power line risk corroborated

From: Damien Broderick (d.broderick@english.unimelb.edu.au)
Date: Mon Mar 05 2001 - 17:10:41 MST

For years I've denounced superstitious idiots for their belief that people
living near major power lines must be getting injured by the `radiation'. I
was chagrined last night to learn on the news that a new British medical
report headed by a notable scientist finds that the incidence of childhood
leukemia *does* rise in the vicinity of those lines.

So far I haven't found this reported on line in the NYT or the Age, but the
gist seemed to be that this rise is marginal. It's hypothesized to be due
to microscopic pollutants being ionized by high density fields on the lines
and thereby rendered more carcinogenic (or maybe more `sticky'). That is,
the fields themselves do not directly exert a mysterious malign influence,
which is doubtless what most opponents suppose. Moreover, since this
new-found effect is so marginal, it's rather hard to see how opponents
could have known previously that it existed; that is, they presumably
reached the correct conclusion on the basis of an unsupported superstition.

Then again, is that fair? Arguably, their underlying skeptical suspicion is
that we're unlikely to make major de nova interventions into the biosphere
without having *some* hitherto-unknown impacts (which of course could be
beneficial as well as deleterious, but it's easier to smash a delicate
thing than to improve it).

Damien Broderick

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