Weak Evidence of Cancer Link to Electric, Magnetic Fields

July 5, 1999
It's little surprise that 18- to 34-year-olds are at the heart of a nationwide increase in illegal drug use, and the manufacturing industry traditionally draws heavily from this pool of job seekers.

Evidence is weak that there is a risk of cancer and other human disease from electric and magnetic fields (EMF) around power lines, according to a conclusion reached by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) after six years of research and two years of review at a cost of about $60 million.

A report released June 15 to Congress by NIEHS applies to extremely low-frequency electric and magnetic fields surrounding big power lines that distribute power and smaller electric lines in homes and appliances. However, EMF exposure "cannot be recognized as entirely safe," according to the report.

"The NIEHS believes that the probability that EMF exposure is truly a health hazard is currently small. The weak epidemiological associations and lack of any laboratory support for these associations provide only marginal scientific support that exposure to this agent is causing any degree of harm," the report concluded.

Research is continuing on some "lingering concerns," the report states. The "strongest evidence" for health effects comes from statistical associations observed in those with childhood leukemia and chronic lymphocytic leukemia in occupationally exposed adults, such as electric utility workers, machinists and welders; however, laboratory studies and investigations do not support these epidemiological associations.

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