NEW evidence has revealed underground electricity cables running through a seaside town could increase the risk of childhood leukaemia, campaigners claimed today.
Residents against a high-voltage power line under Rush in north Co Dublin maintain energy company EirGrid misled planning authorities.
A public health academic also called for the state-owned firm to launch a fresh planning process for the east-west interconnector, which will connect the Irish and British electricity grids.
Professor Anthony Staines, of Dublin City University, maintained evidence about the magnetic field around the cables presented by EirGrid at An Bord Pleanala's oral hearing in 2009 was seriously inaccurate.
"Potential adverse health effects of the cable system's magnetic field have not been assessed for the received permission," he said.
"As it is well established that low frequency magnetic fields increase the risk of childhood acute lymphoblastic leukaemia, there is at least one well-defined health risk which needs to be considered."
EirGrid has denied the claims, stating it always operates within national, international and EU guidelines to ensure public health.
A spokeswoman said since planning permission was granted, two separate independent reports were commissioned to address safety concerns - one ordered by the Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources carried out by radiobiologist Eric van Rongen, and one by the international energy consultants, KEMA, selected by Rush Community Council (RCC).
"The planning decision by An Bord Pleanala, and the findings of both independent reports by Prof Eric van Rongen and KEMA, confirm that the EirGrid east-west interconnector does not pose a health threat to the public," she said.
She added that Prof van Rongen concluded: "There are no indications that exposure to the static magnetic fields generated by the HVDC cable will in any way adversely affect human health, neither through acute nor through long-term effects."
The interconnector will be operational by the end of the year and its cables will carry up to 500MW of energy - enough power to supply 300,000 homes - underground from Rush to Meath.
Rush Community Council, which states the cables are about 1.5 metres (5ft) from some homes, accused EirGrid of misleading the planning board by stating the cable system's magnetic field would be static only (non-variable) and not time-varying magnetic fields (variable).
The KEMA report later revealed the cable system would radiate time-variable fields.
Prof Staines - who reviewed the KEMA report for RCC - said while the consultants believed the levels were not close to limits set by the International Commission on Non-Ionising Radiation Protection, it could not prove it and advised a revaluation.
"The health risk related to the incorrect assessment or non-assessment of time-varying magnetic fields associated with the east-west interconnector cable system was not examined during the planning process," added Prof Staines.
"This is a fundamental denial of due process and examination of a critical component of the cable system's effect on people's health, especially children from 0 to 15 years of age, for those who will live, attend school or spend a significant proportion of their day within the system's magnetic field."