Hybrid cars may be green, but are they dangerous? According to Israel’s of Environmental Protection, this may be the case. A research committee funded by the ministry studied radiation from hybrid vehicles over the course of the last nine months, found ‘surplus’ radiation in some models sold in Israel and worldwide, reports Israel’s The Marker.
Not exactly flower power, the radiation in question is cast by the electromagnetic field made by alternating current (AC) flowing from the batteries in the back to the engine up front. The medical implications of this non ionizing radiation, similar to radiation from cellphone antennas, are not yet clear.
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.
The ministry’s foray into this topic is a culmination of a public outcry resulting from publications in the media regarding possible dangers from radiation in hybrid cars. Last year, Israeli automotive website Walla! Cars conducted a series of tests on the previous generation Toyota Prius, Honda Insight and Honda Civic Hybrid, and recorded radiation figures of up to 100 mG during acceleration. Measurements also peaked when the batteries were either full (and in use) or empty (and being charged from the engine), while normal driving at constant speeds yielded 14 to 30 mG on the Prius, depending on the area of the cabin.
The Ministry of Environmental Protection is expected to publish the results of the study this week. The study will group hybrids sold in Israel into three different radiation groups, reports Israel’s Calcalist. It’s expected that the current-gen Prius will be deemed ‘safe’, while the Honda Insight and Civic Hybrid (as well as the prev-gen Prius) will be listed as emitting ‘excessive’ radiation.
If published, the radiation scale will be the first of its kind in the world, even as hybrid cars top the sale charts in Japan. Local Toyota and Honda dealers, of course, are not exactly gleaming with joy, and already hired the services of two lobbying companies to try and call off the publication of the new scale. The two companies, in a surprising display of unison, claim that many electronic devices and gasoline powered cars emit similar and even higher levels of radiation, and deem the study unfair due to the lack of participation of conventional cars.
Recently, the research committee stirred the public conscious as it advised the Israeli Police against adding hybrid cars to its mostly diesel powered fleet, due to medical hazards to officers exposed to radiation for lengthy periods of time.