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Living Near Power Lines: Is it Dangerous to Your Health?

Published 8/29/09 (Modified 6/17/11)
By MoneyBlueBook

The Internet is quite a mixed bag of information - a wild, wild west cornucopia of unfiltered and unadulterated questions and answers. Among the nuggets of knowledge, there's an endless supply of trashy material and unsubstantiated half truths. For every debatable issue imaginable, there are legions of supporters and oppositions on both sides of the divide. Search engines like Google and Bing do nothing to segregate the legitimate articles from the biased quackery and it's often up to the readers themselves to differentiate fact from fiction. Such is the case with a very contentious and controversial issue of mine that's literally hitting close to home - the issue of living next to power lines and whether they have any negative impact on one's health.

From the various articles available online, you'll frequently read comments and posts from individuals claiming that their personal cancers and miscarriages were the direct results of living too close to nearby power lines. Though when subjected to scientific scrutiny, this does not necessarily indicate a definitive connection between the two, it's easy to see how the passionate and emotional voices could come to such conclusions. In my case, both of my parents are survivors of lymphoma cancer. Both of them successfully completed their chemotherapy treatments and both were able to cure themselves of the cancers that plagued their bodies for months. However, as far as I know - they and I have never lived in close proximity to power lines of any sort. However, if we hypothetically had, I'm sure I would have immediately jumped to such emotional conclusions as well and pointed to power lines as the leading cause of the cancers. As I examine this controversial issue, it's important to bear in mind that when it comes to such ubiquitous and misunderstood issues as the effects of electromagnetic fields from power lines, people's reactions may frequently be driven more by emotion and passion than by reason and true evidence.

I'm Buying A Dream House: But It's Located Near Electrical Power Lines

After years of renting, I'm finally in the process of buying my first home. At the conclusion of months of tireless searching and countless weekdays and weekends of visiting open houses and housing prospects, I've finally found the perfect starter home in the perfect location. It's a beautiful single family house -���� a brand spanking new construction home in a very desirable location near major transportation routes with excellent accessibility to stores and close proximity to places I need to be on a regular basis. But there's a problem, and a big problem at that depending on how you look at it. The prospective new construction lot I'm looking at is located somewhat near a string of power lines and within viewing proximity of several gigantic power line towers. To be precise, the constructed home would be located approximately 350 yards (1050 feet or 320 meters) from the nearest high voltage powerline.

The first time I drove through the newly minted housing development - I instantly fell in love. But after I saw the looming power lines in the distance, I began to have second doubts. Aside from the unsightly nature of the looming eye sores, I had mild qualms about the safety and health hazards of living in such relative close proximity to the gargantuan steel structures and high tension wires. After all, I was brought up by my parents and shaped by the mainstream media and social norms to naturally believe in certain things - such assorted health based beliefs like - microwave ovens emanate hazardous radiation waves, smoking causes cancer, Tylenol damages your liver, immunizing your child may lead to him or her developing autism, diet coke causes cancer, red meat is unhealthy, eating too much fish can lead to mercury poisoning, too much egg yolk will kill you, and finally - prolonged exposure to high tension powerlines can cause leukemia in children and lead to other cancers and Alzheimer type afflictions in adults.

But instead of taking such beliefs at face value this time around, and probably because the home and the neighborhood otherwise satisfied almost every other factor on my check list, I decided to investigate the power line health issue in greater depth. What I discovered was rather troubling - but not for the reasons you might think. After hours and days of research and pouring over numerous governmental issued reports on powerlines and research articles on the alleged connection between power line generated radiation and cancer in humans, I've come to the overwhelming conclusion that there is simply insufficient evidence at this time to establish a causal link between the two. Despite my own hard conclusions based on existing data, concrete facts, and actual measurements conducted by invited powerline company personnel of the suspected area, I don't think a consensus on this controversial issue will ever fully be reached by all people. It seems that for every scientific study which appears to conclusively link power lines to various health issues, there's another prominent health study which conclusively refutes it. Despite the fact that the "scientific research reports" that allege a real causal link between power line electro-magnetic field radiation and cancer afflictions only comprise about 10-20% of the total research, and a dominant 80% or so (based on my very rough fuzzy math estimates) refute a definitive link between the two, the "yes it causes cancer" crowd seems to win out in most debates, drowning out the rest - presumably through their ability to sway opinions through the use of emotional rhetoric and scare tactics.

