• 24 APR 07
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    #712: Draft UK report calls for precautionary approach to ELF/EMFs

    Power lines in new link to childhood leukaemia

    From the Telegraph: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/connected/main.jhtml?xml=/connected/2007/04/

    By Roger Highfield, Science Editor

    Last Updated: 12:01am 21/04/2007A leaked Government-commissioned report has raised fresh fears of a link between power lines and cancer.

    The draft paper urges ministers to consider banning the building of homes and schools close to overhead high voltage power cables to reduce significantly exposure to electromagnetic fields from the electricity grid.

    The Stakeholder Advisory Group on Extremely Low Frequency Electromagnetic Radiation (Sage) says a ban is the “best available option”, pointing out that some countries have “corridors” for high voltage power lines where development is not allowed.

    The report was drawn up for the Department of Health by “stakeholders” including scientists, electricity company bosses, the National Grid, government officials and campaigners over two years.

    It comes after the Health Protection Agency accepted there was a weak statistical “association” between prolonged exposure to power fields and childhood leukaemia.

    The report stops short of specifically recommending a ban on new homes and schools within 200 feet of power lines, or vice versa, which could wipe up to “£2 billion or more” off property prices and limit housing developments. However, it states: “We urge government to make a clear decision on whether to implement this option or not.”

    The 40 stakeholders have clashed over the final details and conclusions and it is unclear whether the leaked draft dated March 16 will be modified at a meeting of Sage scheduled for next week.

    Two members of the panel, the regulator Ofgem and Scottish & Southern Energy, are understood to have quit.

    Some stakeholders took the view – adopted by the Government’s health advisers and the World Health Organisation – that childhood leukaemia is the only adverse health effect where evidence is strong enough for precautionary measures. According to this view, if there is a link, the building ban would cut just one case of childhood leukaemia every year or two and the costs would outweigh the benefits by a factor of at least 20.

    But others have backed a California Department of Health Services paper in 2002 which suggested electromagnetic fields are “possibly carcinogenic” in terms of childhood leukaemia. It also cited four other health effects – adult leukaemia, adult brain tumours, miscarriages and motor neurone disease.

    “The advice to government from following this ‘California’ view would therefore be to tend to favour implementing the ‘corridors for new build’ option,” Sage added, stressing that this is why it has not been able to form a consensus.

    The panel also recommends that the Health Protection Agency should issue more information about how to reduce the impact of exposure to electromagnetic fields.

    For some years, there has been concern about cancer risks among people living near power lines. A pooled analysis of several studies suggests that the possibility exists of a doubling of the risk of leukaemia in children in homes at high levels of exposure to extremely low frequency (50-60 Hz) magnetic fields.

    For the overwhelming majority of children living in homes with magnetic field levels below a given level – estimated to be 99.6 per cent of children in the UK Childhood Cancer Study – the data was consistent with no increased risk.

    For higher magnetic fields levels, the leukaemia risk was estimated to be double.

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