What is a safe distance to live from power lines?

Potential Dangers of Living Near Power Lines

Here at EMF Academy, we talk often about the dangers of EMF radiation from things like cell-phones, cell towers, WiFi, etc.

So, I’m not going to waste any time trying to convince you that EMF radiation does have potential biological harm, instead, I want to focus on actual studies specifically talking about why living near power lines can be dangerous.

So, let’s talk about a few studies, don’t worry, I’ll try to summarize them in a way that won’t bore you.

Wertheimer and Leeper Study

Most studies of electrical power lines that have been conducted in recent years, were inspired by this study. Published in the Americal Journal of Epidemiology in 1979, their study titled “Electrical Wiring Configurations and Childhood Cancer” examined the potential harm of both electrical wiring in the home and how close the children lived to high voltage power lines.

The researchers examined rates of childhood cancer in Colorado homes in 1976 and 1977. They compared homes with high-current electrical flow to control homes. They ultimately found a correlation between increased risk of childhood leukemia and proximity to high-voltage power lines.

2005 BMJ Study on Cancer Risks in relation to High Voltage power lines

A study was published in 2005 in the BMJ (formerly the British Medical Journal) titled “Childhood cancer in relation to distance from high voltage power lines in England and Wales: a case-control study.”

The goal of the study was to determine if there was indeed any association between the distance of your home address from high voltage power lines, and any increased risk of cancers and Leukemia, as previous studies had suggested.

What they did, was examine the records of 29,081 children in England and Wales who had been diagnosed with cancer, including leukemia. Having matched for things like sex, date of birth, etc. they primarily looked at the “Distance from home address at birth to the nearest high voltage overhead power line in existence at the time.”

The results of the study were:

Compared with those who lived > 600 m from a line at birth, children who lived within 200 m had a relative risk of leukemia of 1.69 (95% confidence interval 1.13 to 2.53); those born between 200 and 600 m had a relative risk of 1.23 (1.02 to 1.49). There was a significant (P < 0.01) trend in risk in relation to the reciprocal of distance from the line

Essentially they are saying that the closer a child lived to a high voltage power line, the relatively higher their risk of leukemia was.

The study concluded:

There is an association between childhood leukemia and proximity of home address at birth to high voltage power lines, and the apparent risk extends to a greater distance than would have been expected from previous studies. About 4% of children in England and Wales live within 600 m of high voltage lines at birth. If the association is causal, about 1% of childhood leukemia in England and Wales would be attributable to these lines, though this estimate has considerable statistical uncertainty. There is no accepted biological mechanism to explain the epidemiological results; indeed, the relation may be due to chance or confounding.

Now, be sure that you read the last sentence of that conclusion, that stated there is no accepted biological mechanism to explain the results. Meaning that although it appeared to the researchers to be a relationship, they cannot explain how it would be possible, and did say it is possible the risk was due to chance.

I think it’s important to point things like that out whenever possible because there certainly are many scientists and researchers that do not believe this is a danger, partly because they cannot explain the science behind it.

Review of the Evidence that Powerlines are Dangerous

If you read through much of the literature and research surrounding this topic, you’ll realize something. I’ll let M Feychting and A Ahilbom, who published a review, tell it their way:

There is no known mechanism by which magnetic fields of the type generated by high voltage power lines can play a role in cancer development. Nevertheless, epidemiologic research has rather consistently found associations between residential magnetic field exposure and cancer. This is most evident for leukemia in children.

So, although scientists don’t yet understand it, the research does seem to suggest that living near high voltage powerlines is indeed dangerous.

Now, as you probably gathered from reading this, how dangerous living near a power line depends entirely on the distance between you and the power line.

So, let’s talk about that for a minute.

How Do I Protect Myself From Power Line Radiation?

If you happen to live very close to power lines you should first contact the local authorities to make sure there’s nothing you can do to have them take care of the problem. If the limits are alright according to the IEEE (6,040 mG), there’s not much you can do here. Then you have to take your own precautions.

Here’s how you can do that.

