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Residential Electromagnetic Fields Not An Apparent Threat to Human Health

Residential Electromagnetic Fields Not An Apparent Threat to Human Health

WASHINGTON--Exposure to residential electric and magnetic fields (EMFs) appears to pose no serious threat to human health, according to a National Research Council (NRC) committee. The panel reviewed more than 500 studies conducted in the 17 years since researchers reported that children living near high-voltage power lines were 1.5 times more likely to develop leukemia.

"Research has not shown in any convincing way that EMFs common in homes can cause health problems, and extensive laboratory tests have not shown that EMFs can damage the cell in a way that is harmful to human health," said Charles F. Stevens, MD, PhD, of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute and the Salk Institute, who chaired the committee.

In the NRC review, no conclusive evidence emerged to link EMFs found in homes to cancer, reproductive and development abnormalities, or learning and behavioral problems.

The NRC committee did, however, find a weak but nonetheless significant correlation between the incidence of childhood leukemia and proximity of large power lines. This link may result from factors other than EMFs, the panel said, including heavy traffic near power lines, other types of local air pollution, and construction in older homes that allows more pollutants to enter.

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