Is It Safe To Live Near Power Lines? Does EMF Radiation From PowerLines Cause Cancer?

Power lines frequently generate intense opposition and heated protest - from homeowners to environmentalists - from power company authorities to even bloggers like yours truly. The responses are frequently conflicting and emotionally heated. The debate stems from the powerful but invisible electro-magnetic fields (EMF) generated by power lines as electricity is transmitted through them. Some say the magnetic waves corrupt DNA structures and contribute to the development of various cancers. Although these electrical magnetic fields are also generated by common house hold appliances such as TV's, alarm clocks, cell phones, hair blow dryers, computers, can openers, and electric blankets, much of this debate tends to focus exclusively on high tension power lines and the gigantic pylon towers that support them in certain neighborhoods.

While it's nearly impossible for me to discuss the entire scientific bases for the various conclusions out there, suffice it is to say - once you are able to discard the hype and hysteria, the general consensus by the most reputable sources do strongly suggest that currently, there is insufficient evidence to make the quantum leap that magnetic fields from power lines have the capacity to cause childhood leukemia, childhood brain tumors, or other cancers in children - and that presently, there is totally inadequate and inconsistent evidence to establish a relationship between power line fields and breast cancer or other forms of brain tumors in adults. This is not to suggest there is absolutely no possibility of a casual link between the two, but that the realm of verifiable data and research can not yet scientifically link the two as cause and effect.

Extensive research has been performed on the issue and major health organizations such as the National Cancer Institute, the National Research Council, and the National Institutes of Health (NIH) -���� have all performed studies and looked at the available research - and opined that there is not conclusive evidence that EMF exposure poses a cancerous risk or that���� residence near high voltage lines increases health risks. Authorities such as the NIH have noted that the available research, despite all of the inflammatory passions involved, fail to demonstrate that the levels of risk represent a real increase in cancer occurrences. Furthermore, such public health authorities have criticized the inflammatory research out there that report a causation link between powerline exposure and cancer, citing possible pervasive study biases stemming from the faulty selection of study subjects and failures to take into consideration other contributing factors such as poverty, nutrition, obesity, pure chance, and sample sizes based on volunteered opinions alone. Despite these authoritative findings, public hysteria will likely always remain - it's just the infallibility of human nature.

New conflicting reports and absolutely contradicting updates by the media and various vested interests on both sides of the divide are constantly being disseminated every year on the supposed dangers of power lines, perpetually shaping the public's emotional perception of the issue. However, if you really want to listen to the most authoritative voices on cancer research regarding EMF radiation fields, powerlines, and their effects on human children and adults, try reading the following online articles. Please let me know if there are any more authoritative sources on the matter:

  1. Electric and Magnetic Fields: National Institutes of Environmental Health Sciences
  2. Health Risks Associated With Living Near High Voltage Power Lines: Health Physics Society (July 2008)
  3. Electric and Magnetic Fields (EMF): Health Concerns: Connecticut Department of Public Health (April 2008)
  4. Electric and Magnetic Fields (EMF) Radiation From Power Lines: U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (May 2006)
  5. Electromagnetic Fields and Public Health: World Health Organization (May 2006)
  6. Magnetic Fields Exposure and Cancer: Questions and Answers: National Cancer Institute, U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH) (April 2005)
  7. Electromagnetic Fields Explained: Arizona Association of Realtors (2003)
  8. Power Line Fields and Public Health: American Physical Society (1995)

Effect Of Home's Proximity To Power Lines On Future Resale Value

Admittedly, regardless of the scientific research, people will always be scared of power lines. No matter what the government or health authorities tell the masses, and no matter what little concrete correlation there is with power lines and EMF induced cancers, it's a virtual given that a vocal segment of the population will never be swayed and will forever regard power lines as instant cancer-causing implementations of electrical doom (laced with extra helpings of government cover ups). For property owners and real estate agents, this is what we call an unfortunate, but irremediable defect - something objectionable about a property that cannot be readily changed. Similar unchangeable defects would be living near railroad tracks, living near an expressway, or living within smelling distance of a waste treatment plant.

