Residential Magnetic Fields

Nearly 25 years ago, Wertheimer and Leeper54 published a controversial report suggesting an association between electrical wiring configurations and childhood cancer. Since that time, there have been a number of studies that have examined low-frequency electromagnetic fields (EMFs) and childhood cancer (particularly leukemia and brain tumors) with inconclusive results.13 One difficulty in interpreting earlier studies is the lack of direct measurement of EMFs. Typically, EMF exposure was estimated through wire codes or distance to power lines, which can lead to substantial misclassification. More recent studies, however, have obtained direct field measurements of EMFs, and a few smaller studies have reported some positive associations.55-57 However, the largest studies conducted to date in the United Kingdom, the United States, and Canada have not found an increased risk of childhood leukemia associated with low-level exposure to EMFs.58-60 Nevertheless, comprehensive reviews and meta-analyses of studies still conclude that there may exist a weak link between EMFs and childhood leukemia.61,62 In particular, concerns with more recent studies include 1. the fact that transient measures of magnetic fields have not been incorporated (including the rapid changes in magnetic fields that occur when appliances are used, as well as transient changes in distribution lines), and 2. that there is a low frequency of children in the high-exposure categories.

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