Power Lines, Cancer, and Fear Part 3

Power Lines, Power Lines Danger

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Brodeur went so far as to claim that the search for the truth about the hazards of electromagnetic fields was threatened most by the “obfuscation of industry, the mendacity of the military, and the corruption of ethics that industrial and military money could purchase from various members of the medical and scientific community.”8 Suspicion spread to many other wavelengths on the nonionizing electromagnetic spectrum, producing fears about occupational exposure to electricity as well as exposure to microwave appliances, radar, video-display terminals, and even cellular telephones. Dozens of studies looked for associations with brain cancer, miscarriages, fetal-growth retardation, lymphoma, breast cancer, breast cancer in men, lung cancer, all cancers, immunologic abnormalities, and even changes in the behavior of animals.

When people hear that a scientific study has implicated something new as a cause of cancer, they get worried. They get even more worried when the exposure is called radiation and comes from dangerous-looking high-voltage power lines controlled by government and industry, which some distrust deeply. Such exposure seems eerie when people hear that electromagnetic fields penetrate their homes, their bodies, their children. The worried citizens took action. Frightened people, including parents of children with leukemia, undertook their own epidemiologic studies and fought to get high-power transmission lines moved away from their children. Congress responded with large direct appropriations for wider research on the effects of electromagnetic fields.

After a large apparently positive study in Sweden,7 the Swedish government came close to mandating the relocation of schools to at least 1000 meters from large power lines. But cooler heads prevailed once it became clear that the absolute incremental risk was small at most, the conclusions were based on a tiny fraction of all Swedish children with leukemia, and the increase in risk was found only in relation to some estimates of magnetic fields, not to the actual fields measured in children’s homes.

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