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The exposures in our homes are usually much lower than the guidelines levels, which provide adequate protection.
Even so, if you are concerned about possible long-term health effects at exposures below the guideline levels you may wish to know about keeping your exposure as low as possible by using some of the simple measures listed below. Some of these may have additional benefits such as improving safety and reducing energy consumption in your home. The main safety concern is to avoid electric shocks and fires.
1. How can I reduce my exposure to electric and magnetic fields?
There are some simple steps you can take to reduce exposure to electric and magnetic fields:
- turn appliances off when not in use and when it is safe to do so. (To eliminate electric fields, disconnect the appliance from the mains)
- move further away from appliances in use
- reduce the time you spend near to, or using appliances
These steps can reduce electric and magnetic fields.
Magnetic fields fall off with increasing distances from appliances.
2. How do I find out about the exposure level in my home?
Your local electricity company may be able to make spot measurements of the magnetic field levels in your home. The Energy Networks Association has an electric and magnetic field unit and customer information line as an initial point of contact for all such enquiries. There are also companies that will do a measurement for a charge or hire equipment.
Magnetic field levels in homes vary depending on time of day and season because of consumption of electricity.
3. How can I reduce my exposure if I live near to a large power line?
Homes near to large power lines tend to have higher than average magnetic fields because the lines carry large electric currents and magnetic fields are not easily shielded. The electric fields produced by power lines do not reach indoors, because buildings screen electric fields very effectively.
Government has asked electricity companies to arrange the conductors on power lines in a way that produces lower fields, and have decided that other measures to reduce fields, such as avoiding the routing of power lines near to homes, or not building homes close to power lines, are not needed. Public Health England considers only no-cost or low-cost measures to reduce exposure are justified.
In the home it may be possible to locate bedrooms and living areas further away from the power line. These measures will have the greatest effect in homes that are very close (within a few meters) of large power lines.
4. Should I buy a home near a power line?
Electric and magnetic fields are just one of many environmental factors to consider when purchasing a home, along with important lifestyle factors including local amenities, schools and place of work.
Homes near to power lines tend to have higher than average background fields; however, this should not be a major consideration in deciding whether to buy a home or not because the health risk if real is small. Other potentially more important factors to take into account when buying a house include: materials present in fabric of the building, such as lead paint or asbestos, soil or groundwater contamination, local traffic, air pollution and noise as well as radon, a naturally-occurring radioactive gas.
Government considers the possible health risk is not big enough to justify moving home if you live near a power line.
5. How can I reduce exposure from the local electricity circuits and equipment?
The local electricity circuits near your home can result in higher than average magnetic fields in some circumstances. This may be due to a general fault which would need to be attended by your local electricity company, but this is not always the case. A fault may show up as flickering lights so it is best to get wiring inside and outside the house checked if you suspect there is a problem.
Options for reducing exposure to magnetic fields from the local electricity circuits near your home are limited. It may be possible to move bedrooms and living areas to positions in the home that are farthest away from these circuits. In some situations it may be possible to modify the existing electricity supply to your home, but this needs to be arranged with the electricity supply company.
Electric field sources outdoors do not normally give rise to electric fields indoors because building materials shield such fields very well.
6. How can I reduce my exposure to electric and magnetic fields from the use of electrical appliances?
Electrical appliances produce some of the highest levels of magnetic fields found in the home when they are plugged in and in use. It may be possible to move further away from TVs and computers, or to move appliances away from areas where you spend most of your time. In bedrooms, appliances such as clock radios can be positioned a metre or so away from the bed.
Turn appliances off when not in use. This has the added benefit of reducing power consumption. In the case of electric fields, appliances need to be switched off at the mains socket, if possible. If you use an electric blanket to warm a bed, you could turn it off overnight to reduce your exposure.
Some appliances such as shavers and hair dryers, are designed to be used close to the body; however, as they are used for short periods, their contribution to your total exposure is likely to be small.
For children, removing unnecessary electrical appliances from their bedrooms and play rooms or re-positioning them as far away as possible will help to reduce their exposure. Again, turning off appliances off when not in use will also reduce unnecessary consumption of electricity.
7. Is my exposure greater if there is a lot of electrical appliances and other equipment in and around my home?
Your exposure is generally expected to increase if you have lots of electrical appliances in your home or if you live close to power lines and other types of electrical equipment; although your exposure doesn’t necessarily increase as much as you might think because electric and magnetic fields don’t add in a simple way. Your average exposure will also depend on how much time you spend close to individual sources.
8. How can I reduce my exposure to electric and magnetic fields from electrical wiring circuits at home?
It may be possible to increase your distance from the existing wiring in your home, for instance by positioning beds or other furniture away from cables. Faulty wiring can generate extra electric and magnetic fields and care and maintenance of wiring, by regular testing by a suitably qualified electrician, is important for safety and may help to reduce electric and magnetic fields.
Re-routing of wiring may be an option to reduce exposure, but is likely to be costly and disruptive. If new electrical wiring is being installed you can ask the electrician to do it in a way that minimizes electric and magnetic fields.
9. Should I buy electric and magnetic field-reducing devices?
There are some devices on the market which claim to reduce or eliminate electric and magnetic fields in the home. Such devices can be costly and should be treated with caution as they may not reduce the fields at all. In general electric fields can be shielded easily but it is more difficult to screen magnetic fields with everyday materials.