Is Radiation From Hybrid Vehicles Cause for Concern?

Angular Rear Exterior View - 2004 Honda Insight 3dr HB CVT w/Air Cond

Angular Rear Exterior View - 2004 Honda Insight 3dr HB CVT w/Air Cond

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Could hybrid cars actually be dangerous to drivers?  It seems like an unfounded question.  How could hybrids actually hurt their occupants?  A study conducted by a research committee funded by the Environmental Protection group of Israel suggests that hybrid could actually be harmful to the environment and humans, as well.  The study found "surplus" radiation in some hybrid models.

The study took 9 months to conduct and the research group focuses on hybrid models sold in Israel, as well as worldwide.  The "surplus" radiation is generated by the electromagnetic field made by AC current flowing from the batteries to the engine and back again.  This type of radiation, known as non ionizing radiation, is similar to that found in a typical cellphone.  How dangerous is this type of radiation?  The answer remains to be discovered.

Numbers for acceptable levels of this type of radiation vary.  According to the Truth About Cars report, "The Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency (ARPANSA) recommends a limit of 1,000 mG (milligauss) for a 24 hour exposure period. While other guidelines pose similar limits, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) deemed extended exposure to electromagnetic fields stronger than 2 mG to be a "possible cause" for cancer. Israel's Ministry of Health recommends a maximum of 4 mG."

Last year, controversial research conducted by a website called Walla! found that driving a  previous generation Toyota Prius in a normal manner at constant speeds produced from 14 to 30 mG.  The numbers vary depending upon your position within the vehicle.  Furthermore, testing has shown that radiation is the highest when the batter is either nearly full or nearly empty.

What do the numbers mean?  Is it unsafe to drive a hybrid?  The numbers have little meaning without comparison to other objects and without medical proof that exposure to this type and level of radiation is harmful.

Even without medical evidence, the Ministry of Environmental Protection in Israel is expected to post the results of the study which includes many different hybrid vehicles.  If published, this radiation list will be the first of its kind in the world.  The list will be broke down into 3 categories including safe, excessive, and an unlisted group.  The current Prius will be placed in the safe group.  But the Honda Insight and Civic Hybrid are expected to land in the excessive group.

The research committee that conducted the investigation also recently advised that the Israeli Police force omit hybrid cars from its fleet of vehicles due to medical concerns.

While it's possible that radiation could be a concern, proof is needed before any undue determination is made. Publicly posting results to this study without concrete proof of proven medical concerns is irresponsible and ill advised.  Take the findings of this study with caution as hybrids have been on our roads here for more than a decade with no known radiation related illnesses reported.

Source:  The Truth About Cars

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Comments (11)
  1. There have to be populations that have had this type of exposure over many years - should not be all that hard to research.
    Same with exposure to things in the hospitals that people get all in a tither about. Nurses have been exposed for lifetimes.
    Too many people (like the ones in İsrael) prefer to stir the pot rather than do the work it seems.

  2. Technically, every car I've ever owned generates radiation when I turn the headlights on. Or when any of the dashboard lights come on. Or when the sparkplugs fire, though I once had a car that didn't have sparkplugs. :-)
    The electromagnetic field from the PWM controller on a hybrid is somewhere between sparkplugs or AM radio. You can pick up both on the AM radio of any car, especially cars with crappy sparkplug wires.
    My personal assessment is that the PWM controller's field is at least as safe as having an AM radio station in your part of the world -- but I haven't exactly done a study to prove it.

  3. Years ago we had a radio news host in LA who would periodically play a tape clip of a voice exclaiming, "Just what we need, another problem", LOL. I wonder how the health risk from this radiation compares to the health risk from breathing the emissions from a conventional ICE car? I think that I might prefer to take my chances with the former.

  4. This is the most ignorant load of 'researcher looking for funding' BS I've ever heard.
    1) The EV side of a hybrid is extensively shielded to prevent Interference. Please refer to your relevant national standard related to RFI. ANY device that generates a frequency has to be tested (at considerable expense) by a certified lab to ensure that generated frequency does not cause RFI. That means anything from a welder to a computer, anything with a microprocessor, needs to be certified and registered by a national authority. The 3 phase synchronous motor in a hybrid usually runs on a 20Khz carrier frequency so DEFINITELY has to pass RFI testing.
    2) Why don't these Jewish clowns go and measure the radiation off a fridge or lightbulb??... both would have less shielding and longer exposure times. Let me guess, no oil company would be willing to offer funding to publish totally unsubstantiated reports on those household items.

  5. What a load of crap. We have wires with constant AC current all around us, all the time in our homes, resturants and lining our roads everywhere we go. In no way would driving a hybrid or electric car be any more hazardous to our health then standing near your breaker box in your home or standing in front of your stove while you cook.

  6. Hopefully they will fix this if this is a prevalent problem. In the meantime, I just got the Fuel Doctor FD-47 which has been pretty solid :)

  7. The author has it wrong! "This type of radiation, known as non ionizing radiation, is similar to that found in a typical cellphone." Cell phones are microwave radiation
    which causes cateracts, heats tissue and causes damage. Non-ionizing radition is of MUCH lower energy level and has never been proven to even have an effect on living cells. The premise of this piece is bunk.
    Radiation sounds scarey but what's worse is ignorance.
    Ya'll do more damage talking on your cell phones than
    what you'd get sitting in or driving a hybrid.
    During the 1st Clinton administration G.W Bush asked that
    research be conducted to ascertain the impact. It was
    done. Results? INCONCLUSIVE! We don't yet have the tools yet to learn about any effect, if any. That is
    still the case in 2010. Stop the hysteria folks!

  8. @Ron: The author is right about non-ionizing radiation. The microwave spectrum is actually part of the non-ionizing spectrum. See the following:
    However, I don't understand what he means when it says on the home page about this article. The sentence follwing the article title says, "Could hybrid cars actually be dangerous to the environment?" This isn't an environmental issue, but a personnal health issue.

  9. We live in houses surrounded by wiring in the walls delivering power to lights, tv's, heaters, refrigerators, etc. all of which radiate. Why doesn't the study include all these? Oh and the sun radiates too, maybe we shouldn't go outside.

  10. Every stick has two ends. That's a rule of thumb. So expect to have some side effects driving a hybrid or an EV.
    And I agree with an opinion, that we should be cautious, but not panic.

  11. In today's tech-savvy world, I don't believe people could ever be radiation free. With about every gadget we own is a potential radiation hazard. Although I don't believe they could be deadly for the time being.

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