Electric and magnetic fields (EMF)

What are they?

Electric and magnetic fields are invisible fields of energy that exist around anything that carries or uses electricity. Power lines, electrical wiring and electrical equipment such as toasters, lamps, computers, copiers, even a single light bulb, produce EMF.

The strength of these fields increases as you get closer to the source and quickly decreases as you move away. They also increase or decrease with variances in voltage and current (amperage).

A plugged-in appliance or other type of electrical equipment causes electric fields whether it's turned on or off. Electric fields are easily shielded or weakened by materials that conduct electricity, including trees and buildings.

Magnetic fields are only present when an appliance is turned on. Magnetic fields pass through most materials and are difficult to shield. We cannot feel magnetic fields.

In the early 1970s, electric fields attracted attention because of the tingling that can sometimes be felt near high-voltage transmission lines. Numerous epidemiological studies (research that relies on statistics to show associations between the occurrence of disease and potential causes) have been conducted since the 1980s to determine if there is any relationship between exposure to EMF and cancer or other diseases. These studies have not identified a cause-and-effect relationship between EMF and any disease.

Our position

We Energies and the electric industry continue to support EMF research. The Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) funds human health studies and improved transmission and distribution designs. Working in conjunction with the Public Service Commission of Wisconsin and the American Transmission Company, we have applied EPRI's research to minimize human exposure to EMF.

We continue to maintain and monitor our electrical generation and distribution systems, and we are prepared to modify our existing EMF policies and safety standards based on the state of the science.