Do power lines cause cancer? That is a simplistic and very causal way of looking at things. But it is important, especially to anyone that is living near power lines.
On and off over the years several studies on both sides of the debate have come and gone. This video shows a typical news story covering the topic.
In recent years, the WHO has labelled EMF’s as a “possible carcinogen.” But EMF’s come in many shapes and sizes. Although a cell phone generates far less electricity than a power line, especially a high voltage one, you’re also not putting the power line right up to your ear. Touching those high voltage lines is not recommended and that’s because they can kill you far faster than by cancer.
Studies on Whether Power Lines Cause Cancer or Not
Still, let’s look at the research. First understand, that the amount of research is pretty limited. Cancer is also a multi-factorial disease so looking at whether power lines cause cancer by themselves is a very limited way of looking at things.
Most of the studies in relationship to power lines causing cancer have to do with children and leukemia. This is because kids tend to more susceptible to this sort of thing.
A review from the Environmental Health Perspectives journal, titled Childhood Leukemia and Residential Exposure to Weak Extremely Low Frequency Magnetic Fields looked at ten different studies on the subject. They wrote:
“There is evidence supporting the theory that exposure to magnetic fields of the type generated by power lines is of importance for the development of cancer…Few reviewers would be willing to conclude that the epidemiologic data are so strong that the hypothesis can be considered proven…The most compelling evidence seems to exist for leukemia in children but there are also other cancers for which there is some evidence…It is not possible to estimate the number of exposed persons or the relative importance of various magnetic field sources such as power lines and appliances of different sorts….On the very simplistic assumption that residency close to high-voltage power lines (in Sweden 220 and 400 kV) would double the childhood leukemia incidence, it may be estimated that less than one case per year out of a total of 70 would be prevent were all power lines deenergized. The reasons for the low number is the combination of an uncommon exposure and a rare disease.”
(Note that the speak of magnetic fields. Any time electricity is involved it is also creating a magnetic field. Hence, why they are called electromagnetic frequencies.)
A more recent study in California, titled “Childhood leukaemia and distance from power lines in California: a population-based case-control study” reported the following:
“In conclusion, our large, statewide, records-based case-control study of childhood leukaemia and CNS cancer in California provides at most weak support for increased leukaemia risk for children living within 50 m of transmission lines of above 200 kV reported in other studies and no evidence of risk for those living beyond this distance or near lower-voltage lines.”
So a slightly increased rate of leukemia, but not other CNS cancers, only within 50 meters of 200kV lines, but nothing else really worth reporting.
Another study titled, “Epidemiological study of power lines and childhood cancer in the UK: further analyses,” found the following:
“We report further analyses from an epidemiological study of childhood cancer and residence at birth near high-voltage power lines in the UK. These results suggest that the elevated risks for childhood leukaemia that we previously found for overhead power lines may be higher for older age at diagnosis and for myeloid rather than lymphoid leukaemia.”
Adults have also been looked at. One study, “Adult cancers near high-voltage overhead power lines,” found no clear associations.
“Our results do not support an epidemiologic association of adult cancers with residential magnetic fields in proximity to high-voltage overhead power lines.”
Meanwhile, another study in Brazil did. “Adult mortality from leukemia, brain cancer, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis and magnetic fields from power lines: a case-control study in Brazil,” found:
“This study aimed at evaluating the association of both distance of home address to the nearest overhead transmission line and of the calculated magnetic fields from the power lines and mortality from leukemia, brain cancer, and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis….No increase was seen for brain tumours or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. Our findings are suggestive of a higher risk for leukemia among subjects living closer to transmission lines.”
Putting it All Together
What this means is that yes, there is some evidence, though not without flaws which is true of most research, that power lines cause cancer, specifically leukemia in kids and even adults. Well, cause is too strong of a word. May be associated with increased risk is more accurate. And, even so, there is some research that shows that isn’t the case.
What do you do with the evidence is conflicting? First you must realize that sometimes the conflict is paid for by industry. Just like many years ago Big Tobacco paid for science and doctors to say that smoking was not bad for you and didn’t cause cancer. While I don’t know if that is happening in regards to power lines and cancer, it is definitely happening in some other areas of electronic devices and cancer. (*cough* cell phone industry!)
All of these studies must be done with epidemiological evidence. There’s not going to be families living in a house with placebo high-voltage power lines to isolate this one factor. That doesn’t seem like it will ever happen.
Secondly, they’ve looked at leukemia more than other cancers because it is easier to find sample sizes. That means that power lines and other EMF’s may be implicated in other cancers too, as well as other disease, it’s just harder to tell because of the many factors involved. Some of the evidence here showed that wasn’t the case with certain cancers but it’s hard to look at them all, let alone all sorts of other chronic disease.
Because the evidence is unclear at best, but still leaning with some effect, I would encourage you to not live within 50 meters of high voltage power lines. And even further can only be safer, not worse. Do this in addition to many other methods of limited EMF exposure, from cell phones and WIFI and you’ll have done a few pieces that can keep you safer from cancer and other disease.
In addition, I encourage the use of Blushield technology, not to block EMF’s, because, short of a Faraday cage, you’re not going to do that well. But instead it is to provide different frequencies that are harmonious and helpful to the human body and all the cells inside. Find out how Blushield works here.