• 16 JUL 06
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    #520: Leading UK Cancer Charity takes on EMFs

    The weblog version of this message is at:

    #520: Leading UK Cancer Charity takes on EMFs

    While Michael $$$ Repacholi now tells the world that EMFs and ionizing radiation are not that harmful afterall – and may even protect against cancer (last message), organisations actually working with cancer patients and looking for ways of saving lives have the opposite viewpoint. Message #508 examined the Canadian Cancer Society’s advice on EMFs and now one of the largest childhood cancer charities in the UK, “Children with Leukaemia” takes head-on the issue of childhood leukaemia and exposure to power frequency EMFs.

    The Charity has produced a pdf pamphlet, “Understanding the causes of childhood leukaemia” To quote in part from the pamphlet being distributed in the UK:

    “A link between childhood leukaemia and electricity supply was first revealed in 1975. Three decades on, the evidence continues to strenghten but we still don’t understand the underlying mechanisms, To take the research forward, we plan to go back to basics, working with a small number of families, visiting homes, taking measurements and making observations to see if we can identify any common factors in the homes of children with leukaemia. This may lead to new avenues of research that will help us to understand the link between electricity and leukaemia. We are looking for families to take part in this study. If you think you might be able to help, please give us a Call on 020 7404 0808 – and ask for Edward, Larry, Maggie or Pippa.”

    The following is from the website of “Children with Leukaemia” http://www.leukaemia.org/ourwork4page.htm:

    “Leukaemia claims more young lives than any other disease in the UK . And although we are getting better at treating the disease, the incidence of childhood leukaemia is increasing at an alarming rate.

    The reasons for the increasing incidence remain unknown. In fact we know very little about what causes leukaemia in children. We know that it is not inherited. But acute lymphoblastic leukaemia, the most common type of childhood leukaemia, does appear to be initiated in the womb. Exposure to infections, chemical pollutants in air, food and water, natural radioactivity and non-ionising radiation such as electric and magnetic fields have all been implicated in the initiation of the disease.

    The only way that we can have any hope of halting the increasing incidence is to understand more about the factors involved and the mechanisms by which they exert their damaging effects.

    In September 2004 we hosted a major scientific conference to encourage the development of further research into the causes of childhood leukaemia. Invited speakers from the UK , Germany , Sweden and the USA reviewed the latest scientific research in this area, examining the possible factors associated with the development of leukaemia and other childhood cancers.

    The conference attracted multi-disciplinary delegates from around the world, encouraging the sharing of information, theories and ideas, helping to identify research priorities and stimulating further research in this crucial area. For more information about our International Scientific Conference, visit our website www.leukaemiaconference.org

    Electromagnetic fields and childhood leukaemia

    The first major study linking electromagnetic (EM) fields to childhood cancer was published in 1979. This study found that children with leukaemia were more than twice as likely as their healthy counterparts to have lived in homes near high voltage power lines.

    EM fields are produced not only by power lines but by electrical wiring, installations and appliances in the home. More than 20 studies on childhood cancer and exposure to EM fields from different sources have now been published. But for many reasons it is difficult to establish the association with leukaemia in a single study. Combining results in a “pooled analysis’ overcomes some of these difficulties. When this has been done (Ahlbom et al 2000, Greenland et al 2000), the results clearly show that long-term exposure in excess of 0.4µT is associated with a doubling of leukaemia risk in children. The UK Childhood Cancer Study carried out in the 1990s showed a trend of increasing incidence with increasing exposure but the study was not powerful enough to provide a statistically significant result.

    On the strength of the epidemiological data to date, the UK National Radiological Protection Board (NRPB), the International Agency for Research on Cancer and the US National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences have independently concluded that electric and magnetic fields are possible human carcinogens. NRPB guidelines now caution against prolonged exposure at 0.4µT.

    Exposure to fields of 0.4µT is relatively uncommon, affecting perhaps 0.5 per cent of children. But for these children it is imperative that we understand more about the risks involved. To this end we are investing funds in a programme of research at the University of Bristol where scientists are investigating the association between electromagnetic fields and childhood leukaemia.

    Our research projects at the University of Bristol

    Electromagnetic fields have an electric component and a magnetic component. Much of the work to date has centred upon the magnetic component. But scientists in the Physics Department at the University of Bristol have compiled substantial evidence that the electric component may be just as important.

    The team, led by Professor Denis Henshaw , has confirmed that most high voltage power lines emit electrically charged “corona ions’. They have discovered that these corona ions are able to create new particles of air pollution by attracting gaseous pollution molecules. The tiny “nano-particles’ that are created are capable of penetrating deeply into the lung and passing into the bloodstream. Those created by corona ions by their nature contain electric charge and so are even more likely to deposit in the lung.

    The team has developed sophisticated equipment for studying the behaviour of corona ions and pollutant particles. They are now using this equipment to record detailed measurements around power lines in different locations in order to find out more about the scale of the threat from this source.

    But the physical demonstration of the presence and amount of these materials has to be associated with real demonstration of their effects on health. A team in the Oncology and Medical Physics Department is carrying out an epidemiological study to investigate this. Professor Alan Preece and team are using new mapping techniques to assess the importance of the location of cancer diagnosis address in relation to power lines. The new techniques enable them to estimate actual exposure to electromagnetic fields rather than just proximity to the power lines and to assess the importance of being downwind or upwind of these lines, examining the combination of effect with airborne pollutants.”

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