§ Mr. Laurence Robertson
To ask the Secretary of State for Health what recent research his Department has(a) commissioned and (b) evaluated into the possible health effects on people who live near (i) electricity pylons and (ii) telecommunications masts; and if he will make a statement. 666W
§ Yvette Cooper
[holding answer 3 July 2001]: The Department obtains advice on potential health effects risks associated with electromagnetic fields (EMF), such as those from power lines or mobile phone masts, from the National Radiological Protection Board (NRPB).
Power line EMF has been reviewed in a report published on 6 March by the NRPB' s Advisory Group on non-ionising radiation and provides an assessment of the potential risks of cancer. (Documents of the NRPB Vol. 12, No 1, 2001). Copies have been placed in the Library. The board of the NRPB also published a response statement which can be found on the NRPB website www.nrpb.org.uk. The report states that any possible risk of childhood leukaemia relates to those exposed at relatively high levels of domestic magnetic field exposure but that these are not necessarily associated with proximity to pylons or overhead power transmission lines. The conclusions indicate that the question of whether exposure to electromagnetic fields can influence the development of cancer cannot at present be completely resolved.
Mobile phone base stations (transmission masts) emit radio waves at very different frequencies to those fields generated by power lines. They are therefore being dealt with as a separate issue. The possible public health implications of mobile phone technology has been investigated by the Independent Expert Group on Mobile Phones (the Stewart group). Its report, published in May 2000 concluded that:the balance of evidence indicates that there is no general risk to the health of people living near to base stations on the basis that exposures are expected to be small fractions of guidelines.It also included a recommendation for a substantial research programme to be set up to investigate the possible effects of mobile phone technology more generally. A three year programme, jointly funded by Government and industry, has now been launched and has invited proposals relating to all aspects of mobile phone technology including telecommunications masts and handsets. The research is being undertaken under the direction of an independent programme management committee. Details can be found on the Department website www.doh.gov.uk/mobilephones.
The Department is also continuing to provide financial support for the World Health Organisation International Electromagnetic Fields (EMF) Project which is comprehensively reviewing EMF effects, including those of power frequency fields and radio waves.667W