Power Lines, Cancer, and Fear Part 2

Power Lines, Power Lines Danger

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This whole saga began when two Denver researchers, puzzled by small clusters of cancer in children, came to believe that living in close proximity to high-voltage power lines was a cause of leukemia.4 The analysis they published in 1979 was crude and relied on distances from homes to power lines and on wiring configurations rather than on direct measures of exposure to electromagnetic fields. They found that the risk of childhood leukemia was more than doubled among children living near such power lines, a finding that led to more studies and more concern. Soon activists and the media began to spread the word that electromagnetic fields cause cancer.

The hypothesized cause was exposure to extremely-low-frequency magnetic fields generated by the electrical current in power lines. Physicists understand these invisible fields well, but most physicians, parents, and patients do not. The movement of any electrical charge creates a magnetic field that can be measured.5 Even the 60-Hz residential electric current (50 Hz in Europe) creates a very weak oscillating field, which, like all magnetic fields, penetrates living tissue. These low-frequency electromagnetic fields are known as nonionizing radiation, since the amount of energy in them is far below that required to break molecular bonds such as those in DNA.

One ironic fact about low-frequency electromagnetic fields is that we live and worry about them within the Earth’s static magnetic field of 50 μT, which is hundreds of times greater than the oscillating magnetic field produced by 110/220-V current in houses (0.01 to 0.05 μT).5,6 Even directly under high-voltage transmission lines, the magnetic field is only about 3 to 10 μT, which is less than that in an electric railway car and much weaker than the magnetic field close to my head when I use an electric razor (about 60 μT).

Although most physicists find it inconceivable that power-line electromagnetic fields could pose a hazard to health, dozens of epidemiologic studies have reported weak positive associations between proximity to high-voltage power lines and the risk of cancer.6,7 The negative or equivocal studies did not end the controversy. Fear of leukemia is a powerful force, and the media response amplified the perception of electromagnetic fields as a health hazard. In 1989 The New Yorker published three articles by journalist Paul Brodeur that described in mesmerizing detail how maverick researchers had discovered a cause of cancer that the establishment refused to accept.8-10 Like many of the epidemiologic studies themselves, these widely quoted articles described biologic mechanisms of action for electromagnetic fields that were hypothetical, even fanciful.

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Power lines And Cancer Clusters Part 3

Power lines, Cancer Clusters

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Warning to Parents

Of critical importance to all parents is that some studies have suggested that children exposed to magnetic fields of between two and three milligauss or above experienced a significantly increased risk of developing cancer. Since ambient levels of two to three milligauss can routinely be measured in buildings within 50 to 150 feet of wires carrying strong electric current, these findings are especially troublesome.

The report leaked last October by the mellitus National Council on Radiation Protection recommended a safety limit of 0.2 microteslas, a very weak field compared to those generated by household appliances. A person standing one foot away from a vacuum cleaner or electric drill can be exposed to anywhere between two and 20 microteslas.

There is no way to block EMFs (they even penetrate lead shielding), and the only protection is distance from the source.

In our electronic age, its almost impossible to eliminate exposure to the myriad of electrical sources with which we come in contact on a daily basis.

Thousands of electric company substations are scattered throughout our cities large and small and they abut homes, apartments and office buildings — even schools. Since few of the high-voltage lines that lead into and out of these substations have been buried to prevent harmful emissions, magnetic fields of potent strength can be found virtually everywhere.

Concerns have also been raised about magnetic fields given off by faulty household wiring, by high-current conductors concealed in the walls, ceilings and floors of commercial office buildings and other large structures; and by high-voltage transformers that can be found in almost any large building.

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Power lines And Cancer Clusters Part 2

Power lines, Cancer Clusters

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Checks showed the operators were exposed to more electromagnetic radiation than people who work on power lines or in power stations.

In another study, Swedish researchers assessed the long-term exposure of people living near high-voltage transmission lines by taking spot measurements of the field strength in each home, and using them to confirm the accuracy of a computer model that calculated the strength of the fields emitted by each of the lines, according to distance from the lines, the wiring configurations, and the current level the lines were known to be carrying.

Then they programmed a computer with records of past current loads that had been maintained over the previous 20 years for each of the transmission lines. They were thus able to pinpoint with great accuracy EMF exposure for each cancer victim. What they found was a clear dose-response relationship between exposure to even weak power-frequency electromagnetic fields and the development of cancer, especially acute and chronic myeloid leukemia.

A second Swedish study, which also employed cases and controls, was conducted by epidemiologists. It confirmed that average magnetic field exposure over time was the critical factor in the development of disease. Interestingly, these studies were funded in part by the Swedish utility industry.

Maria Feychting of Swedens Karolinska Institute looked at 127,000 children who lived near big power lines for over 25 years and found twice the risk of leukemia.

“In our study we found about a two-fold increase in the risk if the children were living close, within 50 meters (yards) of a big power line,” she told Britain’s Channel Four television.

