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Roadside Air More Charged than under a High-Voltage Power Line

Despite community concerns about living under high-voltage power lines, a new study published in Science of the Total Environment has found that there are up to 15 times more charged particles beside busy roads.

“Although the effects of ions and charged particles generated by high-voltage power lines on human health is still open to conjecture, there has been a lot of attention on increased exposure due to expanding power networks in urban residential areas,” said

Dr Rohan Jayaratne of Queensland University of Technology. “However, what people do not realise is that a large number of charged particles in urban environments come from motor vehicle emissions.

“We found that the concentration of charged particles found near the Gateway and South East Freeway near Brisbane was far greater than those under corona ion-emitting overhead power lines. The difference was more than twice, even up to a distance of 40 metres. This was especially the case when the traffic included heavy-duty diesel trucks, and I think it is something to consider when new housing estates are planned.”

While Jayaratne said that there is no evidence that breathing in air ions is a health risk, approximately one-half of the fine particles that we inhale during normal breathing are deposited in our lungs. Therefore, it is not surprising that several studies have demonstrated a link between particulate pollution from exhaust fumes and adverse health effects.

“This link is stronger in urban environments where the majority of particulate matter comes from motor vehicles which are known to be harmful. Diesel emissions contain a range of toxic chemicals and have recently been classified as ‘probably carcinogenic to humans’,” Jayaratne said.

“We do not believe that ions are dangerous – the danger comes from the pollutants. The ions merely assist the particles to stick to the lungs. If there are no dangerous particles in the air to attach to the ions, there is no risk of ill health.”