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

he laboratory evidence in animals and humans and most of the mechanistic studies in cells fail to support a causal [cause and effect] relationship."

NIEHS Director Kenneth Olden, Ph.D., said, "The lack of consistent, positive findings in animal or mechanistic studies weakens the belief that this association is actually due to EMF, but it cannot completely discount the epidemiological findings. For that reason, and because virtually everyone in the United States uses electricity and therefore is routinely exposed to EMF, efforts to encourage reductions in exposure should continue. For example, industry should continue efforts to alter large transmission lines to reduce their fields and localities should enforce electrical codes to avoid wiring errors that can produce higher fields." An interagency committee established by the President will make a subsequent report to Congress about the findings of this report and whether any remedial actions are needed to minimize exposures.

Dr. Olden said NIEHS would continue to support some research on EMF, though not at the high levels Congress provided in special legislation and appropriations.

The NIEHS report follows a six-year research program and a two-year review by the institute and by outside scientists. For the effort, Congress appropriated $23 million that the electrical industry matched. The industry had no control over what research was conducted. The funds were administered by the Department of Energy and a portion was transferred to NIEHS, targeted for health effects research. NIEHS also added $14 million of its own appropriated funds to support additional research. The total expenditure was about $60 million.

The studies reviewed and conducted by NIEHS and its grantees focused on the possibility of a link to cancer ? a reaction to a leukemia study in Denver, Colo., in 1979, and to subsequent attempts to duplicate or refute it in Denver and elsewhere.

Contact: Grigg 301-402-3378; Hawkins 919-541-1402
NIH/National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences

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