HEALTH Minister James Reilly has done a U-turn on pylon safety concerns, saying research shows they have no long-term effects on human, plant or animal health.
Dr Reilly's statement follows his letter to two ministers in 2012 when he expressed worry about the health risks posed by electromagnetic fields.
Referring to proposals to build an east-west interconnector in his north Dublin constituency at the time, he told Environment Minister Phil Hogan and Communications Minister Pat Rabbitte that low frequency magnetic fields increased the risk of childhood leukaemia.
"I recognise that this national infrastructure project is important but I can't ignore the health concerns," he wrote, citing DCU-based public health expert Professor Anthony Staines.
However, he has now backtracked - sparking accusations that the Government is sowing public confusion about pylons.
Now Dr Reilly has said: "The Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government has responsibility for potential health effects of electromagnetic fields (EMF).
"Ireland has taken a precautionary approach on this issue and adopted international guidelines for exposure to electromagnetic radiation developed by the International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection (ICNIRP)."
He pointed to national and international health and scientific agencies which have reviewed more than 30 years of research into EMF.
"None of these agencies has concluded that exposure to EMF from power lines or other electrical source is a cause of any long-term adverse effects on human, plant or animal health," he said in a parliamentary reply to Fine Gael TD Terence Flanagan.
"The issue of the potential health effects of electromagnetic fields was the subject of an expert group report commissioned by the Government and published in March 2007.
"The expert group reported that the majority of scientific opinion was that no adverse short or long-term effects have been demonstrated from exposure to electromagnetic fields at levels below the limits recommended by the ICNIRP."
South Kildare Fine Gael TD Martin Heydon, whose constituency is expected to be earmarked for pylon lines, said Dr Reilly's comments add to existing public confusion. He said people's worry about health concerns had a huge potential to cause distress - which was itself a health threat.
Dr Reilly said he is advised on all matters relating to public health by the Chief Medical Officer, Dr Tony Holohan, who advised him that on the basis of international evidence, health considerations relating to electricity pylons do not warrant his involvement.