Concerns About High Voltage Transmission Lines

To sum up the state of science, after several decades of studies, there is no evidence of a clear link to health consequences of living near high-voltage power lines, but research continues because none have demonstrated it is entirely safe, either.


Lauren Chambliss

Jun 7, 2021 • Updated Apr 19, 2022 • 4 min read

Find high voltage transmission lines and other environmental hazards near you here

Overview#

The U.S. electrical energy grid is the largest interconnected energy distribution system on earth. There are more than five million miles of local distribution lines and 450,000 miles of high-voltage transmission lines (HVTL) connecting electricity-generating power operations to businesses, residences, and municipalities across the nation. Local distribution wires carry the electricity from the roadside to your house, while high-voltage lines transmit power across vast stretches of land. Transmission poles tower over roadways and powerline trails are often visible through forests as clear-cut pathways about the width of a roadway.

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Should you be worried if your home is close— within 200 meters -- to a power line? Living near an HVTL is something to take into account when buying and selling a home, just as you would consider being near a major roadway, industry, or other factors. There are two main issues that people sometimes associate with high-voltage lines; potential health risk from Electric and Magnetic Fields (EMF), and a negative impact on property values.

To sum up the state of science, after several decades of studies, there isno evidence of a clear link to health consequences of living near high-voltage power lines, but research continues because none have demonstrated it is entirely safe, either.

Your Home and Power Lines#

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Health and Safety#

In the past several decades, several studies suggested a possible link between living near high-voltage lines and disease, particularly leukemia in children and some cancers in adults. Additionally, there have been reports of complaints by people living near HVTLs of less serious health issues, such as migraines and fatigue.So far, however, research has not found a direct connection between the EMFs emitted by high-voltage lines and health risk in children or adults. A recent study of more than 50,000 adults with several common types of cancer found no increase for people living near high-voltage transmission lines. Another 2019 study of nearly 800,000 children in Canada found levels of leukemia in children living within 200 meters of a power line were not higher than normal.

A six-year project led by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences and the National Institutes of Health ultimately found that there is no conclusively demonstrated health risk caused by living near high-voltage power lines. Recent studies in other countries also reached a similar conclusion. However, there is still enough concern that the NIEHS and scientists continue to study the issue because it has not been proven that low-level EMFs are completely risk-free. With the increase in exposure to all sources of EMFs, including cell phones, routers, computers and other household items, there may be a cumulative effect that we do not yet understand.

From a property owner’s perspective, the intensity of any exposure dissipates as you get farther away from the source and is usually absent by 300 meters. On the ground, the strength of the electromagnetic field is highest directly under the power line, and is typically in the range of what you could be exposed to when using some household appliances, according to the American Cancer Society,

Property Values#

The poles that carry high-voltage transmission lines are tall, towering anywhere from 50 to 180 feet above the ground. They are usually located on roadsides, or if cutting across open land, on a wide pathway cleared of trees and vegetation. Real estate studies from around the nation are mixed about the size of the impact on property value. Some studies show a home’s value is, on average, 10-12% less if near a power line, but this depends on several factors, including the location, the size of the power line, and the home type. Expensive homes seem to take more of value hit than lower-cost homes. And it is also possible the impact on your home or property may be insignificant. One extensive study in a journal published by The Appraiser Institute, the nation’s largest real estate appraiser association, found that a property’s value is not affected when the home is located close to transmission lines, or even when those power lines are visible from the house. However, if your home is near a power transfer station or has a transmission line easement, then there is likely to be a more significant impact. Or, if your home is in an area where a new power line is going through, your property value may see a significant drop. In any case, one must always be aware of the risk to any future sale of the property if there is a perception of a problem, whether fact-based or not.

What You Can Do#

If you are concerned about your exposure to electromagnetic sources around you, including power lines, you can measure the field strength with a device called a gaussmeter. Additionally, several companies sell products designed to block EMFs for residence and business use.

AreaHub’s Knowledge Center is updated regularly and provides information drawing upon scientific studies and sources.

Sources#