Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

Working in a lab with magnetic fields: Bio-hazardous?

  1. Apr 6, 2015 #1
    I am meeting a professor this week to see if I can work in his lab. His area of research is magnetism. In a preliminary meeting, he told me that the 'ambient' magnetic field in the lab is about twice the magnetic field of the earth. I spent about 10 minutes in the lab. There was a machine with a high-speed faulty bearing that made a really loud screeching sound. I'm not sure if it was the ambient magnetic field or the loud noise that gave me a slight headache, increased muscle tension and strained my neck a bit. Does working for prolonged periods of time in such magnetic fields pose a general risk and in particular, affect neuronal activity, keeping in mind neuronal plasticity.
     
  2. jcsd
  3. Apr 6, 2015 #2

    CWatters

    User Avatar
    Science Advisor
    Homework Helper

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Orders_of_magnitude_(magnetic_field [Broken])

    31 µT ... strength of Earth's magnetic field at 0° latitude (on the equator)
    58 µT ... strength of Earth's magnetic field at 50°
    latitude
    5 mT ... the strength of a typical refrigerator magnet
    1.5 T to 3 T ... strength of medical magnetic resonance imaging systems..

    I think it's more likely to be the loud noise that caused the headache.
    I know nothing about "neuronal plasticity".
     
    Last edited by a moderator: May 7, 2017
  4. Apr 6, 2015 #3
    The noise would probably lead to more immediate physical stress than the static magnetic field. Have you done any searching? A simple google search for static magnetic fields bio hazard returned a few good pieces. Bottom line; the magnetic field definitely will have some biological effects, but they are probably not extremely hazardous (unless of course you have implants or a pacemaker.) If the magnetic fields are alternating than the frequency definitely plays a part in their safety, generally with higher frequency fields being more hazardous.

    http://sb-sst.epfl.ch/page-22925-en.html

    http://www.engineering.dartmouth.edu/~d76205x/research/shielding/docs/Schenck_00.pdf

    http://www.stfc.ac.uk/she/resources/pdf/sc39.pdf
     
  5. Apr 6, 2015 #4
    I would think people working in such environments as hydroelectric dams would be exposed to much higher magnetic fields,
    and have never heard of health issues being associated with that.
     
  6. Apr 6, 2015 #5

    russ_watters

    User Avatar

    Staff: Mentor

    Higher intensity fields *might* have some effects, but the field being described by the OP is almost nothing and there is no (accepted) evidence that low level magnetic fields are hazardous. And there is a lot lot of crackpottery on the internet about it: it's one of the archetypal modern media-science hoaxes.
     
  7. Apr 6, 2015 #6
    I wouldn't want to be standing next to one of the LHC magnets when it's operating though ....
     
  8. Apr 6, 2015 #7

    Vanadium 50

    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor
    Education Advisor

    The magnet in a telephone speaker has a stronger field than twice the earth's, and I wouldn't mind standing next to an LHC dipole - I'd be more worried about the cryogens than the magnetic field.
     
  9. Apr 6, 2015 #8
    My concern is that all the iron atoms in my hemogoblin molecules would be very disturbed.
    But sure, I'd be deep frozen before I had second thought
     
    Last edited: Apr 6, 2015
  10. Apr 7, 2015 #9

    Vanadium 50

    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor
    Education Advisor

    Ferromagnetism is a property of bulk iron, not iron atoms. And the field strength can't just be ignored - the earth's field is tiny, and twice the earth's field is almost as tiny, compared to common magnets.
     
  11. Apr 7, 2015 #10
    Thanks for the replies. Much appreciated. About the sound of the high-speed bearing... The spectrum definitely might have had a high frequency peak along with some lower frequency ones (I'm not good at quantifying frequencies). I think I may use some noise isolating headphones. If there is any adverse effect especially from mid-range and high frequencies reaching the ear, the phones might help. I guess if one of the peaks matches a resonant frequency of a body part, there's not much I can do about that. Just some thoughts.
     
  12. Apr 7, 2015 #11
    A loud noise can make anyone uncomfortable, but high frequency noise is certainly more annoying to me.
    I can take the roar of aircraft engines loud as it is, but find things such as electric drills if they go on long enough, make me feel nauseous.
    I don't think that is to do with a physical resonance though, more likely something like adrenaline in me getting pumped up.
     
  13. Apr 8, 2015 #12

    CWatters

    User Avatar
    Science Advisor
    Homework Helper

    Offer to fix the bearing?
     
Know someone interested in this topic? Share this thread via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook




Similar Discussions: Working in a lab with magnetic fields: Bio-hazardous?
  1. Magnetic Fields and Work (Replies: 74)

Loading...