From "Electromagnetic Hazard & Therapy", Volume 15, No. 1, 2004
Childhood leukemia risk doubles near powerlines in biggest-ever UK study
THE largest-ever, publicly funded UK study (1) into powerlines and
child cancer has apparently found that children under the age of 15
living within 100 metres of high-voltage powerlines have nearly twice
the risk of developing leukaemia. Since children aged 0-5 are the
most vulnerable their risk is likely to be even higher.
This result from the Oxford Childhood Cancer Research Group study,
headed by Dr Gerald Draper, involves 33 years of data (1962-95) on
35,000 children diagnosed with cancer which was analysed and compared
with distance to the nearest high-voltage electricity transmission
line (275/400kV). It has been leaked by the The Trentham
Environmental Action Campaign (TEAC), an independent research and
activist group concerned about adverse health effects from
power-lines (see: www.revolt.co.uk/trentham).
Spokeswoman Maureen Asbury said: 'It is scandalous that three years
after telling the Department of Health about them, these findings
have still not been published. Someone seems determined to withhold
Dr Draper's report for as long as possible.'
A 132kV powerline crosses many of Trentham's houses and a 2002 survey
revealed 11 miscarriages and increased depression and insomnia in 113
homes within 25 metres of it.
'It is likely to be a definitive finding on whether UK powerlines can
cause childhood leukaemia,' says Alasdair Philips, of CHILDREN with
LEUKAEMIA, a charity that is funding an International Conference on
Childhood Leukaemia in London, Sept 6-10th (0207 3901561).
Philips continued: 'Preliminary results of this study, funded to run
from 1997-2001, were shown confidentially to the Department of Health
three years ago but are not yet in the public domain. Despite knowing
the first results for some time, we have been patiently waiting for
publication before going public. However, I put them on notice in
January that if they were not published by this September's
conference, to which they were invited to discuss them, we would make
them public as the results are important and will be discussed at the
TEAC first wrote to Dr Draper in February, 2003, about his research
but he did not reply until July, 2004. In it he acknowledged the
importance of the results and said they had been submitted to a
journal for rapid publication. A further letter to him in early
August requesting details of the likely time of publication has so
far gone unanswered.
TEAC also wrote to George Hooker at the DoH's Toxicology and
Radiation Branch at the start of the year requesting similar
information, including reasons for the delay but were dissatisfied
with his reply. In early August he wrote repeating Dr Draper's
The NRPB acknowledged as long ago as 2001, in a report headed by
Professor Sir Richard Doll (2), that the incidence of childhood
leukaemia is doubled at a magnetic field of 0.4 microtesla (uT),
which is easily exceeded under most powerlines. Only this March did
the NRPB finally reduce their magnetic field guidelines from 1,600 uT
(!) to 100 uT. Their release said: 'In the light of these findings
and the requirement for additional research, the need for further
precautionary measures should be considered by government.' (3)
However, 100 uT is still 250 times higher than the 0.4uT level at
which the risk of developing childhood leukaemia is doubled.
Powerline EMFs have also been linked to increased adult cancers,
depression and suicide which, with miscarriages and insomnia, were
also revealed as part of TEAC's survey. A number of these health
problems were also confirmed in the important 2002 California Health
Department report (4).
The Minister for Housing and Planning, Keith Hill, in a July letter
concerning a proposed, 570-flat development in Wimbledon, said: 'We
are aware that there is continuing debate about the effect of living
under powerlines and whether this can have adverse long-term health
effects. We are of the opinion that powerlines are unlikely to have
significant effects on the environment.'
Maureen Asbury commented: 'His comment reveals no awareness of the
DoH's research and shows a complete lack of joined-up Government.'
She continued: 'It is time the government and planners took the
health issue seriously and started a policy of re-directing
powerlines in the worst situations. New housing near them should be
restricted and existing lines through residential areas phased out.'
Only 50 years ago developing childhood leukaemia was almost certainly
fatal. Due to improved treatment, about 80% of children now treated
for the most common form of childhood leukaemia (ALL, acute
lymphoblastic leukaemia) live for more than 5 years. But childhood
leukaemia remains the largest child killer disease and survivors
often suffer ongoing adverse health complications. The number of
children developing leukaemia has been steadily rising over the last
50 years. In 2001, Dr Sam Milham reported a link between growth in
both electricity supply and leukaemia incidence in the US. (5)
1. Draper G, Vincent T, Kroll M, Swanson J. Childhood cancer and
electromagnetic field exposures from powerlines. DoH-funded
1997-2001, RRX 46 (still unpublished)
2. ELF Electromagnetic Fields and the Risk of Cancer. Docs of the
3. See: www.nrpb.org for details of statements and downloadable publications.
4. Neutra RR, Del Pizzo V, Lee GM. An Evaluation of the possible
risks from electric and magnetic fields (EMFs) from power lines,
internal wiring, electrical occupations and appliances, 2002,
California Department of Health & Human Services, The Program,
Oakland, California. See commentary on: www.electric-fields.bris.ac.uk
5. Milham S, Ossiander EM. Historical evidence that residential
electrification caused the emergence of the childhood leukaemia peak,
Medical Hypotheses, 2001;56(3):290-5.