Recent Studies
A major new study found that children whose birth address was within 200 meters of an overhead power line had a 70% increased risk of leukemia. Children living 200 to 600 meters away from power lines had a 20% increased risk. This indicates the danger from power lines is appreciably further from the lines than had been identified in previous studies. The study, which was partially funded by the power-line industry, mapped how far each child lived from a high voltage overhead power line. It compared the children who had cancer with a control group of 29,000 children without cancer, but who lived in comparable districts, Appearing in the June 2005 British Medical Journal, the study concludes there is a statistical link between EMF from power lines and leukemia. The study – a collaboration between the Childhood Cancer Research Group at the University of Oxford and National Grid owners, Transco – looked at cancer data or children aged up to 15 years old in England and Wales between 1962 and 1995. [Related Press Report]

A Connecticut law requires the Connecticut Siting Council to include health and fair market value issues when deciding on the application to expand and build 345-kilovolt lines. Here is the rationale for the law. As a followup, the Council study shows that burying long lines is feasible.

Based on experiments involving rats and ozone, scientists at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory have identified a chemical reaction that may explain higher rates of illness observed= among some people exposed to strong electromagnetic fields such as those produced by high-voltage power lines.

A California Department of Health Sciences Evaluation concludes EMFs "can cause some degree of increased risk of childhood leukemia, adult brain cancer, Lou Gehrig’s Disease, and miscarriage" [emphasis added]. The Evaluation—which is the culmination of a 9 year, $7 million research effort—further concludes that magnetic fields may cause suicide and adult leukemia. The Final Evaluation is dated June 2002, but was only released about October 13, 2002. The Final Evaluation uses as a standard causation, which is a more rigorous test than the more common standard that seeks to demonstrate of an association between EMF and many of these diseases. Here is an analysis of this important report. In addition, the California Health Department also produced a relatively short analysis of the policy options implied by the Evaluation. The Department discusses the policy implications of its analysis it a separate report.

Even though the incidence of all these diseases (except miscarriages) is low, the California Department concludes EMF represents a significant health risk. "[I]f EMFs do contribute to the cause of these conditions, even the low fractions of attributable cases and the size of accumulated lifetime risk of highly-exposed individuals could be of concern to regulators. Indeed, when deemed a real cause, estimated lifetime risks smaller than these...have triggered regulatory evaluation and, sometimes, actual regulation."

Microwave News,, CNN, and The Electronic Daily, have already reported upon this important study. Here is a transcript of CNN's August 15 report on the final evaluation. On October 6-8, 2002, further information on the final report was reported in prominent foreign newspapers including London's Sunday Times and Sunday Telegraph and Canada's Montreal Gazette, Windsor Star, and National Post. An October 17 article in the San Francisco Gate (the online arm of the San Francisco Chronicle) discusses the report's implication in length.

As a direct result of the California Report, parents in Edmonton, Canada, were able to temporarily delay construction on a new school that they feared was too near a transmission power line. However, ultimately, the school board decided to proceed.

During the week of March 31, 2002, the Minnesota Department of Health posted an evaluation of the massive report of the California Health Department that found that magnetic fields probably cause a number of deadly diseases. The evaluation, whose authorship is not stated, was produced in secret utilizing a process that was completely closed. Perhaps as a result, it contains numerous factual errors. Nothing is known about the people or process through which reached its conclusions, nor the standards it used. Additionally, in Minnesota, a so-called Interagency Working Group on EMF issues issued a report dated September 2002, but likely also published last week. It also contains numerous errors. Again, no authors were identified, and the process through which this report was produced was completely closed. Perhaps as a result, It is clearly not a serious report but rather a reiteration of the utility industry's position

A California Administration Law Judge recently agreed, concluding that power lines represent a health risk.

The Japanese news service reports that new Japanese study finds that EMF is linked to children's brain cancer. This is part of a three-year research effort into the impact of EMF being conducted by the former Japanese Science and Technology Agency, now part of the education ministry. Nevertheless, the Minnesota Department of Health continues to cite this study as not finding such a link.

A new UK study similarly finds a link between power line EMF and childhood leukemia. (Also reported by the BBC on October 30, 2004.) It is now asserted UK authorities supressed this information for 3 years.

New information developed for the Connecticut Siting Council demonstrates that is technically feasible to bury power lines for at least 20 miles.

In an advertisement appearing on page A3 of the November 1 Wall Street Journal, the engineering firm ABB promotes its "no EMF technology, saying "Invisible Power Lines...From a revolutionary approach to underground power transmission....we're serving the world's energy needs while reducing impact on the environment. Delivering reliable, 'invisible' energy without any electromagnetic fields is just one of the ways we bring competitive advantage to customers...Welcome to the world of ABB."

