After an exhaustive study of national newspapers, magazines and studies, the most definitive conclusion on the Electro-Magnetic Field (EMF) and cancer link is that there is no definite conclusion.
For years the scientific community has researched this issue. For as many studies that support the claim that EMFs are dangerous, there are studies that claim that they are not. In the early 1990s, law professionals, citing scientific studies negating the EMF and cancer link, predicted that EMFs would not become the next asbestos litigation monster as litigation lawyers were hoping it would be. Though it is extremely difficult to win a case where EMFs are the sole cause of injury, a 2002 study by the California Health Department has given greater credence to the EMF-cancer link. With the study's findings, the fear of EMFs becomes more accepted.
While the court seldom acknowledges an EMF-cancer link, it often does recognize the loss of property value as a result of the fear of EMFs. In this case, as with other stigma cases, fear is compensable.
Unlike gas pipelines, power lines have a long history of controversy. In 1979, Dr. Nancy Wertheimer studied the high amount of childhood leukemia in the Denver area and found that most of the cases clustered along a high-voltage power line. Since then, the scientific community has spent years and millions of dollars researching the validity of the EMF-cancer link. This interest is far more than simple curiosity. By its own admissions, the utilities fear that if a link was ever found, they would lose billions of dollars to litigation suits and governmental regulations.
The following articles are a sampling of our exhaustive, six-volume power-lines / EMF research.
The California EMF Project Findings
In 2002, the California Department of Health Services concluded its eight-year study on EMFs. They found that:
EMFs likely cause childhood and adult leukemia, adult brain cancer, spontaneous abortions and ALS.
EMFs possibly cause childhood brain cancer, female and male breast cancer, Alzheimer's disease, suicide, and heart problems.
EMFs are unlikely to universally impact all types of cancer or reproductive failures other than spontaneous abortions.
There is insufficient information to determine if magnetic fields cause clinical depression.
EMFs at low intensities have profound effects on selective animal organisms.
The report finds that, with respect to the diseases possibly or likely caused by EMF "even a slight additional lifetime risk could be of concern to regulators, who already regulate other environmental concerns that convey even lower risks."
The report notes a full mechanistic understanding does not now exist to explain why EMFs could cause serious disease. The report goes on to note, however, "The lack of mechanistic understanding is initially common in harmful agents."
Excerpt From CNN Lou Dobbs Moneyline. Aired on August 15, 2002.
Transcript of CNN coverage on The California Health Department's report on EMF risks. The study took eight years and the authors "are inclined to believe that power line radiation increases the risk for childhood leukemia, adult brain cancer, Lou Gehrig's disease and miscarriages."
The report lists health risk odds as well. They found a 54% to 95% greater chance of childhood leukemia; 51% to 80% greater risk of adult brain cancer; 51% to 59% greater chance of miscarriage; and 52% to 55% greater risk of Lou Gehrig's disease.
Moneyline conducted a poll that night on whether or not their viewers think there are health risks associated with living near power lines. 71% said yes and 29% said no.
"Policy Options in the Face of Possible Risk from Power Frequency Electric and Magnetic Fields" by the California EMF Program (division of the California Department of Health Services). Presented in June 2002.
Stakeholders of a utility were interviewed to see how they felt about the utility spending more money to protect citizens against the supposed EMF threat. The study found that the stakeholders responded in one of four ways. Some opted for a "utilitarian" response that aims at the most good for the most people at the least cost. Others opted for a "social justice" response that aims at protecting the most vulnerable regardless of cost. Others chose the "virtual-certainty-required" avenue that requires certainty of a problem before acting on it. The remainder chose the "non-interventionist" approach that prefers non-governmental approaches to environmental risk regardless of the degree of confidence that there is a problem.
Upon further questioning, most of the stakeholders agreed that EMF reducing expenditures could be justified from a cost-benefit approach without 100% confidence that EMFs cause disease.
They came to the conclusion that, in order to economically justify safety measures, 100 to 1,500 deaths over the 35-year life of a power-line need to be saved. They estimate the value of each life at $5 million. Without this range, safety measures would be deemed unpractical according to the cost-benefit model.
Possible Health Effects of Exposure to Residential Electric and Magnetic Fields by the National Research Council. E-book published by the National Academy Press in 1997.
"The conclusion of the committee is that the current body of evidence does not show that exposure to these fields presents a human-health hazard. Specifically, no conclusive and consistent evidence shows that exposures to residential electric and magnetic fields produce cancer, adverse neurobehavioral effects, or reproductive and developmental effects."
