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Pylons Major Health Hazard Inquiry Told

Pylons Major Health Hazard Inquiry Told

Thursday, September 13th 2007

Living near high-voltage power lines increases the risk of childhood leukaemia, miscarriage and other ill health, a medical expert has told a board of inquiry.

However, the Ministry of Health and Transpower are comfortable with existing standards and are pushing for "no change" to Government policy.

Auckland urologist Dr Robin Smart presented documented evidence from around the world about ill health effects from exposure to electric and magnetic fields (EMFs) from power lines to a public hearing in Hamilton. On the back of 83 epidemiological studies he appealed for a tightening of current regulations by a factor of 300.

Such a move would have wide-ranging ramifications, the biggest of which could be the scuttling of Transpower's controversial 400KV pylon project on the grounds that it would be uneconomic.

Opponents say the current 65m-wide easement proposed by Transpower is too narrow to ensure the safety of public health. They believe the corridor across 190km of Waikato farmland should instead be expanded to 600m.

Dr Smart, speaking on behalf of anti-pylon lobby group New Era Energy, said the New Zealand standard regulating electric and magnetic field exposure to 100 microtesla was "a joke". He believed exposure should be limited to 0.3 microtesla.

The Ministry of Health and Transpower, along with the Government, were using a standard that was so high that in effect there was no limit on human exposure to power lines, Dr Smart said.

The Government and Transpower were relying on outdated standards, first outlined in 1997 by the International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection (ICNIRP).

That standard had been applied poorly by Government decision-makers, he said.

It was originally drafted as a guideline for schools and homes for "short-term immediate health effects such as stimulation of nerves and muscles, shocks and burns ... during exposure to electric and magnetic fields".

But the commission "covered itself" by adding a cautionary note: "These guidelines are not intended to be a complete system to protect the public."

In his submission presented yesterday Dr Smart said the commission's recommendation was "clearly reckless".

"Indeed it is impossible to imagine any human living permanently in a place where there is constantly 100 microtesla.

"It has never been done and is totally unproven as a standard."

International studies of the effects of electricity line exposure were cited by Dr Smart, which showed increased rates of child leukaemia, miscarriage, motorneurone disease, headache, suicide and depression.

A 1997 New Zealand study by Ivan Beale of Auckland University was also quoted, in which 540 Aucklanders living in homes near high voltage lines were studied against a control group.

Sourced from NZ Herald, 21 August 2007 written by Simon O'Rourke,

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