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