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Assessing human exposure to power-frequency electric and magnetic fields.

  • W T Kaune
Publication Date
Dec 01, 1993
  • Chemistry
  • Earth Science


This paper reviews published literature and current problems relating to the assessment of occupational and residential human exposures to power-frequency electric and magnetic fields. Available occupational exposure data suggest that the class of job titles known as electrical workers may be an effective surrogate for time-weighted-average (TWA) magnetic-field (but not electric-field) exposure. Current research in occupational-exposure assessment is directed to the construction of job-exposure matrices based on electric- and magnetic-field measurements and estimates of worker exposures to chemicals and other factors of interest. Recent work has identified five principal sources of residential magnetic fields: electric power transmission lines, electric power distribution lines, ground currents, home wiring, and home appliances. Existing residential-exposure assessments have used one or more of the following techniques: questionnaires, wiring configuration coding, theoretical field calculations, spot electric- and magnetic-field measurements, fixed-site magnetic-field recordings, personal- exposure measurements, and geomagnetic-field measurements. Available normal-power magnetic-field data for residences differ substantially between studies. It is not known if these differences are due to geographical differences, differences in measurement protocols, or instrumentation differences. Wiring codes and measured magnetic fields (but not electric fields) are associated weakly. Available data suggest, but are far from proving, that spot measurements may be more effective than wire codes as predictors of long-term historical magnetic-field exposure. Two studies find that away-from-home TWA magnetic-field exposures are less variable than at-home exposures. The importance of home appliances as contributors to total residential magnetic-field exposure is not known at this time. It also is not known what characteristics (if any) of residential electric and magnetic fields are determinants of human health effects.

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