Electric power is a fact of life in America, a familiar miracle. Generations have come to take for granted the simple flip of a switch that turns night into day. With electric power, however, come certain pre cautions that are also well known. Electric power lines, household wiring, and appliances can cause serious injury from electric shock if handled improperly. Recently, a new question has emerged about the electric power we all depend on: Does it have anything to do with cancer?
Some epidemiological studies have suggested that a link may exist between exposure to power-frequency electric and magnetic fields (EMFs) and certain types of cancer, primarily leukemia and brain cancer. Other studies have found no such link. Laboratory researchers are studying how such an association is biologically possible. At this point, there is no scientific consensus about the EMF issue-except a general agreement that better information is needed. A national EMF research effort is under way, and major study results are expected in the next few years.
This booklet provides some answers to common questions about the possible health effects of EMFs. First, we define some basic electrical terms, describe EMFs, and discuss recent scientific studies. We then describe what the government is doing to address public concerns about EMFs. Next, we address questions people have about their own exposure to EMFs. Lastly, we tell you how to obtain more detailed information about these issues.
ELECTRIC POWER BACKGROUND
HUMAN HEALTH STUDIES
EMF RAPID Program
YOUR EMF ENVIRONMENT
This booklet was prepared by Oak Ridge National Laboratory, under the direction of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences and the U.S. Department of Energy, for the EMF Research and Public Information Dissemination (RAPID) Program. It was reviewed by staff from nine federal government agencies and by the National EMF Advisory Committee, which represents public advocacy groups, organized labor, state governments, academia, and industry. Much of this material was originally developed by the Bonneville Power Administration, one of the first federal agencies to recognize the public need for information about the science underlying the EMF issue. Information on EMF sources other than power lines came from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. For more information about the EMF RAPID Program, see the Appendix.