In my research, I have found that if your relative just has multiple
chemical sensitivities (MCS), he should most likely be fine with the
nearby power lines. However, many people with MCS symptoms also have
electromagnetic hypersensitivity (EHS), and if your relative has that
in addition to MCS, he could very well have problems not just with
power lines, but with electricity in general. Below, I describe the
symptoms of EHS and how your relative can know whether he has both
"The very existence of this syndrome is questioned, but it is dear
from the experience of physicians from several specialties that a
population of patients exists that goes to great lengths to avoid a
group of odorous organic chemicals at levels that are known to occur
in contemporary homes, schools, and offices. These chemicals include
the products of combustion, cleaning products, fragrances, pesticides;
outgassing from synthetic materials used for clothing, furnishing and
building products and are commonly found in the indoor air."
What is clear from my readings on this disease and the very fact that
it is called "multiple chemical sensitivity," is the fact that in
order for an effect to take place a chemical must be present in the
air. Electricity lines do not produce chemicals in the air; they do
have an electromagnetic field, but it produces no chemicals directly.
There are people who have a sensitivity to electromagnetic radiation--
they are termed as having a syndrome called ?electromagnetic
hypersensitivity? or EHS. EHS is similar to multiple chemical
sensitivity, or MCS.
In fact, one-third of the people who have EHS report that they also
have a similar disease, such as MCS, chronic fatigue syndrome,
fibromyalgia, or stress.
" Data based on 100
respondents from the Dutch Working Group on EHS indicate the following
facts: (1). Average age 50 years,
gender 67% females. (2) Main cause of problems: use of PC, cellular
phone, cordless enhanced digital telephone
(DECT). (3) Concurrent environmental diseases: one-third reported
suffering from chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia, multiple
chemical sensitivity, burnout, stress..."
"Dr. Robert Becker describes the symptoms of MCS and ES, especially
those symptoms associated with the central nervous system, as being
virtually identical. Both disorders share the general characteristics
of involvement of the central nervous system and the immune system.
Dr. William Rea (who suffers from ES himself) reports that he is
treating five hundred patients who are ES at his clinic in Dallas,
Texas. Rea reports that at least 80% of these patients are also
chemically sensitive and he too suspects and discusses links between
ES and MCS. Links between ES and MCS in many patients are being
increasingly recognized and such linkage must be considered and
studied. Persons who suffer from both MCS and ES have found that the
symptoms which they feel after either electrical or chemical exposure
are essentially the same; they are frequently unsure as to which type
of exposure brought the symptoms on."
"People with electrical hypersensitivity are usually also chemically
sensitive; EHS and multiple chemical sensitivity (MCS) tend to go
hand in hand. (It is well known in the medical profession that
certain chemicals can sensitise humans to radiation and the impact of
a cocktail of chemicals could be more far-reaching than previously
It could be easy to find out if your uncle has EHS in addition to MCS.
Does he experience any symptoms related to cell phones, TVs, or
microwaves, or are his symptoms related more to the chemical
sensitivities found in the air?
"Certain individuals experience a variety of health symptoms, which
they attribute to exposure to electric or magnetic fields from sources
such as power lines, household appliances, visual display units
(VDUs), light sources, mobile telephones and mobile phone base
stations. Some individuals are so severely afflicted that they cease
work and change their entire lifestyle, or take exceptional measures
such as sleeping under aluminium blankets."
"Here people explain what started their electro-hypersensitivity.
Computers were perceived as the most usual triggering factor, followed
by presence of amalgam/amalgam removing, fluorescent lights and
low-energy lamps, cellular phones/base stations and ordinary
telephones, chemicals and photocopiers.
They also mention the factors giving symptoms. In 2000, symptoms were
primarily caused by computers but to a large extent also by all
electrical installations, fluorescent lights and low-energy lamps,
cellular phones and base stations, ordinary telephones, radio, TV,
cars, trains, airplanes, copiers and dental work such as removal of
If your relative experiences problems or symptoms from being around
computers or phones, it's quite possible that he experiences the
symptoms of EHS in addition to MCS, and the power lines could
certainly cause him problems.
