Power Lines

Health written question – answered on 6th November 2001.

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Photo of Anne McIntosh Anne McIntosh Shadow Spokesperson (Culture, Media and Sport)

To ask the Secretary of State for Health if he will commission a Government inquiry into the health effects of power frequency electric and magnetic fields.

Photo of Jacqui Smith Jacqui Smith Minister of State, Department of Health

The Department obtains advice on the possible health implications of exposure to electromagnetic fields, including the extremely low frequency (ELF) fields associated with power lines, from the National Radiological Protection Board (NRPB). The Board of NRPB has set up an independent Advisory Group on Non-ionising Radiation (AGNIR) chaired by the eminent epidemiologist Sir Richard Doll. Members are some of the United Kingdom's leading experimental scientists and epidemiologists. The AGNIR has prepared a number of reports on the possible health effects of exposure to power frequency electric and magnetic fields. Its most recent report was published in March 2001 and provided a comprehensive summary of sources of exposure to ELF electromagnetic fields and methods of measurement as well as reviews of experimental and epidemiological (human health) studies.

AGNIR continues to monitor research on this topic.

In June, the International Agency for Research in Cancer (IARC) based in Lyon, France, brought together an international team of experts to review the evidence for the possible carcinogenic effects of exposure to static and ELF electric and magnetic fields. It concluded that magnetic fields are "possibly carcinogenic" to humans based on a statistical association between higher level magnetic field exposure and the risk of childhood leukaemia. This conclusion is consistent with the views expressed by AGNIR.

These two reviews by teams of eminent scientists are consistent in their findings and provide the most up to date published reviews of this subject.

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