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Electromagnetic fields

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Elektromagnetische Felder

Effects of electric and magnetic fields

If a person is exposed to external electric and magnetic fields additional electric fields and currents are generated in the body. This direct effect on the body is essential for the assessment of health risks. In every day life the effects of the low-frequency fields of alternating currents are relevant above all. Static magnetic fields play a role mainly in medicine and industry. In the future static fields will also occur around the planned HVDC lines.

Possible longterm effects of low-frequency fields are examined scientifically as well. Besides a possibly elevated risk of childhood leukaemia an increased risk of diseases of the nervous system for (occupational) exposure to strong low-frequency fields is discussed.

Proven effects caused by static and low frequency fields

Low frequency fields generate electric fields and currents in the human body. As a consequence nerve and muscle cells can be stimulated. The limit values set out in the 26th German Federal Immission Protection Ordinance (26. BImSchV) protect against the proven health-related effects of low frequency electric and magnetic fields. No health risks have been demonstrated for static electric and magnetic fields occurring in usual exposure situations that arise from direct current power lines.

Effects of static fields

Static magnetic fields exert forces on magnetisable metals as well as on moving electrically charged particles. As an example humans use strong magnetic fields for medical imaging methods. To date, investigations have not revealed any direct negative biological or health effects from static magnetic fields with magnetic flux densities of up to four teslas. Further research is needed on the effects of stronger static magnetic fields.

Scientifically discussed effects of low-frequency fields

Strong electric and magnetic fields exceeding the existing limit values can lead to health impairments. Whether low-frequency fields could have any further health effects, apart from these established effects, - possibly below the limit values, too - is currently being researched.

WHO risk assessment

In 2002 the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) which is associated with the World Health Organization (WHO) classified low frequency fields as class 2B "possibly carcinogenic". The crucial factor for this decision were the epidemiological observations of a statistical association of childhood leukaemia and an exposure of the children to magnetic fields in the range of more than 0.3 to 0.4 microtesla (µT), averaged over time.

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