The possible health effects of living near power lines and towers have been a topic of inquiry for the past 30 years. Numerous studies have looked into whether people living nearby power sources are at risk of developing any number of physical and psychological disorders. To date, government regulatory agencies continue to investigate these claims.
Much of the concern about the possible effects of living near power lines and towers has to do the electromagnetic radiation (EMF) that comes from these structures. As power lines and towers are designed to conduct electricity over great distances, the electromagnetic properties of electricity and the magnets used in its conduction may pose certain health effects. As of yet, the United States Environmental Protection Agency is still investigating whether there is a present health risk in spite of ongoing reports and studies.
One of the first studies done to investigate the effects of power lines was conducted in 1979 by N. Wertheimer and E. Leeper. The study was entitled "Electrical Wiring Configurations and Childhood Cancer". Researchers examined whether there was any correlation between the incidence of leukemia in children and nearby residential power lines and towers. A residential area inside Denver, Colorado was the location for the study. Wertheimer and Leeper compared the effects of EMF on residential occupants who lived at various distances from nearby power lines. The results showed a higher incidence of childhood leukemia in children who lived closest to power sources, however any evidence of a direct connection between EMF and childhood leukemia has yet to be established. The results of this study appeared in the March, 1979 Journal of Epidemiology.
Another research study entitled, "Residential Exposure to Electric Power Transmission Lines and Risk of Lymphoproliferative and Myeloproliferative Disorders: a Case-Control Study" was conducted in Hobart, Australia by R. M Lowenthal. Researchers looked for correlations between the incidence of cancer in those who were exposed to high-voltage power lines. Results from the study found the risk of developing cancer increased by 106 percent for subjects who lived within 50 meters of a power source as compared to individuals who lived 300 meters from a power source. Researches concluded that the results confirmed that a probable correlation existed between cancer and exposure to power lines. The results of the study appeared in the September 2007 issue of Internal Medicine Journal.
Research into the psychological effects of living near power lines and towers was conducted by Pacific Northwest Laboratory in Richland, Washington in 1988. The study was done to determine if extremely-low-frequency (EMF) electromagnetic fields contributed to the number of depression-related suicides in subjects who lived near power sources. EMF was found to disrupt circadian rhythm cycles, and alter serotonin and melatonin neurotransmitter levels in the subjects studied. Sertonin and melatonin both play a role in regulating emotions in the brain. Researchers concluded that EMF may contribute to the onset of depression symptoms in some people.
Environmental Protection Agency
In March, 1990, the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) moved to classify electromagnetic radiation as a Class B carcinogen. Other Class B carcinogens include dioxins, formaldehyde, and DDT. After further review this statement was revised on the basis that no direct connections could be found between EMF and health risks, however a possible causal connection was deemed possible. As power lines and towers are run by major corporations, there is much controversy regarding the politics behind the EPA's decision.