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Page last reviewed: 04/21/2006
Highlights
  • Welcome to the California Electric and Magnetic Fields (EMF) Program. California Electric and Magnetic Fields (EMF) Program. Contains fact sheets in English and Spanish concerning EMF hazards and solutions in homes and schools. Also, provides a link to a video that describes how improperly connected electrical wiring could pose hazards in schools, as well as a school design guidelines checklist which discusses practical, "no- and low-cost" techniques for minimizing exposure to magnetic fields in new and remodeled school buildings.
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Extremely Low Frequency (ELF) Radiation

Extremely low frequency (ELF) fields includes alternating current (AC) fields and other electromagnetic, non-ionizing radiation from 1 Hz to 300 Hz. ELF fields at 60 Hz are produced by power lines, electrical wiring, and electrical equipment. Some epidemiological studies have suggested increased cancer risk associated with magnetic field exposures near electric power lines.

There are currently no specific OSHA standards that address extremely low frequency (ELF) fields.

Standards

There are national consensus standards and standards from the United Kingdom (UK) which OSHA could consider referencing in a general duty clause citation. This section highlights those standards.

OSHA

Note: Twenty-five states, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands have OSHA-approved State Plans and have adopted their own standards and enforcement policies. For the most part, these States adopt standards that are identical to Federal OSHA. However, some States have adopted different standards applicable to this topic or may have different enforcement policies.

National Consensus

Note: These are NOT OSHA regulations. However, they do provide guidance from their originating organizations related to worker protection.

American National Standards Institute (ANSI)

American National Standards Institute (ANSI). Publishes consensus standards on radio frequency (RF) exposures and measurements. The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE), Standards Coordinating Committee 28 is the secretariat for ANSI for developing radio frequency (RF) standards. It is also the parent organization for the IEEE Committee on Man and Radiation (COMAR) that publishes position papers on human exposure to electromagnetic fields.

  • C95.6-2002, Safety Levels with Respect to Human Exposure to Electromagnetic Fields, 0-3 kHz. Defines exposure levels to protect against adverse effects in humans from exposure to electric and magnetic fields at frequencies from 0 to 3 kHz.

  • EPRI Comments on the IEEE Standard for Safety Levels with Respect to Human Exposure to Electromagnetic Fields, 0 to 3 kHz. Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI), (2003, January). EPRI comments that the IEEE Standard represents a clear advancement in the development and documentation of exposure guidelines in the designated frequency range.

American Conference of Industrial Hygienists (ACGIH)

  • Documentation of the Threshold Limit Values for Physical Agents, 7th Ed. Provides consensus exposure limits from the Organization of Governmental Industrial Hygienists for Sub-Radio frequency (30kHz and below) and Static Electric and Magnetic Fields.

International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection (ICNIRP) Guidelines

United Kingdom (UK)

Note: These are NOT OSHA regulations. However, they do provide guidance from their originating organizations related to worker protection.

  • Radiation. Health Protection Agency - Radiation Protection Division (HPA/RPD). Provides standards of protection for exposure to radiation, which includes electric and magnetic fields. Information sheets are available, including:

Health Effects

The issue of extremely low frequency (ELF) biological effects is very controversial. Research has focused on possible carcinogenic, reproductive, and neurological effects. Other suggested health effects include cardiovascular, brain and behavior, hormonal and immune system changes.

General Health Effects Reviews

Leukemia and Other Cancers

  • Electric & Magnetic Fields. National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS), National Institutes of Health (NIH).
  • ELF Electromagnetic Fields and the Risk of Cancer: Report of an Advisory Group on Non-ionising Radiation. Health Protection Agency (HPA), National Radiological Protection Board (NRPB) Documents, Volume 12, No.1. Reviews the evidence on cancer risks from residential and occupational extremely low frequency (ELF)- electric magnetic field (EMF) exposures, which has been published since an earlier NRPB report (1992).

