Can High Voltage Power Lines Cause Cancer?

What is the safe distance for living near to a high voltage power line, how close it too close?

These are typical questions asked by people looking to rent or buy a house or a workspace close to a high voltage power lines need to ask. To properly answer these questions, we need to talk about Electromagnetic Fields/Forces (EMF).

EMF is created when electricity flows, this field swirls around its source of radiation like a whirlwind. Its strength depends on a number of factors, but the strength of the electric current is also significant. The further a person is from an EMF’s source, the lower the strength of the magnetic field. However, it’s worth noting that magnetic fields can be larger than you think.

EMF causes Electromagnetic Radiation (EMR) which cannot be shielded against. This electric pollution must be investigated before committing to any property. EMR can affect a person’s health in various ways. EMF from EMR can interfere with a person’s natural EMF, causing changes to the individuals sleep cycle, stress level, immune response, and even his/her DNA.


Health Risks Associated With Power Lines

The fear of high voltage power lines began after a 1979 study by Nancy Wertheimer and Ed Leeper reported a correlation between high-voltage power lines and childhood leukaemia. However, a review of the evidence in1995 pointed out that

“There is no known mechanism by which magnetic fields of the type generated by high voltage power lines can play a role in cancer development. Nevertheless, epidemiologic research has rather consistently found an association between residential magnetic field exposure and cancer.”

The question then became if these associations were real or coincidental. If they were real, what was the mechanism? In 2002, WHO (World Health Organization) commissioned a 339-page report on all types of EMF and how they may affect our health. The findings showed that there was little experimental or theoretical evidence that mutations could be caused by Extremely Low Frequency (ELF) magnetic fields. It concluded by stating:

“Static electricity and magnetic fields and ELF electricity fields are not classifiable as to their carcinogenicity to humans.”

This meant there was no positive evidence that EMFs cause cancer. They did not support a link but more studies may find something.

Other studies have been done but a correlation between EMF and cancer development is yet to be found. So no, high voltage power lines do not cause cancer but they still pose a health risk. Researches and publications put out by WHO has shown that EMFs from power lines can cause:

  • Headaches
  • Fatigue
  • Anxiety
  • Insomnia
  • Prickling and/or burning skin
  • Rashes
  • Muscle pain


How close is too close?

It’s difficult to attach a value to what a safe distance should be, this is because EMFs can vary greatly depending on the situation. What is important is ensuring exposure levels are reduced to as low as 0.5mG (milligauss) or less, this means a distance of about 213 meters.


Safety Distance From EMF Sources: ELF Magnetic Fields ELF Electric Fields
General Public Precautionary Levels Distance to 0.5 mG or less Distance to 0.5 AC Volts on Skin
High Voltage Power lines (on metal towers) 213.36 meters 304.8 meters
Neighbourhood Distribution Power line (on wooden poles) 3.05 to 60.96 meters 3.05 to 18.29 meters
Electric Utility Transformer (on pole or ground) 3.05 to 6.10 meters
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