A Report on Non-Ionizing Radiation

childhood leukemia: Microwave News Article Archive (2004 - )

January 9, 2017

Facts don’t seem to mean much anymore. We live in a “post-truth” time. So much so that post-truth was recently named the international word of the year. As 2017 opened for business, a stark example of the new reality came to our attention courtesy of Paolo Boffetta, an Italian epidemiologist now at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York City.

In an interview with Fox News, Boffetta said that the link between power lines and childhood leukemia had been debunked. In response to a question as to whether it was safe for a pregnant woman to live next to a “huge power line,” Boffetta advised that there was no reason for concern.

According to Boffetta, the 1979 classic study by Nancy Wertheimer and Ed Leeper pointing to higher rates of leukemia among children living near high-current power lines had been contradicted by “newer and better” studies, carried out with improved methodology. Boffetta sent a clear message that “very high exposures” to power line EMFs are safe for pregnant women and children.

Boffetta has lost his truth compass.

December 1, 2014

”Still worried about power lines and cancer? That’s so retro, says the New York Times. You’re just stuck in the 1980’s.  

This is what the “newspaper of record” wants you to know about the risk of childhood leukemia from power lines: A “fairly broad consensus among researchers holds that no significant threat to public health has materialized.”

The full message is told in a new 7+ minute video, produced by the Times’ RetroReport, which boasts a staff of 13 journalists and 10 contributors, led by Kyra Darnton. The video even credits a fact checker. What was missing is the common sense to do some digging when reporting on a controversial issue.

July 8, 2014

Today’s New York Times revisits the EMF controversy, with reporter Kenneth Chang looking back at a Science Times story about power-line EMFs and cancer that ran in July 1989.

Both now and then the Times quoted David Carpenter. Here...

February 25, 2014

Five years ago we reported on what we thought was an important clue in the search for understanding the well-documented association between childhood leukemia and EMF exposure. A team based in Shanghai presented evidence that children carrying a genetic variation linked to DNA repair were four times more likely to develop leukemia than those without that genetic marker. We called the finding a “major breakthrough” and predicted, “It simply cannot be ignored.”

We were wrong. So wrong.

What happened next —or rather, what did not happen— sheds light on why EMF research treads water and never moves forward.

February 24, 2014

“Did not find evidence of an association between RF EMF epxosuure from broadcast transmitters and incidence of childhood leukemia.” Note that only 7 of the 283 leukemia cases were exposed to >0.2 V/m (~0.01 µW/cm²).

January 17, 2014

More support for an association for exposures above 0.2 μT (2 mG) —from a group in China. See also the accompanying editorial which finds that this potential risk factor “deserves our attention.”

September 25, 2013

"Now it is enough!" claims Maria Feychting of Sweden's Karolinska Institute. Feychting wants to stop wasting money on any more epidemiological studies of breast cancer risks from power-frequency electromagnetic fields (ELF EMFs).

"We can be confident that exposure to ELF magnetic fields does not cause breast cancer," she writes in an invited commentary published last week in the influential American Journal of Epidemiology (AJE). Feychting's call to stop research was prompted by a new study of breast cancer among Chinese textile workers from the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, which found no association with ELF magnetic field exposures. Feychting's confidence is based in large part on the exposure assessment used in the textile study, which, she believes, was "better than in previous studies."

If Feychting's call to halt research is heeded, she will have shattered a key driver for EMF–cancer research that has held sway for the last 25 years: the melatonin hypothesis.

April 8, 2013

This new French study supports "the hypothesis that living <50 m from a 225 or 400 kV high-voltage overhead power line may be associated with an increased incidence of childhood acute leukemia."

July 27, 2012

De-Kun Li is the last man standing. Not long ago, many of the leading environmental epidemiologists in the U.S. were working on EMFs of one kind or another. They've all moved on —all except De-Kun Li, and he continues to break new ground in one study after another.

Li, a senior researcher at Kaiser Permanente in Oakland, CA, has now shown that EMF exposures in the womb are linked to an increased risk of childhood obesity.

"Maternal exposure to high [magnetic fields] during pregnancy may be a new and previously unknown factor contributing to the world-wide epidemic of childhood obesity/overweight," Li writes in a paper posted today by Scientific Reports, a peer-reviewed, open access journal owned by the group that publishes Nature.

August 2, 2011

De-Kun Li's new study, published yesterday, got quite a bit of news coverage with comments from all over. One of the most surprising, at least to us, was from David Savitz, who some 25 years ago was the first...

