version of this fact sheet (PDF, 41 KB)
What are electromagnetic fields?
Electric and magnetic fields surround anything that uses or carries electricity. These
lines of force are called electromagnetic fields (EMF).
The magnetic component of EMF is measured in milligauss. Background levels (the levels
we are all commonly exposed to) usually range between 0.1 and 4 milligauss.
How can I be exposed to electromagnetic fields?
Functioning electrical appliances and power lines, produce EMF. Even the earth produces
small amounts of EMF. Therefore, everyone is exposed to this form of energy. The highest
EMF exposure can occur using appliances such as electric blankets, microwave ovens, and
Moving a short distance away from an appliance or power line will greatly reduce the
strength of the electromagnetic field. For example, the EMF strength of an electric can
opener at 6 inches is about 600 milligauss, but at 4 feet away, its only 2
What are the effects of exposure to electromagnetic fields?
The effects of electromagnetic fields on human health are not well understood. Some
studies show a relationship between exposure to EMF and the development of cancer, while
other studies do not.
When scientists investigated the relationship between EMF and other effects on humans
(e.g., miscarriage), their results were also mixed. A panel of experts recently reviewed
all of the studies on EMF; they concluded there is not enough evidence to prove that EMF
cause health problems other than a possible association with cancer.
Until more is known about the effects of EMF, prudent avoidance is advised.
How can I avoid being exposed to electromagnetic fields?
- Standing a short distance away from appliances while they are in use can significantly
reduce EMF exposure. Move clocks and radios a few feet away from your bed. The strength of
the EMF decreases dramatically when you increase the distance between you and the
- One way to reduce your exposure from an electric blanket is to warm the bed prior to
getting in, and turning it off before going to sleep.
- Have electrical wiring checked and dont allow children to play around transformers
or power lines.
- Allow your hair to air dry for a few minutes before using a hair dryer. This will reduce
the time needed to dry it.
What should I do if I suspect a problem?
If you suspect that you are being exposed to high levels of EMF, limit your exposure.
Follow the suggested guidelines above to reduce your EMF exposure. Contact your public
utility company or local health department to find out how to measure the EMF in and
around your home. EMF detectors are available from some electronic stores.
PDF: The free Adobe
Reader® is needed to view and print portable document format (PDF)
Back to index page
Health Resource Directory
PPH 7103 11/2000
August 02, 2013