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Jokela, Kari*; Saunders, Richard D.

doi: 10.1097/HP.0b013e318202ec7e

Movement in a strong static magnetic field induces electric fields in a human body, which may result in various sensory perceptions such as vertigo, nausea, magnetic phosphenes, and a metallic taste in the mouth. These sensory perceptions have been observed by patients and medical staff in the vicinity of modern diagnostic magnetic resonance (MR) equipment and may be distracting if they were to affect the balance and eye-hand coordination of, for example, a physician carrying out a medical operation during MR scanning. The stimulation of peripheral nerve tissue by a more intense induced electric field is also theoretically possible but has not been reported to result from such movement. The main objective of this study is to consider generic criteria for limiting the slowly varying broadband (<10 Hz) electric fields induced by the motion of the body in the static magnetic field. In order to find a link between the static magnetic flux density and the time-varying induced electric field, the static magnetic field is converted to the homogeneous equivalent transient and sinusoidal magnetic fields exposing a stationary body. Two cases are considered: a human head moving in a non-uniform magnetic field and a head rotating in a homogeneous magnetic field. Then the electric field is derived from the magnetic flux rate (dB/dt) of the equivalent field by using computational dosimetric data published in the literature for various models of the human body. This conversion allows the plotting of the threshold electric field as a function of frequency for vertigo, phosphenes, and stimulation of peripheral nerves. The main conclusions of the study are: The basic restrictions for limiting exposure to extremely low frequency magnetic fields recommended by the International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection ICNIRP in 1998 will prevent most cases of vertigo and other sensory perceptions that result from induced electric fields above 1 Hz, while limiting the static magnetic field below 2 T, as recently recommended by ICNIRP, provides sufficient protection below 1 Hz. People can experience vertigo when moving in static magnetic fields of between 2 and 8 T, but this may be controlled to some extent by slowing down head and/or body movement. In addition, limiting the static magnetic field below 8 T provides good protection against peripheral nerve stimulation.

* STUK Radiation and Nuclear Safety Authority, P.O. Box 14, FIN-00881, Finland; Health Protection Agency, Centre for Radiation, Chemical and Environmental Hazards, Radiation Protection Division, Chilton, Didcot, Oxfordshire, OX11 0RQ, United Kingdom.

For correspondence contact: Kari Jokela, STUK Radiation and Nuclear Safety Authority, P.O. Box 14, FIN-00881, Finland, or email at

(Manuscript accepted 21 October 2010)

©2011Health Physics Society