A Tasmanian study of more than 850 patients reported that those who lived close to high-voltage power lines during childhood are up to five times more likely to develop cancer, as reported in the Sydney Morning Herald. For every year lived within 50 meters of a power line, risk of cancer was found to increase by seven percent.
Scientists and public health advocates have debated for years the possible connection between high levels of electromagnetic fields emitted by electric and electronic devices and cancers, especially leukemia, lymphoma and multiple myeloma. A few studies have found correlation, while others have found none. A number of experts have argued that there is nothing to fear, and Internet sites are devoted to debunking the notion.
However, this latest study is more information for researchers and regulators to consider. It does not prove any cause and effect relationship, but it is certainly a correlation that should be taken seriously. In the study, investigators from the University of Tasmania and Britain's Bristol University compared records of all patients in Tasmania diagnosed with lymphatic and bone marrow cancers between 1972 and 1980, with controls for sex and age. Those who lived within 300 meters of a power line up to age five were five times more likely to develop cancer, while those who lived that close to a power line at any point during their first 15 years were three times more likely to develop cancer as an adult, according to the study that was published in the Internal Medicine Journal.
Also, people who had lived within 50 meters of a high-voltage power line were at double the risk of developing cancer than those who had never lived within 300 meters of a power line. There was also a link between higher voltages and cancer risk.
The researchers pointed out that the debate about possible carcinogenic effects of electromagnetic fields has been raging for more than 20 years. They stress that the evidence to date is far from conclusive.
Clearly, more research is needed on possible health effects of electromagnetic radiation. Until then, it may be wise for people to try and reasonably limit their exposure to the strongest fields. Limit time talking on cell phones, or use hands-free devices, don't stand next to working microwave ovens, and don't sleep surrounded by plugged-in electronics. This study is also more impetus for utilities to bury their high-voltage power lines, something that drastically reduces surrounding electromagnetic fields. To date, many utilities have opposed the practice because it is more costly than overhead wires.
Read more at the Sydney Morning Herald
Enter your city or zip code to get your local temperature and air quality and find local green food and recycling resources near you.