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Powerlines double risk of leukaemia

The biggest ever UK Government-funded study into a possible link between high-voltage powerlines and child cancer [1] suggested that living within 100 metres of a high voltage powerlines can double leukaemia in children aged under 15. The risk to children aged five and under is likely to be even higher because their skulls are thinner and their bodies still developing. These "preliminary results" were known in 2001 and formally presented to the UK Department of Health in 2003 but the Government never made them public. Suspecting a cover up, Powerwatch UK Director Alasdair Phllips finally leaked the findings in 2004. "It is likely to be a definitive finding on whether UK power lines can cause childhood leukaemia," he commented.

Ed.- (i) Is melatonin involved?
Bristol University’s Professor Denis Henshaw is the UK’s principal investigator of the link between overhead power lines and child cancers. At the 2004 Children with Leukaemia conference, he suggested that the electromagnetic fields emitted from powerlines cause leukaemia because they disrupted the pineal gland’s nocturnal production of melatonin. He supported his hypothesis with the following research findings from other researchers:

  • Exposure to EMFs of strengths experienced underneath power lines can disrupt the body’s nocturnal production of melatonin [1]
  • Melatonin is an antioxidant and mops up free radicals much more effectively than either vitamins C or E [2]
  • Melatonin protects the blood from genetic damage by free radicals and carcinogens [3]
  • Melatonin is also highly protective of the foetus. There is compelling evidence that acute lymphoblastic leukaemia starts in the womb [4]

(ii) The Government study correlated 33 years of data on 35,000 children diagnosed with cancer with the distance they lived from the nearest high voltage overhead powerline. Its finding of a double risk of leukaemia corresponds well with earlier generally accepted international studies that prolonged exposures to electromagnetic fields (EMFs) above 0.4 microtesla in strength double the risk of childhood leukaemia. EMFs below power lines are usually much higher.

(iii) In March 2004 the UK's National Radiological Protection Board reduced the national official 'safe' magnetic field strength exposure guidelines from 1,600 microtesla to 100 microtesla.

[1] Burch et al. Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine 2000;42(2):136-42,
Burch,JB et al. International Journal of Radiation Biology 2002;78:1029-36
[2] Reiter,R et al. Life Sciences1997;60(25):2255-71
[3] Vijayalaxmi et al. Mutation Research 1996. 71, 221 -228
[4] Greaves,M. British Medical Journal 2002;324:283-87

(11502) Medical News Today


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