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September 11th, 2013 MARTY SMITH | Dr. Know
 

Dr. Know: EV EMF A-OK?

I hear electric cars don’t shield riders from all that EMF they produce. Are we doomed?

drknowILLUSTRATION: Hawk Krall
     
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I hear electric cars don’t shield riders from all that electromagnetic field (EMF) radiation they produce. I pity the way the “humans” in these cars are getting their gonads micro-nuked. Are Portland’s hybrid-loving masses doomed?

—e-Haw!

The way you put “humans” in scare quotes makes me wonder just how deep you think this conspiracy goes. Do you think hybrid drivers are robots? Or holograms? Are aliens involved? Do you ever take a drink in the daytime, Mr. Haw?

Prius-driving pod people aside, you’re not alone in your electromagnetic jitters. For those not familiar with the EMF flap: As we all learned in high school, electric current produces an electromagnetic field. Some people believe heavy exposure to such a field—like you’d get if you lived near high-voltage power lines, say—can cause cancer or other maladies.

No one has proved whether these effects are real, but that hasn’t stopped some folks from expanding the penumbra of suspicion to include electric vehicles.

I’m not unsympathetic to folks who are leery of technology. Technology is scary. (Though nature, with its 100 percent-organic cholera and all-natural free-range famines, is no picnic either.) But if being in the presence of electricity is enough to kill you, we’re screwed no matter what we drive.

In 2010, Consumer Reports tested 13 vehicles and found that hybrids produced about the same amount of EMF as conventional vehicles, i.e., about 2 percent of what power lines generate. It also reported that mundane items such as electric blankets, hair dryers and computers crank out more EMF than many cars.

Of course, there are risks associated with riding in an electric vehicle. But 99 percent of them have to do with other cars, not magnetic fields. If you want to improve your chances in a hybrid, skip the lead-lined skivvies and learn to use your turn signals.


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