Radiation Impact on Birds


Manufacturer of electrical appliances are always careful about the safety standard of every product. They are aware of the fact that even after using elastomer products to cut off radiation, complete shutdown of leakages is not always possible. Apart from the electrical equipment of daily use, power lines are a major threat to the environment because of their emission rate. Although people living at close proximity to power lines have to face the impact of electromagnetic radiation (EMR),  they can still take necessary precautions to minimize the effect. Unfortunately, animals and birds do not have a way out of this situation and often lose their life to the wrath of electromagnetism.

Recent Studies

In September 2010, a study was conducted under the Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS) to understand how cell phone towers are affecting the birds and the bees. A group of experts reviewed 919 studies conducted both in India and abroad. It revealed that electromagnetic radiation is one of the startling causes for the decline in animal population. Five hundred and ninety three of these studies showed that the radiation is a curse to biodiversity and we must give immediate attention to cut down the excessive emission of these rays into the environment, before it is too late.

Impact on Birds

In the last couple of years, there has been a steady decline in the number of house sparrows. Even the migratory birds are found disoriented and many lost lives on their way to new lands in winter. The reason for this sudden change in the biological system of birds is due to the EMI.

But the question is, how are these rays interfering with the biological feature of birds? A research team in the University of Oldenburg in Germany has found that the radio waves generated by the electrical structures like power lines, interfere with the navigational abilities of some bird species.

Many animals and insects on earth have an ability called magnetoception. This helps them understand the magnetic field of the earth and thereby determine distances and navigate through time and weather. In order to study this, they prepared a wooden hut with aluminum sheeting on its walls with an earthing. This eliminated EMR in the range from 50 kilohertz to 20 megahertz without affecting the Earth’s magnetic field. Under such an arrangement, the birds had no problem in finding their normal position for migration. The moment the screening was removed and the birds were exposed to EMI, they were disoriented. Therefore, if a Robin is exposed to a vertically aligned broadband of 0.1 to 10 MHz, or if it is aligned to  24 or 48 degree angle to the natural geomagnetic field at a  single frequency of 7 MHz broadcast, the oscillating magnetic fields interfere with the bird’s orientation.

A Bit More About Magnetoception

Birds with the ability to understand the earth’s magnetic field have certain types of proteins called cryptochromes. This helps them to develop magnetoception abilities and some are even said to have the capability to see magnetic fields overlaid on blue light.

The experiment carried out in the University of Oldenburg clearly states that magnetoception abilities work naturally and get perturbed every time they are exposed to man-made gadget. Hence, the presence of electronic devices is unsafe or disruptive.

Unfortunately, with the growing population, more power lines are installed for better connectivity, but at the cost of the lives of these innocent birds.

Keeping in mind all these, the manufacturers of electrical devices are given a scale for emission. They also use shielding solutions such as elastomer products to restrict the excessive radiation impact. But some emissions are beyond control and the birds often have to pay the price.

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