Cellular, Physiological, and Behavioral Changes

Static Fields

Note: Although static fields are not part of the radio frequency (RF) spectrum, static is most closely associated with extremely low frequency (ELF), and so it is included here. At this time, there is no Static Fields Safety and Health Topics page.

Hazard Locations and Solutions

Although extremely low frequency (ELF) exposures occur everywhere, potentially hazardous exposure depends on the strength of the ELF fields at the source, the distance from the source, and possibly the duration of exposure. The following references describe where significant exposures may occur and may be useful in identifying significant exposures and possible solutions.

  • EMF (Electric and Magnetic Fields). National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) Workplace Safety and Health Topic.

  • EMFs in the Workplace. US Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) Publication No. 96-129, (1996). A Spanish version is also available. Answers frequently-asked questions about extremely low frequency (ELF)- electric magnetic fields (EMFs) in the workplace and helps identify EMF sources at work and suggests simple steps for reducing exposures.

  • Electric & Magnetic Fields. National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS), National Institutes of Health (NIH). Provides links to EMF health effects, results of EMF research and EMF Questions and Answers.

  • Electromagnetic Fields. World Health Organization (WHO). Links to studies and publications.

  • EMF in your Environment: Magnetic Field Measurements Of Everyday Electrical Devices. National Center for Environmental Publications and Information (NCEPI), P.O. Box 42419 Cincinnati, OH 45242-2419, Fax Number: (301) 604-3408.

  • General Information. California Electric and Magnetic Fields (EMF) Program. Contains fact sheets in English and Spanish concerning EMF hazards and solutions in homes and schools. Also, provides a link to a video that describes how improperly connected electrical wiring could pose hazards in schools, as well as a school design guidelines checklist which discusses practical, "no- and low-cost" techniques for minimizing exposure to magnetic fields in new and remodeled school buildings.
    • Building Checklist: General Information. Discusses conventional "no and low cost" techniques and provides practical ways to minimize exposure to magnetic fields in the building of new schools. It proceeds step-by-step from initial planning and site selection through construction, furnishing and occupancy.
    • EMF Checklist Appendices. Provides information about remodeling, conducting EMF surveys, and types of EMF shielding.

Evaluating ELF Exposure

Public and employee concerns about extremely low frequency (ELF) exposure has grown as a result of increased media coverage over the last few years. The issue of ELF radiation is very controversial. Exposure to electric and magnetic fields (EMFs) depends on the strength of the ELF fields at the source, the distance from the source, and the duration of exposure. The 50 to 60 Hz range is of particular interest because it is associated with electrical power distribution, and equipment utilizing alternating current. The American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists (ACGIH) has established occupational exposure guidelines for ELF radiation.

  • Electromagnetic Radiation: Field Memo. OSHA, (1990, May 20). Provides OSHA compliance officers with basic principles of electromagnetic (EM) radiation, discusses the effects of radio frequency interference (RFI) on the operation of industrial hygiene instruments, explains why special isotropic probes are used for making non-ionizing radiation surveys, and emphasizes the need for special attention in measuring radio frequency fields.

  • Manual for Measuring Occupational Electric and Magnetic Field Exposures [903 KB PDF, 150 pages]. US Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) Publication No. 98-154, (1998, October). Assists investigators in developing methods for occupational exposure assessments for electric and magnetic fields (EMFs).

  • EMF Electric and Magnetic Fields Associated with the Use of Electric Power [11 MB PDF, 65 pages]. US Department of Energy (DOE), National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS), and Oak Ridge National Laboratory, (2002, June). Provides information on exposures to extremely low frequency (ELF) - electric magnetic fields (EMFs).

  • EMF in your Environment: Magnetic Field Measurements Of Everyday Electrical Devices. National Center for Environmental Publications and Information (NCEPI), P.O. Box 42419 Cincinnati, OH 45242-2419, Fax Number: (513) 489-8695.

ELF Safety Programs

Extremely low frequency (ELF) radiation safety programs are often a part of a larger radiation or non-ionizing radiation safety program.

Additional Information

Training

Other Resources


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