Their health impacts
An exceptional number of studies have been conducted over the last 40 years to determine the possible effects of electric and magnetic fields on human health.
Despite the broad scope of these studies, researchers have been unable to demonstrate any harmful effects on human health associated with these fields. In other words, the electric and magnetic fields we live with on a daily basis are not harmful to our health.
Canadian and Québec public health authorities agree that the data is reassuring and that the exposure limits recommended for the public by international agencies (like the ICNIRP) are safe.
The history of electricity in Québec dates back more than 100 years. Since then, there has been a lot of questioning about the possible health effects of electric and magnetic fields.
Duration: 5 minutes 48 seconds
More than 40 years of research
Hydro‑Québec has helped to advance knowledge about electric and magnetic fields through its own research. The company has conducted a number of studies with various academic institutions, including the Montréal Heart Institute, the Lawson Health Research Institute, McGill University and Université de Montréal, in addition to Health Canada and other power utilities, such as Électricité de France, Ontario Hydro, BC Hydro and the Bonneville Power Administration in Oregon.
Duration: 1 minute 31 seconds
Unlike electric and magnetic fields associated with a frequency of 60 Hz, radio waves are electromagnetic waves that can travel over great distances. As a result, the effects on the body, their units of measure and their practical applications differ.
Duration: 3 minutes 32 seconds
Opinions of public health authorities
Opinions on the health effects of electric and magnetic fields have been issued by groups of experts mandated by national public institutions and international organizations as well as by specialists acting on their own. Cited below are opinions issued by Québec, Canadian and international authorities about 60-Hz alternating fields, like those produced by power transmission and distribution lines:
Ministère de la Santé et des Services sociaux du Québec (Québec department of health and social services), 2014
“The Scientific Committee considers there is no scientific basis for adopting an exposure limit below established standards or guidelines for magnetic fields at extremely low frequencies. Therefore, the Committee does not recommend an exposure limit for magnetic fields, a minimum distance from a source of exposure or an exclusion zone for new constructions of certain establishments (hospitals, daycares, etc.) near high‑voltage lines.”
From Position des autorités de santé publique sur la gestion des champs magnétiques émis par les lignes électriques (position of public health authorities on managing magnetic fields emitted by power lines) (in french only)
The International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection (ICNIRP) has issued guidelines for limiting exposure to extremely low frequency EMF (electromagnetic fields). These guidelines help ensure that exposures to extremely low frequency EMF do not create electric currents that are stronger than the ones made naturally in your body….
Extremely low frequency EMF exposures in Canadian homes, schools and offices are far below the limits recommended in the ICNIRP guidelines. You don't need to take precautions to protect yourself from these kinds of exposures.”
From the Government of Canada website on power lines, electrical products and extremely low frequency electric and magnetic fields .
World Health Organization (WHO)
In October 2005, WHO convened a Task Group of scientific experts to assess any risks to health that might exist from exposure to ELF [extremely low frequency] electric and magnetic fields in the frequency range >0 to 100,000 Hz (100 kHz)....
Following a standard health risk assessment process, the Task Group concluded that there are no substantive health issues related to ELF electric fields at levels generally encountered by members of the public.”
From a WHO web page on extremely low frequency fields.
Did you know?
In 1996, the World Health Organization (WHO) launched a vast program to study electric and magnetic fields. Michael Repacholi, a WHO employee at the time, administered the program from 1996 to 2006. Check out the findings of the scientific studies conducted (in french only).
Hydro‑Québec research publications from 1988 to 2020
Listed below are Hydro-Québec’s main research publications between 1988 and 2020 on the health effects of electric and magnetic fields.
Joint epidemiological study by Hydro‑Québec, Ontario Hydro and Électricité de France on the long-term effects of exposure to 50- and 60-Hz electric and magnetic fields
- Experimental validation of a statistical model for evaluating the past or future magnetic field exposures of a population living near power lines, 2004.
- Comparative analyses of the studies of magnetic fields and cancer in electric utility workers: studies from France, Canada, and the United States, 1999.
- Task-based estimation of past exposures to 60-hertz magnetic and electric fields at an electrical utility, 1997.
