The open debate about the effects on our health of being exposed to the magnetic and electric fields emitted by household appliances, such as microwaves or mobiles, is difficult to conclude. And it is because it is unlikely that there will be clear and conclusive scientific studies.
But what is irrefutable is the position of the WHO (World Health Organization) that classified low-frequency fields as class 2B “possibly carcinogenic”. Although the latest studies endorsed by the WHO suggest that the exposures that occur in the public space and in daily life are maintained in safe indexes for health, scientists are also urged from the same organization to continue investigating their effects and The industry will create formulas to reduce the emissions of its products.
What are electromagnetic fields?
Whenever electricity flows, there are electric and magnetic fields near the lines, the wires, that carry it (outside and inside the homes) and near the appliances. The electric fields are measured in volts per meter (V / m) and are protected by common materials, such as wood and metal. Magnetic fields are expressed in tesla (T), or more commonly in microtesla (µT) and are more difficult to block, they pass much of the materials.
How much radiation is safe?
At European level, The maximum level of magnetic induction recommended for the public is 100 microteslas (µT). Because what is proven is that there are biological effects when exposure to high levels (much higher than 100 µT) occurs in a short space of time: they cause nerve and muscle stimulation, and changes in nerve cells.
The long-term effects of low levels of exposure have also been studied, especially in childhood leukemia, but also other childhood and adult cancers, depression, suicide, cardiovascular disorders, reproductive dysfunction or neurodegenerative diseases … But they have not been found evidence confirming this association. And yes, in some cases, such as breast cancer or cardiovascular problems, they have managed to rule out.
How much does each appliance emit?
The vast majority of appliances, used at 30 cm are within this safety limit of 100 µT. And we point the distance because it matters a lot, it makes the µT radically decrease.
For example: a microwave emits 73 µT when you’re 3 cm, and goes down to 4 µT at 30cm and less than 1 µT if you’re at 1 m
But let’s see one by one
- Hair dryer: 3 cm between 6 and 2000 µ, at 30 cm between 0.01 and 7 µT
- Razor: 3 cm between 15 to 1500 µT, at 30 cm between 0.08 and 9 µT
- Drill: 3 cm between 400 and 800µT, at 30 cm between 2 to 3.5µT
- Vacuum cleaner: 3 cm between 200 and 800, at 30 cm between 2 to 20 µT
- Fluorescent lamp: 3 cm between 40 and 400, at 30 cm between 0.5 to 2 µT
- Microwave: 3 cm between 73 and 200, at 30 cm between 4 to 8 µT
- Radio (portable): 3 cm between 16 to 56, at 30 cm between 1 and less than 0.01µT
- Slelectric stove: 3 cm between 1 to 50, at 30 cm between 0.15 to 0.5µT
- Washing machine: 3 cm between 0.8 to 50, at 30 cm between 0.15 to 3 µT
- Dishwasher: 3 cm between 3.5 to 20, at 30 cm between 0.6 to 3µT
- Computer: 3 cm between 0.5 to 30 , at 30 cm less than 0.01µT
- Fridge: 3 cm between 0.5 to 1.7, at 30 cm between 0.01 to 0.25 µT
- TV (tube device): 3 cm between 2.5 to 50, at 30 cm between 0.04 to 2 µT
These data are provided by the German Office for Radiation Protection and are estimated minimum values of different appliances. In fact, they have also verified that there are abysmal differences within the same type of appliance. In any case it should be clarified that it is not a matter of power, it is because of the design and operation.
What can we do?
We can reduce exposure through simple rules:
- Keep the greatest distance possible from the sources of magnetic fields.
- Reduce the duration from exposure to maximum.
- Turn off electrical devices completely After use and do not leave them in “standby” mode. This is especially true for televisions and music equipment.
- Keep a sufficient distance from the sources of the field, even at night.
Governments and companies also have important work: During construction, exposure can be reduced by ensuring that the electrical installation is well insulated and manufacturers can achieve the lowest possible field strengths in the area surrounding the devices through a technical design.
