7
Feb
2005

EMF's and Property

Electromagnetic Radiation (EMRs):

Anytime an electric current runs through a wire, it produces an electromagnetic field (EMF).

Electric Field:

* is present if an appliance is on or off.
* measured in volts/meter (v/m)
* produced by electric charges in power lines, lights, appliances
* pushes and pulls charged particles (ions) in the direction of the field
* voltage remains constant.
* is easily screened, little passes through walls of house or skin

Magnetic Field:

* will disappear when an appliance is shut off
* measured in amps/meter (amp/m) or most often in units called gauss
* measured with gaussmeters or magnetometers
* results from the motion of charges in the electric field (current)
* results from the motion of current and fluctuates with that current
* the stronger the current, the stronger the magnetic field
* peak usage times cause large increases in magnetic fields
* pushes charged particles (ions) perpendicular to their direction of motion
* travels through most matter without losing strength

An estimated 10 million acres of land and one million homes in the United States lie close enough to transmission lines that the EMF levels on the property exceed the average household background levels. Public concern over power-line EMFs may decrease the value of this property. One recently published analysis estimates that the total economic cost of the EMF controversy exceeds one billion dollars annually.

Electromagnetic Fields:

This refers to magnetic and electric fields lumped together as one and can be a source of informational confusion; sometimes intentional, sometimes accidentally. The earth has a natural 500 mG DC magnetic field; it makes compasses work. An AC field is another matter. AC or alternating current is produced by making the current move back and forth 60 times a second (60 Hz.) It is this AC electromagnetic field that is tied in to leukemia, cancer deaths and other adverse health implications.

Epidemiological studies are centered on children in order to rule out preexisting factors. Adults are equally at risk. The central study of electronic fields (EMF) was conducted over a 23-year period from 1950-1973 by Wertheimer and Leeper. They concluded that the children who lived in high-exposure homes with magnetic fields ranging from 2 to 2.6 mG (close to power transmission lines) were 2 to 3 times as likely to contract some form of cancer (specifically leukemia, lymphomas and nervous system tumors) than children who did not live close to power transmission lines (homes with low EMF readings).

Another more recent study by Savitz as part of the New York State Power Lines Project (which was done with the thought to disprove Wertheimer and Leepers results) merely confirmed and better defined exposure criteria to EMFs and its link to cancer. The average field in high-current homes was 2-3 mG resulting in twice the risk for specific cancers. He found the same double risk for children living near high-current distribution lines. Children who lived in homes exposed to the highest currents were five times more likely to get cancer.

Tomenius measured the proximity of high-voltage power lines (6,000-200,000 volts), transmission lines and other high current sources to childhood cancers in Sweden. He took the measurement from the front door of the children's houses and found that with intensities of 3 mG or above, those children were twice as likely to die of cancer.

Other studies also showed increased cancer death rates for people living near radio or T.V. broadcast transmitters, microwave towers and radar beams from airports. Conditions of high blood pressure, chronic stress effects, chronic fatigue, changes in white and red blood cell count, increased metabolism, headaches, memory loss and brain damage have been associated with high EMF's in other studies.

115 kV-756 kV power transmission lines can show a 5 mG readings at ranges from 100-2,000 feet. Also at risk are homes within 120 feet of: large gauge primary distribution wires, 6 or more thin wires, first or second home close to step down transformer, within 60 ft of 3-5 thin primary wires. Also, improperly wired 3-way wall switches in the home and mistakes in wiring subpanels (not balancing the hot and neutral loads) cause high magnetic fields.

While there is no established standard for a "safe" exposure limit to EMFs, the arbitrary 2 mG level used in epidemiological studies shows statistical relevance. Excessive EMF levels can be tested for by your local utility company (usually for free) using extremely low frequency (ELF) magnetic field meters. These instruments are also known as ELF Gaussmeters and can be purchased upward from $100.

In 1993, 9 million dollars were spent in government-conducted tests to determine the harmful effects, if any, from EMFs. Through numerous studies on laboratory rats, no statistical relevance to disease was uncovered. Nevertheless, the perceived cancer risk resulting from a proximity to a high EMF source(s) would definitely have a depressing influence on the resale value of EMF contaminated property especially if the person buying the house was informed that it had high EMF readings and by moving into the house they would significantly increase their chances of disease and cancer death. With the ever increasing journalistic coverage of EMFs, the perceived contamination by the buying public will have a depressing effect on visually suspect, EMF-contaminated real estate. Fear affects purchasing decisions and where people choose not to live.

In a relative case the New York Court of Appeals ruled in favor of a claimant stating that, "Whether the danger is scientifically genuine or verifiable fact should be irrelevant to the central issue of its market value impact." The judge cited another case,..."As the Court of Appeals of Kansas has noted, 'Logic and fairness...dictate that any loss of market value proven with a reasonable degree of probability should be compensable, regardless of its source.' If no one will buy a residential lot because it has a high-voltage line across it, the lot is a total loss even though the owner has the legal right to build a house on it. If buyers can be found, but only at half the value it had before the line was installed, the owner has suffered a 50% loss."

Is there concern about electromagnetic fields? Nokia, Motorola and Ericsson mobile phones are concerned enough to develop radiation standards. Trade groups are insisting that mobile phone firms disclose radiation levels. Labels should show up on phones in 2001.


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