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Exposure to Radiation from the Electric Grid in Schools

 

One of the sources of electromagnetic radiation in the school environment in Israel is that emanating from the electric grid (Extremely Low Frequency – ELF). Among the electric installations emitting radiation in the vicinity of educational institutions are: high tension wires above and below ground, electricity pillars, transformers, primary and secondary electric boards, etc.).

 

The Ministry of Health, Ministry of Education, Ministry of Environmental Protection and the Israel Electricity Company (IEC) stated their positions regarding radiation from the electric grid in the school vicinity in a collaborative position paper published on this subject, entitled "Electromagnetic radiation in the student environment" in a Ministry of Education CEO Circular and in the recommendations of the Ministry of Environmental Protection.

An electrical cabinet

An electrical cabinet

 

All these bodies agreed that the precautionary principle should be implemented to reduce the exposure of students to a minimum, while balancing between the level of risk due to exposure and the economic and social costs of  making changes in the infrastructure.

 

In a 2010 Position Paper (pdf document available for downloading - Hebrew), a number of operational approaches were proposed, to reduced exposure from the electric grid.  Among other issues it was agreed that in installing a new electrical system or maintaining an existing one in an educational institution or in its vicinity, the responsible body – the Electricity Company or the Ministry of Education would ensure that the system be installed and maintained in such a way that the electromagnetic fields in its vicinity would be minimal.  It was also agreed that the Ministry of Environmental Protection would monitor the radiation levels within schools, and would give precedence to measurement at locations where information on electric boards in walls adjacent to classrooms was available.

 

The 2013 Ministry of Education CEO Circular included guidelines regarding radiation from the electric grid in schools.  According to these,  in every school where communications equipment and end-devices have been installed, radiation measurements would be performed by authorized personnel before and after installation and operation, to ensure that the radiation levels were in accordance with Ministry of Environmental Protection requirements.

 

The Ministry of Environmental Protection conducted an experimental project to measure electromagnetic radiation levels in 40 schools throughout the country.  In May 2013 preliminary results of sample measurements of radiofrequency (RF) radiation from electrical equipment in 25 schools were published, in collaboration with the Ministry of Education. The findings showed that in no case did the exposure level from external sources deviate from the permitted levels.  Conversely, deviations in exposure to radiation from internal equipment inside the schools were detected.

 

As a result, the Ministry of Environmental Protection recommended placing the electric boards at a distance of about 1.5 meters from students' desks.

 

In 2014 further radiation measurements were performed by the Ministry of Environmental Protection.  Many additional measurements were made by local authorities and the Ministry of Education.  Where exposure levels exceeded the permitted levels, site solutions were found to reduce the levels, and those were remediated.

 

 

Policies of government ministries regarding radiation from the electric grid in the school environment:

 

Sources of ELF exposure in educational institutions in Israel

Exposure to ELF radiation in educational institutions in Israel is mainly from electrical installations, including:

  • High tension wires above and below ground in the vicinity of educational institutions
  • Electrical pillars within the school or its vicinity
  • Primary and secondary electric boards
  • Three-phase air-conditioning circuits in the schools
  • Additional internal sources of radiation within the grounds of the school related to the distribution grid of electricity – distribution lines, transformers, electric pillars, electricity boards, old fluorescent lights, etc.
  • Electrical instruments connected to an outlet, such as computers or mobile phone chargers

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Responsibility for student safety

The sharing of authority and responsibility in the educational system was specified in a Government Resolution (#481, dated 22.7.2001on the issue of the correction of safety deficiencies and removal of safety hazards in educational institutions.)

 

This resolution stipulated that direct responsibility for the safety of students in official educational institutions devolved upon the local authority, while in recognized but unofficial institutions it devolved on private owners.  The resolution also stated that the overall responsibility for student safety in educational institutions devolved upon the Ministry of Education.

 

By virtue of this responsibility, the Ministry of Education guides the local authorities and private owners in supervising the internal sources of radiation, through CEO Circulars.

 

Responsibility for the supervision of external sources of radiation devolves on the Ministry of Environmental Protection, in accordance with the Non-Ionizing Radiation Law (pdf document available for downloading - Hebrew).

 

 

The Ministries of Health, Education, and Environmental Protection, and the Israel Electricity Company, stated their positions regarding radiation from the electric grid in the school vicinity.  

The following is a summary of the policy in Israel on this subject, based on various policy statements.