While it's true that location in somewhat close proximity to power lines will diminish the overall buyer pool of individuals who would consider your home as a viable purchase (possibly turning off families with very small children perhaps), its desirably is also greatly influenced by other location factors as well. While there may not be a significant drop in property value in certain otherwise very desirable neighborhoods, there may be fewer buyers who will be willing to buy the house when you decide to resell it. Some may be paranoid of the potential health hazards, while others simply won't be able to live with the prospect of having ugly power line towers as permanent ornaments of their neighborhood landscape. While obviously there will always remain an active market for these types of homes, some have suggested that the houses and condos located in close proximity to power lines and power line towers should expect a 1-2% price hit, while others have suggested higher discounts up to 5% or more. However, in my personal research of price comparables in various housing neighborhoods located near powerlines that I've sought out, I haven't found that to be the case.

Remember, everyone has a price. While off the cusp, I'm sure everyone will say that they would never purchase a home near a power line - if they were offered the opportunity to purchase a sprawling mansion for half the price of other comparable homes in the area, I'm sure they would feel differently. The fact that there are homes located near graveyards, cemeteries, nuclear power plants, prisons, and heavily trafficked highways show that everyone has a price. It just depends on how accurately a property's price reflects all of the variables.

Would I Personally Buy A House Located Near Power Lines?

Yes, I would - assuming the home was properly priced, not located directly underneath the power lines, was not directly within view from the front or back of the home, and was sufficiently far enough to satisfy my own whims of prudent avoidance. In fact, I am currently faced with that decision right now, and I believe the answer is a resounding - yes. In the spirit of prudent avoidance, it also depends on how far the home is in relation to the nearest powerline pylon tower and proximately to the powerlines themselves. If my property or backyard directly touched the power line towers or if they ominously loomed over my property like hulking giants, that in of itself would probably be a deal killer for me.

While I personally believe the EMF health dangers of powerlines to be overblown and vastly exaggerated, I think it's still wise to exercise a reasonable dose of paranoid caution. While I believe the direct connection between powerline EMF waves are extremely tenuous and not proven by available science, I still think it's best to limit the distance between powerlines and one's home - just in case. Once again, this is simply prudent avoidance - as the possible dangers, no matter how miniscule or conceivably great, are so potentially devastating if ever found to be true. Besides, from a purely aesthetic point of view, who wants to stare at one of those ugly power line towers from either the front or back yard anyway? I think if the lines are only mere steps from you home or literally sitting in your backyard, this may be a concern. But if they are sufficiently far away in the distance, I think any potential health concerns would be greatly diminished.

So how close is it too close to be living near high tension power lines? Many power line researchers have pointed out that there is generally no serious cause for concern for homes located at least 300 feet away (roughly the length of a football field) from the nearest power line as EMF levels decrease rapidly and exponentially with distance from the lines. At this distance, the EMF levels from the lines are no different from the typical background levels found in most homes. If you are not certain about the EMF levels in or around your home, it's best to contact your local power company and request an EMF reading. Many power companies will perform an EMF measurement for free, particularly if you are a prospective home buyer interested in a new housing development.

Just to get the opinion of readers, what do you think of the photographer's proximity to the nearest power lines based on the photograph provided directly above? This is the approximate location of the housing lot I am currently considering as a prospective home buyer. The nearest power lines are about 350 yards away (more than 3 football lengths). In the photo provided, they perhaps appear larger than they ought to primarily because they are located on the top of a hill on a higher elevation, and there are no trees yet planted to obscure them as is usually the case in established old communities with power lines. Far enough to be objectively safe or still close enough to cause fear? What do you think?

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81 Responses to “Living Near Power Lines | EMF Radiation | Money Blue Book” 

  1. GT says:

    To Jason: who knows, may be some of them are not comfortable, but have no choice. Who can fight with the lawyers who powered with the money of Power Companies and its Lobby?