Here are the most common symptoms of EHS, so that you can know what to look for:
"Skin problems top the list, followed by sensibility to light, eye
problems, problems with the heart and the blood pressure, headaches,
migraines, pain in joint and muscles, dizziness, concentration
difficulties, nausea, memory disorders, endocrine reactions and many
A study was carried out in 1997 to find what the most common symptoms
of the disorder are. They were, in descending frequency:
" * Nervous system symptoms (e.g. fatigue, stress, sleep disturbances)
* Skin symptoms (e.g. facial prickling, burning sensations, rashes)
* Various body symptoms (e.g. pain and ache in muscles)
* Eye symptoms (e.g. burning sensations).
* Various less common symptoms, including ear, nose, and throat
symptoms, digestive disorders."
In fact, this same webpage cites evidence that EHS does not even exist
and has not been proven in studies:
"Flodin et al (2000) exposed 15 electromagnetically hypersensitive
individuals and normal controls to electric and magnetic fields in
their homes or workplaces. The electromagnetically hypersensitive
individuals were no better than control subjects in identifying their
exposure to electric or magnetic fields during the experiment.
Taken as a whole, the provocation studies strongly suggest that EHS
symptoms are not related to actual exposures to electric or magnetic
fields, and that electromagnetically hypersensitive individuals are no
better than non-hypersensitive individuals in detecting the presence
"EHS bears close resemblance to idiopathic environmental intolerances
(IEI), otherwise known as multiple chemical sensitivities (MCS). In
MCS, individuals report a variety of symptoms which they attribute to
exposure to chemicals in the environment (Bornschein et al, 2001). In
both EHS and MCS the symptoms are nonspecific (might have a variety of
causes), the exposure levels to chemicals or electromagnetic fields
are invariably far below those that are expected to produce adverse
effects, and provocation studies are typically unable to link the
symptoms with exposure. Both syndromes remain poorly understood."
My guess would be that if your relative had this sensitivity to
electricity, he would certainly have noticed it before, with all the
electrical devices around us. I would venture to guess that he
probably doesn't experience these symptoms and should be fine around
the power lines. Most people reporting on their sensitivity that I saw
through my research first contracted the disease while working at
their computers or watching TV, something closer and more mundane than
relativity to power lines. If these normal household appliances have
no effect on your relative, it is doubtful that he should have a
sensitivity to power lines.
World Health Organization--
"chemical sensitivity disease"
electromagnetic field chemical
ehs + mcs
Bergqvist pubmed ehs
electromagnetic field + chemical +mcs
If you need any additional clarification, please let me know and I'll
be glad to help! Good luck.
Clarification of Answer by
13 Sep 2006 22:16 PDT
Thank you for allowing me to clarify my previous research.
As stated previously, the biggest problem facing your relative would
be if he shares both MCS and EHS symptoms, which many people do. If he
does not, he might still have a problem with the power lines,
depending on many factors. The primary problem he would experience is
if he lives next to an industrial area or city where there are already
high levels of toxic chemicals in the air, and especially those toxins
that he is particularly sensitive to. The power lines could increase
the effects of these chemicals and their absorption rates. Here is
some further research on the subject.
First of all, power lines themselves do not produce chemicals
directly. They produce electromagnetic fields, which is where EHS
comes into the equation. Chemicals are produced by the electricity
companies when the electricity is produced at the plant, but there are
no chemicals emitting from the power lines themselves.
Those emissions from the original production plant would cause
problems for your relative, as seen from this list of toxins that MCS
sufferers are sensitive to:
"In multiple chemical sensitivity (MCS) a person develops markedly
negative reactions to everyday chemical exposures. These include
exposures to pesticides in buildings, in gardens, on our food, and on
pets; chemical cleaners; petrochemical heating systems; paints;
perfumes; industrial emissions; and a myriad of others."
Electrical lines do NOT emit chemicals. Electric companies emit many
toxic chemicals when they are producing the electricity, but the power
lines themselves do not produce chemicals. However, they do produce
ions, which could cause your relative some problems in certain
Here is an interesting study on the prevalence of electromagnetic
sensitivity within MCS populations:
Now, if this area with the power lines has a lot of chemicals released
into the air-- for example, if it is close to a city or close to a
major highway-- the power lines could exacerbate the effects of those
existing chemicals, and muliply their effect on him. This is through
the phenomenon of "corona ions," which negate the charge in the air,
attach themselves to particles of those chemicals, and allow more of
these particles to be absorbed into the body, thereby increasing the
chemical's effect. This effect could also be increased by whether or
not the house is downwind from the power lines.
Health Protection Agency, UK
From the Health Protection Agency:
Electrical lines produce "corona ions," or electrically charged
particles in the air.
"The effects indoors, where the majority of people spend most of their
time, are probably somewhat less than outdoors - for example, because
of deposition of corona ions on the surfaces of small apertures
through which some air enters buildings. The presence of corona ions
could influence the uptake of pollutants by increasing their
deposition in the lung or on the skin."
In other words, these charged particles help chemicals to be absorbed
into the body easier than without the presence of these particles.
"The increase in pollutant deposition in the lungs seems likely to be
highest in areas of the country downwind of power lines where there
are high levels of airborne particulate pollution and also where the
power lines are continuously in corona. The latter is most likely
where the power lines were designed for a lower voltage and have not
been upgraded. Because of the high rate of production of corona ions
in such situations, it seems likely that there will be a significant
increase in charge per particle, even when the particle concentration
If the property is downwind of power lines, this could be a factor.
"The information reviewed suggests that some increase in lung
deposition of pollutant particles seems likely as a result of charging
by corona ions. Even if the effect of the corona ions were to cause
all the particles to be deposited, the increase in lung deposition
cannot be more than a factor of ten. In practice, though, the increase
seems likely to be appreciably less and it is noted that Henshaw and
Fews (2001) estimated it to be 20%-60%. Such estimates are, however,
inherently imprecise since they depend on the use of an approximate
model and on assumptions about the experimental conditions (the
distributions of particle size and charge) which are not well known
and not readily obtainable. The effects of external electric fields on
deposition of particles in the respiratory tract, if any, are likely
to be very small (paragraph 126)."
"There is experimental evidence (Fews et al, 1999a) supported by
theoretical analysis that the deposition of both radon decay products
and chemical pollutants on surfaces are somewhat larger under power
lines. The increase is considered to be around a factor of 2.4 for
radon decay products and to be still significant, around 1.2, for
chemical pollutants. This is attributed to the increase in deposition
of the naturally charged particles produced by the oscillating
electric fields together with turbulent air flow over the skin. The
electric fields are screened by the walls and roofs of buildings.
Hence any significant increase of deposition would only occur
outdoors. The deposition of radon decay products would vary much less
from place to place than that of chemical pollutants, whose deposition
would be greater in towns, near industrial sources and next to major
If your relative spends significant amounts of time outside, if he is
downwind from the lines, and if the property is located next to a town
where there will be many chemical pollutants released into the air
that a person with MCS is sensitive to, when these factors are all
combined, it is possible that the ionized air could contribute to
greater absorption by him of those chemicals and a worsening of the
The results of some studies are inconclusive on this point:
"# There are different views of the extent of increased deposition on
exposed skin under power lines. Thus Swanson and Jeffers (2002)
accepted that increased deposition of radon decay products would
occur. However, they attributed the increased deposition of larger
particles observed experimentally and predicted theoretically to the
design of the experiments and to the parametric values and analytical
expressions used by Fews et al (1999a).
# These disparate views about changes in skin deposition under power
lines cannot be resolved without further experimental measurements. It
is possible that the differences in the theoretical analysis might be
reduced by further work. However, the physical situation is very
complicated and it seems unlikely that it can be modelled with
sufficient accuracy to provide reliable information in the foreseeable
"Corona ions from powerlines and increased exposure to pollutant aerosols."
