Limits in the rest of the world

We know of exposure limits in about 60 different countries.  You can download a compilation of the details of all these from the box on the right.

On this page, we provide summaries of the different countries, then further details of some countries that have attracted particular interest.

The UKthumbnail flag UK, USA flag of USA, and the Europe Unionflag of EU have pages of their own.

Summary of exposures limits in countries worldwide

This page summarises the ELF EMF public exposure limits in force in all the countries across the world that we are aware of.   We give the 50 or 60 Hz limit only.  There are lots of qualifications - see end of this block.

Download a detailed listing of the limits in each country

We categorise the limits in different countries by how they compare to the 1998 ICNIRP limits.

Type of limitCountriesComment
Limits higher than ICNIRPColumbia10 kV/m, 500 µT
 Czech Republic2.8 mA/m2 (reference levels as ICNIRP)
ICNIRP plus higher limits for short duration exposuresAustralia (see more below)10 kV/m and 1000 µT for few hours per day (interim standard, being revised) (plus a policy of spending 4% of project cost on mitigation measures)
 Finland15 kV/m and 500 µT for short periods
 Germany (see more below)10 kV/m and 200 µT for short periods or in small areas
ICNIRP[1]Austria (see more below) 
 Bulgaria 
 Croatia 
 Greece 
 Malta 
 PortugalWhere time of exposure is significant
 Slovak Republic 
 South Africa 
 Taiwan 
ICNIRP (reference levels as limits)Brazil 
 Estonia 
 FranceNew or significantly modified power lines
 Hungary 
 LatviaOccupational only so far, public being implemented
 LithuaniaElectric fields only, plus distance restrictions
 LuxembourgPlus advice on not building near power lines
 Venezuela 
ICNIRP (voluntary)[2]Cyprus 
 Ireland 
 New ZealandRecommended by government but non-compulsory
 Singapore 
 South Korea 
Values different to ICNIRP but pitched at about the same levelArgentina3 kV/m and 25 µT at edge of ROW [3].  Power lines only.
 Belgium5-10 kV/m depending on land use.  Electric fields only.
 Costa Rica8 kV/m.  15 µT edge of ROW [3].
Quantitative limits markedly lower than ICNIRPChina0.5 mA/m2
 Italy (see more below)ICNIRP + 10 µT attention value + 3 µT quality target, specific circumstances
 Japan3 kV/m, power lines only, ICNIRP 2010 elsewhere
 Netherlands (see more below)0.4 µT, dwellings and power lines, new construction
 Poland1 kV/m residential areas, 48 µT
 Russian Federation5, 10 or 50 µT [our information is not clear]
 Slovenia500 V/m, 10 µT, new facilities, designated areas
 Switzerland (see more below)ICNIRP plus 1 µT for new power lines, exemptions possible
Precautionary policy not expressed as limits [4]Denmark (see more below)0.4 µT evaluation level used as trigger to investigate possible reduction methods
 IsraelMeasures to be taken to reduce fields above level of suggested health effects; no measures needed below 0.2 µT
 Norway (see more below)0.4 µT evaluation level used as trigger to investigate possible reduction methods
 Sweden (see more below)Meaures at reasonable expense to reduce fields when radically deviating from normal
 UK (more)ICNIRP where time of exposure significant plus optimal phasing of power lines

Countries we know do not have ELF limits:

Bosnia Herzovogina
Canada
New Zealand
Peru
Phillippines
Spain
Turkey

For all other countries we are not aware of any limits but do not know for certain.

The USA does not have Federal public limits but several individual states do, listed here.

Notes

[1] Some countries use the ICNIRP reference levels as limits.  If we know this is the case, we list them in the next category.  If we know the country uses the basic restrictions, or if we don't know either way, we list them simply as "ICNIRP".

[2] There are all sorts of gradations as to how rigorously limits are applied, and just because they may be a legal requirement doesn't mean it is necessarily enforced.  But where we know that the policy is voluntary we list them separately here.

[3] In some countries, power lines run along a Right of Way (ROW) where the power company control the use of the land.  Because the field from a power line falls with distance, a limit of say 20 µT at the edge of the ROW may be equivalent to the ICNIRP limits directly under the power line.

[4] Some of the countries listed in this category do have numerical values included in their policy, but the difference is that the value is not a limit.  We know this distinction is not always clear cut!  More on precautionary policies.

General notes:

For many countries there is ambiguity and sometimes we have been told different versions by different people.  In some countries the limit is an exposure limit applying to the exposure of a person regardless of the source and in some countries it is an emission limit applying to a particular source such as a power line.  Some limits apply only to residential areas or where exposure is for a significant period of time.  Some countries have policies on development near power lines and it is not always clear if this is for EMF reasons or not.  We try to capture all these factors when we know about them but our information is almost certainly not comprehensive.

If you have any better information on any countries, we would love to hear from you!

Summary of exposure limits in European countries

This table summarises the position on exposure limits in each country in Europe. Alternatively download a detailed listing of the limits in each country.

