Magnetic fields are a part of our everyday lives and constantly surround us. Magnetic fields are generated by electrical devices such as refrigerators, coffee makers, hair driers, television sets and cordless phones. The strength of magnetic fields from household appliances and devices is normally very local and much lower than the Authority’s reference values, so they are not assessed as posing a risk to health.
The stronger the electrical current, the stronger the magnetic fields will be. As soon as you use the devices, they generate magnetic fields, but they disappear as soon as you switch off the devices. Ordinarily, the strength of magnetic fields declines quickly with an increasing distance from the source.
Human beings have evolved in adaptation to Earth's static magnetic fields and it has not been possible to prove harmful effects from the static magnetic fields that people normally come into contact with.
Magnetic fields surrounding electrical devices and power lines are called 'alternating magnetic fields'. This kind of magnetic field generates electrical currents in the body that can affect nerve signals if the fields are very powerful. By far most experts today agree on how powerful the magnetic fields must be to give rise to an immediate impact, for example nerve and muscle irritation. However, the strength of these magnetic fields far exceeds normal levels in our environment. On the other hand, there is some concern in the scientific community about the incidence of childhood leukaemia possibly being linked to weak magnetic fields generated by sources such as power lines.
Due to the concern over a link between weak, low-frequency magnetic fields and the incidence of childhood leukaemia, the Swedish Radiation Safety Authority issues the following recommendations in connection with social planning and building projects:
- Work towards the design or location of new power lines and electrical installations so as to limit exposure to magnetic fields
- Avoid locating new housing, schools and pre-schools in close proximity to electrical installations generating elevated magnetic fields
- Work towards limiting magnetic fields that deviate substantially from what can be deemed normal in home, school, pre-school and occupational environments.
The measures must be achievable at a reasonable cost.
You can reduce your own exposure to magnetic fields at home by increasing your distance to appliances and devices, and by switching them off when you are not using them.
The role and responsibilities of the Authority
The Swedish Radiation Safety Authority performs measurements, evaluates research findings in the field, gives advice and issues recommendations and regulations. Our mandate encompasses the general public’s exposure; the Swedish Work Environment Authority’s mandate encompasses magnetic fields in occupational environments.