What we don’t know can hurt us?

By Bill Couzens

©Times Community Newspapers 2006

While the sound science relative to the effect of power lines on human health is not as strong as the relationship between pesticides and cancer, there are still concerns about exposure to power lines and childhood leukemia.

The Canadian Cancer Society recently released a statement that the link between electromagnetic fields and cancer has neither been established nor ruled out, but it urges people to keep their distance from power lines.

Electric and magnetic fields (EMF) are invisible lines of force that surround any electrical device that is plugged in and turned on.

EMF is commonly associated with power lines. A person standing directly under a high-voltage transmission line may feel a mild shock when touching something that conducts electricity. These sensations are caused by the strong electric fields from the high-voltage electricity in the lines.

They occur only at close range, because the electric fields rapidly become weaker as the distance from the line increases.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) tells us we can reduce exposures by taking the following steps:

Increasing the distance between you and the source. The greater the distance between you and the power lines, the more you reduce your exposure.

Limiting the time spent around the source. Limit the time you spend near power lines to reduce your exposure.

I wonder how the EPA’s helpful tips translate to Fauquier’s children who would live and play under Dominion’s proposed power lines. How do we create distances for those children when the lines are coming through their backyards?

The reality is that we do not have the science that tells us that exposure to power lines is safe for our families. Power lines over private homes and land will expose children to an unknown risk that is both unnecessary and preventable.

When an activity raises threat of harm to human health – as in pesticide spraying in close proximity to schools – it is important to take precautions.

When the science has not been fully established and harm is suspected, precautionary measures should be taken – even if some cause-and-effect relationships are not fully esta