No limits

EU Recommendation

(or ICNIRP or similar quantitative limits designed to prevent acute effects)

More restrictive quantitative limits

(either in addition or instead of EU Recommendation; often apply only in specific circumstances)

Additional protective policies

(not expressed as quantitative limits)

Not known
Bosnia-Herzegovina

Bulgaria

Cyprus

Czech Republic

Germany

Estonia

Spain

Finland

France

Greece

Hungary

Ireland

Latvia

Portugal

Romania

Slovak Republic

Austria

Belgium

Switzerland

Italy

Croatia

Lithuania

Luzembourg

Netherlands

Poland

Serbia

Slovenia

Denmark

UK

Norway

Sweden

Iceland

Montenegro

Macedonia

Exposure limits country by country

Download our detailed compilation of exposure limits in each country we are aware of.

An earlier version of this compilation was published by Eurelectric.

The World Health Organization also has a database of exposure standards.

 

Exposure limits in specific countries

Some countries have exposure limits, some do not. Some countries have attracted particular interest because of the situation regarding exposure limits in them and we give details separately here.

flag australia

Australia

The Australian exposure guidelines (described as "interim") are set by the National Health and Medical Research Council in 1989. They are similar to many other countries. For the general public, the limits are:

  • Electric fields: 5 kV m for 24 hours a day exposure, 10 kV m for a few hours per day, can be exceeded for a few minutes per day.
  • Magnetic fields: 100 µT for 24 hours a day exposure, 1000 µT for a few hours per day, can be exceeded for a few minutes per day.

Logan

A decision a few years ago relating to a city called Logan  attracted some publicity. A utility company, Energex, applied for permission to install some new equipment. Permission was initially refused, and the matter went to the Queensland Planning and Environment Court in November 2001. In fact, by the time of the hearing, Logan City Council and Energex had already reached agreement, and the Court simply endorsed that agreement. The agreement included some clauses stating that the magnetic field would not exceed 0.4 µT in certain specified locations in specified properties (the locations specified are some way back from the actual lines which run along the street). These conditions would, in fact, be met by the design of the installation originally proposed by Energex, without any alteration or modification.

Thus, this seems to be a case of pragmatic agreement reached between a company and a local authority. It does not seem to have been imposed on them by the Court or anyone else, it does not limit the maximum field produced by the equipment, and it does not seem to change the exposure limits which apply across Australia as a whole.

flag austria

Austria

Austria nationally follows the 1999 EU Recommendation.

In addition, Salzburg has introduced additional restrictions, which don't appear to be directly about EMFs, but are phrased in terms of avoiding public conflict.  They require high-voltage lines to be placed underground within 200 m or 400 m of residential areas, but only if "technically and economically efficient".

We include here our own translation of part the relevant section (section 54a) from the Salzburg law.

 

Underground Cabling
Section 54a
(1) The avoidance of conflicts of utilization is also deemed to be a public interest that must be considered in the procedure for granting a building and operation permit for line systems.

(2) To protect public interest in accordance with Par. 1, line systems with a rated voltage greater than 110 kV may in future be installed in sensitive areas only as buried cable on sections where it is technically and economically efficient to do so.

(3) Sensitive areas are deemed to be areas in which the distance measured from the axis of a line system would be less than the following:
1. 400 m between an overhead line and building land shown in the local authority zoning plan that comes within the categories cited in Section 30, Paragraph 1 Items 1 to 5 and 9 of the Salzburg Regional Planning Act 2009;
2. 200 m between an overhead line and individual buildings in permanent residential use on areas of land not dedicated in accordance with Section 30 Paragraph 1 Items 1 to 5 and 9 of the Regional Planning Act 2009.

(4) A buried cable section is technically and economically efficient if
a) from an electrical engineering perspective underground cabling is entirely feasible, having consideration for the requirements of safe operation;
b) the composition of the ground in the section concerned permits underground cabling without endangering safe operation;
c) any additional expense arising from underground cabling is reasonable when compared with an overhead line where the latter would only have a minimum possible negative impact on the public interest in accordance with Paragraph 1, taking into consideration the requirements for safe operation and the economic defensibility of the expense. When establishing this comparison, the following in particular must also be taken into account according to local conditions: the added value of underground cabling with regard to tourism, property values in the sensitive area, space saving, as well as faster project implementation due to the avoidance of conflict.

see also the source documents

Salzburg original

Salzburg 2009 translation

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Germany

Nationally, Germany originally had exposure limits based on a predecessor of the 1998 ICNIRP guidelines.  They are defined by the 26th Ordinance Implementing the Federal Immission Control Act, 16 December 1996.  The basic limits are 5 kV/m and 100 μT, with these values doubled for brief excedances totaling less than 5% of the day.

Germany then updated these to ICNIRP 2010.  ICNIRP 2010 has a reference level for magnetic fields of 200 µT instead of the previous 100 µT.  Germany has applied a precautionary factor of 2, just for 50 Hz, so that the value stays the same at 100 µT.

