FAQ – Electromagnetic Fields from 50 Hz (ELF)

(Including fields from powerlines, power substations, electrical appliances, etc)


The following information has been supplied by the Department of Health’s Radiation Health Branch. It is relevant for people that may have questions about the health effects from exposure to electromagnetic fields from 50 Hz electricity supply around their home or at work.


What is a safe distance from a power line or substation?: 

In Western Australia for health effects associated with 50 Hz powerlines and transformers we are guided by the National Health and Medical Research Council (NH&MRC) publication (RHS 30):

Interim guidelines on limits of exposure to 50/60 Hz electric and magnetic fields (1989).

The guidelines recommend limits of exposure for both electric and magnetic fields, with the appropriate limits for the general public given on page 5 of this publication.  The guidelines recommend limits of exposure as a measurement of field strength, as opposed to describing safe distances from power sources in metres.

Are the emissions from powerlines and/or substations around my home affecting my health?: 

ELF (extra-low frequency) fields are found wherever electricity is used.  Emissions from 50 Hz electricity are typically only measurable very close to the source of the electricity.  They are a by-product of the use of electricity and occur around all electric wires and electrical appliances.  Generally the ELF levels within a typical residence would be largely influenced by household wiring and electrical appliances as opposed to the fields originating from nearby powerlines or substation transformers.  The current international opinion is that provided levels of exposure do not exceed the limits in the recommended guidelines, there should be no adverse effects to humans. 


The Radiological Council of Western Australia continues to monitor international and federal government publications with regard to the health effects associated with electric and magnetic fields.

Where is a good starting point to find more information on the health effects from powerlines?:  For more information on current research in Australia and around the world you can visit the Australian Radiation Protection & Nuclear Safety Agency (ARPANSA) website or the World Health Organisation (WHO) website.



The Radiation Health Branch (RHB) has compiled a list of consultants that may be able to assist enquiries in this area. To view this list please select the following link and then click “send” to email your request to the RHB (the auto-generated subject line should indicate your request). A response should be sent to you by email containing the required information:- Request for Radiation Monitoring Consultants List.

If further information is required, please contact a Radiological Council officer on 9346 2260.