Israel Preps World's First Hybrid Car Radiation Scale

Tal Bronfer
by Tal Bronfer

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.

Tal Bronfer
Tal Bronfer

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  • Fincar1 Fincar1 on Mar 02, 2010

    The more things change, the more they remain the same. James Thurber, about eighty years ago (or so), in one of his reminiscences of his youth, wrote about his grandmother, who was worried that electricity would leak out of the new-fangled wall outlets when they didn't have anything plugged into them. I'm laughing today too.

  • NickD NickD on Mar 02, 2010

    Before you start worrying about magnetic fields from your hybrid, you'd better throw out all your household appliances. The magnetic fields (the specific kind of radiation you're talking about here) from household appliances like ovens, microwaves and vacuum cleaners (most anything with a motor) runs 10 to 500 mGauss - as larger or larger than the hybrid fields, but still below the 1000 mGauss health limits set by the EU, WHO, etc. for these kinds of higher frequency intermittent magnetic fields (see this EU report for an example: http://ec.europa.eu/health/ph_determinants/environment/EMF/brochure_en.pdf ). The limits you cite from the IARC relate to constant long term constant exposure to low frequency magnetic fields in residential environments (e.g living under power lines). You can read about that very different situation here ( http://www.iop.org/EJ/abstract/0952-4746/21/3/604 ). By using the IARC limits for hybrids (or your blender), you (and the Israeli Environment Ministry) are making a classic apples to oranges comparison mistake. If the IARC limits applied to all the electrical stuff we use on a daily basis, we'd all be braindead by now.

    • Tal Bronfer Tal Bronfer on Mar 03, 2010

      Hey, I'm just reporting. Personally, I find this as another classic example of "we're smarter than anyone else" case, typical of my government. Israel operates under different EMR limits, and recommends, as stated, a maximum of 4 mG for extended exposure. For some people, the car is considered an 'extended exposure' environment. While I'm wary of the populistic approach, I'm all in for a non-biased study and intelligent dialogue. Unfortunately, this isn't the way it's been happening.

  • Vulpine My first pickup truck was a Mitsubishi Sport... able to out-accelerate the French Fuego turbo by Renault at the time. I really liked the brand back then because they built a model for every type of driver, including the rather famous 300/3000GT AWD sports car (a car I really wanted, but couldn't afford.)
  • Vulpine A sedan version of either car makes it no longer that car. We've already seen this with the Mustang Mach-E and almost nobody acknowledges it as a Mustang.
  • Vulpine Not just Chevy, but GM has been shooting itself in the foot for the last three decades. They've already had to be rescued once in that period, and if they keep going as they are, they will need another rescue... assuming the US govt. will willing to lose more money on them.
  • W Conrad Sedans have been fine for me, but I were getting a new car, it would be an SUV. Not only because less sedans available, but I can't see around them in my sedan!
  • Slavuta More hatchbacks
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