Scandinavian studies fuel cancer link fears: Call to speed up electromagnetic research

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The Independent Online
BRITAIN'S most distinguished cancer specialist told a London conference yesterday that studies on exposure to electromagnetic radiation should be speeded up.

Two recent Scandinavian reports on childhood cancer near power lines 'increase the urgent need' for wide-scale studies of exposure to electromagnetic radiation, according to Sir Richard Doll, the epidemiologist who established the link between smoking and cancer. He said that the studies were of far better quality than previous work in this area.

Sir Richard chairs a group of advisers to the National Radiological Protection Board (NRPB). Its first report on health risks from electromagnetic radiation, published in March last year, found no firm evidence of a cancer risk 'from normal levels of power frequency electromagnetic fields, radiofrequency or microwave radiation.'

The group did, however, find enough evidence of risks to recommend further investigation of brain tumours in some electrical workers and certain childhood malignancies.

Yesterday, the group said that the latest studies 'do not establish that exposure to electromagnetic fields is a cause of cancer, although they provide weak evidence to suggest the possibility exists'.

A year ago, British researchers embarked on the biggest single study of childhood cancers in the world. This aims to test five hypotheses on the cause of childhood cancer, including exposure to electromagnetic radiation.

A study in Sweden has convinced that country's government to base all future work on the assumption that there is a link between exposure to electromagnetic radiation and childhood leukaemia. New Swedish guidelines, expected within a month, may even restrict building close to power lines.

Delegates also heard from Sir Richard that studies of spontaneous abortion among video display terminal users did not give 'worthwhile evidence of the existence of a hazard. In fact, they provide worthwhile evidence thatthere is no material hazard.'