Queensland’s Guidelines for managing 50 Hz magnetic fields in office buildings

New paper: A curate’s egg: Queensland’s Guidelines for managing 50 Hz magnetic fields in office buildings

The origin of the phrase a curate’s egg is from the cartoon True Humility, printed in the British
satirical magazine Punch on 9th November 1895. The phrase is used to describe something which is partly good but which is ruined by its bad part, and, as a result, is now rather lost.

Don Maisch PhD, John Podd PhD, and Bruce Rapley PhD
November 15, 2016

Excerpt

In 2013 the Queensland Government released its Guidelines for the Management of 50 Hz Magnetic Fields in Office Buildings Owned and Managed by the Queensland Department of Housing and Public Works. These guidelines are the current government policy for workers’ exposure to 50 Hz mains power frequency magnetic fields in government offices.

The guidelines present a valid methodology for the measurement of magnetic fields in office buildings and are very useful in that regard.

However, the “target” level of 5 uT [5 microTesla or 50 milliGauss (mG)] as a supposedly reasonable, or acceptable level for a worker’s exposure is far from adequate and gives a disingenuous assurance of safety that is not justified in our considered opinion.
SNIP
Read the full paper here

 

EXCERPT:

A curate’s egg: Queensland’s Guidelines for managing 50 Hz magnetic fields in office buildings The origin of the phrase a curate’s egg is from the cartoon True Humility, printed in the British satirical magazine Punch on 9th November 1895. The phrase is used to describe something which is partly good but which is ruined by its bad part, and, as a result, is now rather lost. Don Maisch PhD, John Podd PhD, and Bruce Rapley PhD November 15, 2016 Background In 2013 the Queensland Government released its Guidelines for the Management of 50 Hz Magnetic Fields in Office Buildings Owned and Managed by the Queensland Department of Housing and Public Works. These guidelines are the current government policy for workers’ exposure to 50 Hz mains power frequency magnetic fields in government offices. The guidelines present a valid methodology for the measurement of magnetic fields in office buildings and are very useful in that regard. However, the “target” level of 5 uT [5 microTesla or 50 milliGauss (mG)]1 as a supposedly reasonable, or acceptable level for a worker’s exposure is far from adequate and gives a disingenuous assurance of safety that is not justified in our considered opinion. As part of its rationale for the Queensland Guidelines the authors reference the limits recommended in the Interim guidelines on limits to exposure to 50/60 Hz electric and magnetic fields (1989), set by the National Health and Medical Research Council (NH&MRC). The NH&MRC’s recommended magnetic field limits are 1000 mG for public exposures (over a 24 hour period) and 5000 mG for occupational exposures. On the surface of it, the Queensland’s Guidelines seem quite precautionary in relation to that of the much higher interim limits set by the NH&MRC. However, what is not mentioned is the significant limitation of the NH&MRC limits, which are irrelevant to the actual exposures people may receive in the workplace. This is because the NH&MRC limits are only meant to provide protection against immediate harm, such as electrostimulation, at very high levels of exposure. Dr. Keith Lokan from the Australian Radiation Laboratory (ARL), explained this in 1991 in a conference paper published in Radiation Protection in Australia. To quote, discussing the NH&MRC interim limits: One thing which we have done, though it has little direct bearing on the issue of chronic low level exposure, is to adopt the (above) recommendations on field limits. These limits represent plausible field values, below which immediate adverse health effects are unlikely, and as such serve a useful purpose. They are not intended to provide protection against possible cancer induction by continued exposure at the lower  field levels implicated in the studies… 2

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