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Last Updated: Friday, 27 April 2007, 14:58 GMT 15:58 UK
Experts clash on powerline safety
pylon
There is dispute over the effects on health of living near powerlines
Experts have clashed over whether or not it is safe to build houses and schools near powerlines.

The government had asked them to look at cutting exposure to emissions from the lines - but they could not agree if there should be a ban on new builds.

The panel of 40 included scientists, representatives from the electricity industry and health campaigners.

Opinion is divided over whether electromagnetic fields from powerlines pose a health risk.

Health hazard?

Around 1% of homes in the UK are estimated to be within 200m of high voltage National Grid power lines. Around 25,000 are within 60m.

In 2005, the Department of Health funded Draper Report found that children who lived within 200 metres of high voltage lines had a 70% higher risk of developing leukaemia than those who lived more than 600 metres away.

Experts claim this could account for five extra cases, or 1% of the 400 cases of childhood leukaemia that occur in a year.

Some scientists have suggested that other illnesses, including brain tumours and motor neurone disease could also be linked to electromagnetic field exposure.

But others say powerlines pose no health threat.

Exposure

The panel's report discusses a number of options the government might consider to reduce public exposure to electromagnetic fields.

It says a 60-metre "avoidance corridor" around powerlines, within which new buildings should not be erected, would have the most dramatic effect.

Other options include burying powerlines underground, but there were concerns about how feasible this would be.

The report says individuals can also employ measures to reduce exposures in the home - for example, by keeping beds away from meter cupboards, fuse boxes and transformers.

Edward Copisarow of Children with Leukaemia called for an outright ban on building near powerlines.

Building ban

He said: "Power lines near homes and schools are a problem - we have to stop the problem getting any worse.

"We urge government to issue a planning circular that will prevent power lines and houses and schools being built in close proximity."

But the Energy Networks Association, which represents UK gas and electricity transmission and distribution companies, said: "It is not the right response to bury all power lines or ban building developments near them."

A spokesman said the balance of scientific evidence suggested that electromagnetic fields were not a health risk, but added "as a responsible industry we have always taken account of current medical and scientific thinking."




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