Health Risks - Power Line Studies


Facts About Power Lines

High voltage transmission lines (those towering metal power lines you often see usually along highways and across rural landscapes.

  • Use high voltage direct current (HVDC) to transmit large amounts of power from the generating station over long distances
  • Voltage varies from 138kV to 765kV
  • Radiate powerful electromagnetic fields (EMFs)
  • Linked to diseases in animals and humans
  • There is growing speculation that the values of homes near major power lines will soon begin to decrease because of this threat

Transmission substations, (which often look like a fenced-in thicket of metal structures. Maybe you see one near your home, school or office.):

  • Contain circuit breakers, switches and transformers
  • Decrease the voltage coming from high voltage transmission lines
  • Connect to local, lower voltage distribution lines.
  • Reroute power to lines that serve local markets
  • Suspected cause of cancer clusters for nearby residents

Lower voltage distribution lines, (or local power poles, which are everywhere):

  •  Are smaller than the huge high voltage lines
  • More likely to be seen in residential areas
  • Sometimes buried
  • Risk varies with strength of voltage

Transformers, (those barrel-like metal trashcans mounted on power poles are EMF factories.):

  • Reduces the voltage to the 120-/240 current needed by the nearby homes
  •  The typical power line feeding the transformer is carrying 4000 to 13,000 volts
  •  Creates a strong field extending up to a 1/4 of a mile
  • The strength of this field decreases significantly with distance (the further away you are the better, even if you are still within a quarter mile)
  • Health risk depends on strength of incoming power line

Buried lines and transformers (Recognizable by a metal box located on the ground near the street.):

  • Some people contend that burying power lines can mitigate EMF dangers.
  • Other experts note that while burying power lines will shield the electric component of the electromagnetic field (EMF), the magnetic component can still pass through the earth—and walls and human or animal bodies.
Research on Power Lines and Health

tower distance grey

Living Next To Power Lines Increases The Risk Of Cancer
After hundreds of international studies, the evidence linking EMFs to cancers and other health problems is loud and clear. High Voltage power lines are the most obvious and dangerous culprits, but the same EMFs exist in gradually decreasing levels all along the grid, from substations to transformers to homes.

From the British Medical Journal, June, 2005:
Researchers found that children living within 650 feet of power lines had a 70% greater risk for leukemia than children living 2,000 feet away or more.

From Epidemiology, 2003 Jul;14(4):413-9:
“Several studies have identified occupational exposure to extremely low-frequency electromagnetic fields (EMF) as a potential risk factor for neurodegenerative disease.”

From Epidemiology, 2002 Jan;13(1):9-20
There is “strong prospective evidence that prenatal maximum magnetic field exposure above a certain level (possibly around 16 mG) may be associated with miscarriage risk.”

From the Internal Medicine Journal, 2007
In a study of 850 lymphoma, leukemia and related conditions, researchers from the University of Tasmania and Britain's Bristol University found that living for a prolonged period near high-voltage power lines increased the risk for these conditions later in life.

  • People who lived within 328 yards of a power line up to age 5 were five times more likely to develop cancer as an adult.
  • People who lived within 328 yards of a power line at any point up to age 15 years were three times more likely to develop cancer as an adult.

Dr. David Carpenter, Dean of the School of Public Health (SUNY), believes that up to 30% of all childhood cancers come from exposure to high voltage power lines.

Even the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) cautions citizens that "There is reason for concern" and advises “prudent avoidance” of high voltage power lines.

The California Department of Health concluded that EMFs were responsible for an increase in childhood leukemia, adult brain cancer, Lou Gehrig's disease and miscarriage in the 2002 report, “An Evaluation of the Possible Risks From Electric and Magnetic Fields (EMFs) From Power Lines, Internal Wiring, Electrical Occupations and Appliances.”

The studies cited above and dozens of other epidemiological studies specifically link high voltage power lines with:

  • Brain tumors
  • Leukemia
  • Birth defects
  • Lymphoma