The Environmental Impacts of Electrical Transformers

Written by jennifer ray
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The Environmental Impacts of Electrical Transformers
A large power transformer near the Hoover Dam. (Jupiterimages/ Images)

Electrical transformers transfer electrical energy from one circuit to another. Transformers can be small enough to fit inside a small microphone, or could weigh several hundred tons and connect power grids to one another. Pollution can be produced from running transformers, animal habitats can be lost, and it has been debated that electromagnetic fields emitted from them can cause health problems.

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Electrical transformers do produce some amount of pollution. Some of it comes from the carbon dioxide and other chemicals released from the burning of fossil fuels needed to keep transformers running. Some components of transformer fluid, like petroleum hydrocarbons, halogens and silicone can be harmful if released into the environment. However, there are some companies producing environmentally friendly electrical transformers. Cooper Power Systems has the Envirotran EF transformer that runs on their patented soy-based Envirotemp FR3 fluid. This fluid can biodegrade quickly, is non-toxic and has a low probability of contaminating groundwater systems.

Electromagnetic Fields

Electromagnetic fields (EMF) are present everywhere and invisible to the naked eye. Natural EMFs occur when there is a build up of electricity, normally during a thunderstorm. There are also many man made sources of EMFs. For example, X-rays and harnessed electricity emit a low amount of EMFs. Almost everybody is exposed to EMFs on a daily basis. These EMFs come from computers, appliances, cell phones, aircraft, and electrical transformers.

The Environmental Impacts of Electrical Transformers
A natural EMF source (NA/ Images)

Human Health Issues

People worry about the possible health effects increasing exposure to EMFs could have. Public concern has risen since the 1960s over possible health effects EMF exposure can have, and scientists have been testing to see if there should be worry. According to the World Health Organization, there hasn't been enough conclusive evidence that links EMFs to health problems. Workers in close contact with EMFs should take safety precautions, but the general public should not worry.

Animal Disruption

Animals, especially small rodents, have long been seen as a problem at many outdoor electrical transformers. They can chew through wire, nest in boxes, and have even been known to blow out the transformers in extreme cases. Although they can be a pest at the stations, the electrical transformers are even more of a problem for animals. Many electrical transformers are built on some animal's habitat and put these animals out of a home.

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