NIEHS Report on Health Effects from Exposure to Power-Line Frequency Electric and Magnetic Fields. Released by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences on May 4, 1999.
They concluded that the evidence is weak linking EMFs to health risks. However, they did find that the most common health risk was leukemia (mostly appearing in children). They also admit that there is a fairly consistent pattern of a small, increased risk of childhood leukemia with increasing exposure. 19 of the 28 voting members of the panel voted that EMF is a possible human carcinogen.
In conclusion, they stated that ELF-EMF exposure cannot be recognized as entirely safe because of weak scientific evidence.
Currents of Fear transcript - PBS program by Jon Palfreman. Aired on June 13, 1995.
EMF supporters and attackers square off on the health effects of EMFs. This transcript begins with a mother's find that, not only does her child have leukemia, but also so does eleven other children along the same power line. The story launches from there to include opinions from Paul Brodeur (author of Currents of Death), industry officials, government officials, health experts, scientists, engineers and other parents of cancerous children.
Electric Powerlines: Health and Public Policy Implications - Oversight Hearing before the Subcommittee on General Oversight and Investigations of the Committee on Interior and Insular Affairs House of Representatives, 101st Congress, second session on electric powerlines: health and public policy implications. March 8, 1990.
Back in 1990, the EMF debate was so prevalent that members of Congress took it upon themselves to pass a bill that would limit the public's exposure to EMFs.
"Overhead Power Lines Impact Residential Sales" by *author unknown*. Appeared on the Real Estate Center website on February 1999.
The author cites a then recent study that found that the presence of power lines played in a part in half of the surveyed homeowners purchase. The researchers found an average 4.1% negative impact on property near power lines.
"Largest study finds evidence of association between EMFs and exposed worker suicide" by David Williamson. Appeared in the UNC-CH News Services on March 15, 2000.
A University of North Carolina study found that electricians working for five U.S. power companies faced twice the expected risk of suicide. Linemen faced 1½ times the expected risk.
"Study: No power lines, cancer link" by the Associated Press. Appeared on MSNBC News on June 25, 2003.
"A study that sought to explain the high rate of breast cancer on Long Island found no evidence to support fears that living near power lines causes the disease."
"No Adverse Health Effects Seen From Residential Exposure to Electromagnetic Fields" by Dan Quinn and Shannon Flannery for the National Research Council on October 31, 1996.
"No clear, convincing evidence exists to show that residential exposures to electric and magnetic fields are a threat to human health, a committee of the National Research Council has concluded in a new report. After examining more than 500 studies spanning 17 years of research, the committee said there is no conclusive evidence that electromagnetic fields play a role in the development of cancer, reproductive and developmental abnormalities, or learning and behavioral problems."
"New Sparks Fly Over Manassas School Site; Councilman Wants Substation Moved" by Michele Clock. Appeared in The Washington Post on May 30, 2004.
"Worried about the safety of future students at Manassas' planned intermediate school, a City Council member said that an electrical substation must be moved from the site."
"Parent Lobby Derails School" by Bill Mah. Appeared in the Edmonton Journal on October 26, 2002.
A group of city parents halted the construction of a school because they convinced the school board that the school site was too close to high-voltage power lines and posed an unnecessary health risk to their children.
"Coping with the Risk of Cancer in Children Living Near Power Lines" by Eileen N. Abt for the Franklin Pierce Law Center.
Covers the reported risks of living near EMFs and the results of sensationalism in the media on this topic. The author cites two articles in Time and Popular Science that both told readers to, if at all possible, avoid living near high-power lines. Also, the author cites numerous studies both here and in Europe that found a tenuous link between EMF exposure and cancer.
"Concerns linger about electromagnetic fields" by Becky Gillette. Appeared in The Environmental Magazine on April 18, 2002.
EMF fears generate study after study. Utilities vehemently fought the release of the 2002 California EMF study, and the only way it was released to the public was when the California First Amendment Coalition filed a lawsuit for its release.
The National Council on Radiation Protection and Measurements' 1995 study was blocked by the utilities so it was "leaked" to the public shortly after. In this report, "significant scientific evidence suggests even very low exposure to EMFs has subtle, long-term effects on human health." Also, the study recommends that no new power lines be built near existing homes.
The National Institute of Environmental Health Services "convened an international body of scientists, then rejected its conclusions after it said that the [EMF health] risk was real." After the rejection, the NIEHS falsified the report to say that there was no risk.
If you wish to learn more about EMFs, contact us for more information on what EMFs are, how they can affect people, human health studies, biological studies and government actions.