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December 4, 1996

EMF Exposure Study Rules Out 'Causing' Cancer, Finds 'Association' With Leukemia Puzzling but Real

JAMA. 1996;276(21):1705-1706. doi:10.1001/jama.1996.03540210013006

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THERE IS NO conclusive evidence that exposure to electric and magnetic fields (EMF) at the levels that occur in residences can cause cancer or have adverse neurobehavioral or reproductive and developmental effects. So states a report released at the end of October, Possible Health Effects of Residential Electric and Magnetic Fields, the result of a 3-year study by a 16-member committee of the National Research Council.

Nevertheless, the report says, there remains unexplained a "weak but statistically significant" association between high levels of exposure to EMF and childhood leukemia—the observation made 20 years ago that triggered public concern over the issue.

Congress requested the study, sponsored by the US Department of Energy, in response to widespread concern that exposure to the EMF produced by nearby power lines outside and electric appliances inside homes, schools, and public buildings may pose a risk to health. The issue was first raised 17 years