Magnetic fields possibly linked to childhood leukemia: Dutch health council

Children living in the vicinity of overhead power lines may have a greater chance of contracting leukemia, a report by the national health council said on Wednesday.

One case every two years could possibly be linked to the effects of the magnetic fields surrounding the power lines, the council said. While a causal relation with magnetic fields has not been proven, ‘there are indications for such a relationship’, the council said.

The report is an update of earlier research by the advisory body and was commissioned by the infrastructure ministry. Apart from cancer in children, the council will also look into the data available on cancer and diseases of the central nervous system in adults.

Some 135 children are diagnosed with leukemia each year in the Netherlands. According to the council’s data analysis, there are indications that children who live near overhead power lines are twice as likely to fall victim to the disease.




The council also analysed the data on other types of cancer in children and found a possible link between brain tumours and the strength of magnetic fields. However, again the higher instances could be down to coincidence, the council said. Both the distance from and the strength of magnetic fields were looked at.

Danger zone

Although hard and fast evidence for a link with the effects of magnetic fields is lacking and coincidence or other factors may play a role, the council says it cannot be ruled out. Current government policy is not to build homes too close to the power lines and offer compensation to people who already own a home in a presumed danger zone so they can move.

The council now recommends an extension of the present preventative policy to include underground cables. Magnetic fields from these cables are not stopped by the soil or building materials.

‘We already have a preventative policy in place on overhead power lines. If the government wants to be consistent it will also have to find ways of protecting people from exposure to magnetic fields from other sources of the electricity network, such as underground cables and transformer stations,’ spokesman Eert Schoten told broadcaster NOS.

Read a summary of the report, in English


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