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How safe (or not) is electromagnetic radiation?
Indonesia Created: 16 Mar 2006
How safe (or not) is electromagnetic radiation?
A recent discussion on the effects of exposure to electromagnetic radiation provided no concrete proof that living in proximity to ultra-high voltage
power lines causes significant human health problems.
In his presentation, host speaker Marzan A. Iskandar of the Agency for the Assessment and Application of Technology said that international studies
had not firmly established a link between electromagnetic field exposure and health problems.
But the judgment arrived at by most of the studies was that, if there was a risk, it was not a major one and concerned only people exposed on an ongoing basis.
"Based on the consensus of the academic community, there is no scientifically proven causative relation between high-voltage power lines and health risks," he said.

Corroborating the argument, an associate professor in high-voltage engineering at Bandung Institute of Technology, Bambang Anggoro, said power
lines in Indonesia met international standards.

According to the International Radiation Protection Association, a human can withstand ongoing exposure to an electromagnetic field that is below
5 kilovolts per meter.

"I have conducted research at many locations in Sumedang, Cirebon, Kuningan, Majalengka and other areas of West Java and found that the electromagnetic radiation at those places was below 1 kV per meter," he said.

In the course of the research, he said, his team asked people living in proximity to power lines if they believed their health was at risk.

"The results show that only 3.1 percent of respondents felt that radiation from the power lines was harmful to their health, while 63.8 percent said
the power lines were harmless," he added.

Another speaker in the discussion, professor Corry Wawolumaya of the University of Indonesia's school of medicine presented his thesis, taking a
more scientific approach to the debate.

He acknowledged that further studies were necessary to ascertain whether the protesters' health problems were associated with the distance of
their homes to power lines.

"The only way to determine the effects of high-voltage power radiation on human physiology is for scientists to carry out a case-control study, which could take years of research," he said.

He said a 20-year case-control study by the U.S. epidemiologist Nancy Wertheimer and physicist Ed Leeper, which was published in 1979, showed
a statistical link between childhood cancer and the distance of their home address to certain types of high-voltage power lines.

The Wertheimer study was later disputed by other research, including the latest study in 1977 by the National Cancer Institute of America, which
involved 1,200 children.

"But it's still undisputed that those who live under high-voltage power lines are 1.7 times more likely to get cancer," Corry said.

Another physician, Anies -- who was unable to speak in the discussion -- estimates the cancer risk is higher.

In his book Electrical Sensitivity, published in 2005, Anies said a person living in proximity to high voltage lines was 5.8 times more likely to get cancer.

He introduced his theory termed Trias Anies, saying there were three types of health problem resulting from electromagnetic exposure in the
preliminary stage: headaches, dizziness and chronic fatigue symptoms, all of which were complained of by the protesting residents.
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Source: S: The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

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