This is a difficult topic to address. I’ve been down the road with the FCC (Federal Communications Commission) and understand arbitrary controls that bureaucrats can define and enforce. What follows is of extraordinary importance to readers and to U.S. industry.
The issues explored here relate to “Reassessment of FCC Radiofrequency Exposure Limits and Policies – Docket #13-84” and “Proposed Changes to the Commission Rules Regarding Human Exposure to Radiofrequency Electromagnetic Fields – Docket #03-137.”
The FCC has not revised rules for human exposure to electromagnetic fields (EMF) since August 1996. Indeed, the FCC has problems setting standards due to evolving scientific understanding of human health effects. Regulations for permissible exposure to various EMF frequencies and power levels are based on studies of specific adsorption rate (SAR) and resulting “thermal effects.”
It is now evident that 3-5% of humans experience adverse effects at low levels of EMF exposure and most people suffer some types of tissue alteration or “non-thermal” damage from exposure to EMF at low frequency and power levels, specifically DNA modifications.
Investigating the status of these matters indicates that the cited references of pending regulations have received 894 public replies as of the start of May 2014 regarding exposure guidelines, everything from nut cases to conspiracy theorists to reasoned medical descriptions. They make for interesting reading, so Google it for a fun few hours.
But now let us focus on why all this is important. Industrial electric furnaces and induction heating and welding tools are all examples of non-communication uses of EMF above 9 kHz, and they are regulated by the FCC with “maximum permissible exposure” limits for field strengths and power densities operating between 300 kHz and 100 GHz. The human body may not experience thermal effects below 300 kHz, but there is now major concern about non-thermal effects. The proposed FCC regulations extend exposure regulations down to zero, so most industrial activity in welding, induction heating, plating, power distribution, transformers, motors and controllers, and essentially all electronic devices would be under the FCC regulatory umbrella.
In addition to potential FCC regulatory changes, it is advisable to review what other studies have examined. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists (ACGIH), World Health Organization (WHO), National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) and Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers (IEEE) all have reports available on this new area of concern about extra-low frequency (ELF) radiation between 1 Hz and 300 kHz. Of special interest are reports on threshold limit values (TLVs) from ACGIH and report C95.6-2002 from IEEE on safety levels in human exposure.
Businesses must prepare for potential changes and may want to perform an EMF survey of their facilities. This usually results in: advising personnel with implanted electronic devices to avoid restricted areas; posting warning signs; restricting access to areas with high ambient levels; and installing additional shielding around EMF-emitting cable feeds, devices and equipment. It is this latter action that could impose a financial burden on industry. A place to call for guidance on sources, methods and documentation of such a survey is AM Health and Safety Inc. of Pittsburgh, Pa. (412-429-0560; www.amhealthandsafety.com).
In order to become aware of issues and mobilize collective actions, it is suggested that readers become informed and engage assistance. This can be accomplished by contacting the following industry associations:
• Industrial Heating Equipment Association (IHEA); Taylor Mill, Ky.; 859-356-1575 (www.IHEA.org)
• Association of Iron and Steel Technologies (AIST); Warrendale, Pa.; 724-814-3000 (www.AIST.org)
This situation is one that cannot be ignored. We do not yet know the outcome and/or how it will affect each individual business, so just consider this a word to the wise. IH