The new study by the University of Bristol showing that power lines can attract cancer-causing gases like radon has heightened concerns.

Even scientists who have failed to find a reason for the apparent link refuse to say it is safe to live near a high-voltage power line.

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Power lines And Cancer Clusters Part 1

Power lines, Cancer Clusters

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As for clusters like the ones which motivated Julie Larm and her group in Omaha, many scientists are skeptical about their significance, if any, to the debate about EMFs. Because conditions like cancer are surprisingly common about one-third of the population gets cancer in their lifetimes random clusters of the disease are not unusual and are found close to and far from power lines.

Still, because of our reliance on electricity and the potential financial consequences for utilities and other companies, the regulation of EMFs is a politically sensitive issue. There is evidence to establish that the Bush administration tried to suppress findings of a study by the Environmental Protection Agency linking electromagnetic fields to certain health problems. The Clinton White House, meanwhile, has been largely silent on the issue.

Cover-Up?

Lending credence to claims that there is, indeed, a public health risk from EMFs and that the government knows about it is that an EPA report a few years ago raised suspicions of a causal link between electromagnetic fields and leukemia, brain tumors, breast and prostrate cancer, even birth defects.

Less-publicized but still significant are some of the foreign studies. Last July, Canadian researchers told the Lancet medical journal they had found a high rate of leukemia among children whose mothers had worked at sewing machines while pregnant.

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Do High-Voltage Power Lines Cause Cancer? Part 4

High-Voltage Power Lines, Power Lines

Do High-Voltage Power Lines Cause Cancer? Part 5

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At the heart of the matter is a relatively simple and well-understood physical phenomenon: When an electric current passes through a wire, it generates an electromagnetic field that exerts forces on surrounding objects. Electric fields arise from the strength of an electric charge; magnetic fields, from the charge’s motion.

Unlike ionizing radiations such as x-rays — which pack sufficient wallop to knock electrons out of the molecules that make up the human body — EMFs do not produce charged particles, so experts always believed they posed no danger. Therefore, the Federal government has never regulated EMFs, and the electric industry was allowed to set its own standards.

But other recent experimental studies have shown that even weak magnetic fields can change the chemistry of the brain, impair the immune system, and inhibit the synthesis of melatonin, a hormone known to suppress several types of tumors and to be present in reduced amounts in men as well as women who develop breast cancer.

Some lab tests have confirmed that EMFs affect living cells in a variety of ways, most of them harmful. (Scientists are intrigued, however, by their ability to speed slow-healing fractures, enhancing bone formation).

What’s confusing is that the studies have produced widely divergent and often contradictory results. On the one hand, many scientists are convinced the study of electromagnetic fields is a massive waste of time and money — costing an estimated one billion dollars a year. After years of extensive study, Dr. Garry Boorman says, “We’re not sure what part of the field, if any, is toxic or important, or could be hazardous to your health.”

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Do High-Voltage Power Lines Cause Cancer? Part 3

High-Voltage Power Lines, Power Lines

Do High-Voltage Power Lines Cause Cancer? Part 2

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When they plotted them on a map they were surprised to see that all lived within one mile of each other and an electric power substation.

“If there was nothing to worry about, why does our utility have an EMF committee…which was in effect long before we came and started making noise ?” asks Larm, a member of the Omaha Parents for the Prevention of Cancer. “Why do they need such things if theres nothing to it?”

The group’s efforts have been buttressed by Paul Brodeur, a campaigning environmental journalist who had in his day taken on asbestos and chlorofluorocarbons and is the author of two books on the subject of EMFs. Brodeur is convinced that EMFs are one of the greatest environmental threats facing the nation.

“Never before has there been this much epidemiological evidence of the carcinogenicity of any agent,” says Brodeur, “and that agent declared to be benign.”

Robert Becker, M.D., author of Cross Currents (Tarcher, 1990), who has studied this subject since the 1960s warns, “EMFs could turn out to be a far worse environmental disaster, affecting far more people, than toxic waste, radiation or asbestos.”

To some, especially the families of people with unexplained cancers, the sheer volume of research that has been carried out on this issue suggests there must be a cancer connection and perhaps a cover-up. Their suspicion is heightened by the fact that many of the studies are funded by the utility industry, which would be directly affected by the studies’ outcomes.

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Do High-Voltage Power Lines Cause Cancer? Part 1

High-Voltage Power Lines, Power Lines

Do High-Voltage Power Lines Cause Cancer? Part 2

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By NEAL LAWRENCE (Midwest Today, April/May 1996)

It was sort of a funny story when we first heard about it a few years ago: A dairy farmer living in Wisconsin near high voltage utility company transmission lines couldn’t turn out the lights in his barn. Even with the switches in the off position, night after night after he had finished his chores, he’d go back out to the barn to find the light bulbs still glowing from the electrical charge hovering in the air. The cows were none too happy about it either, because the constant light prevented them from sleeping, and they gave less milk.

