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More charged particles by the road than under high-voltage powerlines

May 31, 2015 | By Anthony Capkun

May 31, 2015 – While some communities may have concerns about living under high-voltage powerlines, a Queensland University of Technology (QUT) study appears to show there are far more charged particles beside busy roads.

“Although the effects of ions and charged particles generated by high-voltage powerlines 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 (photo, courtesy QUT/Erika Fish). “However, what people do not realize is that a large number of charged particles in urban environments come from motor vehicle emissions.

Conducted by Jayaratne, Dr. Xuan Ling and Prof. Lidia Morawska from QUT’s International Laboratory for Air Quality & Health, the study found that charged particles were up to 15x more concentrated within 10 metres of a freeway than beneath high-voltage powerlines.

“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 powerlines. 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.”

Jayaratne said that while there was no evidence that breathing in air ions was a health risk, about one-half of the fine particles that we inhale during normal breathing are deposited in our lungs.

“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.”

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