Protecting the environment

Electro Magnetic Fields (EMFs)

Electric and magnetic fields are invisible forces that surround electrical equipment, power cords, and wires that carry electricity, including outdoor power lines. You cannot see or feel EMFs.

Electric Fields
These are formed whenever a wire is plugged into an outlet, even when the appliance is not turned on. The higher the voltage, the stronger the electric field.

Magnetic Fields
These are formed when electric current is flowing within a device or wire. The greater the current, the stronger the magnetic field.

Electric and magnetic fields can occur separately or together. For example, when you plug the power cord for a lamp into a wall socket, it creates an electric field along the cord. When you turn the lamp on, the flow of current through the cord creates a magnetic field. Meanwhile, the electric field is still present.

Electricity plays a central role in modern society. It is used to cool and light homes and offices, prepare food, run computers and operate other household appliances, such as TVs and radios. In the UAE, appliances that plug into a wall socket use electric power that flows back and forth at a frequency of 50 cycles per second (50 hertz).

Every time you use electricity and electrical appliances, you are exposed to electric and magnetic fields (EMFs) at extremely low frequencies (ELF). The term "extremely low" is used to describe any frequency below 300 hertz. EMFs produced by the transmission and use of electricity belong to this category.

The Strength of EMFs
Electric and magnetic fields are strongest when close to their source. As you move away from the source, the strength of the fields fades rapidly. This means you are exposed to stronger electric and magnetic fields when standing close to a source (e.g., right beside a transformer box or under a high voltage power line). This rapidly reduces as you move away. When you are indoors at home, the magnetic fields from high voltage power lines and transformer boxes are very weak when compared to the fields from electrical household appliances.

Typical Exposures to EMFs at ELF
On a daily basis, most residents in the UAE are exposed to EMFs generated by household wiring, fluorescent lighting, and any electrical appliance that plugs into the wall, including hair dryers, vacuum cleaners and toasters. In the workplace, common sources include video display terminals (computer monitors), air purifiers, photocopiers, fax machines, fluorescent lights, electric air conditioning units and electric tools in machine shops, such as drills, power saws, lathes and welding machines. Magnetic fields at the edges of rights-of-way for transmission lines are typically between 4 and 20 microteslas. This is lower than the fields associated with many appliances, and far below the earth's normal field strength. As you move farther from the wires, the field strength declines. At only 70 to 100 meters away from a right-of-way, we cannot measure any magnetic field from the wires.

Can You Feel EMF
People cannot detect magnetic fields at the levels generated by power lines or in homes. We can sometimes detect electric fields because this is the force that, under the right conditions, makes our hair stand on end. You can create a similar electric field by brushing your hair or walking across a carpet on a day with low humidity.

Health Considerations
Whether EMFs are harmful and cause disease is a serious question that has been extensively investigated by scientists and doctors over the last three decades. Over 2 billion dirham’s have been spent investigating this issue around the world. Research still continues today as there are a range of divergent views on this topic however the current position of the World Health Organisation is that there is currently insufficient evidence to conclude that typical exposure to EMFs causes health problems.

Some national and international organizations (such as the International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection) have issued exposure guidelines for EMFs at ELF. However, these guidelines are not based on a consideration of risks related to cancer or other health problems. Rather, the point of the guidelines is to make sure that the electric currents in the body caused by exposure to EMFs are not stronger than the ones produced naturally by the brain, nerves and heart. For the most part, typical EMF exposures the home, office and other work sites, are far below these guidelines.

TRANSCO takes any potential risk to health seriously. It believes that responsibility for determining a maximum recommended level of exposure lies with an appropriate independent expert body. Notwithstanding the fact that the exposure level is not based on a risk of health problems, it is committed to follow the guidelines as advised by the International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection (ICNIRP).

The International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection (ICNIRP) have published guidelines for reference exposure levels for the public, they are 100 microteslas for magnetic fields. Any recorded levels above the reference levels, would require more investigation; the actual permitted levels are somewhat higher.

TRANSCO recently commissioned a Health Impact study and found the EMF readings at selected random sites to be 0.16 and 0.24 micoteslas. These readings were found under power lines and at a large substation and are clearly well below the international reference level.

All TRANSCO power lines meet the required standards. In planning new lines TRANSCO ensure they are kept as far away from existing housing as possible. However, new developments that take place after the power lines were constructed may bring homes closer to these lines.

TRANSCO is committed to addressing public concern regarding EMFs. To this end TRANSCO is prepared to investigate and measure the EMFs produced by any power lines or substations that may cause public apprehension.

More information can be found at these websites.

Environmental Impact Assessment
TRANSCO’s primary strategic objective is to ensure the provision of transmission services to meet the growing demand for water and electricity within the Emirate of Abu Dhabi. One of the ways it does this is by investing in major new infrastructure projects. Before each project starts it must go through an Environmental Impact Assessment to determine whether the project will have any detrimental effect on the surrounding environment and where necessary to identify any measures necessary to mitigate the impact. .

TRANSCO also carries out some projects which are designed to have a beneficial impact on the environment, such as replacing fluid filled cable and replacing overhead lines with underground cables.

TRANSCO takes the protection of the surrounding environment as an important responsibility of its undertaking. We set Objectives and Targets to reduce our impacts caused by our activities.

Although, we look to reduce our impacts, these are relatively small compared to other major industry. Our activity of the transmission of electricity and water, produces no direct impact on the environment. However, through other activities we undertake such as maintenance operations and the storing of materials, we generate waste and emissions.