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Your Environment. Your Health.

Report on Electrical and Magnetic Fields Released; Public Invited to Comment at Regional Meetings

National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS)

News Release

Archive - New Contact Information

For more information about this archival news release, please contact Christine Flowers, Director, Office of Communications & Public Liaison at (919) 541-3665.
Thursday, July 30, 1998, 12:00 p.m. EDT
Contact: Tom Hawkins, NIEHS
(919) 541-1402

The National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences today released the full text of a report from scientists concluding, by a divided vote, that electrical and magnetic fields around power lines, home wiring, home appliances and some industrial uses should be regarded as a "possible" human carcinogen that needs further research. However, the Institute asked for additional public and scientific comment before it prepares its own report to Congress.

The panel of experts split, with 19 voting that it was a "possible" human carcinogen while ten other experts abstained or found the data unconvincing or negative as to EMF's possible carcinogenicity. None of the panel voted for the stronger categories of "known" or "probable" human carcinogen. And the panel chairman, Michael Gallo, Ph.D., of the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey-Robert Wood Medical School commented that the report does not suggest that the risk that may be associated with EMF is high, compared to many other public health risks.

The majority view was based on population studies, and was made in the face of the panel's finding that data from recently concluded animal and other laboratory studies failed to support such a link.

The conclusions of the scientists' review were announced June 24, but the 508-page report of the review became available today, along with a request for comment. The report, along with the public comments, will provide input to the NIEHS report, a health assessment of EMF, which will be submitted to Congress later this year.

Members of the public may comment on the report in writing over an approximately two month period ending October 9 or may speak at one of four public hearings announced today. All the sessions except the ones in Tucson will be at 3 p.m., with late registration beginning an hour before the meeting. The sessions are planned to end at 8 p.m. The public comment sessions in Tucson will begin at 1:30 p.m. and end at 5 p.m. They will be held in:

  • Tucson, Ariz., Sept. 14 and 15, at the Inn Suites, 475 Granada Ave.
  • Washington, D.C., Sept. 28, at the Ronald Reagan Trade Center, 1300 Pennsylvania Ave. NW
  • San Francisco, Calif., Oct. 1, at the regional EPA office at 75 Hawthorne St.
  • Chicago, Ill., Oct. 5, at the University of Chicago's Gleacher Center, 450 N. Cityfront Plaza Drive.

To register to speak, members of the public should provide their name, affiliation, mailing address, phone, fax, email and sponsoring organization (if any) to EMF/RAPID, Post Office Box 12233, NIEHS Mail Drop EC-16, Research Triangle Park, NC 27709 or by fax to (919) 541-0144. Written comments may also be sent to the same address (by Oct. 9) and the full scientific report or a non-technical summary may be requested now by writing to the same address. The scientific report and the non-technical summary are also available via the electrical and magnetic fields button on the NIEHS web site:

"Public and scientific comment is important to us," NIEHS Director Kenneth Olden, Ph.D., said, "as we prepare our own report on the research, as mandated by Congress when it began a six-year program of accelerated studies to try to resolve this issue." Olden said concern over the possible effects of electrical and magnetic fields was set off by a 1979 Denver study which appeared to show that children with leukemia were more likely to have resided within 131 feet of a power line than other children.

More than 13 other similar epidemiological studies have subsequently been carried out to test this hypothesis, with mixed results. But the scientific panel found there is also some data suggesting adults in electricity-intensive industries such as aluminum manufacture may have a slightly elevated risk of chronic adult leukemia.

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