Saturday 1 November 2014

EU report fails to find evidence of major health risks from power lines

Shane Phelan Public Affairs Editor

Published 04/02/2014 | 11:31

Pylons

ANTI-PYLON campaigners have been dealt a major blow after an EU report published today failed to find any evidence of a major heath threat to humans from high voltage power lines.

However, it did leave the door open for more research in the area.

The “preliminary opinion” published by a European Commission committee of experts said most studies on extremely low magnetic frequencies – the type emitted by high voltage power cables – “have not found any effects”.

It said that two experimental studies had identified individuals who were affected by exposure. But the findings of these studies were too unalike for conclusions to be drawn.

Further research would be needed before any weight could be given to these studies, it found.

The committee noted new epidemiological studies which were consistent with earlier findings of an increased risk of childhood leukaemia after long-term exposure to magnetic fields.

However, it concluded there were no way of explaining these findings.

It said there was a lack of experimental support for the findings, as well as shortcomings in the studies, which would prevent it from identifying a cause for the increased risk.

The report stated recent results did not show any effect on human reproduction functions from exposure to the extremely low magnetic frequency magnetic fields.

The findings were published this morning by the European Commission’s Scientific Committee on Emerging and Newly Identified Health Risks.

The committee is made up of experts in electromagnetic fields from around the EU.

The report involved a review of nearly 500 scientific reports and studies on electromagnetic fields, all of which were conducted in the past five years.

EU member states, members of the public, and interest groups have now been invited to comment on the findings. A final report, taking into account these submissions, as well as public hearings in March, is expected to be published later this year.

The “preliminary opinion” comes at a crucial time in the debate over EirGrid’s plans for an €1bn upgrade of its network, which involves hundreds of kilometres of overhead power lines on pylons.

A series of public meetings focussing on the health implications of EirGrid’s upgrade projects, are planned for the coming months.

While the report’s findings do not support opponents’ claims that there are real health risks, they do leave the door open for further research in the area.

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