Dáil Éireann - Volume 532 - 08 March, 2001
Written Answers. - Electricity Supply Network.
Dr. Upton Dr. Upton
97. Dr. Upton asked the Minister for Public Enterprise her views on the contents of a report (details supplied) on the safety of over-head pylons. [7333/01]
Mrs. O'Rourke Mrs. O'Rourke
Minister for Public Enterprise (Mrs. O'Rourke): I welcome the important new report on electromagnetic fields referred to and I will continue to have all developments in this area closely monitored. The report in question is entitled ELF Electromagnetic Fields and the Risk of Cancer. It was published on 6 March 2001 by an independent advisory group with chairman, Sir Richard Doll, to the board of the UK's National Radiological Protection Board – NRPB.
The main conclusions of this report are:
Laboratory experiments have provided no good evidence that extremely low frequency electromagnetic fields are capable of producing cancer, nor do human epidemiological studies suggest that they cause cancer in general. There is, however, some epidemiological evidence that prolonged exposure to higher levels of power frequency magnetic fields is associated with a small risk of leukaemia in children. In practice, such levels of exposure are seldom encountered by the general public in the UK. In the absence of clear evidence of a carcinogenic effect in adults, or of a plausible explanation from experiments on animals or isolated cells, the epidemiological evidence is currently not strong enough to justify a firm conclusion that such fields cause leukaemia in children. Unless, however, further research indicates that the finding is due to chance or some currently unrecognised artefact, the possibility remains that intense and prolonged exposures to magnetic fields can increase the risk of leukaemia in children.
It is clear from this conclusion that the report is somewhat less dramatic than the headline in The Sunday Times might suggest. The report also makes recommendations for further research.
In November 2000 the NRPB stated that of the 99.6% children in the UK, the overwhelming majority live in homes where magnetic field levels are below those that the advisory group finds are associated, in some studies, with a small increase in childhood leukaemia. As it is not the practice  in Ireland, as it is in the UK, to permit the construction of homes under electricity transmission lines, or permit new transmission lines to overhang existing houses, there are likely to be very few, if any, children here experiencing the prolonged and intense exposures which concern the NRPB's advisory group.
Dáil Éireann 532 Written Answers. Electricity Supply Network.