* Fews AP,
* Henshaw DL,
* Wilding RJ,
* Keitch PA.
H. H. Wills Physics Laboratory, University of Bristol, UK. Peter.Fews@bristol.ac.uk
Your relative will be about 400 meters away from the power lines. This
British study found that the effects of corona ions could be seen even
up to 500 meters from power lines:
"In one case, the effect extended more than 500 m from a 275 kV line."
The study concluded that corona ions found in a certain level in the
air, which can result from the presence of power lines in that area,
can increase the lung absorption of aerosol chemicals.
"These results can be analysed in terms of the charge density present.
This analysis suggests that typically 2000 excess negative charges per
cm3 are required to match the measured DC fields. Such space charge
will result in unipolar aerosol charging in excess of the normal
bipolar steady state charge distribution of pollutant aerosols. This
may lead to increased lung deposition on inhalation."
According to some other studies, the effects of corona ions can be
seen up to 600 meters away from power lines.
"A particularly important finding from Dr Draper?s work is the
increase in childhood leukaemia up to 600 metres from powerlines, well
beyond the range of powerline magnetic fields. In order to understand
this finding we need to consider the separate effects of the magnetic
fields and electric fields associated with powerlines."
"... powerline electric fields act differently. The intense electric
field on the surface of powerline cables is sufficient to ionise the
air, producing so-called corona ions. This process is the cause of the
characteristic buzzing or crackling of powerlines. Corona ions are
small electrically-charged particles which, when emitted from
powerlines attach themselves to particles of air pollution, making
these particles more likely to be trapped in the lung when inhaled. In
this way people living near powerlines may be exposed to increased
levels of air pollution. Crucially, corona ions can be carried several
hundred metres from powerlines by the wind, so effects may be felt
much further away than for magnetic fields."
"Corona ions are routinely emitted from high voltage powerlines,
especially in wet conditions outdoors. In the 1950s, corona ions
effects were measured up to 7 kilometres from powerlines both in the
UK and in Germany. In today?s conditions, we have measured corona ions
up to 7 kilometres from a high voltage powerline near Glastonbury,
Somerset. We have previously estimated that on average corona ion
effects, significant to adversely affect human health, extend to 400
metres from powerlines. In this regard, the findings by Dr Draper of
increased childhood leukaemia up to 600 m from powerlines in clearly
That study can be found in the British Medical Journal here:
STUDY OF CHILDHOOD LEUKAEMIA NEAR POWERLINES
by Draper G., Vincent T., Kroll M.E. and Swanson J., Friday 3rd June 2005
In conclusion, your relative may indeed have worse effects from his
multiple chemical sensitivity, due to corona ions in the air generated
from the power lines attaching themselves to chemicals he already has
a reaction to and increasing their absorption. This effect cannot be
guaranteed, and would depend on many factors, including:
--how high of a voltage the power lines are
--exactly what chemicals he has reactions to
--how prevalent those chemicals are in the area where he will live
--how much time he spends outside
--whether the house is downwind from the power lines
--whether he is sensitive to electromagnetic fields as in EHS
However, if none of these factors exist, that is, if the power lines
are low-voltage; he lives upwind from them; there are no prevalent
chemicals or pollutants in the air; and he doesn't spend much time
outside, he would be fine as far as the power lines go. The corona
ionization is only an indirect threat, and would only cause problems
if the toxins were in the air in the first place around the home.
There are no direct chemicals from the power lines and the only
problem he would have then is if he is sensitive to the
chemicals + "power lines"
"power lines" + chemical sensitivity (on Google Scholar)
"corona ions" + mcs
pubmed: "Increased exposure to pollutant aerosols"
"corona ions" + chemical absorption
STUDY OF CHILDHOOD LEUKAEMIA NEAR POWERLINES (Google Scholar)
If you need any additional clarification, please let me know and I'll
be happy to help. Thank you!