There have been literally hundreds of medical and scientific studies that show conclusive links and causal correlations between many serious health conditions and prolonged exposure to the ELF-EMF (Extremely Low Frequency Electromagnetic Fields) and air pollutants charged by corona ions that emanate from overhead high voltage transmission lines.

These are some of the RETA Fact Sheets pertaining to your Health.

While power companies continue to state that there is no irrefutable proof that there are adverse health effects, the overwhelming consensus by the medical and scientific experts around the world, including the International Commission for Electromagnetic Safety, is that there are very serious health effects of overhead high voltage power lines.

  1. During a 1988 attempt to build a 240kV transmission line along the Sherwood Park and South Edmonton Greenbelts, evidence was presented that showed there were significant health reasons back then for concern .
  2. Since then, the evidence that power line EMFs and air pollutants charged by corona ions are a serious health risk has been increasing, not decreasing.
  3. Even literature offered by EPCOR, Altalink and the Alberta Electric System Operator (AESO) to answer our questions regarding the health and safety of power line EMFs (authored by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences) actually confirms our concerns.
  4. There are hundreds of more recent studies that show further causal correlations and conclusive links between overhead power line EMFs and many serious health problems including: leukemia, Alzheimer’s and Lou Gehrig’s diseases, dementia, breast cancer, brain cancer, lymph cancer, intestinal cancer, depression and suicide, miscarriage, birth defects, heart problems, behaviour and mental disorders, sexual dysfunction, sleep disorders, headache, migraines, nausea, fatigue, and dozens of others.
  5. The Bioinitiative Report (updated to 2014) summarizes 110 peer-reviewed papers on ELF EMFs, such as those emanating from overhead transmission lines. 88% of the papers showed negative effects of ELF EMFs on biological organisms and processes.
  6. See this summary table for increased risks of numerous diseases and other ailments due to prolonged exposure to overhead high voltage power line EMFs.
  7. It’s not only the medical and scientific communities that are aware of the causal correlations between EMFs and many health problems.  Bonneville Power Authority data show that of 323 human studies of EMF effects on leukemia, brain cancer, breast cancer, mental health and reproductive health, one-half show increased risks due to exposure to EMFs.
  8. No agency has said there is NO RISK.
  9. With the overwhelming medical and scientific evidence of very serious health effects (at a maximum), and reasonable doubt (at a minimum), surely the prudent approach is to not run new power lines above ground near people’s homes, workplaces, schools, daycares, hospitals and other places where people gather.

We have assembled some of the data and information supporting this below.  Please consult the 19 fact sheets at the “Fact Sheets” link for details and complete reference citations.

1. High Voltage Line Shuts Down Colchester Elementary School

In 1988, the Colchester School Parent’s Association, with support from the County of Strathcona, testified at the Energy Resources Conservation Board (ERCB) regulatory hearing on a proposed 240kV power line, presenting many health studies, and raising several safety and environmental issues which remain valid today.  For example, key studies they referenced confirm the link between power line EMFs and childhood leukemia, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, intestinal cancer, brain cancer, immune system deficiencies, birth problems, etc. At that time, the ERCB ruled in favour of the Colchester School Parents’ Association, and the 240kV transmission line was consequently built next to 2 existing lines in another location.

Colchester Elementary School was shut down in June 2013 because parents refused to send their children to the school after the 500kV double-circuit Heartland line with 253-foot-tall (77-metre) towers was built only 140 metres from the school. Parents were not willing to risk the health of their children who would have been exposed to EMFs and pollutant-laden corona ions so close to their school. The Alberta Utilities Commission (AUC) had essentially ignored the volumes of health risk data and expert testimony presented to it, and unfortunately approved the building of the Heartland line next to 5,280 homes, several schools and daycare centres, and many businesses. The approval has been characterized by many as the worst decision ever rendered by the AUC. Shutting down Colchester, a well-maintained and respected school, and moving the students to another school cost Alberta taxpayers at least $21 million.

2. Increasing Concerns. More Health Studies Show Risks

Since 1988, evidence that power line EMFs are a serious health risk has been increasing, not decreasing:

Scientific and medical studies reported in peer-reviewed publications indicate 11.8 times the risk of nervous system cancer, 10. 3 times the risk of brain cancer, 6 times the risk of male breast cancer, 3.3 times the risk of connective tissue cancer, 3.2 times the risk of female breast cancer, 3 times the risk of intestinal cancer, and 2.2 times the risk of  lymph cancer due to prolonged exposure to EMFs.

Many studies show that higher risks of childhood leukemia are found among children living near overhead high voltage power lines; risks vary from 2 to 5 times the expected rate for the general population.

The incidence of leukemia in Ontario utility workers exposed to EMFs is 4.3 to 5.5 times the expected, with risk increasing as the exposure increases.

The risk of Alzheimer’s disease increases up to 4.9 times the expected rate due to prolonged EMF exposure, and to 2.5 times the expected rate for dementia.

Women who live or work near overhead high voltage power lines have up to the following increased birth risks: miscarriage – 5.7 times the expected rate; throat birth defects – 2.5 times the expected; hydrocephalous – 1.7 times the expected; heart birth defects – 1.5 times the expected.

