Author Topic: Magnetic (mains frequency) vs. electronic (high frequency) ballasts & health  (Read 1835 times)
arcblue
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Magnetic (mains frequency) vs. electronic (high frequency) ballasts & health « on: July 13, 2015, 04:14:17 PM » Author: arcblue
I have been thinking lately about health effects of being around so many electronics nowadays. Granted, most of us use cell phones, computers and microwave ovens every day and are sometimes unfortunately in close proximity of WiFi transmitters, cell towers, and electric transmission lines, and we've all heard of the health risks. But those of us on this board in particular, have more of, and are in closer proximity to lighting ballasts than the average person.

I haven't found conclusive information as to whether electronic high-frequency (HF) fluorescent ballasts are safer than electromagnetic (EM) coil & core ballasts running at mains frequency, or vice-versa. I've seen references to EM ballasts generating more EMF, and HF ballasts more likely to generate RFI. I've read more accounts that say old EM ballasts cause more health problems (including headaches & seizures from lamp flicker) and the general consensus is HF ballasts are better in every way and old EM ballasts should be thrown away. But that may only be hype so people will spend money.

I tend to think the biggest reason why HF ballasts took over is because they are cheaper to manufacture, though they have other advantages that appeal to the general public. I wonder if having any device operating at a high frequency - switchmode power supplies, radio transmitters, etc. could increase cancer risk over a mains-frequency transformer.

Are any of you aware of any opinions, data or studies on this? Or in general -  is EMF more a concern than RFI, and does being in close proximity to a device vibrating at 60Hz any "safer" than 20,000 Hz? I think most of us here value our lives AND don't want to stop using our vintage ballasts.
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Ash
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Re: Magnetic (mains frequency) vs. electronic (high frequency) ballasts & health « Reply #1 on: July 13, 2015, 04:45:26 PM » Author: Ash
I think in most applications (the ballast being way up somewhere in the ceiling, and most commonly, in metal body lantern that shields it even more), the only significant health effect is from the flicker/lack of flicker in the light. That is obviously in favor of the HF

Electrical and Magnetic field strength goes down with square of the distance from teh source. So exceptional cases may be when the ballast is very close to the user (say in a desk lamp), then it may have some effect, probably still very small and i'd tend to say negligible compared to other stuff (like a line interactive UPS with allways energized 1KVA transformer under the computer desk....). I am not sure which way the effect goes - Mag ballasts appear to emit stronger fields. but i dont know what are the differences between effect of 50/60 Hz vs 30 KHz (typical of HF ballast) on us....

Also may be worth considering the shape of "emitter". There is one unshielded conductor carrying the ballast output current in every lighting installation, that is the lamp itself. Linear lamp is just what it is. a Twin Tube CFL is folded in half and quite tight (well tighter than the wave length), so the 2 stretches of tube going in parallel pretty much canceol out the fields of each other....



Health effects probably are not related at all to the electronic ballasts catching on. What really made them go is promised energy savings (whether they do or dont achieve the promises), manufacture cost, shipping cost (they are lighter so it becomes more profitable to ship them from China), appealing to end users (no flashing in startup, no flicker), dumbed down maintenance (no starter that may need replacing too), and stuff like that
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tolivac
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Re: Magnetic (mains frequency) vs. electronic (high frequency) ballasts & health « Reply #2 on: July 14, 2015, 12:58:23 AM » Author: tolivac
I quit worrying about electrical feild some time ago.I work with broadcast transmitters and presently a plant where I am sorrounded by 8 250Kw SW broadcast transmitters.Right now 2 are on.One of these has a SS PSM modulator-kinda like a switching lamp ballast runs at 35Khz.Of all things used to hear it faintly while running.I don't worry when running my lights.2 of them have 400W switching-digital ballasts-they can run HPS,MH or even pulse start 400W bulbs.Before working at this site-worked at a broadcast plant that had 10Kw and 50Kw AM med wave broadcast transmitters.Used to mow their tower feild.Still around with no weird effects.Its the highewr frequency VHF and UHF bands that are truely dangerous.Stay away from their antennas when activated.Their wavelength is close to your body length and can cook you!Commercial FM and TV.
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Medved
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Re: Magnetic (mains frequency) vs. electronic (high frequency) ballasts & health « Reply #3 on: July 14, 2015, 08:45:00 AM » Author: Medved
You will need way stronger field to become noticeable even after long time exposure...
There are way more prominent health effects from all the technological gadgets around: Prolonged day yielding not enough sleep, artificial lights everywhere, so no natural darkness/light cycles anymore, nearly permanent noise from all the entertainment things ("background" music, radio, TV...), not enough natural sunlight (staying indoors), and so on...
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Roi_hartmann
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Re: Magnetic (mains frequency) vs. electronic (high frequency) ballasts & health « Reply #4 on: July 14, 2015, 12:30:07 PM » Author: Roi_hartmann
I work with mobile networks(one of those monkeys that climbs up to the mast) so Im way more concerned about RF of those equipment than any lighting related equiptment. I also do work with microwave links and microwave RF is especially dangerous to eyes. Previously Ive worked with TV and FM transmitters and especially antenna and mast working related to those (as well as microwave links for those aplications). So for me, those are much more potential health risk than low level EMI or RFI.
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hannahs lights
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Re: Magnetic (mains frequency) vs. electronic (high frequency) ballasts & health « Reply #5 on: July 14, 2015, 02:09:40 PM » Author: hannahs lights
I think that the radiated energy from HF ballasts is so small that it's nothing to get worried about think about it say 40 watts generated maybe 40 micro watts radiated that's nothing is it? I have been in an antena field with something like 3 megawatts of RF radiated from 6 500 Kw HF senders and I'm fine (although some would say I'm mad) as for 50 cycle emissions its all around us low level within your house but probably would be fairly powerful if you were near an overhead transmission circuit
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Ash
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Re: Magnetic (mains frequency) vs. electronic (high frequency) ballasts & health « Reply #6 on: July 14, 2015, 04:29:47 PM » Author: Ash
Inside the home, properly done home wiring (so without "shortcuts" of taking Neutrals from other circuits), each cable carries equal and opposing currents, so emits pretty much nothing

With overhead lines, it is possible to estimate how much field you might be getting if you know the current in the line - the rest is plain geometry. But most of times the current in the line is a guess at best....

With magnetic cores (ballasts, transformers), most flux goes through the core and small part through the air. But the field from them may be more pronounced than field from other sources, if they are close by - Interference on CRT monitors can show when something emits a strong field at mains frequency....

I doubt that the fields from a ballast or the lamp it powers (assme the lamp as a stretch of wire in the air, on which the current is not cancelled out by another nearby wire) are significant. But we do have some other sources around that may be of concern, and very close by, which is why their effect would be more pronounced. What comes to mind to me is cheap UPSes with plastic enclosures. Get a thin sheet metal PC case next to one of them and youll hear well the emitted field....
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