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February 26, 1988

Do Power Line—Generated Electromagnetic Fields Have Any Association With Certain Disorders?

JAMA. 1988;259(8):1131-1133. doi:10.1001/jama.1988.03720080003003

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SINCE THE MID-1960s, scientists have debated whether low-level electromagnetic fields generated by power lines represent a health hazard. Recent studies suggesting possible links between electromagnetic exposure and cancer have drawn renewed attention to this controversy.

For years, researchers have hypothesized links between electromagnetic fields and a variety of disorders ranging from malignant melanoma to mental illness. British investigators have suggested a link between electromagnetic exposure and suicide, while a Russian study indicated cardiovascular changes in electrical workers.

At least one literature review, by a London utility company scientist, discounted these and other associations (JR Soc Med 1982;75:933-941). But epidemiologic and other studies have continued.

Among the Latest  In one of the latest laboratory studies, investigators at the University of California, Riverside, say their work indicates exposure to common sources of low-energy electromagnetic radiation—including overhead power lines— may promote growth of malignant tumors. However, they add that "the research is not