Re: power line risk corroborated

From: John Thomas (
Date: Mon Mar 05 2001 - 19:15:40 MST

   Here's the Reuters story. Note the third paragraph. Note that this was
a *review* of recent studies, not a study itself. Don't panic just yet.

>Monday March 5 5:46 PM ET
>Power Lines May Raise Cancer Risk, Study Shows
>By Patricia Reaney
>LONDON (Reuters) - Power lines can cause a small increase in the risk of
>childhood leukaemia, a new report is expected to show on Tuesday.
>The review of recently published studies into the health effects of
>electromagnetic fields (EMF) emitted from power lines will conclude that
>the increase in risk is very small, but it could prompt calls for a change
>in regulations.
>``There is evidence, albeit not statistically that clear, of a slightly
>elevated risk of childhood leukaemia in association with very high mains
>power fields at levels that are not usual in Britain,'' Professor Colin
>Blakemore, of Oxford University, told journalists before publication of
>the report on Tuesday.
>Blakemore is a member of a committee headed by Professor Sir Richard Doll
>that examined the results of research commissioned by the National
>Radiological Protection Board (NRPB).
>The committee's report is expected to conclude that the risk is real but
>low and to call for more research into the danger and the mechanism that
>could cause it.
>Doll is the scientist who first established the link between smoking and
>The new report is the latest in a series of studies into EMFs. Some
>concluded they posed no increased danger to human health while others
>raised concern about a risk.
>EMFs are generated by the electricity running through power lines from
>giant cables to small lines feeding household power outlets.
>The UK Childhood Cancer Study that was published in The Lancet medical
>journal in 1999 found that radiation from power lines did not increase the
>risk of leukaemia. A separate study in New Zealand had similar findings.
>But research from the University of Bristol in southwest England found
>that people living and working near high voltage electricity cables were
>more exposed than others to cancer-causing pollutants.
>The new report is expected to show that for children exposed to the
>highest levels of EMFs, the risk of contracting leukaemia could be less
>than one in 10,000 cases per year, compared with the usual risk of one in
>20,000 cases per year.
>Blakemore said the risk was so low that it was unlikely to pose any real
>danger to British children.
>A spokeswoman for the Department of Health said she could not comment on
>the report before its publication on Tuesday. ``Until they (the results)
>are officially published we won't be able to respond to it,'' she said.
At 11:10 AM +1100 3/6/01, Damien Broderick wrote:
>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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