August 1, 2011

A mother's exposure to weak power-frequency magnetic fields during pregnancy substantially increases the chances her child will develop asthma, according to a new study by De-Kun Li and coworkers at Kaiser Permanente in Oakland, CA. An average magnetic field exposure of just 2 mG (0.2 µT) during pregnancy more than triples the child's risk of getting asthma by the age of 13, they report in a paper released today by the Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine, a publication of the American Medical Association (AMA).

November 15, 2010

If you want to see just how misguided the ICNIRP enterprise really is, take a look at its new EMF exposure guidelines in the December issue of Health Physics. [See also our November 10 post.]

Start at the end with the footnote that discloses the composition of its five-member ELF Task Group (p.830...

November 12, 2010

According to the U.K.'s National Grid, here is ICNIRP's new statement on chronic EMF health risks: "It is the view of ICNIRP that the currently existing scientific evidence that prolonged exposure to low-frequency magnetic fields is causally related with an increased risk of childhood leukemia is too weak to form the basis for exposure guidelines. In particular, if the relationship is not causal, then no benefit to health will accrue...

December 15, 2008

This could be a breakthrough, a major breakthrough. It could explain how power lines promote childhood leukemia. It could identify which children are at greatest risk. And it could shed new light on the pivotal role played by EMF-induced DNA breaks.

Chinese researchers have found that children who carry a defective version of a gene that would otherwise help repair damaged DNA are much more likely to develop leukemia if they also live near power lines or transformers. Xiaoming Shen and coworkers at the Jiao Tong University School of Medicine in Shanghai have reported that children with this genetic variant —known as a polymorphism or snp (pronounced "snip") —and who lived within 100 meters of these sources of EMFs had over four times more leukemia than neighboring children with a fully functional version of the same gene.

December 21, 2006

It's long been known that children with Down's syndrome have a much greater chance of developing acute leukemia —up to 20 times greater or even higher. Now, in the first study of its kind, a group of Mexican researchers have shown that Down's children exposed to magnetic fields of 6 mG (0.6 µT) or more had close to four times the risk of developing acute leukemia compared to other Down's children. (The analysis was based on spot measurements, rather than the more commonly used 24-hour readings.) Writing in the January 2007 issue of Epidemiology, Juan Mejia-Arangure and coworkers conclude that genetic susceptibility to leukemia may well modify the effects of EMFs.

July 11, 2006

Magnetic fields have been linked to childhood cancer in many countries and now it's also been shown in Japan. Michinori Kabuto, of the National Institute of Environmental Studies in Ibaraki, along with a number of collaborators have found that children exposed to 4 mG (0.4 µT) or more in their bedrooms had close to five times more leukemia than those living in low-exposure homes. This statistically significant finding appears in the August 1st issue of the International Journal of Cancer.

June 17, 2006

Residents of Taipei, the capital of Taiwan, may have the highest exposures to power-frequency magnetic fields anywhere in the world. A survey by the Taiwan EPA found that 18% of elementary school classrooms, hospitals and homes had levels exceeding 10 mG (1 µT), according to the June 15 Taipei Times.

The EPA made the measurements after a study by Fu Jen Catholic University found that 95 primary schools and 49 junior high schools, with a total of more than 18,000 students, are within 20 meters of high-voltage power lines. The EPA administrator has said that the ICNIRP standard of 833 mG does not provide sufficient protection, the Times reported last February.

January 5, 2005

Going through our collection of clips on the new Stewart report this afternoon, we came across the following quote by Paolo Vecchia, the chair of the International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection (ICNIRP), in a press release issued by the Australian Mobile Telecommunications Association (AMTA) on January 11:

“Because EMF exposure guidelines are based on worst-case hypotheses and include reduction factors providing safety margins for possible lack of data, the Commission does not need to create separate guidelines to protect special groups such as children.”

November 2, 2004

The World Health Organizationís EMF Project is advising national governments against setting stricter exposure limits for exposures to electromagnetic fields (EMFs) to protect children from leukemia.

October 30, 2004

On October 29, Sky News disclosed that the U.K. Department of Health kept a study linking power lines to childhood leukemia under wraps for three years. Children under 15 who lived within 100 meters of a power line had double the risk of developing leukemia, according to the report.

In an interview with the Independent, published on October 30, Dr. Gerald Draper of the Childhood Cancer Research Group in Oxford, denied that he had suppressed the results of his study that had looked at 35,000 cases of childhood leukemia between 1962 and 1995. Draper did concede that he had presented his preliminary results at a “private workshop” 18 months ago. He said that at that time the results were “fuzzy.”

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