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The Story Continues...
Henshaw says: "public debate needed"
27 September 2000
This is an extremely interesting (and important!) message.....
First, you will read a newspaper account, which (as usual) attempts to downplay the seriousness of the power line EMF hazards.... It uses the same convoluted arguments and industry-supplied (and paid for) evidence that regular readers of this list are already familiar with. That evidence (WE know) does not deal with the "other" evidence which so consistently has shown an association between certain illnesses and living in near proximity to power lines.
Second (and more importantly!), you will read the comments of Professor Denis Henshaw regarding the newspaper article.....
Third, guru adds an additional comment at the bottom.....
I hope this message gets the WIDE circulation which it deserves....!!!
Cheerio.... (Many thanks to John Royds for sending this....)
Roy Beavers (EMFguru)
It is better to light a single candle than to curse the darkness..
People are more important than profit$$
-------- Original Message --------
Subject: Prof. Henshaw - newspaper article & letter
Date: Wed, 27 Sep 2000 19:20:19 +0100
From: "John Royds"
The Irish Times is one of Ireland's leading broadsheet dailies and their science journalist, Dick Ahlstrom, wrote an article in Friday's edition (22nd September) on Prof. Henshaw''s research. This can be found on The Irish Times website www.ireland.com but I have pasted the article below as well as the reply from Prof. Denis Henshaw published in to-day's edition (27th September) in the "Letters to the Editor" section.
One acronym may puzzle EMF-L readers -- ESB stands for Electrcity Supply Board (of Ireland).
Republic of Ireland
tel/fax: +353-1-281 9283
THE IRISH TIMES Friday, September 22, 2000 www.ireland.com
ILLNESS AND POWER LINES LINK YET TO BE PROVED
New research on the risks associated with living near electricity lines has yet to make a definitive link, writes Dick Ahlstrom , Science Editor Twenty years of work worldwide, involving 12,000 scientific studies costing £300 million, have so far failed to establish definitively that illness can be caused by living near overhead power lines. The latest research from Britain has also yet to make this connection.
However, people want assurances that no risk will be discovered in the future, and that life under the pylons will never result in disease. No scientist worth his or her salt will make such a promise, however, and no guarantee can be given.
Scientific research is a strange business, with every fact and bit of knowledge assumed to be only conditionally true until it is proven otherwise. Absolute promises are dangerous to make.
For this reason scientists constantly scrutinise one another's work, testing and retesting claims made by others. An important part of this process involves publication in journals in which research is subjected to rigorous "peer review". This is intended to ensure that the work is original, was properly done, and that strict controls were placed on the collection and interpretation of the experimental data.
The latest of many scares relating to power lines arose this week from work done by two researchers from the University of Bristol. Their studies claim to show both how the power lines might cause a hazard and that the hazard causes illness.
The hazard was defined by Prof Denis Henshaw in two research papers published in the International Journal of Radia- tion Biology last December, so these are not strictly new. In these papers he argues that power lines continuously throw off ions, electrically charged particles produced by sparking.
The ions in turn attach to pollution from cars and industry, giving particles of the pollution an electrical charge. His theory, based on research by others, holds that these charged pollutants will be much more likely to stick to the lungs when breathed in, increasing the amount and impact of the pollution.
The claims about actual illness relate to an as yet unpublished epidemiological study carried out by Dr Alan Preece of the Bristol Medical School. Although the study has yet to be offered for scientific scrutiny, he released preliminary findings while attending a conference early last summer in Munich.
He claimed at that time that an analysis of cancer incidence suggested there was an estimated 29 per cent increased risk of illness for those living within 400 metres of these lines. In particular, he said, the risk was for those "downwind" of the lines, on the basis that the wind would blow electrically charged pollutants towards them.
No further discussion of this work was available yesterday from either the researcher or the university, according to Ms Joanne Fryer for the University of Bristol, because the work had yet to be published.
His claims were available yesterday, however, on the Website of Powerwatch, which campaigns about the alleged risks associated with power lines (http:// www.powerwatch.org.uk). Dr Preece was also preparing to discuss the work last night on BBC Radio 4's Costing the Earth programme.
