Do transmission lines negatively impact human and animal health? Mounting research shows we have no cause for concern.
To ensure safety, all electric wiring systems must be properly grounded. Small currents may flow from these grounding points, and are called neutral-to-earth voltages. Some of this is stray voltage that comes into contact with livestock and may cause behavioral changes.
Transmission developers try to avoid and mitigate stray voltage. Usually, this means siting transmission lines a certain distance from distribution lines.
When negotiating an easement, landowners and developers should discuss how stray voltage will be avoided or corrected. We found most developers are willing to work with landowners to “microsite” transmission infrastructure to minimize risk to a farm operation.
Another common concern is electric and magnetic fields (EMF). All electronic devices emit EMF, which can be damaging at high levels. X-rays are a familiar source of high EMF.
Transmission lines emit lower levels of EMF than most household devices. For example, computers give off 60 to 100 hertz, while transmission lines emit 50 to 60 hertz. Because EMF levels decrease over distance, at 300 feet levels are similar to average homes and offices.
There is no epidemiological evidence for other health consequences, and no study has found a cause and effect relationship between low levels of EMF and negative health effects.
If a landowner is worried about EMF, developers should work with them to increase setback distances from homes and buildings.
Established in 1973, the Center for Rural Affairs is a private, non-profit organization working to strengthen small businesses, family farms and ranches, and rural communities through action oriented programs addressing social, economic, and environmental issues.