SENERGY360 aims to educate homeowners on the impact of AC magnetic fields, providing practical knowledge for identification, mitigation, and distancing strategies. Acknowledging that some AC magnetic fields are inevitable, we empower individuals with essential insights for a well-informed living environment. 

What Are Alternating Current (AC) Magnetic Fields?

Alternating magnetic fields occur when there is an alternating current flow in a completed circuit, where electricity moves from the supply to the return. Something has to be “turned on” to get current. Simply applying voltage to a wire does not induce a magnetic field. Visualize magnetic fields as waves or rings encircling the wire conducting the current.

The magnetic field lines are at a 90° angle to the electric field lines. The strength of the AC magnetic field depends on factors such as supply, location, current, wiring, and, most importantly, your proximity to the field’s source, be it the electrical wire or appliance.

Magnetic fields can freely penetrate most materials, making containment challenging. Only specific metal alloys, such as mu-metal and soft iron, known for their high magnetic conductivity, have the capability to achieve this. Magnetic fields also permeate human bodies unimpeded. Magnetic fields generated by two wires can enhance or diminish each other’s strength, determined by the direction of the current flow in each wire. This phenomenon is akin to tossing two rocks into a pond, where the waves either cancel each other out or amplify. When the current in a wire is balanced, meaning there are no wiring errors, the resulting magnetic fields will be minimal.

What Are the Health Concerns of Alternating Current Magnetic Fields?

The majority of individuals are exposed to AC magnetic fields, and recent research suggests that what was previously considered a short-term effect now raises concerns about its association with cancer and other diseases. However, controversy still surrounds these findings, especially in non-peer-reviewed studies.

Studies involving humans, animals, and in-vitro research conducted since 2002 consistently categorize Extremely Low-Frequency (ELF) magnetic fields as a potential human carcinogen. For the first time on this issue, the World Health Organization (WHO) has recommended that a precautionary approach should be adopted regarding extremely low-frequency electromagnetic fields. This recommendation follows the findings of the Draper report (June 2005) and the recommendations in the SAGE1 Report (April 2007), signifying a crucial step in fostering sensible legislation not only in the UK and Europe but also potentially influencing developments in the United States.

The existing evidence falls short of establishing a definitive causal relationship, but it remains compelling enough to warrant concern. While a direct link between magnetic field exposure and childhood leukemia has not been conclusively proven, the possible public health impact has been calculated assuming causality which leads to valuable insights for policy considerations.  

If we assume that the association between magnetic field exposure and childhood leukemia is causal, the estimated number of cases worldwide attributable to this exposure ranges from 100 to 2400 per year. However, this constitutes only 0.2 to 4.9% of the total annual incidence of leukemia cases, which was approximately 49,000 worldwide in 2000. In a global context, the impact on public health, if any, would be limited and uncertain. Several other diseases have been investigated for possible association with Extremely Low Frequency magnetic field exposure. These include cancers in both children and adults, depression, suicide, reproductive dysfunction, developmental disorders, immunological modifications, and neurological disease.

How Do I Minimize Alternating Current Magnetic Field Exposures in My Home?

Many home appliances generate high AC magnetic fields. The closer one is to the electrical appliances, the greater the field exposure. It is recommended to avoid or reduce the use of electrical appliances, especially in the bedroom, to support more restorative sleep. Distancing yourself from the same electrical appliances, when unplugging is not possible, will also help lower AC magnetic field exposures.

There are exposures to AC magnetic fields from outside your home, such as from transformers and substations. AC magnetic fields, which originate outside, usually cannot be economically reduced or removed as those arising from inside the house. Focusing on those inside the home are more important. These exposures drop dramatically with distance as well. Ideally, it’s best to not purchase a home near large power lines or transformers.

The last area of concern is the house wiring itself. House wiring can have errors and still function properly. If a neutral line is accidentally connected to a ground wire, the lights will still work. Unfortunately, this puts the current loads on the wires in an imbalance and creates large AC magnetic fields. This is called a net current imbalance on a circuit. Having a Building Biology Environmental Consultant or an Electromagnetic Radiation Specialist measure your home’s AC magnetic fields to see if there are any such imbalances is an excellent idea. Once found, have a licensed electrician fix the problem circuits and reduce your AC magnetic field exposures.

SENERGY360 is dedicated to arming homeowners with the knowledge needed to navigate the complex landscape of AC magnetic fields. We’ve explored the intricacies of these fields, understanding their origins, behaviors, and the potential health implications associated with them. Recognizing that complete avoidance may be impractical, our focus shifts to empowering individuals with actionable steps to minimize exposures within their homes. From prudent use of electrical appliances to strategic distancing and vigilance in addressing internal wiring concerns, every effort counts in fostering a living environment that prioritizes well-being.