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EU report fails to find conclusive evidence linking pylons with health risks

The report states that more research is needed to enable draw any conclusion into possible health risks.

Image: shutterstock

Updated 12.20pm

A NEW REPORT into electro magnetic fields (EMF) associated with electricity pylons has failed to find a conclusive link that it exposes people to health risks.

The European Commission report conducted by the scientific committee said that human exposure to EMF comes from many different sources and occurs in various everyday situations. Man-made static fields are mainly found in occupational settings, though the report states that “high-voltage overhead transmission lines are being constructed which will expose larger parts of the population to static electric and magnetic fields”.

Power lines

The report states that more research is needed into the health effects from Extremely Low Frequency (ELF) fields (the main sources of these fields pertaining to the general public are household appliances and power lines):

“…Epidemiological studies are consistent with earlier findings of an increased risk of childhood leukemia with long-term average exposure to magnetic fields above 0.3 to 0.4 µT. However, as stated in the previous opinions, no mechanisms have been identified that could explain these findings”.

The report goes on to say that “the lack of experimental support and shortcomings identified for the epidemiological studies prevent “a causal interpretation”.

Electromagnetic fields

“Studies investigating possible effects of magnetic fields (MF) exposure on the power spectra of the waking EEG, behavioural outcomes and cortical excitability are too heterogeneous to enable drawing any conclusion,” said the report, adding, that while most studies investigating the effects of EMF exposure on symptoms have not found any effects, two experimental studies have identified individual participants who “may reliably react to exposure”.

However, they state that replication of these findings “is essential before weight is given to these results”.

The report stated that “in recent years attention has been directed towards people living next to power transformers installed inside residential buildings. It appears that long-term exposure to ELF magnetic field of these people can exceed several tenths of μT.

Recent results do not show an effect of ELF MF exposure on reproductive function in humans.

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The report cites a Danish study which they said showed “no association between residential exposure to power lines and risk of Alzheimer or Parkinson disease”.

Residential history, constructed for the past 20 years, “showed no indication of increased risks were found for ever having lived less than 50 metres from a high-voltage power line, nor for duration of such residency”.

The report stated:

Only in a sub-group analysis of Alzheimer disease in the age group 65-74 years… The results did not confirm the findings of the Swiss cohort study reporting increased risks of Alzheimer disease for living 15 years within 50 metres of a power line.

The European Commission and the Scientific Committee on Emerging Newly Identified Health Risks (SCENIHR) have launched a public consultation into the matter and are now seeking feedback from the scientific community and stakeholders on the risk assessment related to the potential health effects of exposure to electromagnetic fields.

All interested parties are invited to submit written comments on the preliminary opinion by 16 April 2014.

Ahead of the publication of this report, the Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore said on Newstalk, that the Minister Pat Rabbitte intends to press ahead with the expert review panel into the use of pylons, but said “of course” the European Commission report will weigh in on the consultation.

Explainer: What’s happening with electricity pylons and why is it such a big issue?>

Related: Could controversial power lines go underground? The government wants to find out>

More: Rabbitte wants to reassure you about this part of the pylon study>

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