Technical Reports

Safety of High Speed Guided Ground Transportation Systems: Potential Health Effects of Low Frequency Electromagnetic Fields Due to Maglev and Other Electric Rail Systems

  • 01
  • Aug
  • 1993
AUTHOR: Federal Railroad Administration: William A. Creasey; Robert B. Goldberg
KEYWORDS: Electric and Magnetic fields, EMF, Extremely low frequency, ELF, Power line frequency, Static magnetic fields, Electrified rail, Magnetic levitation, Maglev, Health effects, Biological effects, Epidemiologic studies, Experimental studies
ABSTRACT: The safety of magnetically-levitated (maglev) and high-speed rail (HSR) trains proposed for use in the United States is the responsibility of the Federal Railroad Administration. There are concerns for physical safety associated with equipment operation and high-voltage currents, and for potential adverse health effects on transportation workers and the public from the electric and magnetic fields (EMF) produced in the Extremely Low Frequency (ELF) range (3-3,000 Hz). This report outlines research on the biological and health effects of EMF most relevant to fields generated by maglev and HSR systems. Among the conclusions are: epidemiologic results suggest a low-level health risk for power-line frequency ELF EMF which is, at present, the most relevant risk to ascribe to maglev systems; bioeffects may occur at specific window frequencies and intensities; of effects ascribed to EMF, the most convincing are altered circadian rhythms of melatonin secretion, modulation of transmembrane calcium transport, slight increases in the risks for some rare cancers, and mild behavioral disturbances; occupational categories used as the basis for epidemiologic studies need better definition in terms of the characteristics of EMF exposure; and, there is need to improve bioassay systems and test maglev-type fields on them.