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Possible Health Effects of Exposure to Residential Electric and Magnetic Fields
Living in homes classified as being in the high wire-code category is associated with about a 1.5-fold excess of childhood leukemia, a rare disease.
Magnetic fields measured in the home after diagnosis of disease in a resident have not been found to be associated with an excess incidence of childhood leukemia or other cancers.
The link between wire-code rating and childhood leukemia is statistically significant (unlikely to have arisen from chance) and is robust in the sense that eliminating any single study from the group does not alter the conclusion that the association exists. How is acceptance of the link between wire-code rating and leukemia consistent with the overall conclusion that residential electric and magnetic fields have not been shown to be hazardous? One reason is that wire-code ratings correlate with many factors—such as age of home, housing density, and neighborhood traffic density—but the wire-code ratings exhibit a rather weak association with measured residential magnetic fields. More important, no association between the incidence of childhood leukemia and magnetic-field exposure has been found in epidemiologic studies that estimated exposure by measuring present-day average magnetic fields.
Studies have not identified the factors that explain the association between wire codes and childhood leukemia.
Because few risk factors for childhood leukemia are known, formulating hypotheses for a link between wire codes and disease is very difficult. Although various factors are known to correlate with wire-code ratings, none stands out as a likely causative factor. It would be desirable for future research to identify the source of the association between wire codes and childhood leukemia, even if the source has nothing to do with magnetic fields.
In the aggregate, epidemiologic evidence does not support possible associations of magnetic fields with adult cancers, pregnancy outcome, neurobehavioral disorders, and childhood cancers other than leukemia.
The preceding discussion has focused on the possible link between magnetic-field exposure and childhood leukemia because the epidemiologic evidence is strongest in this instance; nevertheless, many epidemiologists regard such a small increment in incidence as inherently unreliable. Although some studies have presented evidence of an association between magnetic-field exposure and various other types of cancer, neurobehavioral disorders, and adverse effects on reproductive function, the results have been inconsistent and contradictory and do not constitute reliable evidence of an association.
The purpose of exposure assessment is to determine the magnitudes of electric and magnetic fields to which members of the population are exposed.
The electromagnetic environment typically consists of two components, an electric field and a magnetic field. In general, for time-varying fields, these two