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Leukemia and power lines correlation probed
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Source: MedicalPost.

Leukemia and power lines correlation probed

Universities in B.C. and Illinois team up

By Susannah Benady

MONTREAL � Researchers from B.C.'s University of Victoria and the University of Chicago are to investigate the link between overhead power lines and childhood leukemia.

The link has shown up in epidemiological studies and authorities are both concerned and puzzled by it, said one of Canada's leading experts on electromagnetic fields, speaking at the recent International Conference on Electrocardiology, Vectorcardiography and Bioelectromagnetism.

"Epidemiological studies have shown there is a statistical correlation between childhood leukemia and exposure to low-frequency and low-intensity fields from power lines," said Dr. Maria Stuchly (PhD), professor of electrical and computer engineering at the University of Victoria.


"We are all very puzzled by this association. But we cannot and will not dismiss it," Dr. Stuchly told the conference.

She said there is no correlation between power lines and other childhood cancers, nor in occupationally exposed adults.

"The statistical correlation between childhood leukemia and power lines is not high, but it is significant," said Dr. Stuchly, who is also director of the Wireless Information Resource Centre (WIRC), an independent non-profit organization that monitors research worldwide on the health effects of wireless technology.

The correlation factors are in the region of 1.5 to 2.0, compared with five or 10 for smoking, she said.

Dr. Stuchly's team is doing the computer modelling aspect of the research, learning the doses of magnetic fields and their impact on the human body and its internal organs.

The in vivo animal testing will be handled at the University of Chicago. Researchers there will also be testing a new hypothesis concerning contact currents in domestic residences.

All domestic electrical appliances�including washing machines, clothes dryers, televisions, stoves and hair dryers�are potential culprits because of the way they are grounded, said Dr. Stuchly.

"Wherever there are slightly stronger magnetic fields in residences, you also get currents that flow between the body and the object that is not perfectly grounded. The body also might not be perfectly grounded.

"We know even weak contact currents produce stronger fields in the bone marrow and the blood."

The problem for children is that their hands are often moist from putting their fingers in their mouths. Adults' hands are usually dry and therefore insulated.

Also, the impact of currents varies, according to the size and even the age of the person, said Dr. Stuchly.


"Children touch these electrical appliances . . . and can be affected even if they don't get a static shock."

Because of the large number of electrical devices and wiring, mini currents also flow through offices and shopping malls, adding to the potential danger, she said.

Devising tests will be difficult for the researchers. "It is not an easy study to prepare. It will involve getting rats and mice running on treadmills somehow hooked up to electrodes."

Part of the funding for the study will come from the U.S. Electric Power Research Institute, a non-profit research organization that investigates the effects of electricity on the environment. The institute receives funds from the electric power industry and the U.S. government.

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Michael R. Meuser
Data Research & GIS Specialist is an independent firm specializing in GIS project development and data research. We created the first U.S. based interactive toxic chemical facility maps on the internet in 1996 and we have been online ever since. Learn more about us and our services.

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