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Environmental Health Institute report concludes evidence is 'weak' that electric and magnetic fields cause cancer

After six years of accelerated, Congressionally mandated research, the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences today announced it has concluded that the evidence for a risk of cancer and other human disease from the electric and magnetic fields (EMF) around power lines is "weak."

NIEHS' review and analysis of the existing data came in a report to Congress, released today. The report applies to the extremely low frequency electric and magnetic fields surrounding both the big power lines that distribute power and the smaller but closer electric lines in homes and appliances.

While sections of the report say EMF exposure "cannot be recognized as entirely safe," the report concludes: "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."

Research continues on some "lingering concerns," the report says, and efforts to reduce exposures should continue.

NIEHS said that the "strongest evidence" for health effects comes from statistical associations observed in human populations with childhood leukemia and chronic lymphocytic leukemia in occupationally exposed adults such as electric utility workers, machinists and welders. "While the support from individual studies is weak," according to the report, "these epidemiological studies demonstrate, for some methods of measuring exposure, a fairly consistent pattern of a small, increased risk with increasing exposure that is somewhat weaker for chronic lymphocytic leukemia than for childhood leukemia."

However, laboratory studies and investigations of basic biological function do not support these epidemiological associations, according to the report. It says, "Virtually all of t
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Contact: Grigg 301-402-3378; Hawkins 919-541-1402
grigg@niehs.nih.gov
NIH/National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences
15-Jun-1999


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