.

So there are times when any professional writer might not get a subject assigned to them correct. This is not meant to be a criticism of the writer, but merely a fact of life.

Such an article was written in Forbes magazine for September 1, 2014. The Article was titled; Do High Voltage Power Lines Cause Cancer? The article listed several studies and even mentioned Realtor websites informing buyers of how power lines can affect the value of their home.

Possibility the writer of this article missed important data in his research. He ended the article with these words:

Well, twenty years later, the data are in: power lines do not cause cancer.

Forbes Magazine Sept. 1, 2014 Do High Voltage Power Lines Cause Cancer?

Bringing Order Out Of Confusion

To bring order out of confusion one must first understand what an Electromagnetic Field (EMF) is. Then the question is what level of EMF radiation is safe. Next one must understand how an EMF affects the human body over time. Finally what is the best way to determine if a given house is a safe distance from high power lines or any power lines.

What is an Electromagnetic Field (EMF)?

An electromagnetic field is created when electricity flows through power lines. Power lines can also include the electrical wiring in your house. As electricity flows through the power lines a magnetic filed is created that swirls around the power line similar to a whirlwind swirling around the wires.

This whirlwind radiates outward and away from the power lines and is known as electromagnetic radiation (EMR). The strength of the EMR depends upon how strong the electricity is that flows through the lines. The stronger the electricity flowing through the lines, the farther away from the power lines the EMR extends.

So EMR is what an EMF's strength is called. In this article I will use both abreviations, EMR and EMF, many times like this: EMR (EMF). This is done since the EMR is the strength of the EMF. The EMR is what is measured in order to know if the house is a safe distance from the power lines.

You can not look at the size of the power lines or the number of power lines near a house and know how far out from those power lines the EMR extends. The only way to know if a house is too close to power lines is to measure the radiation present in the house by a gaussmeter.

What Level of EMR is Safe?

As mentioned earlier in this article, many governments have listed a safe maximum level of EMR as 1000mG (milligauss). What effects can much less than 1000mG of EMR have on the human body?

  • 2 mG-12mG was shown to block melatonin's anti-cancer action. National Institute of Health, 1993, www.ncbi.nih.gov/pubmed/8320637
  • 4 mG seems to increase the likelihood of childhood leukemia. 2006, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16496405
  • 1.6mG doubles incidence of sperm abnormalities. 2009, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19910156?dopt=Abstract
  • 1-2mG increase in mortality of childhood leukemia up to 370% above mortality of childhood leukemia with no EMR exposure. 2006, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16496405

All four of the above problems from exposure to less than 12mG of EMR were reported in the U.S. National Institute of Health's PubMed publication! As can be seen, the human body is affected by EMR at 1.2%, much less than that of the government's safe maximum exposure to EMR of 1000mG!

Based upon these four examples above you would not want to have an EMR level of even 1mG in your home!

How EMF Affects the Human Body Over Time

Inside each cell in your body are chromosomes. Chromosomes are made up of a long chain of DNA which tells your cells how to function. The DNA in your cells are easily damaged by EMR.

dna chromosomes
Artist rendition of DNA Chromosomes

Over a period of time, exposure to electromagnetic radiation can cause damage to these DNA chains. When the DNA is damaged it alters the ability of living cells to function normally.

When a cell with damaged DNA divides to make two new cells, both new cells which now contain damaged DNA may not function normally and cause illness or cancer.

The time period needed for EMR to damage the DNA in cells depends upon several factors. Some of these factors include the intensity, in mG, of the EMR. The age of the person affected, young growing kids and elderly can be affected easier changing the overall health of the person exposed to the EMR. Children can become sick within 3 to 5 years.

When you sleep, your body repairs the damage done to cells by EMR. When the exposure is low, your body can do a good job of repairing the damage and you may never suffer any effects from EMR exposure.

If the exposure is high enough that your body can't repair all the damage when you sleep, you will eventually suffer the effects of EMR exposure.

If your bedroom has levels of EMR, because of nearby power lines, that will impair your body's ability to repair the damage while you sleep, you will eventually suffer the effects of EMR exposure.

Depending upon the amount of electricity flowing through the power lines going down the road past your house, even if they are not high power lines, the level of EMR in your bedroom could be enough to interfere with your body's ability to completely repair the EMR damage while you sleep!