It would also be very positive. label devices properly so that consumers can see what the magnetic field intensities are when we buy a product.
Especially at night: the time factor
As the nighttime exhibitions are longer, we must be more careful to make sure that the sources of magnetic fields are far enough. It is also a time when the body needs to recover and not be subject to stimulation.
These precautions should be applied especially with babies and young children.
- Radio-powered network watches should not be placed directly next to the head of the bed. It is better that they work on batteries or that they are far away
- Baby monitors, and especially the power supply unit, should be kept a sufficient distance from the child’s bed. If possible, the transmitter should work with rechargeable batteries, which do not generate alternate low frequency fields.
Be careful with those we use closer: the distance factor
The table values of the magnetic flux densities of the appliances we have seen above clearly reflects how Distance intervals are very important to reduce intensities. And if we saw these results a meter away, it would be even more obvious. That is why we have to be very careful with the appliances we use near the body.
If we cannot move away, we can try to reduce the usage time to a minimum. Because the exposure time factor is also essential.
Tips for using appliances
Unfortunately, not everything is in our hands, some devices can influence from one house to another: radio clock, television, wireless bases, installations and electric motors, etc. If we know, it is better to change at least the headboard of the wall bed.
Special care should also be taken by people who, due to their profession (hairdressers, cooks …) are exposed to the effects of these appliances for many hours a day.
It is perhaps the appliance that can cause us the most problems during sleep. Due to the power of the emissions of some models and the proximity and can become a risk factor for health.
Initially it can cause insomnia, irritability, tiredness and depression, among other disorders. One option is to place it more than a meter away, although it is best to replace it with a mechanical or battery operated one.
It also usually generates an important magnetic and electric field. Although the difference in the designs is also very large (between 15 to 1500 µT), most of the time we cannot know it and since we cannot vary the distance, it is better to reduce its use.
The hair dryer
We are in a similar case, It is a device that causes a strong electromagnetic field and is used nearby. Although in this case there is the option of installing a model with a motor attached to the wall, as we often find in hotels. In this way, with the distance a lower incidence of the magnetic field is achieved.
Washer and dryer
They emit a strong electromagnetic field when they are in operation so it is better not to stay next to them during use.
The refrigerator has an additional problem, its electric motor starts intermittently. It is a good idea, put it in a remote corner and check what is behind the wall on which it rests.
Electric and ceramic hobs
The use of electric plates has been extended for the comfort they offer in terms of cleaning and maintenance. But we must also assess this aspect. The alternative is gas stoves. Like when we use it, we receive the effects of the electromagnetic field at waist level, pregnant women should take special care.
Microwaves emit two types of radiation while in operation: a low frequency magnetic field and, on the other, microwave. This could be a risk factor for people who spend a lot of time with him., like workers in bars and restaurants. In any case, it is better to get away during operation.
Microwave ovens are required to wear a shield to avoid microwave radiation but leaks may occur if the appliance is damaged or is very old, if in doubt it is better to change it.
TVs also broadcast low frequency fields around them, although it is also true that the new LCD, LED or plasma designs have greatly reduced radiation. To avoid its effects it is recommended the distance resulting from multiplying by six what the diagonal of the screen measures.
The computers of the 80s and part of the 90s generated strong magnetic fields. The current screens of the laptops hardly emit electric or electromagnetic fields, like flat screens or laptops.
Likewise, we can reduce them by moving away from the tower and the screen to the maximum. As for the electric field, it can be removed using shielded cables and grounding the screen and the plug.
American unions especially recommend pregnant women to reduce their working hours and take protective measures when working with computers or photocopiers.
Conventional electric radiators also cause electromagnetic fields at short distances, so it is good that we separate from them at least one meter.
Electric radiant heating in floors and ceilings can create high-level electromagnetic fields, and it seems prudent for pregnant women and newborns to avoid it.