    In this conversation all power lines mixed together. However, there is big difference between them. Those with 'wood pols' cannot carry hight voltage, you can forget about'em unless they are right above of your head and distance is really short. Lines with about 110Kv are also not that powerful to create significant EMF at distance. (Today I passed by a few of them and meter showed EMF level only right beneath and up to about 10-15 meters away, nothing more). I did not pay attn to them as since I was interested in 500KV Transmission line. I found that this is the real threat. Some "standards" tells this is Ok to build houses from 30 meters from the projection of the closest wire. Well, think yourself: Under the line my meter was pinning, at 30 I do not remember exactly - something around 7-10mG; at 65-67 meters the reading still was 4.3-4.5mG, 80m - 3.1-3.3mG. It reached the max of "safe" level of 2mG only at distance of 100-105m. Now compare - the normal level in our city is 0.2-0.6mG. I would not listen what Power Companies suggest as a "safe level" of EMF, but rather take level that are in average houses in the city as a normal. In this case the fact is that even 100 meters away from 500kV power line EMF level was at least 4 times higher than usual in our area (but within range of acceptable 2mG), At 65-70 meters EMF was significantly greater usual level ( about 8.8 times higher). I do not think this is normal. Distance from 100m I would consider safe enough, but only the distance where reading becomes same as in other houses 0.2-0.6 I would consider safe and normal. I did not measured at what distance this level reached. May be will do tomorrow. However, once again the threat depends of power line voltage (in general. of course, there are some more dependencies).

  2. GT says:

    In addition: some people tell about house equipment that produce EMF saying that "this is almost the same as power line, so nothing to worry about power lines". Technically, this is incorrect. Well, the numbers provided usually correct - TV produces this, hair-dryer that, watches something else, etc. However, EMF produced by such equipment very weak and there is nothing left at distance of foot, meter or so from the equipment (there are some exceptions like microwave - it significantly increases EMF at distance of a few meters, so stay away while it's working). Just do not sit in a foot from big TV screen 12 hours/day and you are Ok. Do not be paranoid about home equipment (some exceptions like microwave, cell phones apply, but there are some other factors as well come to play, such as ultrahigh frequency of EMF for example). And time when you exposed to its EMF is limited. In opposite, Power lines polluting EMF in non-stop operation mode (unless snowstorm occurred).

  3. wbking says:

    To whoever created this blog,

    I was just curious on how your family is doing now that your are in the home. My husband and I bidding on 13.8 acers of land that is close to an electrical substation and powerlines. We do not have children as of right now but plan on the in the very near future and the risk of living near the substation has created a concern for me. I have researched this very hard but can not find a yes or no or one any information that sways me to one side or the other. My gut tells me that if I built a couple 100 ft away it would be okay. I mean everyones house is close to a powerline but my concern is the substation. Can anyone please help?

  4. GT says:

    Hello wbking,
    the power lines are different. Firstly, you need to know what voltage and power of the line. If you will make a picture I can tell you what it is for voltage (for power - it can be found probably on the internet). I measured one 500KV power line (see readings above) and then another one 500Kv - but configuration is different and the reading is totally different. Second one has just 0.5mG at the distance where the first one has close to 5.

    Actually, to have peace of mind the best way just to ask your hydro company to measure EMF level. Otherwise it will guessing and no relief for your thoughts. Measure level at home, at measure level at certain distances from the powerline/substation. Make sure you get from actual reading numbers from the, and not just "everything is within normal range...". Get the numbers, and you will decide what is normal, and what is not.
    Good luck.