Mr John Gartland, the ESB's specialist on the effects of both electrical and magnetic fields on human health, was predictably dismissive of both of these research claims. "From our perspective it is old news," he said yesterday. The company continually reviewed all research relating to power line safety, he said, and acted on the basis of what the science was saying. "One of the things for me is that the written science word is quite a precise tool as opposed to what is said in a press release or on the radio."
He was unhappy, however, about the worry that reports of risks might cause in the general public. "We are very concerned that people would be unduly concerned," he said, adding that repeated studies had shown the risks to be either not there at all or so small as to be of no consequence.
An Irish specialist, Dr Jim McLaughlin, the head of the radon research group at University College Dublin, has studied how this natural pollutant is influenced by the lines.
He and colleagues measured radon accumulation in Co Meath under the 440,000 volt transmission line that runs from Moneypoint to Dublin. Measurements were taken up to several hundred metres either side of the line, both when it was switched off for maintenance and while fully energised.
"We couldn't see any difference in the exposure between when the line was on or off. We could detect no measurable effect on radon accumulation," he said yesterday. "The power line didn't have any detectable effect."
The Irish Times (Wednesday 27th September 2000) www.ireland.com
Letters to the Editor
POWER LINES AND ILL HEALTH
Sir, - Dick Ahlstrom's article in your edition of September 22nd, apparently written before the broadcasting of last Thursday's BBC Radio 4 programme Costing the Earth, fails to convey the seriousness of our power line measurements or of the legitimate public concern of reports of ill health in living near power lines.
The behaviour of ionised particles emitted from high-voltage lines ("corona ions", which are also responsible for the familiar sizzling noise from power lines) was first established in the 1950s. In the 1980s, extensive investigations in America were carried out into corona ion behaviour in the atmosphere using high-voltage test lines. The findings were published in power transmission industry journals.
The period of scientific peer review of these extensive measurements has long passed and we are now in the realm of established, albeit specialised, knowledge. (It should be emphasised that the radon measurements near power lines by Dr McLaughlin to which Dick Ahlstrom refers have nothing to do with corona ions or how they attach to particles of existing pollution in the air, thereby increasing their lung retention on inhalation.)
Our work published last December illustrates the extent of corona ion emission from today's power lines. The measurements used well-established, albeit sophisticated, measuring equipment. These measurements demonstrate both how increased exposure to air pollution occurs, as well as indicating the likely level of this increase. Increased exposure implies increased risk of those illnesses known to be associated with air pollution.
Dr Alan Preece of Bristol presented some data on cancer rates in adults near power lines at a conference in Munich last June. Scientific conferences are the right and proper place to present new ideas and preliminary data. It so happened that several journalists also attended the conference and noted Dr Preece's preliminary findings, as did a representative from the Irish Department of Health. Those findings leaked out in last Thursday's BBC programme. That they did not do so earlier is perhaps surprising.
This leak of an unfinished and unpublished investigation may in hindsight serve to underline why a priori we are concerned about the public health implications of our measurements. It may also serve to illustrate why legitimate public concern at perceived increases in cancer incidence near power lines, notably in Mr William Hague's Yorkshire constituency as voiced in the BBC programme, warrants investigation.
Surprising though it may be, the effects on public health of corona ions has not been investigated before. Their intensity near some power lines, which has surprised even ourselves, has public health implications, as well as implications for the siting of power lines anywhere near populated areas, even if at all above ground. An informed public debate is called for. - Yours, etc.,
Prof DENIS L. HENSHAW, H. H. Wills Physics Laboratory, University of Bristol, England.
The Bristol University researchers website is at
Guru adds the following.......
There is much of importance in Professor Henshaw's brief response above. Not the least being: "an informed public debate is called for." Amen. Amen....!!!
Of course, that is exactly what the governments do not want. Why??
I am tired of giving the answer that I think very accurately answers the question..... It is time we had an answer from "the governments".
Why, Mr. Prime Minister (or Mr. President or Mr, Mayor or -- you fill in the title) ... why will you not address this issue????
If you will but stop and briefly examine the mathematics of the numbers of people whose health and life is being impacted by this EMF power line phenomenon -- you will be startled into the realization that it is one of (if not THE) biggest health/environmental problem in society today...... Come on!!! Just look at the numbers.....!!!
Roy Beavers (EMFguru)
It is better to light a single candle than to curse the darkness.. People are more important than profit$$
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