National EMF Advisory Committee Calls for Continued Research on Electric and Magnetic Field Health Effects


To The Secretary of Energy and The Secretary of Health & Human Services

Shirley D. Linde, Chairperson
2733 Manning Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90064
Ph. (310) 837-3421
FAX/Message (310) 836-4632

December 9, 1996

Ms. Christine A. Ervin
Assistant Secretary for Energy Efficiency
U.S. Department of Energy
1000 Independence Avenue, S.W.
Washington, D.C. 20585-0121

Dear Assistant Secretary Ervin:

The National Electric and Magnetic Fields Advisory Committee (NEMFAC),
was established by Congress in the Energy Policy Act of 1992 to
provide advice to the Secretary of Energy and to the Director of the
National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences with respect to
the Electric and Magnetic Fields Research and Public Information
Dissemination Program (EMF RAPID), also established by that law. To
that end, we are conveying to you our views on the recently released
report, "Possible Health Effects of Exposure to Residential Electric
and Magnetic Fields", from the National Academy of Sciences/National
Research Council (NAS/NRC).

We take this action because, after perusal of the pre-publication
NAS/NRC report released October 31, 1996, we conclude that neither the
press release nor the Executive Summary of the report adequately
reflects the conclusions to be found in the body of the report.
Furthermore, the report's release received widespread national press
coverage, much of which was misleading and could adversely impact
funding decisions for the EMF RAPID Program as well as other EMF
research programs. Continued research with adequate funding is
essential to resolve the uncertainties about EMF health effects.

The NEMFAC wants to call to your attention the following important
* Contrary to reports in the popular press. the NAS/NRC report does
not state that extremely low magnetic fields are safe. Rather, the
report concludes that there is an unexplained, but statistically
reliable and robust association between power transmission and
distribution systems and childhood cancer and that continued
research is necessary.
* The NAS/NRC report was commissioned before the results from the
EMF RAPID program will be available. In addition, the report is
limited to residential findings and reflects literature reviews
only through 1994 plus 12 papers from 1995. It excluded the large
body of work concerning occupational studies published throughout
the same period.
* The Energy Policy Act of 1992 requires a final report to Congress
from the EMF RAPID program on whether the research indicates a
health hazard. Plans are now in development for proceeding with
this mandatory assessment. We recommend that the EMF RAPID
program's report to Congress include the following elements to
improve upon the work done thus by the NAS/NRC or other reviewing
+ The results of childhood cancer epidemiology studies to be
completed in late 1997. These studies have quantitative
evaluation of exposures and better controls than previous
+ The results of occupational epidemiology and exposure
assessment studies.
+ Several animal studies currently in progress.
+ The results of cell studies that have been duplicated in
multiple laboratories.
+ Findings from the EMF RAPID program expected in 1999.
+ The results of several major breast cancer studies expected
in 1998.
* The U.S. Congress, the U.S. utility industry, and many foreign
governments have, over the last few years, invested funds in
research of health effects of extremely low frequency EMFs. Those
steps have been taken in response to public concern as well as to
the provocative results of early EMF research. Although this
research is focused and well coordinated, the issues are complex
and numerous questions have not yet been answered.
* While the EMF RAPID program is entering its 5th year since
enactment of the Energy Policy Act, research was not funded until
late 1994. Because of this delay, the Program is just now reaching
the full potential envisioned by Congress. The Department of
Energy (DOE) and the National Institute of Environmental Health
Sciences (NIEHS) have worked cooperatively to foster research
programs which encompass basic biological research into possible
mechanisms for cell effects, cancer development (including breast
cancer), and the role of melatonin as affected by EMFs.
* In summary, it will be a violation of public trust and a waste of
scientific effort and money (federal and private) if the EMF RAPID
program is not finished. We strongly urge that level federal
funding continue until the Program is finished, the data analyzed,
and the report to Congress completed. At that point, decisions
about the future of federal EMF research could logically proceed.

Lastly, I wish to bring to your attention an evaluation by the Harvard
Center for Risk Analysis which stated in its March 1996 issue of Risk
in Perspective: "Few of the elevated risks seen in those studies
(childhood leukemia and EMF) are above 3 and many lie in the 1.5-2
range. Relative risks in this range are considerably lower than those
seen in studies of known human carcinogens such as cigarettes. It
should be noted, however, that there are other well accepted
associations, such as the association between smoking and heart
disease, that fall in this range, Furthermore, a relative risk of 2 (a
doubling of the risk of childhood cancer) coupled with the widespread
exposure to EMFs, could have a potentially significant impact on the

I share this view that any potential EMF health risks could have
significant public health implications. Therefore, EMF research is an
important public policy concern, and I will be happy to address any
questions that you may have about this matter or discuss the EMF RAPID
program with you.

Sincerely yours,
(Signature, Shirley D. Linde)
Shirley D. Linde Chairperson, NEMFAC