 

Position paper on the subject of electromagnetic radiation in the student environment 18.11.10

In November 2010, a position paper on the subject of "Electromagnetic radiation in the student environment"  was published.  The paper was prepared by Prof Siegal Sadetzki, on behalf of the Ministry of Health, in collaboration with representatives of the Ministry of Environmental Protection, the Ministry of Education and the Israel Electricity Company.  Among other issues it dealt with magnetic and electric fields. The purpose of the position paper was to summarize the various types of exposures to non-ionizing radiation from  artificial sources, to which the student in the educational system is exposed, and to lead to a comprehensive discussion on the steps necessary to reduce this exposure and protect student health.

 

The guiding principle in formulating the document was that there exists an ethical, moral and legal obligation on the part of the educational system and the government to protect children's health, by implementing the precautionary principle within the educational system too. 

 

Among other issues the position paper discussed the magnetic and electric fields emanating from the electric grid (ELF).

 

The guiding principle that was agreed upon is the precautionary principle, which advocates reducing to a minimum the exposure of students and others in the school grounds, while balancing between the level of risk due to exposure and the economic and social costs of making changes in the infrastructure.  It was also stated that the difference between new infrastructures and existing ones should be considered, in view of the cost involved in making changes in such infrastructures.

 

The position paper proposed a number of approaches to reducing exposure, such as:

  • Installation and continuous maintenance of  electrical systems by the Electricity Company – in a way that ensures minimal electromagnetic radiation exposure in the student environment, according to the best available technology;
  • Taking steps to increase public awareness and knowledge on this issue;
  • Preparation of a program for the Ministry of Environmental Protection to monitor all schools and kindergartens during one school year, according to a list prioritizing particular institutions. Preference would be given to measurement in locations where information on electricity boards in walls adjacent to classrooms was available.  Where the measurements obtained exceed the permitted levels (according to the Ministry of Environmental Protection and the Ministry of Health), immediate steps would be taken to reduce exposure.

 

Ministry of Education document: "Adaptation of the Educational System to the 21st Century – Integration of communications equipment and computers in schools – health and safety consequences"  (10.7.2012) (pdf document available for downloading - Hebrew) 

The document was prepared by an inter-ministerial team composed of representatives of the Ministry of Education, the Ministry of Environmental Protection and the Ministry of Health, and also dealt with the issue of exposure to ELF radiation in educational institutions (the document was based on the 2010 position paper).

 

The document included the following statements:

  • Charging of end-user-devices such as mobile phones is forbidden in classrooms, and designated areas will be provided outside the classroom for this purpose, so that the charge point will be at a distance of at least 3 meters from passers-by.
  • If fixed computers are used in the classroom, the power source will be at a distance of at least 1 meter from the students and the teacher.
  • A program for information and educated behavior of students regarding electromagnetic radiation in the home will be prepared.

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Ministry of Education CEO Circular: "Introduction of Communications Equipment and end-user-devices in schools – Health and Safety Considerations " – Hebrew  

This circular, published on 8.7.2013, dealt with a variety of subjects related to radiation in schools, and also included the following recommendations regarding ELF radiation:

  • Radiation measurements: At every school where communications equipment and end-user-devices are installed, radiation measurements must be performed by authorized personnel before and after installation and operation, with the equipment in full operational force throughout the school, to ensure that the radiation levels were in accordance with Ministry of Environmental Protection requirements.
  • Program for information and educated use of technologies – the school will prepare an age-adapted information program to provide knowledge on electromagnetic and RF radiation, under the Ministry of Education's program on "Educated use of wireless and cellular networks and electrical instruments".
  • Minimizing exposure levels: when installing a new system or maintaining an existing one in an educational institution or its vicinity, the responsible body (school, local authority) must ensure that the installation and maintenance be carried out in a way that  will ensure that radiation is minimal, in accordance with the best available technology.
  • Charging of end-user-devices of any kind, including mobile phones, will be prohibited in the classroom.  Designated areas will be provided outside the classroom for this purpose, so that the charge point will be at a distance of at least 3 meters from passers-by.  In these areas charging will be permitted only for end-user-devices used in educational activities in the school.  They will be clearly signposted.
  • Charging end-user-devices at the teacher's post is to be avoided as much as possible.  If the teacher's end-user-device must be charged, this may be done on condition that the charger will be at a distance of at least 20 cm from the user.
  • The school must ensure that fixed computers and power supplies for flat screens used within the school grounds will be situated so that the power supply will be at least 20 cm away from the teacher and the students.
  • The school must ensure that where old-type screens are used, the back of the screen will be situated at least 20 cm away.

 

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Electricity Company recommendations for reducing exposure of students to magnetic fields

As part of the Electricity Company's policy to reduce public exposure to magnetic fields, the Company prepared a Guide including recommendations for planning new electrical equipment/caring for existing equipment in schools (pdf document available for downloading - Hebrew)

 

The recommendations aim to reduce the intensity of magnetic fields in accordance with the precautionary principle (reduction through accepted and inexpensive technical means). 

