We know that there may be acute health risks associated with electric and magnetic fields; risks that are much greater than the ones associated with electricity supply installations (several thousand microteslas). The health risks are well known, and exposure limits have been defined to protect the public from them.
Many diseases studied
Since the late 1970s, scientists from all over the world have tried to establish whether magnetic and electric fields of the strength found close to electricity supply installations and household appliances pose a health risk.
Many of the research projects concentrated on magnetic fields and cancer. However, possible links with a large number of other diseases have also been investigated. Today, scientists have established that there is no link between magnetic fields and many of the diseases investigated. Nothing seems to indicate that electric fields close to electricity supply installations and household appliances pose a health risk. These pages therefore primarily deal with magnetic fields.
Over the years, research has focused particularly on magnetic fields and childhood leukaemia (blood cancer), but despite the many research projects undertaken it has proved impossible to find evidence that unequivocally supports the existence of a causal link:
- demographic (epidemiological) studies have demonstrated a statistical link between childhood leukaemia and children living close to high-voltage power lines
- due to a number of problems with the statistical investigative methods, a statistical link is not the same as a causal link
- testing on animals and cells has been unable to establish a causal link
- researchers have been unable to point to an actual causal link between fields and cancer or other diseases. In other words, scientists still have not found a theoretical scientific explanation of how the fields could be the cause of or contribute to the development of cancer.
As such, there are still questions which researchers cannot answer, but the many years of research have nevertheless provided much knowledge. This is described in the latest and most authoritative overall research evaluation prepared by the World Health Organization (WHO) (2007).