Richard Box from Bristol is the winner of the Bombay Sapphire Prize 2004 – the world’s biggest award for artists, designers and architects working with glass. With a prize value of £20,000, this prestigious annual award that rewards and promotes excellence. “The piece drew attention to the presence of the electromagnetic field in a dramatic way, making the invisible, visible. For many who saw Field, it was a beautiful, magical and sinister experience, which was both thought provoking and educational.”

The UK's National Radiological Protection Board may reduce its limits for EMF exposures. (October 20). New reports suggest that the NRPB will require homes to be at least 150 meters (about 450 feet) away from power lines (October 27).

One of the issue confronting policymakers is the value of a human life. Does it make sense to spend $4 million to bury a line if the reduction in EMF will safe one life? An article in the on-line magazine Slate suggests a human life is worth between $4 million and $8 million.

A three-fold increase in overall spontaneous abortions and a six-fold increase in spontaneous abortions occurring before the 10th week of pregnancy is associated with even momentary exposure to magnetic fields greater than 16 mG. This is the conclusion of new research by Dr. De-Kun Li reported in the January 2002 issue of Epidemiology. Similar results were found in a separate paper on spontaneous abortions prepared for the project by G. M. Lee which is printed in the same issue.

A study reported in the October 11, 2003, edition of the UK Sun newspaper compared people living within 25 meters of a power line with others in the same area outside the 25-meter boundary. It found that more than one in seven pregnant women with homes near transmission power lines had miscarried, compared to one in 29 living further away. Of men and women living close to the lines, 27 per cent said they had suffered from depression compared to 13 per cent further away. Sixty-three per cent of those within 25 meters reported regular headaches compared to 39 per cent of those outside that distance. Insomnia and dietary problems were reported to be around 50 per cent higher near the power lines.

According to a January 4, 2003, article in the Toronto Star, Canadian scientist Magda Havas has determined that 42 of 60 measured Canadian cities had magnetic field intensities that exceed those shown to be associated with childhood leukemia.

According to a news report in New Scientist of January 10, 2002, Li's results caused a California Health Services department scientist, Raymond Neutra, to reexamine his 1991 study of 727 women. Originally, his group's study had measured average magnetic field exposures and with inconclusive results. However, when Neutra recently reanalyzed the data from his earlier study, he discovered the results were similar to Li's. Women exposed to peak magnetic field levels greater than 14 mg doubled their risk of miscarriage over those who had no such exposure.

The results of nine major studies on EMF are reversed in a major analysis, Most of these studies originally had failed to find a link between electromagnetic fields (EMF) and cancer. The new review concludes that, upon reanalysis, the data used in the earlier studies do identify an association between cancer and EMF. The authors of the new analysis are the same researchers who headed the earlier studies that had failed to find an association. (See also the appraisal of this study in the industry journal, Microwave News.) The authors now conclude, “The level of [statistical] significance that we see for the excess risk at high [EMF] exposure makes chance an unlikely explanation.”

A doubling of risk among children with average exposures above 4 mG is "unlikely to be due to chance," according to ICNIRP, a leading European quasi-governmental authority on the dangers of radiation. In a detailed review of the literature on ALS (Lou Gehrig's Disease), the ICNIRP believes that the data "point toward a possible risk increase."

A dose-responsive relationship between magnetic fields from power lines and asthma and combined chronic illnesses is identified in an August 2001 Australian study. The study concludes, "The results are consistent with a possible adverse effect of environmental magnetic field exposure on immune-related and other illnesses."

Dr. Paul Vailleneuve of the University of Ottawa finds in study published in February 2002 that those who were exposed to a moderate 6mG of magnetic fields increased by a factor of 12 their odds of developing an agressive brain tumor know as glioblastoma multiforme.

The Japanese National Institute for Environmental Studies and the National Cancer Center, in midterm analysis of a joint three-year survey project, have concluded children who are often exposed to such electromagnetic waves, emitted from high-voltage power lines and some household appliances, are on average more than twice as likely to get leukemia than those who are not exposed to EMF.

