Levels of Cancer Risk from exposure to EMF Electromagnetic Fields vs Other Cancer Risks
EMF CANCER RISK - CONTENTS: What are the actual absolute levels of risk of contracting cancer from EMF or other conditions?What are the priorities of concern when avoiding cancer risk from EMF? What is the EMF Hazard? The normal pattern of rise and fall of public fear for most environmental hazards, real or imagined. The effect of environmental hazards and public fear on real estate prices or "property values"
POST a QUESTION or READ FAQs on levels of health risk, leukemia, or other cancers associated with possible exposure to EMF from power lines, electrical meters, wiring, appliances, TV or computer monitors, & other sources.
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EMF exposure as a possible carcinogen? This paper discusses electromagnetic radiation or electromagnetic fields (EMF) as a possible cancer risk and offers a brief analysis of the probable cancer risk from EMF compared with other hazards. It graphs the effect of fear of power lines and EMF exposure as well as other environmental concerns as it affects property values over time.
Understanding Levels of Absolute Cancer Risk from Levels of Electromagnetic Field Exposure
Our page top photo shows an electrical worker repairing a local electrical power distribution line.
Electrical workers, because they are regularly have close exposure to strong electrical fields, are a group that has been closely studied for correlation between cancer occurrence and electrical field exposure.
We define "Enviro-Scare" (ES) and we use
this cyclic fear pattern to describe the variation and effects of the level of public environmental worry by recapping
the enviro-scare history of asbestos, EMF, UFFI, and other environmental concerns.
The red graph at EMF Cancer Scare depicts the varying level of ES or public fear for a given
environmental concern. ES generally increases, peaks, and then diminishes over time, independently of the actual level
Because RF and EMF measurement tools need to be properly chosen to measure the particular type and frequency of RF or EMF signal that is of interest, be sure to also see EMF RF FIELD & FREQUENCY DEFINITIONS for a simple explanation of different types of radio frequency (RF) and electromagnetic frequency (EMF) types and where they are found.
Here is a summary of the actual health risks and property value risks associated with EMF, electromagnetic fields.
Determining actual health risks from EMF exposure is complex. Not all experts agree about the danger. However a
growing body of articles and studies suggests that there may be health risks at EMF levels as low as 2 milligauss,
probably depending on many variables including length of exposure in the field, actual field strength during the exposure
period, person's age, body mass, general health and perhaps genetic predisposition or vulnerability to cancer.
While debate continues, it remains possible that in some instances there are some hazards from EMF.
While prudent avoidance has been recommended by experts, to date (Marcy 2012) we know of no Federal nor State accepted standard for allowable exposure to EMF. My information is based on
our understanding of current literature on this topic. When set, standards for acceptable levels of EMF exposure may
then be higher or lower than 2 milligauss.
Very often EMF levels are not constant at all locations on a property. Using a procedure which may reduce
this problem, I report measurements made at a series of standard locations and sometimes also at locations of special
interest. I have made this procedure available to other professionals and I invite critique, feedback, and suggestions.
For currently popular concerns, economic risks to property owners remain even if there is no demonstrable health
hazard. I call the cycle of increasing, peaking, then declining consumer fear "enviro-scare." The economic impact on
property owners of these topics depends on this cycle.
One of my EMF measuring equipment manufacturers reports the following: " Magnetic radiation readings of 1 milligauss
and less are considered below those which were shown to increase the level of leukemia in several medical epidemiological
studies in the greater Denver area."
"Readings in the 1 to 3 milliGauss range were found to double the leukemia rate in children in the Denver
studies." "Some epidemiological studies indicate a higher than normal incidence of cancer, including leukemia and brain tumors,
among children and adults living or working close to power lines." Time Magazine, July 17, 1989.
"Dr. Savitz mentioned 2 milliGauss as the level at which cancer is produced in children. In the home of these
people, I have measured 10 to 12 milliGauss, depending on how much current is flowing down the line." House of
Representatives, 100th Congress.
We (DJ Friedman) have regularly found background levels of .5 to 1 milliGauss at residential properties, and higher
levels in urban environments. It's unusual to find an urban or even suburban environment with lower EMF levels than .5-2 milligauss.
What does "double the risk of leukemia" really mean as true measure of danger?
Telling a prospective home buyer or home owner that "Exposure of your child to a 2 milligauss field can double his risk of
childhood leukemia." is frightening. The statement may be true, but stated alone, this admonition lacks a very important
perspective. An informed viewpoint is very important for every environmental hazard. Let's review again the opening
statement about "doubling cancer risk."
At the risk levels discussed in the Werth study, "doubling the risk of childhood leukemia" means increasing the
chances from about 1 in 10,000 to 2 in 10,000. In either case, the risk is extremely low -- much less than the risks
posed by a large number of much more common hazards to which people are exposed daily.
A clear summary of EMF risks and characteristics is at "Magnetic Field Exposure and Cancer: Questions and Answers [ copy on file as /emf/EMF_Fact_Sheet_NCI_NIH.pdf ] - ," National Cancer Institute, U.S. National Institutes of Health.
