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Power lines And Cancer Clusters Part 4

Power lines Danger,Cancer Clusters

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The EPA Raises Questions

Concerns about so-called non-ionizing radiation began to mount in 1979, when a study of cancer rates among Colorado school children determined that those who lived near power lines had two or three times as much chance to develop cancer. The link seemed so improbable that power companies eagerly paid to have the study replicated. To their surprise, the subsequent scientific inquiry supported the original findings, which have since been buttressed by a variety of additional studies and reports of increased cancer rates among workers employed in the electric industry.

One such study, conducted by the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, WA. confirmed that telephone linemen, electricians and electric-power workmen are developing breast cancer at six times the expected rate.

But it was the Environmental Protection Agency's scientific review that has had an explosive impact, lending the most credence to those who have been warning of EMF health hazards.

The report -- a 367-page document entitled "Evaluation of the Potential Carcinogenicity of Electromagnetic Fields" -- came to light in 1990, when someone in the agency leaked a draft version of it to Louis Slesin, editor of an influential newsletter called Microwave News.

Chief among the conclusions was one specifying that power line electromagnetic fields should be classified as a "probable human carcinogen." William Farland, then-director of the EPA's Office of Health and Environmental Assessment ordered this conclusion deleted from the report.

Then the Associated Press reported that the Bush administration tried to delay release of the EPA's findings. Robert E. McGaughy, the project manager and chief author of the report, was quoted as saying that the White House "was concerned not about the accuracy of the report...[but] about how people would react to the news and how it would affect the electric power industry."

Ultimately, after two major TV networks and newspapers throughout the country exposed the Bush administration's efforts at censorship, the report was released. It contained a disclaimer that asserted "the controversial and uncertain nature of the scientific findings of this report" and declared that it should not be construed as "representing Agency policy or position."

The Medical Connection

Just how EMFs affect humans is still not entirely known.

In the case of cancer, most specialists theorize that a malignant tumor forms in at least two stages. In the first, referred to as "initiation," an outside agent damages the cell's genetic material. Because EMFs are not strong enough to break molecular and chemical bonds, scientists are concentrating on the second stage of cancer, a series of steps called "promotion." Researchers are tying to pinpoint ways in which EMFs might cause cells to grow and multiply abnormally.

Some studies suggest that EMFs may promote cancer by interfering with the transmission of calcium across the cell membrane, a flow that governs such processes as muscle contraction, egg fertilization, cell division, and growth. EMFs may also disturb a cell's ability to process hormone, enzyme, and other biological signals that regulate normal growth.

EMFs are known to affect nerve impulses. Melatonin, a regulatory hormone secreted by the pineal gland near the brain, ordinarily stimulates immune responses and may suppress tumor growth. Reduced melatonin production has been linked to breast and prostate cancer. Melatonin secretion in turn is controlled by norepinephrine, a neurotransmitter in the brain. Receptors for its relative, the hormone epinephrine, are disturbed by EMFs.

Some doctors stated that their observations led them to believe that it was possible that magnetic fields stimulate the rate of cancer cell growth, or act as a cancer promoter.

A San Antonio researcher discovered human cancer cells exposed to 60 Hz fields (the frequency of a high-voltage line) grew as much as 24 times as fast as unexposed cells and showed greatly increased resistance to destruction by the cells of the body's defense system.

Female breast cancer has reached epidemic proportions, with one in ten American women developing it and one in four dying. Alarmingly, of women who develop the disease, 55% have no known risk factors. Breast cancer mortality rates are five times lower in Asia and Africa than in industrialized North America and northern Europe regions where EMFs are omnipresent.

Electric Companies On the Spot

A contention of the electric utility industry in the United States had been that the pathologies referred to in most of the studies might actually have been induced by exposure to pesticides, chemicals or other toxic agents in the environment.

For a time they contended that if power-line magnetic fields really did cause cancer, the fivefold increase in electrical usage during the past 30 years would have been expected to have produced an epidemic of childhood leukemia. The utility industry stopped making this statement in June of 1991, after the National Cancer Institute disclosed that a study it had made showed that in recent years there had been unexplained increases of nearly 11% in childhood leukemia, and of more than 30% in childhood brain cancer.

A study in the American Journal of Industrial Medicine reported a steep increase in brain-cancer rates over the past dozen years among the general population.

People working with computer monitors are developing primary brain tumors at nearly five times the expected rate.

Still, as Dr. Becker observes, "Companies wont admit that EMFs are risky, because they will become liable. And the government wont, because it is the largest user of the electromagnetic spectrum, especially for military communications. Our whole economy depends on them now."

Not surprisingly, as people begin to focus on the problem of EMFs, property values near power lines and electric substations have been plummeting, and numerous lawsuits have been filed.

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