American Physical Society Issues Statement on Power Line Fields

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Publication date: 
18 May 1995
Number: 
69

In order to increase the level of awareness in the physics
community about the public policy activities of the ten Member
Societies of the American Institute of Physics, it is the policy of
FYI to report on resolutions and statements by those Societies.

The following is a statement by the Council of the American
Physical Society, issued in April:

"Power Line Fields and Public Health:

"Physicists are frequently asked to comment on the potential
dangers of cancer from electromagnetic fields that emanate from
common power lines and electrical appliances.  While recognizing
that the connection between power line fields and cancer is an area
of continuing study by research workers in many disciplines in the
United States and abroad, we believe that it is possible to make
several observations based on the scientific evidence at this time.
We also believe that, in the interest of making the best use of the
finite resources available for environmental research and
mitigation, it is important for professional organizations to
comment on this issue.

"The scientific literature and the reports of reviews by other
panels show no consistent, significant link between cancer and
power line fields.  This literature includes epidemiological
studies, research on biological systems, and analyses of
theoretical interaction mechanisms.  No plausible biophysical
mechanisms for the systematic initiation or promotion of cancer by
these power line fields have been identified.  Furthermore, the
preponderance of the epidemiological and biophysical/biological
research findings have failed to substantiate those studies which
have reported specific adverse health effects from exposure to such
fields.  While it is impossible to prove that no deleterious health
effects occur from exposure to any environmental factor, it is
necessary to demonstrate a consistent, significant, and causal
relationship before one can conclude that such effects do occur.
From this standpoint, the conjectures relating cancer to power line
fields have not been scientifically substantiated.

"These unsubstantiated claims, however, have generated fears of
power lines in some communities, leading to expensive mitigation
efforts, and, in some cases, to lengthy and divisive court
proceedings.  The costs of mitigation and litigation relating to
the power line-cancer connection have risen into the billions of
dollars and threaten to go much higher.  The diversion of these
resources to eliminate a threat which has no persuasive scientific
basis is disturbing to us.  More serious environmental problems are
neglected for lack of funding and public attention, and the burden
of cost placed on the American public is incommensurate with the
risk, if any."

For more information, contact Robert Park at 202-662-8700, or David
Hafemeister at 805-756-2205.  A background report on this issue by
Hafemeister is available through the APS HomePage at:
http://www.aps.org

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