Importance of Identifying and Prioritizing Cancer & Other Health & Safety Risks
Cancer Risk from Lawn Herbicides is Greater than from Electromagnetic Fields
A Friday, March 26 editorial in the New York Poughkeepsie Journal, "Don't mix kids and chemicals." The
editorial mentions a 1987 National Cancer institute study which "... found that children who lived in homes where lawn
chemicals were applied were six times more likely to develop leukemia."
In other words, your lawn may be more dangerous than a 2 mg EMF.
Based on current research, EMF may be near the
bottom of risks to children. [In fact one wonders if some of the leukemia cases reported for children living along a
power line right of way might have been influenced less by the EMF than by the strong herbicides commonly used by power
companies to hold down brush growth under the power lines.
Readers might review the Agent Orange issue affecting
veterans of the Vietnam war, for example.]
While this and any health hazard may change as new data is developed, consumers who are concerned with the health of
their children should consider all risks and should, when worrying about individual ones such as EMR, keep them in
perspective. If ones objective is to stay healthy and alive, a rational approach identifies and responds to risks first
by identifying the most-significant ones and making sure that those concerns have been addressed.
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"Questions and Answers about Biological Effects and Potential Hazards of Radiofrequency Electromagnetic Fields", Federal Communications Commission, Office of Engineering and Technology, US FCC, OET Bulleting 56, 4th Edition, August 1999
" Many consumer and industrial products and applications make use of some form of
electromagnetic energy. One type of electromagnetic energy that is of increasing importance
worldwide is radiofrequency (or "RF") energy, including radio waves and microwaves, which
is used for providing telecommunications, broadcast and other services. In the United States
the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) authorizes or licenses most RF
telecommunications services, facilities, and devices used by the public, industry and state and
local governmental organizations. Because of its regulatory responsibilities in this area the
FCC often receives inquiries concerning whether there are potential safety hazards due to
human exposure to RF energy emitted by FCC-regulated transmitters. Heightened awareness
of the expanding use of RF technology has led some people to speculate that "electromagnetic
pollution" is causing significant risks to human health from environmental RF electromagnetic
fields. This document is designed to provide factual information and to answer some of the
most commonly asked questions related to this topic." - original source: U.S. Federal Communications Commission Office of Engineering and Technology, http://www.fcc.gov/Bureaus/Engineering_Technology/Documents/bulletins/oet56/oet56e4.pdf
"Magnetic Field Exposure and Cancer: Questions and Answers [ copy on file as /emf/EMF_Fact_Sheet_NCI_NIH.pdf ] - ," National Cancer Institute, U.S. National Institutes of Health, web search September 2010, original source: http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/factsheet/Risk/magnetic-fields
makes these five key points about EMF
Electric and magnetic fields (EMF) are areas of energy that surround any electrical device. EMFs are produced by power lines, electrical wiring, and appliances (see Question 1).
Electric fields are easily shielded or weakened by walls and other objects, whereas magnetic fields are not. Since magnetic fields are more likely to penetrate the body, they are the component of EMFs that are usually studied in relation to cancer (see Question 1).
Overall, there is limited evidence that magnetic fields cause childhood leukemia, and there is inadequate evidence that these magnetic fields cause other cancers in children (see Question 2).
Studies of magnetic field exposure from power lines and electric blankets in adults show little evidence of an association with leukemia, brain tumors, or breast cancer (see Question 3).
Past studies of occupational magnetic field exposure in adults showed very small increases in leukemia and brain tumors. However, more recent, well-conducted studies have shown inconsistent associations with leukemia, brain tumors, and breast cancer (see Question 4).
US Environmental Protection Agency, Office of Pesticides
and Toxic Substances, TSCA Assistance Office (TS-799), 800-424-9065
"Evaluation of Potential Carcinogenicity of Electromagnetic Fields,"
EPA Report #EPA/600/6-90/005B October 1990. EPA: 513/569-7562.
"Biological Effects of Power Frequency Electric and Magnetic Fields"
background paper, prepared as part of OTA's assessment of "Electric Power
Wheeling and Dealing: Technological Considerations for Increasing Competition,"
prepared for OTA by Indira Nair, M. Granger Morgan, H. Keith Florig, Department
of Engineering and Public Policy, Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, PA
"Biological Effects of Power Line Fields," New York State Powerline
Project. Scientific Advisory Board Final Report, July 1, 1987.
"Extremely Low Frequency (ELF) Fields," Environmental Health
Criteria 35. World Health Organization, Geneva, 1984.
"Electric and Magnetic Fields at Extremely Low Frequencies:
Interactions with Biological Systems. In: Non ionizing Radiation Protection,
World Health Organization, Regional Office for Europe, Copenhagen, 1987.
"Electric and Magnetic Fields from 60 Hertz Electric Power: What do
we know about possible health risks?," Department of Engineering and Public
Policy, Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, PA 15213 1989.
"Electromagnetic Fields Are Being Scrutinized for Linkage to
Cancer," Sandra Blakeslee, New York Times, Medical Science section, April
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