Tesla Motors released its first Electric Vehicle (EV) in 2008, with the launch of the Tesla Roadster. This was not the creation of the first EV, since that occurred in 1890 when William Morrison created the first electrified wagon, but it set an unprecedented achievement, revolutionizing the automotive industry.
EVs use relatively new technology, featuring DC motors and high-capacity batteries. While this technology has been applied for almost 200 years, it is relatively new in the automotive industry, increasing the importance to study the health-related issues that may arise because of it.
In this article, we analyze the different health threats concerning Tesla vehicles. We consider cancer concerns regarding Electromagnetic Fields (EMFs), radiation emitted by Tesla vehicles, and other aspects in which these vehicles might become a health threat.
Does Exposure To The Electromagnetic Fields Of The Battery In Tesla Cause Health Issues?
Electromagnetism is a physical phenomenon occurring when charged particles interact with electric or magnetic fields. Electromagnetism has a wide spectrum going from extremely low EMFs seen in static up to extremely high EMFs known as gamma rays, the whole spectrum includes radio waves, microwaves like the ones used in microwave ovens, visible light, UV rays, and more.
The spectrum of EMFs is divided into two categories considering health concerns: Ionizing or high-frequency EMFs and Non-ionizing or low to mid-frequency EMFs. These are as follows:
High frequency (ionizing) EMFs: High-frequency electromagnetic fields or ionizing radiation, feature wavelengths of 100 nm or less and an extremely high frequency of 1015 to 1020 Hz. These types of EMFs include a portion of UV Rays, alongside the whole spectrum of X-Rays and Gamma Rays. This type of radiation removes electrons from atoms or molecules, unbalancing the atoms through a process called atom ionization, which is known to cause DNA damage and cell damage, being the main cause of radiation-generated cancer.
Low to mid (non-ionizing) EMFs: Low and mid-frequency electromagnetic fields include longer wavelengths superior in size to the 100 nm and low to mid frequencies going from 0 Hz (no active frequency) up to 1015 Hz. These EMFs include UV light, visible light, cellphone waves, AM and FM radio waves, and static magnetic fields. Non-ionizing EMFs do not carry enough photon energy to ionize atoms, which is why they are not considered a possible cancer cause.
Tesla batteries in standby generate the same type of frequency called a fundamental frequency (low frequency) of 0 Hz. When the battery is active, it produces a slight static or generates low frequencies from 50 Hz up to 600 Hz. These frequencies are considered safe for passengers of Tesla vehicles since they do not ionize atoms, and therefore do not cause cancer.
Does Tesla Emits Radiation?
Electromagnetic fields are not entirely isolated to batteries, they can also be produced by electronic circuits, as a current passes through the electronic components.
Tesla vehicles are EVs filled with all types of electronic components and circuits that produce EMF radiations. It is important to analyze these frequencies generated by electronic components since they could produce a health threat for drivers in the long run.
There is no exact frequency featured by most EVs, since Tesla vehicles and other types of EVs feature highly different electronic designs, meaning that the EMFs perceived within the vehicle could vary from one model to another.
A study performed in 2022 analyzed different types of EVs, making it easier to understand the expected frequencies that drivers could feel within a Tesla vehicle or another EV. The result of the study shows that no EMF generated a radiating frequency large enough to surpass the 300 Hz barrier. This means that while electromagnetic fields are produced by the batteries and complex circuitry within the vehicle, none of those EMFs is large enough to produce cancer or be dangerous to the health.
EMF Radiation Risks From Tesla
Cancer is not the only health and safety concern that could potentially arise from drivers receiving EMFs while driving EVs. Neurophysiological reactions and brain activity while driving can also be affected by EMFs at high frequencies, this is another important aspect to discard about Tesla vehicles and other EVs, since it could produce potential safety concerns for EV drivers and other drivers on the road.
A paper published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health found the answer to the effect of electromagnetic fields on the cognitive functions and neurophysiological reactions of EV drivers. The study analyses response variations of drivers changing lanes and responding to rising threats from other vehicles on the road. Drivers were subjected to different EMF frequencies that can be regularly perceived inside EVs.
This study found certain brain functions varying slightly by the effect of the EMF perceived on Tesla vehicles and other EVs, but these variations were considered insignificant by the researchers. This means that driving an EV should be as safe as driving a combustion vehicle since EMF perceived by EV drivers does not cause variation in the driving performance.
Does Tesla Increase Childhood Leukemia?
Childhood Leukemia is a terrible disease accounting for being one of the most abundant types of cancers and the most common one for children and teens of all ages. This is the second major cause of death in children under 15 years old. Around 4.9 out of every 100,000 children are diagnosed with childhood leukemia every year, which is around 2.8% of the new cancer cases being diagnosed yearly.
Scientists struggle to find possible cancer origins for childhood Leukemia, but exposure to EMF radiation has been occasionally linked as one of the possible causes of this cancer. Many studies discard non-ionizing EMFs as a possible cause of childhood leukemia, but authors like Michael Kundi in his review EMF and Childhood Leukemia (2007), raised his voice to the scientific community, demanding further study on the effects of EMFs as a possible cause for this grave diseases affecting children.
A recent study performed by Lei, Y. et al. (2019) focused on finding out if low frequency EMFs like the ones perceived in EVs like Tesla vehicles, could be linked to childhood leukemia. This study concludes that there is no clear evidence linking low-frequency EMF as a cause of childhood leukemia, but it does not rule it out entirely, since they consider that long-time exposure to non-ionizing EMFs could cause cancer.
An article by Ph.D. Joel M. Moskowitz from the Berkeley University of California stated similar concerns to the aforementioned ones. He comments on the vested interests of studies excluding EMFs as a cause of childhood leukemia since most of them are industry-based studies looking to improve the image of EVs to the public.
While no conclusive answers link non-ionizing EMFs as one of the causes of childhood leukemia, it is a possibility that should not be entirely ruled out.
The scientific community still has to go a long way to find or rule out a possible connection between non-ionizing EMFs like the ones found on EVs to childhood leukemia. Considering the high level of uncertainty regarding the subject, it is recommended for parents to avoid exposing their children to EMFs as a preventive measure, at least until further studies find a more concise answer.
Tesla batteries are the main concern for EV owners since they operate at a wide spectrum of voltages going from 100V up to 800V. Other concerns arise from power electronic components comprising the circuitry of the vehicle, but EMFs generated within EVs feature low frequencies known as non-ionizing EMFs, which are usually considered to be safe for drivers and passengers.
Health concerns regarding cancer are not the only problem that may arise by the perception of EMFs inside EVs. Electromagnetic fields can also affect neurophysiological activities, reducing the performance and skills of drivers on the road. The good news is that the effects of EMF radiations perceived by drivers in the cabin of Tesla vehicles and other EVs can be considered insignificant, not representing a safety concern for EV drivers on the road.
The major dispute in the scientific community arises regarding the subject of childhood leukemia. While there is no clear relation linking EMFs perceived in EVs to the advancement of this terrible disease affecting children and teenagers, researchers do not discard this possibility entirely, requiring further investigation on the subject to find a more clear answer.