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Static Fields

7. What are the health risks associated with static fields?

  • 7.1 What are the health risks associated with static electric fields?
  • 7.2 What are the health risks associated with static magnetic fields?

7.1 What are the health risks associated with static electric fields?

The source document for this Digest states:

Static electric fields

There are no studies on exposure to Static electric fields from which any conclusions on chronic or delayed effects can be made. IARC (IARC, 2002) noted there was insufficient evidence to determine the carcinogenicity of static electric fields.

Few studies of the acute effects of static electric field effects have been carried out. On the whole, the results suggest that the only adverse acute health effects are associated with direct perception of fields and discomfort from microshocks.

Source & ©: WHO "Environmental Health Criteria 232: Static Fields" (2006)
 Chapter 1, Section 1.1.7 Health Risk Assessment

7.2 What are the health risks associated with static magnetic fields?

The source document for this Digest states:

Static magnetic fields

The available evidence from epidemiological and laboratory studies is not sufficient to draw any conclusions with regard to chronic and delayed effects. IARC (IARC, 2002) concluded that there was inadequate evidence in humans for the carcinogenicity of static magnetic fields, and no relevant data available from experimental animals. Their carcinogenicity to humans is therefore not at present classifiable.

Short-term exposure to static magnetic fields in the tesla range and associated field gradients induce a number of acute effects.

Cardiovascular responses, such as changes in blood pressure and heart rate, have been occasionally observed in human volunteer and animal studies. However, these were within the range of normal physiology for exposure to static magnetic fields up to 8 T.

Although not experimentally verified, it is important to note that calculations suggest three possible effects of induced flow potentials. These include minor changes in heartbeat (which may be considered to have no health consequences), the induction of ectopic heartbeats (which may be more physiologically significant), and an increase in the likelihood of re-entrant arrhythmia (possibly leading to ventricular fibrillation). The first two effects are thought to have thresholds in excess of 8 T, and threshold values for the third are difficult to assess at present because of modelling complexity. Some 5 - 10 per 10,000 people are particularly susceptible to re-entrant arrhythmia, and the risk to such people may be increased by exposure to static magnetic fields and gradient fields.

The limitations of the available data are such, however, that it is not possible to put them all together to draw firm conclusions about the effects of static magnetic fields on the endpoints considered above.

Physical movement within a static field gradient induced sensations of vertigo and nausea, and sometimes phosphenes and a metallic taste in the mouth, for static fields in excess of about 2 - 4 T. Although only transient, such effects may adversely affect people. Together with possible effects on eye-hand coordination, the optimal performance of workers executing delicate procedures (e.g. surgeons) could be reduced, with a concomitant impact on safety.

Effects on other physiological responses have been reported, but it is difficult to reach any firm conclusion without independent replication.

Source & ©: WHO "Environmental Health Criteria 232: Static Fields" (2006)
 Chapter 1, Section 1.1.7 Health Risk Assessment

For more information on   See EHC 232
Health risks associated with static fields  Chapter 9

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