SPENCER – At the July 9 Clay County Board of Supervisors’ meeting, the Iowa Utilities Board/Clean Line Energy public informational meeting, scheduled for August 20 in the Clay County Regional Events Center, was one discussion topic.
According to the published minutes from the meeting, about 35 citizens expressed their concerns over the high voltage direct current (HVDC) wind energy transmission line that’s to pass through Clay County and then on to Illinois. One concern arose from the group of landowners and tenants regarding any potentially harmful health hazards that may affect those living and/or working near high voltage transmission lines.
The 600,000-volt DC Rock Island Clean Line will cross southern Clay County along the half-section lines north of 430th street south of Royal and enters Palo Alto County near Ayrshire (See map on Page 3 in today’s Chronicle Times).
At their January 22, 2013 meeting, the Clay County Board approved a resolution supporting the wind energy transmission project. These landowners also asked the Board to reconsider and rescind its earlier statement.
*What is an Electrometric Field?
Electromagnetic fields (EMF) emitted from high voltage transmission lines have been an everyday part of farm life since 1937 when electrification came to rural America creating hundreds of REAs. Gone were the dimly- lit nights with kerosene lanterns and candles.
Electromagnetic fields come from a difference in voltage. When voltages are higher, the magnetic field is stronger. Magnetic fields also come from electric current flowing through overhead power cables. When the amperage is higher, the invisible magnetic field is greater.
Electromagnetic fields exist in nature, and can be produced by powerful lightning storms. Compass needles are aligned on a north-south axis due to the electromagnetic field of the earth itself.
*Farming Operations Under Power Lines
Farmers in central O’Brien County and northwest Cherokee County have dealt with the inconvenience of farming under a 345,000-volt MidAmerican Energy AC transmission line since it was built in the mid 1960s. This transmission line is angled northeast from south of Sioux City to Lakefield Junction, Minnesota. Almost every support tower sets in the middle of fields when power lines are diagonal. New Iowa transmission infrastructure generally aligns in straight lines with right angle corners.
Brothers Doyle and Lowell Wilson in Dale Township, O’Brien County, have routinely operated their farm machinery under these high voltage cables for “the forty years that we have farmed since 1971,” said Doyle. The transmission line crosses their cropland diagonally in two different sections.
Does Doyle have any health concerns while operating his machinery under these power lines? Doyle replied, “Only that the power line might fall on me. Those cables are up a long way. You can hear some noise from the lines. You can hear it snap here and there. But my hair never stands up when I’m under the line.”
Both Wilson brothers have sons now working the ground with their parents, so did they have any health related concerns for their children and grandchildren?
“Well, I hope they don’t run into it. I think the odds are greater from running into the steel transmission towers than getting any harmful health affect from the electromagnetic fields,” Wilson said.
Woven wire fences are built under and across transmission lines with no affect because they are grounded, said Wilson. “I took a semester of Ag Electronics at Iowa State in the late 1960s. I learned when farmers build ungrounded electric fences near power lines, they do need to be careful,” Wilson advised.
Nowadays, farm machinery is packed with every conceivable kind of Ag electronics. Globally positioned satellite (GPS) steering control is the big thing in modern farming technology.
When asked if he ever noticed any unusual affects from stray voltages while operating his machinery, Doyle answered, “No. I can’t say that I have. The signals coming from satellites that control the GPS never seem to get blocked or affected.”
Regarding any potential affect from stray electric fields on farm machinery, Ag Electronics Professor, Matt Darr, at Iowa State University said via email, “They are not an issue for Ag machinery. Ag machinery is highly isolated from stray electric fields.”
*AC or DC EMF Potential Health Affects
Dr. Peter Lehn is the Professor & Chair, Energy Systems Group, Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at the University of Toronto in Ontario. Dr. Lehn said via email, “Generally, DC fields are of much less concern than AC fields (and despite many studies there are only tenuous links between AC fields and health affects.)”
The World Health Organization (WHO) has done numerous studies on the potential health affects on humans from electromagnetic fields. A summary of their study says, “Everyone is exposed to a complex mix of weak electric and magnetic fields, both at home and at work, from the generation and transmission of electricity, domestic appliances and industrial equipment, to telecommunications and broadcasting.”
Low-frequency electric fields, if sufficiently large, could cause stimulation of nerves and muscles or affect other biological processes. WHO does offer this cautionary note about their studies when they say, “It is not disputed that electromagnetic fields above certain levels can cause biological affects.”
Experiments using healthy volunteers show that short-term exposure at the levels present in the environment or in the home do not cause any apparent detrimental affects, the report goes on to say.
Both electric and magnet fields induce voltages and currents in the body. Even while standing directly underneath a high voltage transmission line, the induced currents are far below any level that could result in electric shock, the WHO report states.
A wide variety of symptoms reported by individuals seem to blame the exposure to electromagnetic fields. The reported symptoms frequently include headaches, anxiety, suicide, depression, anxiety and loss of libido.
But conclusions reached in the WHO studies regarding human electromagnetic hypersensitivity indicate that “scientific evidence does not support a link between these symptoms and exposure to EMF.”
*Do electromagnetic fields cause cancer?
“Despite many studies, the evidence for any effect remains highly controversial. If electromagnetic fields do have any effect on cancer, then any increase in risk will be extremely small,” the WHO study says.
The World Health Organization says, “The focus of current and future international research is being directed towards the study of EMF in relation to cancer at both power line and radiofrequency voltages.” While at a reduced level compared to a decade ago, the research into any possible cancer-producing effect continues.
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