According to EMWatch.com here is a list of health problems that have been linked to living near power lines:

  • brain cancer
  • childhood and adult leukemia
  • Lou Gehrig's Disease (ALS)
  • Alzheimer's disease
  • breast cancer in women and men
  • miscarriage, birth defects and reproductive problems
  • decreased libido
  • fatigue
  • depression and suicide
  • blood diseases
  • hormonal imbalance
  • heart disease
  • neuro-degenerative diseases
  • sleeping disorders
  • (https://EMWatch.com/power-line-emf/)

Hypersensitivity to EMF

Some people are hypersensitive to electromagnetic fields. Others with illnesses like cancer, chronic fatigue or Lyme Disease may need to reduce EMF exposure to extremely low levels.

These people do much better when the EMF level is 0.1mG or lower. This takes a very sensitive gaussmeter to accurately reflect a reading of only 0.1mG.

These people frequently need to double the distances from EMF producing devices. The average distances are shown in the next section. Those hypersensitive to electromagnetic fields may want to double those distances.

Is This House Safe From EMR?

There is danger of EMR from both high power lines and the regular power lines that supply your house. Remember, it is not the size of the power line that is important. What is important is the strength of the electromagnetic field where you live that is important.

high power lines
High power lines close to houses in the country

It is the amount of current the wires carry and how many wires there are that determines the strength of the electromagnetic field. As an example, if the electric lines running in front of your house created an unhealthy EMF (EMR) for 60 feet, that would affect your house if it was less than 60 feet away from the road.

If your house was near high power lines, like the type attached to those large metal monsters that almost look like they are walking across the land, there could be dangerous levels of EMR 3/4 of a mile away or further!

This means that EMR can even affect the health of people living in rural areas!

Michael Neuert is an EMF specialist in the San Fransisco Bay area. Over 20 year's time he measured EMF (EMR) safe distances. Here is a sample of the safe distances where the EMR was 0.5mG or less:

  • High voltage power lines - 700 feet
  • Neighborhood power lines - 10-200 feet
  • Electric Service panel (breaker box) - 10 feet
  • Compact fluorescent (CFL) light bulbs - 2-4 feet
  • LED light bulbs - 2-6 feet
  • Incandescent light bulbs - 1 foot
  • Microwave ovens - 8 feet
  • Refrigerators - 6 feet
  • Electric heaters - 8 feet
  • Electric fans - 6 feet
  • Most other electrical appliances - 4 feet
  • Computer hardware - 4 feet
  • Computer monitors - 2 feet
  • Plasma TVs - 4 feet
  • Stereo Equipment - 4 feet
  • Wi-Fi routers - 4 feet (www.EMFinfo.org)

From the above distances one can readily see that even normal electrical devices inside a home can have EMR coming from them. (www.EMFinfo.org)

Don't forget, these safe distances were specific to the measurements taken. If more or less electrical power was flowing through those lines the distances would have been different.

https://www.safespaceprotection.com/emf-health-risks/emf-health-effects/power-lines/

How To Know You Are A Safe Distance From Power Lines

You can't tell by looking at power lines how much EMF (EMR) they give off . The amount of EMF given off varies with the situation.

The strongest EMF usually come from the high power lines connected to those tall metal towers that look like they are walking across the land. You know that the magnetic field extends out quite some distance from these power lines.

Interestingly enough the hardest power lines to predict a safe distance from are the common power lines that run down most any street. Homes near a transformer can have higher EMF readings due to the fact that the transformer boosts the power and the wires carry more electricity coming out of the transformer.

Does burying the electrical power lines reduce the EMF? No. The EMF can be just as strong or even stronger because the lines are only buried a few feet deep rather than being 20 to 30 feet above you!

The problem with electromagnetic radiation is that there is no good way to shield against it. How could you shield all the EMR coming off of all the electrical wires? This makes EMR a form of electronic pollution that needs to be known if it is present before purchasing or even renting a home.

Most homes are not affected by EMR but there is no way to know for sure except to measure the amount of EMR in any given home. The damage EMR can do to those exposed to it over a period of time can be life threatening.

The only way to know you are a safe distance from power lines is to measure the EMF (EMR) with a gaussmeter (link to read reviews on Amazon). A gaussmeter is a testing device designed to measure the strength of the magnetic field of the house you live in or are looking at purchasing.

