Of course, you’ve heard of hybrid automobiles but most people haven’t heard of their possible health risk compared to traditional vehicles. According to the New York Times, strong electromagnetic fields (EMFs) emanating from high voltage power cables located near the driver might be hazardous to your health, yet the government doesn’t even test for EMF’s in vehicles. Details, inside…
“Hybrids” are vehicles that use an electric power motor which assists a more traditional gasoline-fueled combustion engine. Unlike traditional vehicles, hybrids need to move a large amount of electricity near the driver which cause electromagnetic fields or EMFs. Many drivers are in their cars for hours at a time, making this exposure is prolonged, thus increasing the health risk. This has many drivers concerned. The article says,
Their concern is not without merit; agencies including the National Institutes of Health and the National Cancer Institute acknowledge the potential hazards of long-term exposure to a strong electromagnetic field, or E.M.F., and have done studies on the association of cancer risks with living near high-voltage utility lines.
EMFs are a byproduct of electricity, therefore, virtually every device that uses electricity produces some level of EMF. Generally, the more electricity that is involved, the stronger the EMF will be. However, there is no general agreement or federal standard that says what level of EMF’s are hazardous. Currently the government does not do safety tests on the strength of EMF’s in hybrid vehicles.
Much of this new concern over EMFs has stemmed from the use of inexpensive field-strength detectors such as the “TriField” meter which sells for $145. The article says,
The TriField meter is made by AlphaLab in Salt Lake City. The company’s president, Bill Lee, defends its use for automotive testing even though the meter is set up to test alternating current fields, whereas the power moving to and from a hybrid vehicle’s battery is direct current. “Generally, an A.C. meter is accurate in detecting large electromagnetic fields or microwaves,” he said.
Automakers argue that such instruments cannot make consistent and meaningful readings, however, there is anecdotal evidence of hybrid vehicle EMFs causing health problems. Neysa Linzer, 58, says that since she bought her Honda Civic Hybrid her blood pressure has increased and that she has fallen asleep at the wheel 3 times. She believes her hybrid is causing her health problems, “I never had a sleepiness problem before,” she said. She requested that Honda provide her with shielding material to protect her from the fields but Honda declined.
Driver, Brian Collins decided to test his Honda Insight with a Trifield meter. He received readings of 135 milligauss at the hip and 100 milligauss at the upper torso. Considering his VW Van only measures between 1-2 milligauss, he decided to sell his hybrid at a $7000 loss. The article says,
Lawrence Gust of Ventura, Calif., a consultant with a specialty in E.M.F.’s and electrical sensitivity, was one of the electrical engineers who tested Mr. Collins’s Insight in 2001. He agreed that the readings were high but did not want to speculate on whether they were harmful. “There are big blocks of high-amp power being moved around in a hybrid, the equivalent of horsepower,” he said. “I get a lot of clients who ask if they should buy hybrid electric cars, and I say the jury is still out.”
New technology often comes with new risks. Naturally, reduced gasoline consumption is a good thing but we should not ignore possible risks as these vehicles gain popularity. We encourage the government and automakers to be more forthcoming with thorough EMF research so that we don’t end up paying a higher price down the road.