EU group links powerlines with childhood leukaemia

Children living close to extremely low-frequency powerlines are more likely to develop leukaemia, according to the independent EU scientific committee on health risks.

EU group links powerlines with childhood leukaemia

While they say they do not know why, and the link has not been comprehensively proven, the Irish-based Grid Link Action Group has warned Environment Minister Alan Kelly to take note.

A report produced by the committee states that research prior to 2000 showed a two-fold increase in the risk of developing childhood leukaemia when living, long term, close to certain pylons.

“The results of current scientific research show that there are no evident adverse health effects if exposure remains below the levels recommended by the EU legislation,” the report states.

It called for studies using recently developed mouse models of acute lymphoblastic leukaemia and recommended they be carried out “as a high priority”.

The group said they should be carried out during gestation — when mice are pregnant — as it is during this period when the basis for the young developing leukaemia later on could happen.

The committee reviewed all scientific literature into the effects of electromagnetic fields on health. It found there was no link to an increased rate of Alzheimer’s or certain cancers.

However, Grid Link Action Group spokesman Kieran Connors said the findings did not mean pylons and electromagnetic fields were harmless.

“It must be pointed out that they found a link between tobacco smoking and cancer as far back as the 1950s, yet only produced the actual evidence of the causal link in the last few years,” he said.

He warned that the finding on leukaemia should serve as a warning to Mr Kelly, who has promised to produce planning guidelines on pylons.

Mr Connors said that, in the meantime, Mr Kelly should adopt the standards of countries such as Denmark, Germany, Sweden. and the Netherlands, especially on the distance of pylons from peoples’ homes.

He warned that Mr Kelly’s action in vetoing a minimum pylon distance in the Kildare County Development Plan could yet come back to haunt him.

“This latest EU health report confirms that our Kildare County Council Development Plan [on] health protection was the right one,” he said, adding that it confirmed that its campaign was the right one.

However, the review by the Department of the Environment into wind energy guidelines is limited to noise, proximity, and shadow flicker from pylons, and does not include health impacts. The department says this should be dealt with by health professionals and it has asked the Department of Health for views on this.

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