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 WDDTY Special Report: Power Lines - Short Circuits to Illness 
The following is one in an ongoing series of columns entitled What Doctors Don't Tell You by . View all columns in series

Although the findings were of considerable public interest, the UK Government’s Department of Health, which had funded the research , suppressed the report for four years. Officials at the Department were first informed of the preliminary results in 2001, yet the report was not published until June 2005.

What’s more, even when it finally made it into print, Geoff Watts , science editor of the British Medical Journal, declared that the Draper report simply means that only “five cases annually of childhood leukemia may be associated with power lines” compared with the 32 children who are killled annually in house fires or the 200 who die every year on UK roads (B M J, 2005; 330: 1294–5). Nevertheless, it was still an admission that power lines can affect our health.

Two researchers—Anders Ahlbom f rom the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm and Sander Greenland from the UCLA School of Public Health in Los Angeles, CA—h a v e conducted a range of studies into EMFs and childhood leukemia since 2000. Indeed, in that year alone, they both published papers - one of which was a pooled analysis of 15 studies— that demonstrated a doubling of leukaemia rates among children exposed to the same levels of ELF fields as are generated by standard power lines (Br J Cancer, 2000; 85: 692–8; Epidemiology, 2000; 11: 624–34). A year later, Ahlbom followed up with another review of the “voluminous epidemiologic literature on EMF” that confirmed the association of childhood leukaemia and postnatal exposures to EMFs (Environ Health Perspect, 2001; 109 [Suppl 6]: 911–33).

Power lines and Alzheimer’s
Several studies have produced compelling evidence for a causal connection between EMFs and Alzheimer’s disease. The latest study, published in November 2007, comes from Switzerland, where researchers have established that people who are living within 50 metres of a power line for 15 years or more have twice the the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease compared with those who are living 600 metres or more from such power lines.

Researchers at the University of Bern made the discovery when they analyzed the health profiles of 4.7 million people in Switzerland who lived close to a power line. They concluded that the distance from a line, and the duration of time spent living near such a line, were both significant risk factors. The overall risk of Alzheimer’s for anyone living within 50 metres of a power line for any length of time was 1.24 times greater than that of someone who lived further away (Am J Epidemiol, 2008; doi: 10.1093/aje/kwn297).

In fact, the conclusion that the duration of EMF exposure is asignificant marker of Alzheimer’ s risk has been supported by a study of workers in Spain whose occupations bring them into regular contact with ELF EMFs. A meta-analysis of 14 studies, carried out by researchers at Valencia University, revealed that people in those occupations had twice the risk of developing Alzheimer’s in later life compared with the general population (Int J Epidemiol, 2008; 37: 329–40).

EMFs and other diseases
As EMFs are believed to interfere with the workings of the immune system, it follows that they would be expected to be responsible for causing a wide range of degenerative, chronic diseases, as suggested by California’s EMF Project findings. In fact, in addition to leukemia, the researchers consider it “likely” that magnetic fields are the cause of spontaneous abortions (miscarriage) and ALS, a view that has been supported by a number of studies. Three recent studies support the hypothesis that EMFs cause spontaneous abortions. One such study, which reviewed 177 cases of miscarriage in Northern California, found a close correlation with exposure to high levels of EMFs. Women exposed to the highest levels were more than three times more likely to miscarry than those whose exposure was minimal (Epidemiology, 2002; 13: 21–31).

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