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Ann N Y Acad Sci. 2006 Sep;1076:318-30.

Power-frequency electric and magnetic fields in the light of Draper et al. 2005.

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  • 1National Grid, London, WC2N 5EH, UK.


Power-frequency electric and magnetic fields are produced wherever electricity is used; exposure is ubiquitous. Epidemiologic studies find an association between children living in homes with the highest magnetic fields and childhood leukemia, but bias is a possible alternative to a causal explanation. A new study, Draper et al., looks at residence close to high-voltage power lines, one source of exposure to such fields, and its design avoids any obvious bias. It finds elevated childhood leukemia rates, but extending too far from the power lines to be straightforwardly compatible with the existing literature. This leads to an examination of alternative explanations: magnetic fields, other physical factors, such as corona ions, the characteristics of the areas power lines pass through, bias, and chance. The conclusion is that there is currently no single preferred explanation, but that this is a serious body of science that needs further work until an explanation is found.

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