First, you will need to know exactly how bad the situation is. You might live pretty close to powerlines without any problems. It might be old power lines that aren’t being used anymore or it might be powerlines with a low current. The only way to know this is by measuring it with an EMF meter like the one we show above.

If you find the radiation levels to be too high, here’s what you can do.

First, you should try to shield off the walls the points directly toward the power source. This is not easily done and you would probably want to consult a professional Building Biologist. They will be able to take more accurate readings on the radiation and they will also be able to point you in the right direction here.

They were probably advice you to shield off your walls with EMS protecting paint and blocking film on the windows.

You should do this one step at the time because these can be costly procedures. You need to make sure that the radiation level is actually lowered and you want to monitor just how low it becomes for each step you take.

The shielding paint on the walls will have to be grounded by inserting our wire that goes into the ground. This can be difficult if your apartment is on the fifth-floor but if you are on ground level already it shouldn’t be too much of a problem.

You can also shield yourself by installing an EMF-protecting canopy around your bed.

This is much easier but it is not necessarily a lot cheaper than the other options. These canopies are pretty expensive and you also need to consult a professional Building Biologist here.



Living Near Power Lines: Property Value

Health concerns are one thing to worry about, but it’s not the only problem you may face. 

Having your home in close proximity to power lines can cause complications related to your property value. 

Knowing you’re facing high risk, you might want to sell your house and move somewhere safer. 

This is an option, of course, but it won’t be so easy. That’s because a property’s value can lower by 30% if it’s located near power lines.

The worst part is, this financial problem comes with a moral dilemma, too. 

Apart from being forced to reduce the price of your house just so you can sell it, you also have to think about how you are putting someone else’s family in a risky situation.

If your potential buyers are unaware of the dangers that come with power lines nearby, your situation becomes even more stressful. 

Sure, you can get away with it because of the government’s outdated exposure safety standards. But can you really live with the fact that you are passing the problem to someone else?

How Far From Power Lines Is Safe To Live?

This type of EMF can travel very far compared to other EMF sources such as routers, Bluetooth, smart meters, etc. So it’s really important to identify these transmission lines and make sure to block the radiation if you are staying too close to them.

But just how far should you get in order to avoid getting too much radiation?

It’s a tough question to answer.

You will find several examples of power lines that emit enough radiation to reach more than 700 feet (213 meters) but at this distance, you should expect the radiation level to have decreased significantly and be no more than around 0.5 mG.

This is below what we normally aim for as a limit for daily ELF radiation in our homes. Several specialists in the EMF space will tell you that 1 mG is a good number to aim for in your home. But if you are extra sensitive to make magnetic fields you will probably need to get as low as 0.1 mG.

Some people respond more to magnetic fields such as these we find around power lines and if you know you are sensitive to this stuff you probably need to get further away than 700 feet (213 meters).

The only right thing to do here is to either consult a professional Building Biologist. There are several hundreds of these people in North America so you should be able to find someone in your area. You can also start by doing your own readings on the radiation with an EMF meter.

If you are sensitive to this stuff or if you suspect that you are, you definitely need to own an EMF meter. We will come back to what an EMF meter is further down in the article.

How To Know You Are A Safe Distance From Power Lines

You can’t tell by looking at power lines how much EMF (EMR) they give off .

The amount of EMF given off varies with the situation.

The strongest EMF usually come from the high power lines connected to those tall metal towers that look like they are walking across the land.

You know that the magnetic field extends out quite some distance from these power lines.

Interestingly enough…

The hardest power lines to predict a safe distance from are the common power lines that run down most any street.

Homes near a transformer can have higher EMF readings due to the fact that the transformer boosts the power.

And the wires carry more electricity coming out of the transformer.

Does burying the electrical power lines reduce the EMF?


The EMF can be just as strong or even stronger.

Because the lines are only buried a few feet deep rather than being 20 to 30 feet above you!

The problem with electromagnetic radiation is that there is no good way to shield against it.

How could you shield all the EMR coming off of all the electrical wires?

This makes EMR a form of electronic pollution that needs to be known if it is present before purchasing or even renting a home.

