Leukemia & Power Lines

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Leukemia & Power Lines

A study published in 1979 by Dr. Nancy Wertheimer and Ed Leeper, stated that children living near power lines were twice as likely to get leukemia as those who did not. Although the study was criticized for its small size and for relying on inferences rather than direct measurements of electromagnetic field exposure, Paul Brodeur used it in three 1989 New Yorker articles and in his book on the dangers of power lines. Brodeur's writings raised considerable public concern. To clarify whether electric power lines do indeed contribute to leukemia, scientists from the National Cancer Institute (NCI) and childhood leukemia specialists collaborated on a larger study, which was published in 1997.

In the NCI study, 636 children with acute lymphoblastic leukemia were matched by race, age, and residential neighborhood with 620 healthy children. Scientists measured magnetic fields in the children's homes (past and present), their yards, schools, day care centers, and the places that their mothers inhabited when they were pregnant. The children also wore measurement devices. People taking the magnetic field measurements were not told which children had cancer. Children who were exposed to more than 0.300 microteslas had a slightly higher, "insignificant" risk of leukemia. Children with the highest exposures showed a risk that was almost normal. The study found no evidence that electric power lines cause childhood leukemia. A review of over 500 papers on the health effects of electromagnetic radiation, published by a National Academy of Sciences committee in November 1996, concurred with the NCI results, saying that "the studies taken as a whole failed to provide evidence that electromagnetic fields cause disease."

"Big Study Sees No Evidence Power Lines Cause Leukemia" by Gina Kolata.

The Wall Street Journal July 3, 1997

Article copyright Townsend Letter for Doctors & Patients.

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By Jule Klotter

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