In your capacity as Energy Minister I am interested in your views on how a power line can be authorised and not undergrounded in a heavily populated area, even though the relative risk of childhood leukaemia in areas close to high voltage power lines can be up to 4 (compared with relative risks of lung cancer and heart disease resulting from exposure to secondary smoke commonly given as 1.2–1.3, yet is held to be dangerous enough to justify a comprehensive smoking ban).The reply indicated that Scottish Ministers can authorise or reject overhead lines, and they do not have authority in respect of putting lines underground. Further,
In respect of the health concerns, the Scottish Ministers take advice from the Health Protection Agency (HPA), and their view accords with that of the World Health Organisation – that despite extensive research, there is no evidence to conclude the exposure to low level Electro Magnetic Fields (EMF) is harmful to human health.The writer of this letter made no allusion to risk levels from secondary smoke exposure.
The radiation off power lines shows at the bottom of the scale. But does this mean that the risks are non-existent? Not being an epidemiologist I am approaching this with considerable caution. The results I have found from this study in Canada give a relative risk from exposure to EMF of 1.72 (95% CI 0.54–5.45) and concluded no significant risk. From Germany, in pooled studies that included separate studies of night-time exposure, relative risks went up to 5.81 (95% CI 0.78–43.2 [is this an error?]).
Comparing the results with secondary smoke exposures: 1.4 (95% CI 0.9-2.2) for the total population and 1.2 (95% CI 0.7-2.1) (described by our good friend RT as a Killer Finding), it is clear that the risks for EMF score higher.
The letter from the Energy Directorate indicates that the situation regarding exposure to leukaemia from power lines will be carefully observed: clearly they diagnose the problem as lower than borderline significance. But then how do they (with World Health Organisation approval) get the whole world panicked about secondary smoke exposure, when it never seems to give a relative risk higher than about 1.4?