Biological Effects of Exposure to Static Electric Fields in Humans and Vertebrates

Environmental Health

April 17, 2017

A Systematic Review

Dr. William Bailey, Principal Scientist in Exponent's Health Sciences practice, recently co-authored the article, "Biological Effects of Exposure to Static Electric Fields in Humans and Vertebrates: A Systematic Review," in Environmental Health.

High-voltage direct current (HVDC) lines are the technology of choice for the transport of large amounts of energy over long distances. The operation of these lines produces static electric fields (EF), but the data reviewed in previous assessments were not sufficient to assess the need for any environmental limit. The aim of this systematic review was to update the current state of research and to evaluate biological effects of static EF.

The weight of the evidence from the literature reviewed did not indicate that static EF have adverse biological effects in humans or animals. The evidence strongly supported the role of superficial sensory stimulation of hair and skin as the basis for perception of the field, as well as reported indirect behavioral and physiological responses. Physical considerations also preclude any direct effect of static EF on internal physiology, and reports that some physiological processes are affected in minor ways may be explained by other factors. While this literature does not support a level of concern about biological effects of exposure to static EF, the conditions that affect thresholds for human detection and possible annoyance at suprathreshold levels should be investigated.

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