|Reasonable people can differ?
Power lines cancer risk 'may be non-existent'
Oct 07 - Irish Times -
The risk of childhood leukaemia being caused by overhead electricity power
lines is either extremely small or non-existent, a conference on science and
the quality of life was told in Limerick on Saturday.
Prof Philip Walton, who specialises in applied physics at NUI Galway, told
the gathering that a person who stood under a power line was exposed to a
much lower magnetic field than that of an electric oven or a hair-dryer.
He said results from a major study in Britain of cancers in children living
near power lines had shown that leukaemia caused two extra deaths a year -
over and above 500 expected deaths - in children aged zero to 16.
"Prorated for Ireland, which has about one-fifteenth of the population, this
means that one death from childhood leukaemia every 71/2 years in addition
to 33 expected deaths might be due to this effect, if it exists at all," he
said. "It could be due to chance."
Childhood leukaemia was the only cancer which had shown a rise. He said the
total figures for cancers in children living near power lines had stayed the
same because other non-leukaemia cancers showed a slight decrease.
He said the independent body in Britain dealt with protection from radiation
had said it was pointless to further investigate the possible effects of
overhead lines. This was because the population was too small to show up any
Fresh evidence links power lines to cancer
Oct 06 - The Sunday Telegraph - London -
OVERHEAD POWER lines and household electrical appliances increase the risk
of developing cancer, according to the findings of an eight- year study into
the effects of electromagnetic fields (EMFs).
The pounds 4.5 million study, the largest held into the effects of EMFs on
health, suggests that hundreds of thousands of Britons, particularly
children, are at risk from life-threatening illnesses linked to the
emissions. Pregnant women are also at greater risk of miscarrying.
Its findings will be seized on by campaigners who argue that EMFs from
overhead power lines and mobile phone masts are responsible for cancer and
leukaemia "clusters" across Britain.
The National Radiological Protection Board, the Government watchdog on
radiation, reported last year that its studies into the effect of EMFs had
The latest study was commissioned by the California Public Utilities
Commission, which is expected to publish the full report in the next few
months. Scientists reviewed scores of previous studies from all over the
world, including Britain, and carried out new research in the San Francisco
The researchers told The Sunday Telegraph that they believed that EMFs
increased the risks of life-threatening illnesses, including childhood
leukaemia, adult brain cancer and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, a
degenerative disease that attacks nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord.
Dr Raymond Neutra, of the California Department of Health Services, who led
the research, said: "In Britain, hundreds of thousands of homes are exposed
to levels [of EMFs] that mean they could be at risk."
Dr Vincent DelPizzo, a senior member of the research team, said: "People
have a right to be warned, but whether a major effort to reduce EMFs is
appropriate must still be decided."
The first suspected link between overhead power lines and cancer was made in
America in 1979. Some reports, however, have dismissed a connection, while
others have said that evidence is inconclusive. Until now, those considering
long and costly legal action have been advised that it would probably fail
because of lack of proof.
John Scott, the Conservative MSP for Ayr who led an unsuccessful campaign to
stop the erection of more than 200 pylons in South Ayrshire, said yesterday:
"The implications of this [study] could be enormous for the power-generating
If the report bolsters demands for the burying of all power cables, the cost
will run into billions of pounds.
A spokesman for the Electricity Association said: "If the Government ever
decreed that power lines had to be placed underground then the costs would
be passed straight on to the consumer."
Every mile of underground cabling costs nearly pounds 16 million to install,
whereas overhead cables cost about pounds 800,000 over the same distance.
The power companies could face a string of lawsuits from families who claim
to have been affected by EMFs, as could manufacturers of domestic
appliances. Martyn Day, a solicitor representing a dozen families who are
considering legal action against power companies they claim were negligent,
said: "The evidence has been accumulating over the past 23 years and this
sounds a very significant piece of additional information."
Among those who claim to have been affected are Ray and Denise Studholme,
who believe that their son Simon would still be alive if he had not been
subjected to a strong electromagnetic field in his bedroom. As Simon slept,
his head was less than three feet from an electricity meter and a burglar
alarm in a hall cupboard.
According to the family, tests after their son's death revealed that the two
appliances gave off an EMF more than six times the recommended safe limit.
Simon was diagnosed with leukaemia in November 1990, nearly two years after
the family moved to their three-bedroom home near Bolton, Lancashire. He
died in September 1992, aged 13. The family welcomed the study's findings
yesterday. They hope to use the evidence to resume a test case against
Norweb, their electricity supplier. They dropped a civil case five years ago
after losing their right to legal aid.
"We faced an uphill battle all the way to win compensation," said Mr
Studholme, 54, who has retired from his job as a financial adviser because
of poor health.
"If I had known about the electromagnetic fields Simon would not have been
sleeping there. Within six months of moving here he used to get up in the
morning complaining of headaches and feeling light- headed," said Mr
In the United States, up to five per cent of homes have EMF levels
considered potentially dangerous.
It is estimated that the same percentage of homes in Britain could be at
risk, either because of nearby power lines, internal wiring or electrical
Dr Michael Clark, the scientific spokesman for the National Radiological
Protection Board, said yesterday that the board welcomed new research into
the effect of EMFs, but would not comment on the findings from California
until it had studied the full report.
Roger Coghill, who runs an independent science laboratory in Pontypool,
south Wales, and who has studied the effect of EMFs on people's health for
more than a decade, said that he was impressed by the latest research
"This is a huge, well-conducted study and people must pay attention to its
results," he said. "Some power companies have deliberately suppressed
research in this field. But in the end, the truth will out and here it is.
"We're all on the same side: we all want electricity, but none of us wants
Exactly how cancer could be caused by such exposure remains a mystery,
however. The strength of the magnetic fields falls away rapidly from
overhead power lines - just a few dozen yards from a pylon registers well
below the natural magnetic field level of the Earth. Studies of living cells
and animals exposed to such weak fields have hitherto failed to reveal any
changes normally linked to cancer.