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Bioelectromagnetics. 2005;Suppl 7:S75-85.

Contact current hypothesis: summary of results to date.

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1
Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI), Palo Alto, California 94303, USA. rkavet@epri.com

Abstract

Research conducted over the past 5 years has addressed the hypothesis that the reported association between residential magnetic fields and childhood leukemia may be explained by exposure to contact current. The use of multi-grounded neutrals in electrical distribution and residential electrical wiring systems in the United States results in a voltage on a residence's water line relative to earth that in turn creates a voltage between the water fixtures of a bathtub, sink, or shower and the drain, if the latter is made of conductive material. A bathing child may thus be exposed to contact current upon manual contact with the faucet, spout, or water stream. Dosimetry modeling indicates that modest and realistically anticipated currents (10s of microA) can produce electric fields in bone marrow (100s of mV/m) sufficient to overcome questions of biophysical plausibility. Both measurements in two regions of the United States and computer modeling of typical single-residence US neighborhoods indicate that residences with average magnetic fields in the high tail of the magnetic field distribution are more likely than residences with lower fields to also have higher contact voltage. The association of residential magnetic fields with contact voltage, the dosimetry results, and the indication from a behavioral survey that children tend to engage in behavior that results in exposure all support the hypothesis. Further research is needed to characterize electrical systems in other nations to determine whether contact current exposure occurs and whether it is associated with residential magnetic fields.

PMID:
16037960
DOI:
10.1002/bem.20126
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
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