 

In 2008, in answer to a request from the Ministry of Education, the Electricity Company conducted a survey to examine the electrical equipment in a number of schools, and the characteristics of the fields in these institutions (belonging to the school and not as part of the electric grid).  It was found that in some locations, magnetic fields of up to about 100 millligauss were detected on a wall in a classroom, and up to 20 milligauss on students' desks.  These levels are higher than the recommended exposure levels for magnetic fields in Israel.  It should be noted that the recommendations for maximum permitted exposure levels for radiation from electrical equipment, as defined in 2011, are: 2000 for short-term (momentary) exposure and 4 milligauss on daily average as measured on the busiest day (continued and sustained exposure). The full results of this survey have not yet been published.

 

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Radiation measurements on electrical equipment at schools 

The Ministry of Environmental Protection, in collaboration with the Ministry of Education, published results of sample measurements of RF and ELF radiation, conducted by the Public Council for Noise, Radiation and Pollution Prevention in Israel (Hebrew acronym: MALRAZ). 

 

The purpose of the measurements was to ensure that children are not exposed to unreasonable levels of radiation emitted by installations outside the school, such as power lines, transformers, communication antennas, radio, TV and cellular devices, which are under the supervision of the Ministry of Environmental Protection.

 

The results of the measurements at schools and kindergartens are available on the Ministry of Environmental Protection Website - Hebrew.

 

Results for 2013

Out of 25 schools investigated, none displayed exposure levels exceeding the permitted level from external radiation sources. 

However deviating exposures were found with respect to internal equipment within the school precincts (sources connected to the electric grid distribution, including: distribution lines, transformers, electricity cupboards, electricity boards, old-style fluorescent lighting, and electric motors).

The schools are responsible for maintaining these sources.  In each case where deviations were measured, recommendations for correcting the deficiency were given.

 

Results of Ministry of Environmental Protection measurements in 2014.

Radiation measurements were made at 135 educational institutions. 

 

At 58 schools at least one room showed radiation exposure levels exceeding the thresholds recommended by the Ministry of Environmental Protection (mostly from internal equipment, electricity boards). 

 

In addition to these measurements, a number of other measurements, supervised by the Ministry, were made by local authorities and the Ministry of Education.  Wherever deviations were detected, solutions were found to reduce the exposure levels.

 

The Ministry of Environmental Protection published recommendations for performing radiation measurements to reduce exposure in schools - Hebrew  and recommended that such measurements be carried out at all schools throughout the country.

 

Moreover, the Electricity Company, is responsible for the maintenance of installations dealing with production, conduction, distribution and supply of electricity, including high tension landlines, and power lines above and below the ground, secondary stations, transformers, and low tension lines, up to the stage of deployment in the schools.

 

State Comptroller's comments (2014) on the subject of radiation in schools

The latest State Comptroller's Report - Hebrew dealing, inter alia, with the activities of local authorities and private owners regarding non-ionizing radiation in educational institutions, stipulated that the guidelines for measuring this radiation in schools were inadequate.

 

This was because there were no Ministry of Education recommendations for measuring non-ionizing radiation from internal electrical sources in educational institutions.  According to his report, the Ministry of Education had prepared a checklist in 2012, detailing the tests that local authorities and private owners should perform in all educational institutions, and the frequency at which they should be performed.  One of the paragraphs specified the need to measure radiation from transformers and electric fields within the schools.

 

The State Comptroller's Report found that the Ministry of Education had not, through CEO Circulars, instructed the local authorities and private owners to conduct radiation measurements from electrical sources within the schools,

 

The State Comptroller recommended that the Ministry of Education provide clear and binding instructions to the local authorities and private owners for conducting these measurements.

 

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For further information on radiation from the electric grid in schools:

If you wish to obtain further information on this subject for a specific school, you may refer to the following:

 

References

  • Ministry of Education position paper on adaptation of the educational system to the 21st Century - "Introduction of Communications Equipment and end-user-devices in schools – Health and Safety Considerations" 10.7.2012.(Hebrew)
  • Ministry of Education CEO Circular "Introduction of Communications Equipment and end-user-devices in schools – Health and Safety Considerations " 8.7.2013. 
  • Position paper on "Electromagnetic radiation in the school environment". 18.11.10 (The position paper was prepared following a discussion at the Internal Affairs and Environmental Protection Committee of the Knesset on 31.5.2010)
  • Ministry of Environmental Protection Website.
  • Electricity Company Website – Electricity Company recommendations for reducing student exposure to magnetic fields
  • Website of Public Council for Noise, Radiation and Pollution Prevention in Israel (Hebrew acronym: MALRAZ).
  • State Comptroller's Report – 2014 – section on Local Authorities

 

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