A study conducted in the Netherlands shows that intermitted power frequency magnetic fields cause more DNA breaks than do steady fields. (August 2002)

A new study, published in Cancer Cell International, presents experimental evidence to show that extremely low frequency electromagnetic fields can have a potentially damaging effect on the process of cell division in (already) radiation-injured cells, which could lead to them becoming cancerous. (August 2002)

Research is being conducted in Brussels to determine the maximum exposure for ELF-EMF (September 2002)

In a significant July 2002 study sponsored by, among others, the National Institute of Enviromental Health and the Department of Energy, Reba Goodman and Martin Blank (who testified for the PLTF) note "It is now well established that low frequency (<300 Hz) electromagnetic (EM) fields induce biological changes that include effects ranging from increased enzyme reaction rates to increased transcript levels for specific genes... Despite cell and tissue differences (e.g., mammalian,dipteran, yeast, bacteria), approximately the same EM field exposure, 60 Hz, 80 mG for 20 min, (Goodman and Blank, 1998) induces hsp70 synthesis in all systems studied... DNA is known to conduct electrons, and studies on ATPase, cytochrome oxidase, and the BZ reaction, show that EM fields accelerate electron transfer rates. We have suggested that EM fields activate DNA by generating repulsive forces when accelerating electrons within the DNA double helix (Blank and Goodman, 1997, 1999, 2001)."

The highly respected industry journal Microwave News concludes there is a scientific consensus people exposed to above-average levels of EMF experience "a clear and consistent pattern" of increased cancer risk."

There is solid evidence that second hand smoke is less dangerous than magnetic fields.

Other Developments
Question: Why, given all the above evidence, is there still a perception that power lines are not dangerous. Answer: Because rich corporations handsomely reward lobbyists and scientists for distorting the scientific evidence in order to advance corporations' economic interests, as discussed in this June 2005 article in the Scientific American.

The State of Connecticut has enacted a law that effectively requires the burial of all large transmission power lines built near residences, schools, and other sensitive facilities.

Another Minnesota community is impacted by a power line proposal.

As reported by The San Francisco Examiner, on June 8, 2004, A California Administration law judge has expressed concern over EMF's. However the PUC's chairman indicates he will ignore the judge's recommendation.

The UK's National Radiological Protection Board has lowered its maximum recommending expsoure limits by adopting the Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection (ICNIRP)'s standards for maximum exposure to EMF from power lines. This standard sets the maximum exposure at 1000 mG, which is still a ridiculously high level, given the scientific consensus that there is a statistical link between EMF's greater than 4 mG and increases in the rate of cancer.

According to a March 22, 2003 newspaper report, the EU plans to limit power line magnetic field emissions. (Switzerland already has limited them to 10 mG and Spain has declared such emissions to violate human rights.) It also reports that the world’s largest insurance body, Lloyds of London, is now refusing insurance coverage to power generating companies against damage to workers and consumers’ health.

A new technological development may defer for many years the need to build new transmission power lines. However, it also means that existing lines will become potentially much more dangerous than they are at present.

3M is supporting the advanced testing of its new Aluminum Conductor Composite Reinforced (ACCR) conductor. The new conductor uses a core of aluminum-matrix-composite wires surrounded by temperature-resistant aluminum-zirconium wires. According to officials at the Department of Energy, the composite core is stronger than steel, but doesn't elongate as do conventional cores.

The new conductor, which has been under development for many years, carries up to 3 times as much current as conventional steel conductors of the same size.

Accordingly, it is likely most of the need for new transmission capacity can be met merely by replacing existing conductors with the ACCR conductor. Therefore, it will no longer be necessary to build new transmission lines, and it should now be possible to remove those existing lines that have undue environmental or human impacts. However, once existing lines are restrung with the new conductor, the magnetic fields they emit will become three times as intense.

Field tests are underway. The National Transmission Technology Research Center in Oak Ridge,TN, is testing the new conductor. Separately, the Tennessee Valley Authority has strung a test line near Oak Ridge. Using a $4 million Congressional appropriation, the Western Area Power Administration has just begun a year-long test of a one mile, medium sized 795 kcmil conductor in a 230-kv installation near Fargo, N.D., under some of the most challenging weather conditions in the U.S.

As reported on June 13, 2004, in the Minneapolis Star Tribune, the energy utility Xcel plans to begin using this new wire. Elsewhere, construction of power lines using this technology is now undeway.

An article in the New York Times magazine of May 5, 2002, discusses "Evidence Based Medicine" (EBM). The application of EBM to ELFEMF would lead to far stronger actions than are currently entertained by public health authorities. The article suggests that resistance to EBM is lead by doctors who are unequipped to deal with rigorous science and who therefore feel threatened by this new trend in medicine. Another article in the August 10 New York Times points out that the causes for most cancers are not known. Given that the causes are unknown, it is unreasonable for the Minnesota Department of Health and others to decry the dangers of EMF on the grounds that it is not shown there is a cause and effect relationship between EMF and cancer.

A recent article in the Lakeland Florida ledger relates how prospective homeowners fear transmission power lines.