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.