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Magnetic Field

Definition - What does Magnetic Field mean?

Magnetic fields are the magnetic force effects that are produced by electrical currents and magnetic materials. They exert a directional force that varies in strength depending on the nature of the object or system producing the field.

Magnetic fields exist naturally in nature and are also produced by any electrical component.

Safeopedia explains Magnetic Field

The magnetic fields that are created by electrically charged devices exist alongside electric fields as parts of a greater whole, called the electromagnetic field (EMF). Due to their relationship as constituent components of EMF, occupational health and safety exposure recommendations for magnetic fields are typically provided in context with recommendations for electric fields.

The National Institute of Occupational Health and Safety (NIOSH) currently focuses its EMF research on protecting workers from three primary sources of electric and magnetic fields. These include fields generated by radio frequencies (RF), which include cell phones; extremely low frequency (ELF) electricity, which includes AC electricity; and static magnetic fields, which include DC electricity. There is a large amount of variance between how jurisdictions manage exposure to magnetic fields.

The United States does not have federal limits to magnetic field exposure, but some of its states do. The European Union and the UK follow occupational limits set out by the International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection (ICNIRP). Canada has no regulations for exposure to EMFs but recommends the limits provided by professional associations.

Exposure limit recommendations are primarily driven by the work of three main professional associations: the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE), the American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists (ACGIH), and the aforementioned ICNIRP. The ICNIRP’s recommendations provide the basis of most regulatory limits in place worldwide.

The IEEE and ICNIRP’s exposure limits do not specify a maximum duration of exposure, while the ACGIH’s exposure limits are valid for a maximum time-weighted average (TWA) exposure of eight hours per day.

The preceding exposure limit recommendations focus on preventing short-term exposure to high levels of magnetic fields. No limits have been recommended for the prevention of long-term illnesses such as cancer or neurological disorders, as the scientific data regarding the effects of EMF as a causative factor in these diseases is not well established. There are no documented instances of injury or disruption to workers wearing pacemakers or other implanted medical devices due to occupational exposure to magnetic fields; however, the ACGIH does provide exposure limits for workers wearing pacemakers, as such interference is theoretically possible.

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