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There is no consensus on the risk of contact with power line

14 September 2009 1,954 views No Comment

The Fredon school board’s threat to close a school because of high levels of electromagnetic fields has revived a decades-old debate over EMF safety.
EMFs are invisible lines of force that surround all electrical equipment, from high-voltage transmission lines to home appliances. Humans routinely make contact with elevated EMFs with no adverse effects, but some science has shown prolonged exposure can increase the risk of childhood leukemia, brain tumors, early-term miscarriages and other medical problems.

Such a finding was produced by a 2008 study conducted by the World Health Organization, which found “extremely low-frequency electromagnetic fields generated by electrical power transmission have been associated with an increased risk of childhood leukemia, but the findings are not conclusive.”

A six-year study conducted by the National Institutes of Health in 1999 concluded there was a “weak” association between power line magnetic fields and childhood leukemia and no evidence linking EMFs with adult leukemia, brain cancer and breast cancer.

In light of conflicting science, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency recommends people concerned about possible health risks reduce their exposure by increasing their distance from power lines.

In the mid-1990s, New Jersey’s Board of Regulatory Commissioners studied EMF levels surrounding 42 schools that were located adjacent to high voltage transmission lines. The results showed levels ranging from 0.2 mG and 47.3 mG, but no action was taken because there was no consensus on the health impacts, then-Commissioner Carmen Armenti said.

Connecticut lawmakers in 2006 approved a bill that requires high-voltage transmission lines to be placed underground in areas near those used by children, including schools, day-care facilities, youth camps and public playgrounds.

Joseph Dumanov, a certified EMF technologist in Sparta, said it is “very rare” that people are exposed to areas with high EMF levels. He said dangerous EMF levels associated with power lines typically lie within buffered zones.

“Magnetic fields are fixed and can be calculated, with slight variations due to line voltage fluctuations, and municipalities and power companies know this,” said Dumanov, who is writing a book on electromagnetic radiation. “You can be exposed to slightly elevated EMFs for a short period of time with no effects. It’s very dose-dependent, like going for an X-ray.”

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