Most homes are not affected by EMR,

But there is no way to know for sure except to measure the amount of EMR in any given home.

The damage EMR can do to those exposed to it over a period of time can be life threatening.

The only way to know you are a safe distance from power lines is to measure the EMF (EMR) with a gaussmeter (link to read reviews on Amazon).

A gaussmeter is a testing device designed to measure the strength of the magnetic field of the house you live in or are looking at purchasing.

The Problem with Government’s Maximum Exposure Standards

The government is responsible for setting exposure standards to ensure citizens are safe from strong EMFs associated with power lines. 

Most of the countries have set their standard for safe exposure at 1000 milligauss. 

However, this regulation was put into effect before technological advancements occurred. 

Modern technology has changed the way electromagnetic radiation acts, which means safety levels have changed.

The problem is the government has not updated the maximum safe exposure standards despite rising concerns about its effect on people’s health. 

In fact, despite the limit of 1000 milligauss, regulations have been very slack regarding companies who don’t observe this standard. 

For decades, the government has allowed regular power lines to be placed close to residential areas because they are following the results of outdated research, which doesn’t consider recent links of power lines to newfound diseases.

Even though many people want the government to take the blame, the truth is they probably won’t. 

Admitting this mistake would not only reveal their carelessness, but a chain reaction of consequences would follow. 

Lawsuits that would stem from such an admission would cripple the economy due to the number of uninhabitable houses it would result in.

Voltage Requirements

The distance you must be from power lines depends upon the voltage of those lines. The higher the voltage, or electric potential of the lines, the farther you should be from them when working.


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Related Questions

What is a safe distance from Cell Towers?

A German study found people living within 400 meters (1312 feet) of a Cell Tower had 3 times as many new cancers as those living further away. http://www.emf-health.com/articles-celltower.htm

Based on this study I’d want to live more than a quarter mile (1320) feet from a Cell Tower.

Cell towers transmit radio frequency (RF) energy.

This is different from EMF (EMR) but it too can cause health problems.

Do solar panels give off EMF (EMR)?

Electricity generated by solar panels is usually low voltage DC electricity that does not generate much EMF (EMR).

But off grid solar power plants have an inverter which changes the DC electricity to AC electricity of the 120 volt variety to power electrical light and appliances.

In the process of converting DC to AC electricity some inverters create DE or dirty electricity which is a form of EMF.

The Sunny Boy Inverters made in Germany and the SMA label inverters are reported to cause less DE and therefore less EMF (EMR) than other brands.

You might want to get an EMF (EMR) reading on a gaussmeter before offering on an off grid home.

Some people very sensitive to EMF may not be able to live off grid with any level of comfort.

Just like they might not be able to live within the usual distances of power lines that give reduced EMF levels.

Are all Gaussmeters reliable?

No, not all gaussmeters give reliable information.

Some only measure a narrow band of EMF and miss significant amounts of EMF.

Some brands are more reliable than others.

Michael Neuert can help.

Health Risks of Electrical Fields

Despite ample public discourse about the health risks of electrical and magnetic fields, little to no conclusive evidence exists that these are harmful in quantities resulting from exposures to everyday sources, including properly installed high-tension wires in residential and commercial environments.

In electric fields that are many powers of ten stronger than those that usually exist beneath run-of-the-mill power lines, people who touch a large metal object, such as a bus, might experience a transient shock. Otherwise, no health effects have been reported. The same is true of magnetic fields, although some studies have identified small changes in cellular calcium levels, hormone production and cell growth.

There are people who claim to be affected by a condition called electromagnetic hypersensitivity, or EHS, but concrete evidence of negative effects still hasn’t been found in research. Symptoms of EHS range from nausea and rashes to muscle aches. The World Health Organization noted in 2005 that research has been unable to replicate symptoms in individuals with EHS; in multiple studies, the subjects were unable to detect electromagnetic fields with any more accuracy than subjects who did not have EHS. Yet in 2015, a literature review in “Reviews on Environmental Health” described mixed results, with some of the reviewed studies finding no link and others finding minute biological changes after exposure.