  5. Marigold says:

    I recently purchased a home in a gorgeous, rural town. It took a long time to find this "perfect" home. After the excitement of moving and getting settled, one night I noticed a very low, vibrational pulsation. It was sort of below my ear and almost in my jawline. It is very pronounced. I realized that I heard it inside the house and outdoors as well.
    Then I discovered powerlines in the woods about a half a mile down the road. The reason I never saw it is because I hadn't taken this particular fork in the road. The constant pulsing is annoying and almost feels like I am in a vaccum. Not everyone who comes to visit or lives here can hear or sense this. One of my sons can hear it as intensely as I do. I think that we are both highly sensitive (he's a violinist and I'm a cellist)...I thought that maybe we have highly developed hearing, yet my daughter who is also a cellist cannot hear it...not that it is exclusive to musicians.
    Within a short amount of time I started to experience insomnia and wake up with a little weird tingling on one of my thighs, it is numb near the surface of the skin.
    My partner cannot hear this, but he knows that it is disturbing to me.
    I've been here now for about 5 months. I have to have music on all the time and sleep with a fan.
    I notice that I do not hear it when I leave here, so it isn't an inner ear thing.
    It is real and I do not know what to do.
    Also, I need to do some research, because I am finding out that a few people have died of cancer in the area...which may or not be related. One woman lived about the same distance away from the power lines.
    I would like to know if anyone else living near power lines hears this pulsing low frequency.
    At first I thought that it was ELF towers or something but discovered the towers and voila...this might be it.

  6. Marigold says:

    Excuse me...I mean I discovered the POWER LINES, not towers. BUT...I did see a rather tall tower that seems to have solar panels on it and maybe a TV type antenna...it's on someone's personal property. I think that there are two towers within 4 miles of my home. I did a search, but do not know the integrity of it and know zero about towers. We can only get VERIZON here...that's it for wireless and there is dial-up on the computer.
    I have the wireless broadband card, but just got that recently...the pulsing was around months before the wireless internet.

    I would like to add that I have never felt so drained, wiped out and sometimes feel downright disoriented and depressed...and I was SO LOOKING FORWARD to living in this dreamlike rural place...I have the whole Thoreau thing going on.

    I just finished my first novel and worked like gangbusters getting it ready for the publisher...moved here and feel like I hit a brick wall with my lack of energy. I have no issues that would lead to depression...it is a definite pulsing low frequency issue...this is my dream home in the outskirts of the village where I grew up.

    If any of you remember the movie "On Golden Pond"...this is where I live.

  7. Marigold says:

    I have no interest in property values. This is a physical, actual circumstance that is affecting me greatly. I do not WANT health issues, nor do I want to sell this property...I am hoping that there is another answer...

    No fear mongering here...

  8. Alex says:

    Hi Marigold

    Sorry to hear that you have issues with noise (I have tinitus that does the same thing to me). Transmission lines do sometimes have a buzzing sound when moisture interacts with the dust that settles on the insulators on the structures (poles / towers). I suggest that you determine that the transmission lines are the culprits first. You could do this by determining if they are noisy up close (visit one at night) and if you believe the noise is actually coming from the insulators (poles/towers) then notify your power company for action - There could be a number of reasons from faulty gear to a lack of washing down (de-dusting). I suggest that you request an explanation of the noise and also ask if it is in line with noise regulations of the area. Also be prepared to write to your governing body on noise for your area - EPA or other govt dept. Also be prepared to write to your elected member of parliment / congress etc to seek a response from the power company. Typically they get the power company to respond to them and then pass it on to you - but this does make the company take note that you are speaking to the right people and not just complaining for the sake of it. Let me know how you get on/

  9. Alex says:

    To GT
    Its a good point that you should maybe look at what the normal readings in a household are and compare them to a house in close proximity to get a feel for any issues with potential (both real or perceived) increases in health risks.

    Keep in mind though that EMF is a field and not radiation so no matter how much energy is being pumped through a power line the EMF associated with electricity will only reach a set distance and then cease. I doubt that EMF readings past 50-100 meters to a power line (depending on voltages) will be the result of that particular power line.

    Keep in mind also that high voltage is used on wood poles (up to 132kV in some countries) so it can be misleading to suggest that they are dismissable. Also you can get a higher EMF reading from underground cables as you will be much closer to the cables than you could ever get to an aerial (above ground) power line. Something that is often over looked as the real issue to many people is visual polution and perceived reduction in property values as a result.

  10. Alex says:

    Hi Marigold

    Just an add on

    The tingleing on your skin could be from being run down and tired - classic insomnia. Speak to your doc about this though and also ask about tinnitus as this can be an issue with musicians resulting normally from exposure to loud noise.

  11. Jenny J says:

    GT~ I am considering buying a home and there are power lines behind the house and then I think there is a cell phone tower there also. Would you be able to tell me what these things are if I send you a picture?


