- 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
- 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
- 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
- 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
- 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
- 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.