Alzheimer's Disease, powerlines and EMF exposure
During the SAGE process (see below and the hyperlink on the news story) there were a number of debates about two scenarios: "CL" and CL+".
CL only accepted the association of power-frequency magnetic fields with childhood leukaemia and no other suggested adverse health outcomes. CL+ included a number of other adverse health outcomes that had been associated with electric or magnetic field exposure in at least two peer-reviewed published papers. Despite agreeing to both scenarios at two plenary meetings, CL+ was effectively relegated to the background in the final report - there was a strong division of opinion on this matter. This paragraph is from the SAGE Report (page 13):
"At levels below about one microtesla, well below those required to interfere with nerves through induced fields, there are numerous suggestions of other effects on people. Historically, early suggestions concerned childhood cancer, and childhood leukaemia in particular. Other health outcomes for which, with varying degrees of certainty, there have been suggested links to ELF EMFs include (in alphabetical order): adult leukaemia, adult brain cancer, Alzheimer's disease, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS, the most common form of motor neurone disease), breast cancer, other childhood cancers, depression, electrical sensitivity symptoms, certain types of heart disease, miscarriage, and suicide."
The cost-benefit calculations did not show a positive gain when only considering childhood leukaemia (note: though SAGE did point out that financial cost-benefit was not the only appropriate consideration for governments to take into account in matters of public health and well-being).
Now we have this large Swiss epidemiological study showing a statistically significant doubling of the risk of dying from Alzheimer's disease if you live for 15 years within 50 metres of a high-voltage powerline. This completely changes the cost-benefit balance. Dementia is estimated to cost the UK economy over Β£17 billion pounds (GBP) per year.
The time has come for an immediate ban on further building of houses or powerlines within 50 metres of each other - at least for a 5-year moratorium which would be likely to cost considerably less than Β£1bn in development compensation over the five years.
A proper sum (say in the order of Β£10M) should be set aside for a major epidemiological / ecological study into Alzheimer's Disease and power-frequency magnetic fields. If AD is really associated with long-term EMF exposure then we need to confirm this and in the meantime we should be taking steps to minimise people exposure - and that includes magnetic fields from underground power cables, electrical equipment and appliances and house wiring.
At least UK three Government Ministers (DH, DCLG, BERR/DECC) are shortly due to meet to discuss the response to the SAGE Report and they have promised to make a public response by the end of 2008. They should now urgently be briefed on this latest Swiss research and the economic implications. On the 10th November, a Department of Health spokesperson told the UK Daily Express that it was reviewing its position in the light of this new Swiss study. It is certainly right to do so.
Posted at: 12/11/2008 11:33:16 ::