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 what assessment he has made of the health risks of a (a) cancer and (b) non-cancer nature and other health consequences of electro-magnetic fields situated near to overhead power lines.

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 those 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) "to review work on the biological effects of non-ionising radiation relevant to human health and to advise on research priorities".

Most of the research carried out on possible health effects of exposure to electromagnetic fields and radiation has concentrated on cancer risk. In March this year, the AGNIR published a report on the potential risks of cancer from exposure to extremely low frequency electromagnetic fields that includes those from power lines. The report provides a comprehensive review of experimental and epidemiological studies relevant to an assessment of the possible risk of cancer as well as information on sources of exposure and their measurement.

An assessment has been carried out by AGNIR of the potential neurodegenerative effects of exposure to electromagnetic fields. A report has been prepared and publication is imminent.

The AGNIR is also further considering the possible effects on health of corona ions generated by power lines. A first meeting to consider this issue has taken place and researchers on this topic have been invited to make presentations at future meetings. A final report will be published by NRPB.

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