There is an additional provision in the Energy Line Extension Act 2009:

"In order to test the use of buried cables at extra-high voltage level in the transmission grid as a pilot scheme, the following lines named in the annex to this Act may be installed and operated as buried cable or modified in accordance with Paragraph 2:
1. Ganderkesee – St. Hülfe section of the Ganderkesee – Wehrendorf line,
2. Diele – Lower Rhine line,
3. Wahle – Mecklar line,
4. Altenfeld – Redwitz section of the Lauchstädt – Redwitz line."

The following sections specify that these lines may be placed underground within 400 m of a residential area or within 200 m of individual properties where technically and economically efficient.  It does not appear to be specifically about EMFs.

see also the source documents:

German law

Energy line extension act 2009 translation

energy line extension act 2009 original

There was previously a law in Lower Saxony making provision for undergrounding of power lines there, and which did mention EMFs.  We understand that this is superseded by this new National law and no longer applies.

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Italy

The national Italian EMF limits currently in force were set by Decree of the Prime Minister in August 2003, replacing a previous decree of 1992.

For the general public, the limits are:

  • Electric fields: 5 kV/m
  • Magnetic fields: 100 µT

In addition, for magnetic fields, and applying to overhead power lines only, there are two further values:

  • The attention value: 10 µT. Applies where exposure is for more than 4 hours per day.
  • The quality target: 3 µT. Applies to new lines and to new homes only.

(both these values are limits on the daily averages, values at times during the day can be higher)

Three Italian Regions - Veneto, Emilia-Romagna and Toscana - set exposure limits in 1999 and 2000 for power lines at 0.2 µT for new installations near nurseries, schools, hospitals, houses and places where people spend more than four hours per day. Veneto also has a similar limit of 0.5 kV/m. These regional laws remain in force, but the national Decree prevents any other Regions doing likewise.

thumbnail flag netherlands

Netherlands

In November 2005, the Netherlands Government issued a recommendation to local authorities recommending that they should no longer give permission for new homes to be built in the "0.4 µT zone" of power lines. We do not have any good information on how this has worked in practice.

The policy was confirmed in a letter of November 4th  2008.  This also clarifies that a "long stay" is taken to be at least 14-18 hours a day during one year, that the "sensitive objects" where the policy applies are dwellings, schools, and creches, and that not only the house but also the garden is part of the sensitive object.

see also the source documents:

0.4µT_Letter to municipalities 2005

VROM Dutch clarification 2008 translation

Hollande0.4µTDirections for use

Hollande_0.4µT Guidelines

Scandinavia

Finland has its own set of exposure limits introduced in 2002, similar to ICNIRP 1998.  But the other three Scandinavian countries have precautionary policies.

The Swedish policy was set out in a 1996 Statement (in Swedish or in English):

“If measures to reduce exposure can be taken at reasonable expense and with reasonable consequences in all other aspects, an effort should be made to reduce fields radically deviating from what could be deemed normal in the environment. Where new electrical installations and buildings are concerned, efforts should be made already at the planning stage to design and position them in such way that exposure will be limited. “

The following section considers “what is meant by a normal magnetic field level?” and states that the median value for homes and day nurseries in major towns or cities is approximately 0.1 µT, with 10% of homes having at least one room with a magnetic field exceeding 0.2 µT.  It therefore suggests, without being explicit, that “radically deviating from normal” should be understood in relation to these figures.

Denmark and Norway have both introduced the concept of an "investigation" level of an annual average of 0.4 µT (Norway in 2007 as a national policy, and Denmark in 2009 as a voluntary measure jointly by electricity companies and local authorities - Denmark has had a precautionary policy since 1993).  If a new installation (such as a power line) or a new home would exceed this, an investigation is made of possible ways of reducing the field.  But measures are only adopted if they are reasonable in terms of cost-benefit, safety, security of supply etc.  Typical measures that might be adopted include optimum phasing.

thumbnail flag switzerland

Switzerland

Switzerland is, as far as we know, along with Italy one of the few countries in the world to have set national limits at power frequencies based on a precautionary approach to childhood cancer.

The limits were set by an Ordinance of December 1999. It came into force 1 Feb 2001 and existing installations have three years to meet its requirements.

The basic limits are similar to many other countries – 5 kV/m and 100 µT. But in addition, for “sensitive use locations” only (basically rooms in buildings regularly occupied for significant periods of time, children’s playgrounds etc), overhead lines and underground cables greater than 1 kV, substations, and railways have a limit of 1 µT. However, exemptions are granted for new installations if all technically and operationally feasible and financially viable measures have been taken, and some old installations are granted exemptions provided some even more basic conditions are met.

Thus, this is undoubtedly an instance of precautionary limits, but applying only in specified areas, mainly to new equipment, and with exemptions.

see also the source documents:

switzerland ordinance