- Exposure to 60-Hz magnetic and electric fields at a Canadian electric utility, 1996.
- Cancer risks associated with occupational exposure to magnetic fields among electric utility workers in Ontario and Quebec, Canada, and France: 1970‑1989, 1994.
- Occupational and residential 60-Hz electromagnetic fields and high‑frequency electric transients: exposure assessment using a new dosimeter, 1988.
Long-term study in animals on the carcinogenic potential of 60-Hz magnetic fields
One of the very first experimental animal studies (in french only) was conducted right here in Québec by Dr. Rosemonde Mandeville of the Institut Armand‑Frappier. Since then, Dr. Mandeville has contributed to a number of other studies on the carcinogenic potential of magnetic fields.
- A magnetic field exposure facility for evaluation of animal carcinogenicity, 2000.
- Evaluation of the potential promoting effect of 60 Hz magnetic fields on N‑ethyl‑N‑nitrosourea induced neurogenic tumors in female F344 rats, 2000.
- Evaluation of the potential carcinogenicity of 60 Hz linear sinusoidal continuous-wave magnetic fields in Fischer F344 rats, 1997.
- Differential modulation of natural and adaptive immunity in Fischer rats exposed for 6 weeks to 60 Hz linear sinusoidal continuous‑wave magnetic fields, 1996.
In vitro studies on the effects of magnetic and electric fields on wound healing
Study on perception of electric fields and atmospheric ions in human volunteers
Study on the effect of electric and magnetic fields on melatonin secretion in individuals living near high‑voltage lines
- Experimental validation of a statistical model for evaluating the past or future magnetic field exposures of a population living near power‑lines, 2004.
- Effects of electric and magnetic fields from high-power lines on female urinary excretion of 6‑sulfatoxymelatonin, 2001.
- Comparison between personal exposure to 60 Hz magnetic fields and stationary home measurements for people living near and away from a 735 kV power‑line, 1999.
Study on the effect of high-intensity magnetic fields on neurophysiological functions in human volunteers
- Human postural control under high levels of extremely low frequency magnetic fields, 2020.
- Human postural responses to high vestibular specific extremely low-frequency magnetic stimulations, 2020.
- Probing the circuits of conscious perception with magnetophosphenes, 2020.
- Impact of extremely low-frequency magnetic fields on human postural control, 2019.
- Effects of a 60 Hz magnetic field of up to 50 milliTesla on human tremor and EEG, 2017.
- Human exposure to power frequency magnetic fields up to 7.6 mT: An integrated EEG/fMRI study, 2017.
- Effects of a 60 Hz magnetic field exposure up to 3000 µT on human brain activation as measured by functional magnetic resonance imaging, 2015.
- Impact of electromagnetic fields on human vestibular system and standing balance: Pilot results and future developments, 2015.
- Anecdotal report of magnetophosphene perception in magnetic fields of 50 mT at frequencies of 20, 50 and 60 Hz / Rapport anecdotique de la perception des magnétophosphènes dans un champ magnétique de 50 mT à 20, 50 et 60 Hz, 2014.
- Efeitos de campos eletromagneticos no sistema nervoso humano, 2013.
- Neural mass modeling of power‑line magnetic fields effects on brain activity, 2013.
- Possible mechanisms of synaptic plasticity modulation by 60 Hz magnetic fields, 2013.
- Neurophysiological and behavioral effects of a 60 Hz, 1800 microtesla magnetic field in humans, 2012.
- Human cognitive performance in a 3 mT power‑line frequency magnetic field, 2011.
- Multi-modalities investigation of 60 Hz magnetic field effects on the human central nervous system, 2011.
- Human exposure to a 60 Hz, 1800 micro tesla magnetic field: a neuro behavioral study, 2010.
- Using wavelet analysis to detect the influence of low frequency magnetic fields on human physiological tremor, 2007.
- Individual subject sensitivity to extremely low frequency magnetic field, 2006.
- Transient effect of low intensity magnetic field on human motor control, 2006.
- Effect of a low intensity MF on human motor behavior, 2005.