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# Posted: 31 May 2006 04:42

Leukaemia risk 70pc higher for children close to power lines
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=/news/2005/06/03/npow03 .xml&sSheet=/news/2005/06/03/ixhome.html

Leukaemia risk 70pc higher for children close to power lines
By Nic Fleming, Health Correspondent
(Filed: 03/06/2005)
Children born close to high-voltage overhead power lines are more likely to be diagnosed with leukaemia, according to the results of a major Government-funded study published today.
Researchers find that those whose childhood homes are within 200 metres of a power line have an almost 70 per cent greater risk of being diagnosed with leukaemia.

Children who live near high-voltage lines have a greater cancer risk
However, they stress that they have not established the cause of the increased risk and that it could be due to other factors, such as differences in wealth between those who live near power lines and those who do not.
They say that if the 275 kilovolt (kV) and 400kV national grid lines investigated in the study are indeed the cause of the rise, they would be responsible for approximately one per cent of leukaemia cases in England and Wales, or around five cases per year.
Campaigners claim that lower voltage regional power lines, which operate at 132kV, might have the same effect, in which case the number of leukaemia cases linked to electricity transmission could be 10 times higher.
The study, the largest of its kind to date, is published today in the British Medical Journal. It analyses 29,081 people from England and Wales who were diagnosed with cancer aged under 15 between 1962 and 1995. They are compared with the same number of healthy individuals, matched for sex and year and area of birth.
Researchers calculated the distance from each person's home at birth and the nearest high-voltage overhead line.
For those born within 200 metres of a power line, the risk of leukaemia is 69 per cent greater than for those born more than 600 metres away. Those between 200 metres and 600 metres from a power line are 23 per cent more likely to have been diagnosed with leukaemia than those whose homes were more than 600 metres away. No increased risks are found for other types of childhood cancer. Dr Gerald Draper, of the Oxford Childhood Cancer Research Group, led the research. He says: "The increased risk of leukaemia up to 600 metres from the high voltage power was surprising in the view of the very low level of magnetic fields at these distances.
"There is no accepted biological mechanism to explain these results. It could be down to confounding factors such as socio-economic factors.
"People should not panic. More research must be carried out to find the mechanism."
Dr John Swanson, a scientific adviser to National Grid Transco and one of the study's co-authors, says: "The study strengthens the evidence that childhood leukaemia rates are slightly higher near power lines, but leaves the question of what causes this more confused than before."
One theory is that "corona ions", small charged particles given off by power lines, attach themselves to air pollution particles. It is argued that those who live nearby are therefore more at risk from inhaled pollution.
Around 400 to 420 new leukaemia cases are diagnosed in England and Wales each year. Scientists have suggested a range of causes including genetic susceptibility, ionising radiation, unusual patterns of exposure to infection and electromagnetic fields.
Two major studies published in 2000 by Swedish and American researchers concluded that there was a doubling of the risk of childhood leukaemia associated with the level of magnetic field exposure received around 100 metres from a power line.
Alasdair Phillips, of the consumer group Powerwatch, said: "The Government should bring in a ban on new building within 250 metres of high voltage power lines.
"Nurseries and schools, or the adjacent power lines, should be relocated so that they are further away than 500 metres from high voltage overhead power lines."

# Posted: 31 May 2006 04:56

Pylons may be a leukaemia risk
Living too close to overhead power lines appears to increase the risk of childhood leukaemia, researchers say.

The researchers looked at high voltage power lines
A major study found children who had lived within 200m of high voltage lines at birth had a 70% higher risk of leukaemia than those 600m or more away.
But the Oxford University team stressed that there are no accepted biological reasons for the results and that they may, therefore, be chance.
Alternatively, it may be down to the environments where pylons are located.
And they said it did not resolve the debate about whether it was unsafe to live next to power lines.
Around 1% of homes in the UK are estimated to be within 200m of high voltage National Grid power lines.
The researchers said their findings showed living in such close proximity to power lines at birth could account for five extra cases of childhood leukaemia in a total of around 400 that occur in a year - a total of 1%.
The British Medical Journal study did not look at level of exposure to magnetic fields.
But other scientists who have considered the issue have suggested that low frequency magnetic fields, such as those caused by the production of electricity, could possibly be linked to cancer.
However, others have disputed this link. And experts agree that there are likely to be many factors involved in leukaemia, including genes and the environment.
Even if the apparent risk was found to be real, the number of cases of leukaemia that would result would be very few, said the authors.
The study
The latest study was carried out by Dr Gerald Draper and colleagues from the Childhood Cancer Research Group at Oxford University, and Dr John Swanson, a scientific adviser at National Grid Transco.
It looked at more than 29,000 children with cancer, including 9,700 with leukaemia, born between 1962 and 1995, and a control group of healthy youngsters in England and Wales.
The researchers measured the distance from children's home addresses at birth from the nearest high voltage power line.
They found that 64 children with leukaemia lived within 200m of the line, while 258 lived between 200-600m away.
Overall, youngsters living within 200m of the lines were about 70% more likely to develop leukaemia, and those living between 200 and 600m away about 20% more likely to develop leukaemia than those who lived beyond 600m from high voltage pylons.
Although the trend was definite, the researchers said they could not reasonably explain why it occurred.
For this reason, they caution that it might be down to factors other than the pylons themselves, such as the type of people who live near pylons or the general environment where pylons are located, which they plan to investigate.
Eddie O'Gorman, chairman of the UK charity Children with Leukaemia, said: "There is now a clear case for immediate government action.
"Planning controls must be introduced to stop houses and schools being built close to high voltage overhead power lines."
But Professor John Toy, Cancer Research UK's Medical Director, said: "People who currently live or have lived near power lines in the past need not panic about this research. The triggers that cause childhood leukaemia are most likely a random course of events over which a parent has no control.
A spokesman from the Health Protection Agency said the study findings suggested that at least some of the increased leukaemia risk might be associated with factors other than electromagnetic fields.
Dr David Grant, of Leukaemia Research, said: "We recognise there is a lot of public anxiety and concern about living close to pylons and exposure to power-frequency magnetic fields.
"There is no reason why anyone should be advised to move house on the basis of these new results."
There are around 7,000km of high voltage power lines involved in the transmission of electricity across England and Wales, and 21,800 steel pylons.

Proposed causes of childhood leukaemia
Genetic susceptibility
Immune system damage by chemicals, infections or radiation before the baby is born
Abnormal immune system development by lack of exposure to infections early in a child's life

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