‘Weak’ evidence that electric and magnetic fields cause cancer

Six years of research has concluded that the evidence for a risk of cancer from electric and magnetic fields (EMF) around power lines is weak. The research was ordered by US Congress.


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Nevertheless, a panel of scientists contributing to the research recommended that EMFs continue to be recognised as a ‘possible’ cancer hazard.

Published by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS), the report suggests that industry continue its efforts to alter large transmission lines in order to reduce their EMFs and for municipalities to enforce electrical codes aimed at avoiding wiring errors that can produce higher EMFs.

The NIEHS report emphasises that its laboratory research did not support causal association between EMFs and cancer, or any other human disease. There are only weak epidemiological associations to suggest that EMFs may cause cancers such as leukaemia, including a 1979 study in Denver, Colorado.

The strongest evidence for health effects from EMFs comes from statistical associations in populations with childhood leukaemia and chronic lymphocytic leukaemia in occupationally-exposed adults including electric utility workers, machinists and welders.

The NIEHS has stated that it will continue research on some “lingering concerns”.

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