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.
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.
We categorise the limits in different countries by how they compare to the 1998 ICNIRP limits.
|Type of limit||Countries||Comment|
|Limits higher than ICNIRP||Columbia||10 kV/m, 500 µT|
|Czech Republic||2.8 mA/m2 (reference levels as ICNIRP)|
|ICNIRP plus higher limits for short duration exposures||Australia (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)|
|Finland||15 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||Austria (see more below)|
|Portugal||Where time of exposure is significant|
|ICNIRP (reference levels as limits)||Brazil|
|France||New or significantly modified power lines|
|Latvia||Occupational only so far, public being implemented|
|Lithuania||Electric fields only, plus distance restrictions|
|Luxembourg||Plus advice on not building near power lines|
|New Zealand||Recommended by government but non-compulsory|
|Values different to ICNIRP but pitched at about the same level||Argentina||3 kV/m and 25 µT at edge of ROW . Power lines only.|
|Belgium||5-10 kV/m depending on land use. Electric fields only.|
|Costa Rica||8 kV/m. 15 µT edge of ROW .|
|Quantitative limits markedly lower than ICNIRP||China||0.5 mA/m2|
|Israel||Ministries of Environment and Health apply 0.4 µT (24 hour average, worst day or year) and 0.2 µT (annual average) to chronic exposure when granting permits|
|Italy (see more below)||ICNIRP + 10 µT attention value + 3 µT quality target, specific circumstances|
|Japan||3 kV/m, power lines only, ICNIRP 2010 elsewhere|
|Netherlands (see more below)||0.4 µT, dwellings and power lines, new construction|
|Poland||1 kV/m residential areas, 48 µT|
|Russian Federation||5, 10 or 50 µT [our information is not clear]|
|Slovenia||500 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 ||Denmark (see more below)||0.4 µT evaluation level used as trigger to investigate possible reduction methods|
|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:
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 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". 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. 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. 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.
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.
(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)
Exposure limits country by country
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.
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.
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.
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.
(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:
(4) A buried cable section is technically and economically efficient if
see also the source documents
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:
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.
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.
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:
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 English: link to the Swedish version no longer works):
“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.
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: