Pylon and radiation review ‘omits key studies’

A review of studies into how high-voltage cables, and pylons, affect people’s health released by the European Commission was lambasted by an expert in the field who said it omitted important new studies.

However, Eirgrid, which plans to erect 750 pylons across 10 counties by 2017 at a cost of €3.2bn, interpreted the commission’s preliminary opinion on recent studies as giving them the green light.

Professor Theo Samaras, editor of the draft commission document, admitted some of the research considered in it on the dangers of electromagnetic fields (EMF) was irrelevant because of its poor quality.

The 220-page document covers the whole area of electromagnet radiation from mobile phones and household appliances to high-voltage power lines.

While they devoted very little space to pylons, the commission committee involved believed more research was needed.

Prof Samaras is inviting experts to submit comments and studies that may have been omitted over the next three months before the final recommendation is published mid-year.

Professor Denis Henshaw, from Bristol University, who has been studying the effects of electromagnetic fields for the past 20 years, said: “This document is just an opinion. But there is a lack of quality, and superficial spin in the introduction. It appears to be selective in that it has omitted very well respected research, for example in Switzerland, linking an increase in Alzheimer’s to people living close to high- voltage lines.”

He said previous studies have linked the high-voltage lines to increased risk of leukaemia among children living nearby. The answer to all these problems was to bury the cables and the cost per person spread over the next 30 or so years would be very little compared to the benefit to health, the environment, and to industry, he said.

MEP Marian Harkin — who is organising a public meeting next Monday in Trim to be attended by Prof Henshaw — said other countries ensure buildings are not put where the exposure is over a certain minimum level.

A statement from Eirgrid said, “National and international health and scientific agencies have reviewed more than 30 years of research into EMF. None of these agencies has concluded that exposure to EMF from power lines or other electrical sources is a cause of adverse effects on humans, plants, or animals” .

Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore said the EU review would not preempt any health review of power line routes and EMFs (electromagnetic fields) that the Department of Environment has now been ordered to carry out.

Pylon Alternative Alliance chairman Robert Duggan said the review did not add any new information to the debate about power lines: “It says that more research is needed. But it also points out that there is a statistical link with childhood leukaemia... The bottom line is if there is any statistical doubt about health risks, the onus is on the designers [Eirgrid] to find a solution.”

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