Electric and Magnetic Fields

Concerns were expressed about any issues from HS2 running high voltage cables under residential streets.  This is the reply received from HS2.

Following concerns raised over Electric and Magnetic Fields (EMF) from 1979 onwards, an independent Stakeholder Advisory Group on Extremely Low Frequency (ELF) EMFs, “SAGE”, was formed in 2004.

The group was made up from stakeholders representing a broad spectrum of views, including campaign groups and the cancer charity Children with Leukaemia (now known as Children with Cancer UK), as well as relevant industries, independent professional groups, academics, and the Government.  It brought together many areas of expertise, including those with significant expertise in scientific and policy‐making disciplines, as well as voices representing sections of the public.

SAGE was funded equally by Government, the electricity industry, and the charity Children with Leukaemia.  Their remit was to investigate practical precautionary measures to address the possibility of health effects, and to give advice to Government.

As a result of an initial interim assessment that SAGE produced in 2007, a written Ministerial Statement was produced in 2009.  This sets out UK policy on EMFs.  It established the quantitative exposure limits that will be applied, and also endorsed a number of SAGE’s recommendations including:

  •  One precautionary measure applied to high-voltage power lines, called “optimum phasing”
  •  Some other precautionary measures relating to house wiring and domestic appliances.

A second Interim assessment by SAGE in 2010 extended the first interim assessment to look at lower voltage distribution.

The UK policy of compliance with exposure limits, set out in the Written Ministerial Statement, was given practical effect through the Code of Practice entitled, “Power Lines: Demonstrating compliance with EMF public exposure guidelines – a voluntary code of practice” (published by the Department of Energy & Climate Change, DECC, in March 2012).

This has been adopted by the industry and sets a magnetic field limit for public exposure of 360µT based on the ICNIRP 1998 guidance.

The code of practice requires the electricity supply industry to keep records of all equipment that is known to be compliant and this is done on the emf.info website.

The details on the website relating to a 33kV underground cable, which is the type proposed for the HS2 TBM power supply, indicate that the magnetic field produced directly above it will be in the order of 1µT which is significantly lower than the 360µT limit given in the Code of Practice.  Additionally, the underground cable will not produce any external electric fields.


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