April 20, 2009
Living near power lines may significantly increase a person’s risk of death from Alzheimer’s disease or senile dementia.
Researchers from the University of Bern, Switzerland, have found that people who lived within 50 metres of a long-distance power transmission line were 1.24 times more likely to die of Alzheimer’s disease than those who lived 600 metres or more away.
Those who had lived near the power line for five years or more had 1.51 times the risk of those living farther away. This risk was increased 1.71 times for those who had lived close to a power line for 10 years, and two times for those who had lived within 50 meters for 15 years or more.
The figures for senile dementia were similar to those for Alzheimer’s disease.
The study, published in the American Journal of Epidemiology, is the first to definitively link exposure to low-frequency electromagnetic fields to elevated mortality from dementia.
The researchers examined residential census data for more than 95 percent of Switzerland’s population for the years 1990 and 2000, and compared this information with mortality figures for 4.7 million people over the age of 29 between 2000 and 2005.
Long-distance power lines transmit power at 220-380 kilovolts. They do not give off radiation at the same frequency as other power lines, which transmit smaller amounts of electricity shorter distances.
The researchers noted that the extremely low frequency (ELF) magnetic fields created by long-distance power lines are also created by many household electrical appliances and even the wiring within buildings. The World Health Organisation has classified these fields as possible carcinogens.
Due to the fact that household appliances are probably more significant sources of ELF field exposure than power lines, the researchers recommend precautionary measures such as not sleeping too close to active electric appliances, such as clock radios or electric blankets, for long periods of time.
See Electromagnetic Radiation at Home and Work in the Spring 1997 issues of New Vegetarian and Natural Health for more information.