AltaLink continues to misinform Albertans about the health risks associated with overhead high voltage power lines.
Landowners and residents in Alberta who contact AltaLink regarding their concerns about the negative health effects of overhead transmission line electromagnetic fields (EMFs) are often directed to AltaLink’s website or provided with a video produced by AltaLink. AltaLink’s EMF Issues Manager is an electrical engineer who has no background in the biological or medical sciences, yet says in the AltaLink video there is nothing to worry about because there are EMFs everywhere, and overhead transmission lines are simply one more source of EMFs.
The AltaLink engineer then proceeds, in the video, to touch electrical appliances and other electrical sources with a gauss meter and shows there are high EMF levels emanating from these sources, in an attempt to suggest to the viewer that overhead transmission lines are no more hazardous to your health than these appliances. The fact is, when you move a very short distance (several inches) from these appliances, the EMF readings quickly taper off, whereas harmful EMF levels persist up to several hundred metres (600 metres in some studies) from overhead high voltage power lines. As well, being exposed to the EMFs given off by an electrical appliance that is turned on for a short time is far less harmful than being exposed continuously to overhead transmission line EMFs over a prolonged period (years) near your home, place of work, school, hospital or any other place where people congregate for extended periods of time.
The engineer refers in passing to some studies that suggest a weak link between EMFs and childhood leukemia, but mentions nothing about hundreds of other studies that report causal correlations and conclusive links between overhead high voltage power line EMFs and adult and childhood leukemia, other cancers, Alzheimer’s disease, Lou Gehrig’s disease, miscarriage, birth defects, depression, suicide, headaches, migraines, nausea, heart problems, sexual dysfunction, sleep disturbance, fatigue, persistent mental disorders, immune system deficiencies, electrical sensitivity symptoms, and the list goes on.
Nor does the AltaLink electrical engineer refer to any of the studies where world-renowned scientists such as Dr. Denis Henshaw say that high voltage power lines are linked “beyond reasonable doubt” to childhood leukemia, adult leukemia and adult brain tumours. Henshaw says there is only a one in a million chance that EMFs are not associated with adult leukemia, and that this link “passes any criteria in science for proof”.
In the video, the AltaLink engineer says that Health Canada and the World Health Organization (WHO) suggest there are no conclusive negative health effects of high voltage power line EMFs. Under heavy lobbying by the electricity transmission industry, both of these institutions have been reluctant to recognize the negative health impacts that scientists and doctors who are experts on the effects of EMFs have recognized for decades. Both Health Canada and the WHO have been heavily criticized by EMF health experts for protecting the transmission industry rather than protecting the health of people.
The AltaLink video does not even mention the International Commission for Electromagnetic Safety (ICEMS), comprised of impartial renowned EMF and health experts who have repeatedly criticized the WHO. The ICEMS has said there are negative health effects of EMFs on living matter that occurs at every level of investigation: molecular, cellular, animal and human (in vitro/in vivo/epidemiological). As well, the video does not refer to the ICEMS’s contention that the building of high voltage power lines should follow the Precautionary Principle which states when there are indications of possible adverse effects, though they remain uncertain, the risks from doing nothing may be far greater than the risks of taking action to control these exposures. The Precautionary Principle shifts the burden of proof from those suspecting a risk (e.g., residents near power lines) to those who discount it (e.g., transmission industry).
Nor does the AltaLink video mention the Bonneville Power Authority research which shows that one-half of the 323 human studies of EMF effects on leukemia, brain cancer, breast cancer, mental health and reproductive health report increased risks due to EMF exposure.
The electrical engineer also does not refer at all in the AltaLink video to the negative health risks of the overhead transmission line corona effect where pollutant-laden corona ions deposit in the lungs. A risk analysis conducted in one study suggested there were 200-400 excess cases of lung cancer mortality and 2,000-3,000 excess cases of cardiovascular and respiratory illnesses and aggravated asthma and allergies among the 2.7 million people living within 400 metres of high voltage power lines in the U.K.
The video does not even mention that burying high voltage power lines can totally eliminate the negative effects of the electrical field component of EMFs, almost eliminate the negative health effects of the magnetic field component of EMFs through phase cancellation, and totally eliminate the negative health effects of the overhead line corona effect.
There are many other instances in the AltaLink video where EMF health research results are misrepresented, dismissed or downplayed. One of the real ironies within the video introduction is that AltaLink Senior VP Leigh Clarke states the discussion of EMFs, health effects and overhead transmission lines should be a balanced and accurate one; however, then the rest of the video proceeds to provide a very biased and inaccurate perspective on the subject, which essentially ignores the facts based on peer-reviewed scientific and medical studies.