What is the safe distance of living near high voltage power lines?

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Living near high voltage power lines. What is the risk?

Should you worry if you are living near high voltage power lines. Is there a significant risk? How far should you be staying from a high voltage power transmission lines?

Do you stay near a high voltage transmission line? Or a transformer? Or an electric train line? Are there are domestic power lines very close to your house? If the answer to any of these questions is yes, then you should spend the next 5 minutes reading through this article.

Extremely low frequency (ELF) radiation

Passage of electrical current through a conductor causes ELF radiation. Extremely low frequency (ELF) radiation can cause cancer. This is first researched by IARC in 2002. Thereafter, it was validated by WHO in 2007. Extremely low frequency (ELF) radiation, is associated with increase in childhood leukemia by 200%. If you wish to read more about ELF radiation, click here.

Is it safe to live near power lines?

ELF radiation from power lines is harmful to the body. It is known to cause headache, dizziness, fatigue and insomnia. This leads to hypertension, irritability, listlessness, decline in energy levels, obesity etc. Therefore, even while there is no scientific evidence, ELF radiation is a health hazard. Hence, it is not safe to live near power lines.

But, there is legislation for safety from these power lines.

Most of the safety legislation around power lines are included in patch of land on both sides of the HT power line. This is called “Right of Way”. Right of way is an allowance of land around the power lines where no human habitation should be allowed. In most cases, it is the land 20-23 metres on both sides of the HT power transmission line. Power distribution laws dictate that this land is left alone. This is to accommodate any accident that can cause a current carrying power cable falling on ground and risks of electrocuting, thereof.

Therefore, the right of way does not account for concentration of ELF radiation in the area around the current carrying conductors.

Living near high voltage power lines. What is the risk?
Right of way for power distribution systems do not take into account ELF radiation risks from the conductors. These risks extend much beyond the Right of way.

I am living near high voltage power lines. What is the safe distance of living near high voltage power lines?

ELF exposure due to proximity to a high voltage power line depends upon 2 things.

  1. The current passing through the conductor
  2. The distance of separation between the subject (person, family, premise) and the conductor.

As a rule of the thumb, the higher the current through the conductor wire; the higher is the ELF radiation that it produces. Therefore, a domestic supply cable produces lower ELF than a power distribution cable.

As a second rule of the thumb, the further you move away from the conductor, the lower is the ELF radiation that you are exposed to.

Hence, we plotted a safety zone taking optimum values of current through these conductor cables and field distance as coordinates. (This model is a simplistic one, and does not account for multiple other factors such as sag, transients etc). Consequently, we have also provided for the right of the way values for comparison. Hazard zones have been marked in Red, risk zones have been shown in Orange and tolerance zones have been shown in Yellow. Safe zones have been shown in Green.

ELF hazard values related to living near high voltage power lines.

First we give the relevant definitions related to this model.

  1. The threshold of human exposure value is taken at 2.5mG. This is provided by Environment protection agency (EPA, USA).
  2. Absolutely safe ELF value is shown in Green and is taken as zone where ELF is lower than 1mG. This is as per building biology standards.
  3. Between the threshold value and the absolutely safe value – we have the tolerance zone. Some sensitive people like kids and older adults will have a problem spending longer exposures in this zone.
  4. Hazard zone is the area where the ELF is not suitable for sustained exposure and human living. This is marked in Red

What is the safe distance of living near high voltage power lines?


We indexed the readings against EPA threshold and Building Biology compliance standards. Please note, that the readings were taken that people living near high voltage power lines spend at-least one-third of their day in their homes. Therefore, effect of ELF radiation is a significant health risk.

Right of way versus Hazard zone versus Threshold zone versus Safe Zone

Most noteworthy, the right of way is just an index with little or no relevance to ELF radiation exposures. Hence, if one were to look at safe values – you need to be atleast 50 metres away from domestic transmission and 100 metres for 230-400KV transmission lines.

Please note, that in many instances, effects of ELF radiation are not immediately visible. They take time and always start as slight and innocuous – a nerve pain, a giddiness, slight fatigue, a lighter sleep. Overtime, these can increase significantly. Sometimes, it pays well to exercise precaution.

(Last but not the least, If you found this article helpful, share it. Leave us your comments or queries. Disagree if you will – but let us know. It would be great to hear it from you)


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