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Burning Pylon logoWayleave hearing 16.10.01
re. NGC line at Rounton Gates
(Hearing postponed until November)


Wayleave hearing 16.10.01 re. NGC line at Rounton Gates
Addendum to Proof of Evidence of M J O'Carroll, 13.10.01

NOTE: in the plain text version,  )T means microTesla.

1. Further notes on health issues

1.1 Two new papers [1,2] strengthen the grounds for concern. Davis et al report a reduction in night-time melatonin production in women exposed to elevated magnetic fields in the home. Levallois et al report reports a significant trend of decreasing nocturnal melatonin production in older women living near a 725 kV powerline in Quebec. Melatonin is a natural hormone normally produced at night and important in resisting cancer. The results are statistically significant, though the more significant effects occur in restricted cases, e.g. in summertime (Davis et al) and in older women (Levallois et al). This suggests that effects may be compounded and indirect, but real.

1.2 The NRPB's Doll Report [3] does not of course consider these papers. It does report briefly on the melatonin hypothesis, e.g. on page 47 under "Indirect effects by release of inhibition", citing some papers of Liburdy and colleagues at University of California Berkeley. Those are cell studies, and are replicated elsewhere. They studied growth of breast cancer cells in the absence or presence of melatonin under magnetic fields. The effect of melatonin was blocked at 1.2 microTesla when compared with 0.2 microTesla. Incidentally, Doll is wrong to say they found no effect at 0.2 microTesla [4]. The two new papers are epidemiological studies, providing confirmation of the melatonin-suppression in humans and from independent researchers at different institutions, and doing so at lower exposure levels of 0.08 to 0.16 microTesla.

1.3 A further important mechanism is the inhibition of the effect of the cancer treatment drug tamoxifen. This is mentioned briefly in the Doll report with reference to some papers of Harland et al at Berkeley. Extensive trials have shown tamoxifen to be effective against early breast cancer and its long term recurrence [5]. A later paper from the Berkeley group [6], not considered in the Doll report, shows tamoxifen inhibition at 1.2 microTesla compared with 0.2microTesla. Although breast cancer in women has not been implicated in residential EMF studies so far, the research has not addressed interference with tamoxifen treatment.

1.4 Professor Henshaw [7] has reviewed the recent California Health Department report. The review is appended in order to show the systematic approach to assessing "confidence in causality", an approach sadly lacking in the Doll report and in the assessments of NGC, DTI and NRPB. However, in the wake of the BSE/CJD affair, the Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology encourages such an approach [10]. Notable points in Professor Henshaw's review include the table on page 2, addressing a range of harmful effects including non-cancer effects not addressed in the Doll report, and the emboldened words on pages 4, 5, 7 and at the foot of page 8. While the Statement for the General Public acknowledges there is a chance that EMFs have no effect at all, the California experts conclude that causation of childhood leukaemia is more than 50% likely, that is more likely than not. I would agree with that from my own readings of key papers.

1.5 The Doll report has been criticised for its bias and spin and for omissions [8, 9]. Follow-up correspondence [10] between Sir Richard Doll and Alasdair Philips confirms NRPB's serious omission of not addressing precautionary policy. The position of NRPB therefore should not be taken as supporting the NGC's anti-precautionary stance.

1.6 In a parallel consideration, the independent Stewart Report into mobile phones criticises the NRPB [11], and recommends a more reasonable approach to precaution. Policies for powerlines and mobile phones may be compared [12]. There is a gap in the NRPB's assessment of risk [13], specifically in assessing the credibility of causation and considering when precaution should be appropriate. The Stewart Report contrasts favourably with the Doll Report, and the California Report [see 7] takes a thorough systematic approach, with reference to "confidence in causality". I have been calling for this since 1995 [see 13], but the NRPB has used uncertainty as a mask for denial, and has by its omissions consistently blocked proper precaution.

2. Further conclusions

2.1 The basis of evidence for concern on health issues is gaining in strength, (a) in specific details such as the inhibition of melatonin and tamoxifen, (b) in international appraisals of the overall risk, now considered in important cases to be more likely than not, and (c) in the range of potential harmful effects for which there is respectable suggestive evidence.

2.2 The NRPB is deficient in its advice, and its lack of formal advice on precaution. The concerns of grantors in the present case are precisely about precaution in the face of uncertainty and rational grounds for suspicion.

2.3 Sir, you, like the NRPB and like others in DTI recently, are likely to come under political pressure to consider, not so much the genuine issues and concerns of the grantors, but the hypothetical effects of a precedent - a kind of reverse-scare-mongering. May I ask you also to consider the proven effects of maintaining denial and blocking precaution, against the balance of evidence, as were manifest in the BSE/CJD affair? Above all, integrity would seem to require that fairness and balance be placed above fear of precedent.

MJOC 13.10.01

References: (The relevant papers or extracts are presented in a separate Appendix (Not all online))

[1] Davis et al, American Journal of Epidemiology, Vol. 154, No. 7, 591-600, 1.10.01.

[2] Levallois et al, American Journal of Epidemiology, Vol. 154, No. 7, , 601-609, 1.10.01.

[3] Doll et al, ELF Electromagnetic Fields and the Risk of Cancer, Documents of the NRPB, Vol. 12, No. 1, March 2001.

[4] Liburdy et al, J Pineal Res, Vol. 14, 89-97, 1993.

[5] Clarke et al (EBCTCG), Tamoxifen for early breast cancer: an overview of the randomised trials, The Lancet, Vol.351, 16.5.98.

[6] Harland et al, Cell Biochemistry and Biophysics, Vol. 31, 295-306, 1999.

[7] Henshaw, D.L., California Health Department Report: Summary and Commentary, Oct 2001.

[8] O'Carroll, M.J., Summary of NRPB EMF report, March 2001.

[9] Philips, A., Doll II - ELF EMFs and the Risk of Cancer, Commentary, 2001.

[10] Electromagnetic Hazard & Therapy, Vol. 12, No. 1, pages 1 and 3, 2001.

[11] Stewart, W., Mobile Phones and Health, e.g. pages 24-25 and 113-114, NRPB, 2000.

[12] O'Carroll, M.J., Health issues for mobile phones and powerlines - similarities and differences, June 2001.

[13] O'Carroll, M.J., Risk Communication: Mobile Telephones and Health, City & Financial Conference, June 2001.

Mike O'Carroll


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