Electricity is a natural and necessary element of our lives, but it can also be a deadly one.
There are hundreds of thousands of people worldwide who are exposed to electrical energy and are at risk of suffering from chronic illness, including cardiovascular disease, cancer and neurological disorders.
A new study in the journal Nature Climate Change shows that people are being exposed to a greater range of potential hazards than previously thought.
It found that, despite the recent surge in electric vehicles and electric cars in the US, the risk of developing asthma and other chronic illnesses from electrical exposure is higher than previously estimated.
This study is the latest of many to suggest that electrical exposure poses a greater risk to people than previously realised.
The study, led by Professor Michael Fournier from the University of Queensland, analysed data from more than 1,000 adults and children from four countries: the US and Australia, Japan and Sweden, and the UK.
They were followed up for more than a decade to learn more about their lives.
What they found was alarming.
“Our findings suggest that there is a much greater range than previously imagined of the risk that electrical current poses to people,” Professor Fourniers told the ABC.
“We have known for a long time that electricity is a risk factor for asthma and for cardiovascular disease but we didn’t know how significant it was for chronic health problems such as asthma and cardiovascular disease.”
So we wanted to know if there was a range of risk factors that could be overlooked.
“There were a number of different reasons why it was hard to measure and to understand the impact of electricity on health, but we wanted a good answer.”
For instance, there was no data on the type of electricity people were exposed to in the home, so it was difficult to know how much of that was exposure to electricity in the bedroom and the kitchen, or what type of energy they used at home.
“We also didn’t have enough data on how much electricity was in homes and how many of them were actually connected to the grid, which was important because if you are exposed, then you can be exposed to multiple sources of electricity in your home, even when there are no electric appliances in the house.”
The study found that electric appliances such as electric ranges were a major risk factor, with children at higher risk than adults.
In Australia, electricity was the most common source of exposure in children and adults, but for adults, the figure was about 10 per cent.
Professor Foultier said that, even in countries with relatively low levels of electricity exposure, people still had to be careful about what they use and where they put it.
“People who use electric appliances may be at risk from exposure to electric appliances as they use them in their home, which can be quite significant,” he said.
“In many places in the world people are still using appliances that are older than they should be, which means there’s a risk that exposure to older appliances could cause the same kinds of problems that people would have if they were exposed at home.”
What can you do to reduce your exposure?
Professor Foulger said people can reduce their exposure to electrical appliances by switching to more environmentally friendly appliances.
“For example, if people use electric ranges instead of gas appliances, they can also reduce the amount of energy being used in the household,” he explained.
“Electricity can be a huge factor for climate change, but the way we use it can affect our climate.”
Electricity is also an important source of CO2 emissions, which is important because we have to pay for this carbon dioxide when we use electricity.
“But if they are not using them properly, then they are exposed.””
If people are using electric appliances, and they are using them safely, they have no risk of having a problem,” he added.
“But if they are not using them properly, then they are exposed.”
The people who are using these older appliances are more likely to have a problem than people who use older appliances, so the risk is much greater.
“These old appliances are still being used, so if you think about how old they are, then if you use them for a while, then that can cause some problems.”
What we do know is that the older the appliances, the more likely they are to cause problems.
So if you look at the data that we have on people who live in areas that have high levels of exposure, there is still a risk of these older devices, but people are living longer and there is more of a possibility that they will have a more serious problem.
“But there is also a much lower risk for people who don’t have any exposure to these older types of appliances.”
What do we know about electricity?
Electricity is not just an electrical energy source.
It also has a wide range of health and environmental impacts