Increased exposure to pollutant aerosols under high voltage power lines

Int J Radiat Biol. 1999 Dec;75(12):1505-21. doi: 10.1080/095530099139115.


Purpose: To assess increased exposure to airborne pollutants near power lines by investigating theoretically and experimentally the behaviour of 222Rn decay product marker aerosols in the 50 Hz electric field under power lines.

Materials and methods: The behaviour of aerosols in outdoor air including those carrying 222Rn decay products was modelled theoretically in the presence of an AC field. TASTRAK alpha-particle spectroscopy was used to characterize 218Po and 214Po aerosols outdoors. Sampling points were chosen along a line at right angles up to 200 m from a number of high voltage power (transmission) lines. Each sampling point comprised an arrangement of mutually orthogonal TASTRAK detectors. Exposures were carried out at different power line locations in various weather conditions.

Results: The model predicts a two- to three-fold increase in deposition of aerosols on spherical surfaces mimicking the human head under high voltage power lines. Experimental measurements using detectors mounted on grounded metal spheres showed an enhanced deposition of both 218Po and 214Po aerosols. Enhanced 218Po deposition on 400 kV lines ranged from 1.96+/-0.15 to 2.86+/-0.32. Enhanced 214Po deposition on 275 kV and 132 kV lines were 1.43+/-0.07 and 1.11+/-0.21, respectively, where the latter value was not significant.

Conclusions: The observations demonstrate a mode of increased exposure to pollutant aerosols under high voltage power lines by increased deposition on the body. The total (indoor + outdoor) 218Po and 214Po dose to the basal layer of facial skin is estimated to be increased by between 1.2 and 2.0 for 10% of time spent outdoors under high voltage power lines.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aerosols
  • Air Pollutants, Radioactive / adverse effects
  • Air Pollutants, Radioactive / chemistry*
  • Atmosphere
  • Calibration
  • Child
  • Electromagnetic Fields* / adverse effects
  • Environmental Exposure*
  • Head
  • Humans
  • Leukemia, Radiation-Induced / etiology
  • Mathematical Computing
  • Models, Chemical
  • Polonium / chemistry
  • Radiation Dosage
  • Radiation Monitoring
  • Radon / chemistry
  • Radon Daughters / chemistry
  • Spectrum Analysis / methods


  • Aerosols
  • Air Pollutants, Radioactive
  • Radon Daughters
  • Polonium
  • Radon