Prevention

AVOIDING THAT A RISK TURNS INTO DAMAGE

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To prevent means to take any possible action to avoid the risk of damage, whether it results from a direct relation of cause and effect due to exposure to electromagnetic fields, or indirectly from the malfunctioning of electronic equipment, a medical diagnosis, or a financial analysis.

In the end, the term risk suggests the likelihood to suffer damage. Can we afford it?

What does “preventing” mean?

Essentially TO PREVENT means:

to protect people from the risk of suffering harm due to the exposure to an electromagnetic field – a danger that usually requires to set limits of exposure below the level which causes a proven biological effect or negative interactions with electronic equipment.

In 2002, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (I.A.R.C.) published a monograph which classifies magnetic fields as “possibly carcinogenic to humans”. […] Such classification is based on the pool analysis of epidemiological studies demonstrating a consistent pattern of a two-fold increase in childhood leukemia associated with average exposure to residential power-frequency magnetic field above 0.3 to 0.4 μT (3 – 4 mG).

According to another I.A.R.C. report amended in June 2007 the lack of complete evidence linking E.L.F. magnetic fields and their carcinogenicity is due to the lack of reliable studies and to the fact that relevant interactions are not observed at significantly low levels of exposure. Therefore when building new power stations and designing new equipment, including appliances, it is essential to consider solutions which aim to reduce magnetic field exposure.

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A GLIMPSE TOWARDS THE FUTURE AND TODAY’S CONCERNS

Electromagnetic fields represent an unwanted phenomenon occurring in the environment for three main reasons:

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The exposure of biological organisms to very intense fields, even for a short peri- od of time, can have serious health implications.

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The suspicion has been raised that prolonged exposure of people to electromagnetic fields, even at levels within regulations, could represent a risk factor for some serious diseases.

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Electromagnetic fields, even of low intensity, can interfere with the proper operation of electronic equipment, whose malfunction can cause damage, a risk or an inconvenience (standard ref. IEC EN 61000 4-8; 61602, etc…)

CLASSIFICATIONS OF THE EFFECTS OF MAGNETIC FIELDS ON THE HUMAN BODY

Acute effetcs
Immediate and objective, determined by experimentation on volunteers:

with low frequency:
due to induced electric current.
with high frequency:
causing tissue heating.

Long-term health effects,
though it is difficult to prove the link between cause and effect (epidemiological studies), include:

more or less subjective symptoms (tiredness, irritability, impaired concentration, headaches, etc…)

objective and usually severe symptoms (cancer, degenerative diseases and the like)

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DETERMINING LIMITS OF EXPOSURE TO PROTECT PEOPLE’S HEALTH. CURRENT ITALIAN REGULATIONS

The Italian legislator divides the population into two main categories:

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PROFESSIONALLY EXPOSED WORKERS
Directive 2013/35/EU – Law 159 signed on the 1st of August 2016

Professionally exposed workers, namely the operators of the source of induction, for instance an MRI operator, electric maintenance staff and all personnel authorized to access technical rooms such as substations and other related areas. In this case the regulation to be referred to is the Consolidated Law on Health and Safety at Work (Law 81, signed on the 9th of April 2008, Coordinated Law and subsequent modifications Decree Law 106 signed on the 3rd of August 2009 and Directive 2013/35/EU of the European Parliament and of the Council of the 26th June 2013 on the minimum health and safety requirements on workers’ exposure to risks related to physical agents (electromagnetic fields) that repeals Directive 2004/40/CE).
For people who are not exposed to magnetic radiations because of their occupation (namely the general population, see point 2) the applicable law is the Prime Minis- terial Decree signed on the 8th of July 2003 (f=50Hz).

POPULATION AND NON-PROFESSIONALLY EXPOSED WORKERS
Framework law n. 36 of 02/2001 – DPCM 8/7/2003

NON-professionally exposed workers, namely all employees who are not in charge of maintenance nor granted access to restricted areas, and the general population who might pass by or access the mentioned areas/sources belong to this category.
In short, it includes all those who are not supposed to be exposed to magnetic radiation and have to be protected through the prevention of potential risks, by establishing limits of exposure significantly lower than the potentially harmful level, as recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO).

The right to health should not be intended as the right to be treated for a disease but the one of staying healthy.

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For the general population, namely NON-occupationally exposed workers, the current regulation, DPCM 08/07/2003, establishes the obligation to comply with the values of exposure to 50Hz magnetic fields (ELF) shown in the table below.

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Table 1 – Excerpt from the DPCM 08/07/2003 for the exposure to 50 Hz magnetic fields (ELF)

Exposure has to be calculated based on the nominal current, as established by the Italian regulation for the calculation of the exclusion zone around HV/LV substations.

For professionally exposed workers the “target value” for the exposure to magnetic fields is 25/f, with f being the frequency expressed in KHz.
Therefore, at 50 Hz it is equal to 500μT (Decree Law 81/2008 and amended “Consolidated Law on Health and Safety at Work”). The target value determines the level of magnetic induction above which any necessary action must be taken to reduce or remove the risk for professionally exposed workers. Such limit has been increased by the Directive 2013/35/EU as defined by the table below.

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Table 2 – Excerpt from the Directive 2013/35/EU