Its Official - NIH Panel
Says EMFs And Power
Lines May Cause Cancer
By Randolph E. Schmid
From Doc In Phoenix <>
WASHINGTON (AP) - Electric and magnetic fields like those around power lines should be considered possible causes of cancer, says a divided panel of scientists convened by the National Institutes of Health.
``This report does not suggest the risk is high,'' said Michael Gallo, chairman of the group.
Indeed, the risk ``is probably quite small compared to many other public health risks,'' said Gallo, a professor at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey-Robert Wood Medical School in Piscataway.
The new report comes from a National Institutes of Health panel convened to review scientific research on the topic. The group, completing 10 days of discussions in Brooklyn Park, Minn., voted 19-9 Wednesday to accept the position that electromagnetic fields should be regarded a ``possible human carcinogen.''
Eight members of the panel convened by the NIH's National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences said that, because of conflicting studies, they could not decide whether electrical fields were potential causes of cancer. One said they probably are not.
Linda Schoumacher of the Edison Electric Institute, which represents the electrical industry, said that it would be premature to comment on the report but that her organization will be studying it.
The NIH group's finding is at odds with a 1996 report by a National Research Council panel of scientists who evaluated about 500 studies on the health effects of high voltage power lines and found ``no conclusive and consistent evidence'' that electric and magnetic fields cause any human disease.
Studies of the incidence of disease analyzed by NIH group found a slight increase in childhood leukemia risk for youngsters whose homes are near power lines and an increase in chronic leukemia in adults working in industries where they are exposed to intensive electric fields.
The group said there wasn't enough evidence to link household exposure to power lines to cancer in adults or to associate electromagnetic fields to such problems as Alzheimer's disease, depression and birth defects.
They found no evidence of miscarriage from video display terminals and no evidence of illness other than leukemia in children.
The panel said it looked at hundreds of studies of animals and cells exposed to electric fields that showed little or no effect, raising some concern about the ``weak association'' found in the epidemiological studies, which look at the incidence of illness.
The earlier National Research Council report noted that some studies had found a ``weak, but statistically significant'' link between high voltage electrical transmission lines and the incidence of a rare childhood leukemia. But that committee found the research to be flawed.
Overall, that panel said, there was no conclusive evidence to link electromagnetic fields with cancer, reproductive and developmental abnormalities, learning or behavior.
A 1979 study in Denver, Colo., that found a group of children who died of leukemia were more likely to live near to electrical lines than other youngsters fueled public worry about electrical fields.
The increasing concern prompted Congress in 1992 to fund a research program into electromagnetic fields.
The findings completed Wednesday will be used by the director of the National Institute of Environmental Health Studies, Kenneth Olden, in preparing a report to Congress later this year.
Though the link between electricity and disease has long been controversial, some consumer groups have sued power companies or forced utility firms to move power lines or install shielding.

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