Electric and Magnetic Fields

The electricity industry in Australia has an active management program on the issue of Electric and Magnetic Fields (EMFs) at power frequencies (50 Hz) which has been in place for many years. This page will provide you with information on EMF policies for the electricity industry as well as other documents which will explain more about the possible effects of EMF on health and ways that EMF may be managed. It will also provide you with some links to other websites with information on EMF issues.

Publications

The following Energy Network Australia documents provide some useful information on EMF related issues:

EMF Frequently Asked Questions

Are EMFs a danger to health?

Research on EMFs and possible health effects has been conducted for over 40 years. This includes over 2,900 studies at a cost of more than $490 million internationally.

The research has generally focused on the magnetic fields with two main areas of research, epidemiology and laboratory studies. Both areas would need to provide links between EMFs and adverse health effects for causality to be accepted by health authorities.

The Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency (ARPANSA) is a Commonwealth Government agency charged with the responsibility for protecting the health and safety of people and the environment from EMF ARPANSA advises that:

“The scientific evidence does not establish that exposure to the electric and magnetic fields found around the home, the office or near powerlines causes health effects".

“There is no established evidence that ELF EMF is associated with long term health effects.  There is some epidemiological research indicating an association between prolonged exposure to higher than normal ELF magnetic fields (which can be associated with residential proximately to transmission lines or other electrical supply infrastructure, or by unusual domestic electrical wiring), and increased rates of childhood leukaemia.

However, the epidemiological evidence is weakened by various methodological problems such as potential selection bias and confounding. Furthermore this association is not supported by laboratory or animal studies and no credible theoretical mechanism has been proposed.”

These findings are consistent with the views of other credible public health authorities. For example the World Health Organisation (WHO) advises that:

“Despite the feeling of some people that more research needs to be done, scientific knowledge in this area is now more extensive than for most chemicals. Based on a recent in-depth review of the scientific literature, the WHO concluded that current evidence does not confirm the existence of any health consequences from exposure to low level electromagnetic fields.”

More information can be found on the links below.

Are there standards for exposure to EMFs in Australia?

The two internationally recognised exposure guidelines are ICNIRP and IEEE.

  • International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection (ICNIRP) 2010
  • Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) in the USA 2002.

ARPANSA’s current advice is "The ICNIRP ELF guidelines are consistent with ARPANSA's understanding of the scientific basis for the protection of the general public (including the foetus) and workers from exposure to ELF EMF".

A copy of the ICNIRP ELF guidelines can be found on the link below.

What is the position of the Australian electricity industry in relation to the EMF issue?

The industry follows a prudent approach in relation to the EMF issue and the operation of the electricity supply system. The position is summarised in the EMF Policy statement given above.

Some other EMF websites