The risk of severe depression increases by up to 4.7 times the expected rate for people living or working near overhead high voltage power lines, and suicide mortality among people who work or live near high voltage lines is up to 3.6 times the expected rate.

3. Power Companies Say There is No Explanation for EMF Effects

AltaLink, EPCOR, most other transmission companies, the AESO, the AUC and the Alberta Government say there is no explanation for the documented negative health effects of overhead high voltage power line EMFs. This may have been the case numerous decades ago, but not today. Studies have shown that EMFs reduce production of melatonin, one of the body’s most powerful natural defenses against cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, immune system disorders, and most of the diseases cited above, to the point where this hormone can no longer protect the body. Scientists have indicated that reduced melatonin caused by EMF exposure is the core biological mechanism or explanation for many, if not the majority, of the documented negative health impacts of EMFs.

As well, the International Commission for Electromagnetic Safety has stated many times that EMFs have documented negative effects on the health of living matter at every level of investigation: molecular, cellular, animal and human population levels.

4. Corona Effect

Overhead high voltage power lines ionize the air, emitting trillions of corona ions into the air per second. These ions attach to aerosol-sized particles of many types of carcinogenic air pollution, like diesel exhaust. The charged pollutant particles are then carried by the wind up to 7 kilometres downwind of the power lines, and deposit in the lungs at a significantly greater rate than uncharged pollutant particles.

A corona effect risk analysis conducted in the U.K. suggests that up to 400 excess cases of lung cancer mortality and up to 3,000 excess cases of cardiovascular and respiratory illnesses and aggravated asthma may occur annually among the 2.7 million people living within 400 metres of overhead high voltage power lines in the U.K.

5. Credibility of Health Canada and World Health Organization Questioned

In response to residents’ concerns about health and safety issues, AltaLink, EPCOR, the AESO and Alberta Energy have said they believe there are no adverse health effects associated with overhead high voltage transmission lines. They cite Health Canada and the World Health Organization (WHO) as suggesting there are only limited risks of negative health effects from overhead power line EMFs. Be sure to check out the fact sheets on these 2 institutions at the “Fact Sheets” link, which provide details on the gross biases by both organizations when it comes to not warning the Canadian and world populations about power line EMF risks. The credibility of both organizations has been repeatedly questioned and challenged by medical and scientific experts who research EMF impacts. Some of these scientists have even exposed corruption between the power industry and the WHO on this matter. One scientist has written that Health Canada “is more concerned in protecting the electric utility industry than it is in protecting the health of Canadians”. This appears consistent with Health Canada’s past track record of dragging its feet in warning Canadians about the dangers of smoking and excessive cell phone use, and exposure to asbestos and lead jewelery.

6. No Risk? Acceptable Risk?

No one can guarantee that overhead power lines are safe.

When it comes to assessing what is acceptable in terms of risk we need to evaluate more than just the chances of it happening, we need to evaluate the consequences.

Risk = Probability X Consequence

The realm of the scientists is Probability.  Some scientists, especially those funded by the power industry, have concerns about various aspects of the studies conducted to date but even they call for more studies.

Evaluation of the Consequences is a value judgment that only the residents who live along overhead high voltage power lines and their elected representatives have the right to decide.

We are not willing to risk our children and our loved ones when:

  • the expected leukemia risk of 6 in 100,000 becomes 30 in 100,000 (these are not small numbers and only represent one of the many potentially fatal or debilitating diseases that have been conclusively linked with overhead high voltage power lines around the world.)
  • the scientific community indicates that the increased risks of cancers and so many other diseases from exposure to EMFs can no longer be ignored.
Common Sense

Common sense says if the scientific community is warning us about overhead power lines, and if governments and power companies don’t know for sure they are safe, then don’t build overhead transmission lines so close to homes, schools, daycares and hospitals.

Other jurisdictions have come up with common sense solutions to this dilemma; they don’t build new above ground high voltage power lines near people:

  • The International Commission for Electromagnetic Safety passed the Benevento Resolution resolving to institute 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. This shifts the burden of proof from those suspecting a risk to those who discount it.
  • The Precautionary Principle has been adopted by the European Union in its Constitution Treaty Article 174, and the World Health Organization passed a resolution in 2006 to counter industry’s position that annoyance and discomfort do not count, stating “Health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.”
  • In many countries, legislation has been passed to protect citizens from above-ground power line EMFs. For example, in Austria, it is against the law to build overhead high voltage power lines within 400m of a residential area….they must be buried.
  • In a Washington State County, new high voltage power lines can only be constructed in industrial areas, unless they are buried.

When there is reasonable doubt, even people accused of murder get the benefit of the doubt.  Surely, everyday Albertans concerned about the health of their families deserve that same right.

The Answer – Bury the Line

Burying high voltage power lines totally eliminates the electric field component of EMFs through shielding, and thereby eliminates any health impacts caused by electric fields. Burying lines significantly reduces the magnetic field component of EMFs through phase cancellation, and thereby essentially eliminates negative health effects caused by magnetic fields other than immediately above a buried line. On the other hand, magnetic fields emanating from overhead high voltage lines have been shown to have impacts as far away as 600 metres. And, burying power lines totally eliminates any health risks associated with the corona effect.

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