  12. Bret says:

    Curious here, too. I am an electrician who knows little of the transmission end of power.
    When younger, I hunted on a power line ROW that ultimately feeds some of Dallas. As the day would commence and loads would increase, one could hear the crackling and humming also increase in the lines. About 50 feet to 100 feet away. I am reluctant to build too near one but think also that a mG reading would be the best, logged throughout the day at a minimum of 30 minute increments- 24 hours, and maybe even over a couple of different seasons.
    To the naysayers of - health problems, there ARE extreme cases of them. Like the woman who worked in editing at a tv station with a cable bundle running exposed over her head in her office. She died. Think it was an NBC office.?
    BUT, I once stopped at an estate sale while waiting for a customer to arrive. This guy died at 87 YO, IIRC. He had the western part of the same line running through his backyard that I once hunted on. A county or so away. Before I knew his death age I asked someone if he died of cancer due to powerline. They said just old age. He had a LOT of hunting books and traveled much. So who knows- maybe he was not home enough for it to effect him.
    Take a reading and if low enough, I say enjoy it. You can even watch lightning strike them and shake in massive storms from the balcony!

  13. Dpak says:


    We have been living near a powerline for the last 5 years. We had our son there two years ago and so far he is perfectly healthy and smarter than his age group.
    So far, we have not noticed any adverse health effects that can be linked to the lines.
    The bad: When I touch the metal downspout, I get stung a lil by the current. Grounding will fix it. So for sure, I am living in the "force field". The Dish installer also got stung when he touched a metal pipe.

    I live abt 50 ft away from the power lines that are sagging to the level of my roof. CHeck out pics.

    If you have any thoughts, pls email me at dsatheesh@hotmail.com

  14. Alex says:

    Dpak ~ A lack of grounding on the house can be the cause of the electric shocks depending on soil resitivity. If you have a cut on your hand and turn on an outside tap do you also get a shock? if so you may need to check your grond to earth on your water supply.

  15. Alex says:

    Jenny J ~ I would be wary of the cell phone tower as the EMF levels emmitted from cell phone frequencies does seem to attract a lot more scientifically acknowledged adverse effects to human health issues than the EMF from power lines.

    At least follow the issue up with your national EMF / radiation advisor.

  16. michael says:

    I too live near powerlines, and my brother, an electric Engineer, said,"to be on the safe side, don't live there longer than 10 years"

  17. Richard says:

    Hey all,
    I am faced with the descision of purchasing a home about 200m from HV Power Lines. The house is absoloutly beautiful and the price is about 100k under current market value. Partly because of a slump in the market but mostly because of mass paranoia caused by a minority who are too lazy or too stupid to avail themselves of the information available at the click of a button. Are we not protected from the sun (Solar Flares ex) by the earths EMF. How strong is that by comparison? Thanks for your article it has helped me make my choice. I am going to buy this house at a bargain price. Thank you histerical minority for your help,

  18. Marigold says:

    Wow, Richard.
    Go for it. However, if you feel the need to be insulting to people who are concerned for their health and well-being...you should probably hit spell check...hysterical is spelled with a "Y"....
    Good luck...I think that you are the crazy one to take such a risk with your family. Yeah...we are exposed to solar flares and an outright lying government and other powers around the world who are not acting on behalf of the good of the earth's inhabitants.
    Who is to say that you clicked the right buttons?
    It's a slippery slope my friend...you might want to click a few different buttons...seems you hit the jackpot...the buttons that work in your favor and those who do and will hide the truth from consumers only to benefit their own greedy cause. Your ignorance is really what clicks my buttons...people like you who run with the herd.,..the flock...just like "they" want you to....

  19. GT says:

    For Jenny J:
    Sorry, I perhaps too late, your message dated later in September. If by a chance you still need that information - yes, from a good picture with details I can tell with the high probability what voltage of a power line. However, just knowing voltage is not enough. It's enough for basic idea what to expect. More details depends of power of the power line and design and power stream design.

  20. GT says:

    For Jenny J:
    said above is only about power lines - not cell phone towers.

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