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Static Fields

6. How may humans be affected by static fields?

  • 6.1 Have experiments on humans shown effects of static fields?
  • 6.2 What health effects were seen in people exposed to static magnetic fields through their work?

6.1 Have experiments on humans shown effects of static fields?

Static electric fields do not penetrate the human body but they can induce a surface electric charge. A sufficiently large charge may be perceived through its interaction with body hair and by other effects such as spark discharges. Painful sparks can occur for instance when a person who is well insulated from the ground, through wearing shoes with plastic soles touches an object that is electrically connected to the ground.

For static magnetic fields a range of possible health effects have been investigated, from changes in brain function, blood pressure and body temperature to possible therapeutic effects. Exposure to both pure static fields and Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) have been studied, with fields as strong as 8000 mT, and, with exposure duration ranging from a few seconds to nine hours.

The results are in general inconclusive. Apart from vertigo and nausea reported by people moving in a static magnetic field, the results do not seem to indicate any significant effects of static magnetic fields on human health, nor can such effects be ruled out. However, most of the studies on humans only used a few participants, which were not necessarily representative of the larger population. Thus, it is not possible to draw any conclusions regarding the wide variety of possible health effects examined in this report More...

6.2 What health effects were seen in people exposed to static magnetic fields through their work?

Studies on work exposure and health effects have been carried out almost exclusively on workers exposed to moderate static magnetic fields generated by equipment using large DC currents. These were welders, aluminium smelters, or workers in various industrial plants using large electrolytic cells in chemical separation processes. However, such work is also likely to involve exposure to a variety of potentially hazardous fumes and aerosols, making the exact cause of any observed effects unclear.

Increased risks of various cancers were reported, but results were not consistent across studies. In general, assessment of exposure has been poor, the number of participants in some of the studies has been very small. Thus these studies would only be able to detect very elevated risks for such rare diseases. At present, there is inadequate data for a health evaluation. More...


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