But the story doesn’t seem so funny any more — not after the spate of recent reports of children developing deadly illnesses or adults dying prematurely of rare diseases — all apparently because they had the misfortune of living near high amounts of electrical current.

A growing body of scientific evidence suggests that invisible electromagnetic fields (EMFs) — created by everything from high-voltage utility company lines to personal computers, microwave ovens, TVs and even electric blankets — are linked to a frightening array of cancers and other serious health problems in children and adults.

Though it received scant attention from the mainstream press, a report leaked last October from the U.S. National Council on Radiation Protection said there is a powerful body of impressive evidence showing that even very low exposure to electromagnetic radiation has long-term effects on health.

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Power-Line Radiation And Childhood Leukemia this cold case may finally be solved

Power-Line Radiation, Childhood Leukemia

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Power lines and childhood leukemia. This was big news in the 1970s, when epidemiologists found cancer clusters in neighborhoods near high-voltage power lines. In the late 80s, the New Yorker published a breakthrough series of articles bringing a human face to the issue.

Based on the epidemiology, it seemed like there had to be some kind of link. The problem was, scientists, working with cells and animals in laboratory experiments, couldn’t find a conclusive cause. And the issue fell off the proverbial radar screen, as the public became more concerned about cell phone radiation and brain tumors.

Granger Morgan and his colleagues at Carnegie Mellon University advised “prudent avoidance” in a series of booklets on the subject as well as articles in Spectrum. Basically, take reasonable steps to minimize risk, but don’t drive yourself nuts. That made sense to me; as part of research for an article I had my house tested for EMF (back in the day when my local utility would provide this service on request). After I found out the biggest emitter was the clock on the front of my stove, I had it disconnected (seemed prudent, I was pregnant at the time and cooked a lot). Then I pretty much forgot about it.

Until this week, when scientists from the Jiao Tong University School of Medicine in Shanghai announced the results of research that may finally explain just how EMF radiation causes childhood leukemia. Xiaoming Shen and his colleagues determined that the distribution of leukemia among children living hear high voltage power lines or transformers is not random; rather, it affects children carrying a certain genetic variantâ”that is, the ability to repair DNA breaksâ”vastly more often.

This simple sounding finding has huge implications. Researchers have long thought that EMF radiation caused DNA breaks, but couldn’t figure out how. Shen’s research points to a different mechanism; the EMF radiation doesn’t cause the breaks, but inhibits DNA repair, particularly in children that have a weakened repair mechanism to begin with.

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Health Effects of Radiation From Power Lines Part 2

Power Lines Radiation, Power Lines

Health Effects of Radiation From Power Lines Part 1

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Lymphatic and Bone Marrow Cancers

A 2007 study led by Prof. Ray Lowenthal of the University of Tasmania and published in the “Internal Medicine Journal” established a link between its survey group of 850 Australians and adult onset of lymphatic and bone marrow cancers. Respondents who lived within 300 meters of power lines before the age of 5 reported five times the incidence of adult cancers; those who lived within that distance at any point up to age 15 were three times as likely to develop cancer.

Lowenthal allowed that his team’s results were suggestive rather than conclusive, noting that previous studies examined the short-term effects of living near power lines, and that additional studies, like his, assessing the long-term risks are needed.

Brain Cancer

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have compiled statistics relating to EMF exposure in the workplace as well as in the general environment, and determined that workers exposed to above-average levels of EMFs do report higher-than-normal cancer rates. The CDC stops short of establishing causation, however, noting that other factors not studied may be at play.

Studies compiled by the CDC show that workers exposed to greater than 4 milligauss, a unit of magnetic flux, showed increased rates of leukemia and brain cancers, though the inconsistency of cancer type makes conclusions difficult to draw. Additional data have shown a link to breast cancer and even a possible relationship to Alzheimer’s, but research in these areas is ongoing as of 2010.

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Watch The Signal Bars On Your Cell Phone To Protect You From Radiation

Cell Phone Protection, Cell Phone Radiation Protection

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Cell phone towers health effects

The signal bars on your cell phone tell you how strong the signal is that are connecting to your cell phone. In other words, the closer you are to a cell phone tower the stronger the signal. The stronger the signal the less power your phone has to use to maintain the connection. A strong signal is indicated by a full set of “bars” showing on your cell phone display. Fewer bars mean a weaker signal. A weaker signal means the cell phone has to work harder to maintain the signal.

Consequently, more power is needed to maintain the connection. The more power needed the greater the amount of radiation produced by your phone and the greater exposure to you. So always try to talk in outdoors or in an open space. This allows an easier connection from your cell phone to the nearest cell phone tower. Your phone won’t have to work as hard and less power is used to maintain the signal, which translates, to less radiation exposure for you.

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