Protecting Yourself From High Voltage Powerline Radiation

As I’ve talked about in other articles on EMF Academy, there are some solutions that exist to reduce your exposure to EMF radiation, including the magnetic radiation from powerlines. In fact, I’ve dedicated whole articles just to some of the products that exist.

However, when it comes to radiation from nearby powerlines, you really only have two options:

  • Block the radiation from entering your home
  • Move somewhere else.

I know, neither of these sound that great, but that is just the reality of it. It is certainly not likely that you’ll be able to have the powerlines or poles moved.

So, talking about the first option, there are some products that you could use to block the radiation. However, since this is an ambient source, and will be entering almost an entire side of your house, it won’t be easy to do. I would suggest that you consider hiring an expert like a Building Biologist that is educated in EMFs to help you come up with a plan.

If that isn’t a realistic option, I would at least suggest you look into getting an EMF blocking bed canopy. These are essentially faraday cage canopies for your bed. So, although these won’t protect you from radiation while in the other parts of your home, they will protect you while you sleep.

Also, they won’t just protect you from the magnetic radiation from powerlines, but also from any other ambient EMFs from WiFi, smart meters, dirty electricity, or anything else. Just be sure you don’t bring any electronics inside the canopy with you.

There are other EMF blocking things out there that could help, like EMF paint or anti-radiation curtains, however, I’m not sure how helpful these will be if you have a powerline very close to your home.

If you have a powerline near your home and have questions about what to do, please don’t hesitate to reach out.

Now, let’s quickly tackle some frequently asked questions on this topic.

Do Powerlines Give Off Radiation?

Yes, powerlines give off a type of electromagnetic field radiation called magnetic field radiation. This is typically a low-to mid-frequency magnetic field. This type of radiation is non-ionizing, which means it does not heat tissue. However, just because it is non-ionizing does not mean it can’t cause potential harm.

The amount of radiation given off by powerlines depends greatly on the voltage running through the lines. The amount of radiation you’ll be exposed to from powerlines depends on the distance from the powerline that you live.

Can You Get Cancer From Living Near Power Lines?

EMF radiation in general and magnetic field radiation from power lines specifically have been linked to potential increases in cancer, including leukemia. If you read through some of the research that I talk about above you’ll see that some research suggests that the closer you live to high-voltage power lines, especially children, the higher your chance is of developing certain cancers.

Now, the research is not yet completely definitive, and scientists are still confounded about the biological mechanism that would allow magnetic field radiation to cause cancer.

Eleven to Eighteen Feet

If the power line is 51,000 to 138,000 volts, you should work at least 11 feet away. If it is more than 230,000 volts, work at least 13 feet away. Finally, if it is 500,000 or more volts, work at least 18 feet away.

Quick Guide to Wifi Radiation Protection in Your Home or Office

Sep 12, 2019

Want to reduce your exposure to EMFs in the home? Follow this quick guide to WiFi radiation protection and take action today! Start reading

Selling a property near high voltage power lines can bring both a financial and moral dilemma

People are becoming more aware that properties near high voltage power lines, as well as mobile phone towers (article), are getting harder to sell unless the vendor is prepared to reduce the price. The other problem for those realising their health has been affected by something that is ‘perfectly legal’, is that by selling it, they are passing the problem to another family who are unaware.

Brushing off the situation as a ‘Buyer Beware’ situation doesn’t seem entirely justifiable, what do you think? (leave a comment below, please) Legally, I would imagine, you would be safe as the exposure standards legally allow for this exposure to people. It is a tough one…   Perhaps offering a bargain price (compared to properties not near high voltage power lines) is a way to have peace with one’s conscience…   I don’t envy you for being in this situation, if this applies to you.

To buy or not to buy near power lines… that was the question

The message I’m trying to get across here is to go and measure. High voltage power lines or tiny street power lines, electromagnetic fields should be taken seriously when considering committing to a property. Homes are plagued by electric fields and radio frequency radiation as well, but this can normally be addressed just nicely through a proper assessment and products that are well designed solutions.

If this article was of benefit, if you have personal experience or questions, then please leave a comment below.

Feature photo take in California, USA.