Guidelines For Measuring EMR

Since we can't see EMR and since not all homes are affected by dangerous levels of EMR, what guidelines are reasonable to use in deciding which homes would need EMR levels checked?

  • Homes within 3/4 of a mile of high power lines connected to the large metal towers. Some sources say homes within 1 mile
  • Homes within 500 feet of a transformer box
  • Homes within 500 feet of an electrical Substation
  • Street power lines on your side of the street whether above or under ground
  • Solar panels attached to the home

Any time a home falls within the above distances the EMR in and around that home should be checked with a good quality gaussmeter (link to read reviews on Amazon). This recommended gaussmeter is a reasonably priced one that should serve your needs very well.

It goes without saying that if the home has a level of EMR above 0.5mG it is time to scratch that home off your list of possible places to live.

My House Has EMR Problems Does That Create A Problem When I Sell?

This is one of those areas that can be both a moral and a financial dilemma. A moral dilemma because you know that the house has a dangerous level of EMR. Even with an EMR level well below the maximum exposure standard you know that someone living in the house long enough is at risk of disease.

This is a financial dilemma because more and more people are realizing that there can be a hidden danger living in a house close to power lines. These houses are getting to be harder to sell and they do not bring the same price as an identical house away from power lines.

The sad part is this dilemma is not your fault and it is not the fault of the prospective purchaser of the house. Nevertheless it puts you in the position of having to decide what strategy to take that will leave you at peace with your conscience.

Some people might brush off this problem and say it is a Caveat Emptor or Buyer Beware situation. Legally they would be correct. The house falls within the legal maximum exposure standard.

Other people would not be able to live with themselves if they learned that someone who bought the house later developed a serious disease from living in it.

Some might compensate for this knowledge by selling the house at a lower price because of its proximity to power lines and knowing the EMR level could cause problems in the future.

How you respond to this problem, if it is the situation you are in, is not for me to dictate.

What Should I Do When Looking For A Home?

It is important to look at the homes distance from any kind of power lines, transformers, electrical substations and are there are any solar panels attached to the home.

If the home is within the distances from power lines, transformers or electrical substations listed above or has solar panels on it, do not offer on it until you know the EMR strength is at 0.5mG or less.

If you offer on it contingent on an inspection showing EMR (EMF) of less than 0.5mG, you will most likely have that offer rejected. You could also damage your relationship with the Real Estate Agent you are using. Not everyone understands what you now understand.

A simple method to use is to not consider any home that is within the distances from power lines given above.

For those of you looking for a Country Homestead this should not be hard to do. Just be cautious of homes close to the road if electrical wires are at the road, and know where the high power lines attached to the metal monsters who look like they are walking are located.

If the home is off grid, beware of solar panels attached to it, particularly if they are on the roof.

By following a few simple guidelines, those looking for a Country Homestead should be just fine.

Related Questions

What is a safe distance from Cell Towers?

Cell towers transmit radio frequency (RF) energy. This is different from EMF (EMR) but it too can cause health problems. A German study found people living within 400 meters (1312 feet) of a Cell Tower had 3 times as many new cancers as those living further away. http://www.emf-health.com/articles-celltower.htm

Based on this study I'd want to live more than a quarter mile (1320) feet from a Cell Tower.

Do solar panels give off EMF (EMR)?

Electricity generated by solar panels is usually low voltage DC electricity that does not generate much EMF (EMR). But off grid solar power plants have an inverter which changes the DC electricity to AC electricity of the 120 volt variety to power electrical light and appliances.

In the process of converting DC to AC electricity some inverters create DE or dirty electricity which is a form of EMF. The Sunny Boy Inverters made in Germany and the SMA label inverters are reported to cause less DE and therefore less EMF (EMR) than other brands.

You might want to get an EMF (EMR) reading on a gaussmeter before offering on an off grid home. Some people very sensitive to EMF may not be able to live off grid with any level of comfort. Just like they might not be able to live within the usual distances of power lines that give reduced EMF levels.

Are all Gaussmeters reliable?

No, not all gaussmeters give reliable information. Some only measure a narrow band of EMF and miss significant amounts of EMF. Some brands are more reliable than others. Michael Neuert can help.


About The Author

John Brownlee

John is a retired Lawyer, Health Care Provider and has a certificate in Pest Management Technology. He teaches people how to locate, evaluate, and purchase Country and Homestead Property. He and his wife, Linda, share their knowledge of homesteading skills and safe pest management.