High Health Council - advice 9431 - Impact of the exposure to magnetic fields generated by the electrical grid on the population (May 2020)
High voltage powerlines and health, Part 1 : Childhood cancers. Advice from the Health Council of the Netherlands (April 18, 2018)
Faced with the questions that still remain, the Department of Public Health, Epidemiology and Health Economics (ULiège) has performed a systematic review of the literature and a met-analysis to clarify the link between exposure to extremely low frequency magnetic fields (ELF-MF) and childhood leukemia. A meta-analysis is a statistical analysis that combines the results of several studies. Our meta-analysis supports an association between ELF-MF and childhood leukemia only if children are exposed to magnetic fields higher than 0.4 µT during a long period of time. Our results are in agreement with the Belgian Superior Health Council (SHC, May 2020) that recommends to limit mean annual magnetic field exposure to 0.4 µT. We have published our results in Reviews on Environmental Health (Brabant et al., 2022, Reviews on Environmental Health, doi: 10.1515/reveh-2021-0112). However, the conditions under which ELF-MF represent a risk factor for leukemia are still unclear. For example, the duration of the magnetic field exposure seems to play a critical role for the development of cancers but this is difficult to demonstrate in human studies. Almost all the studies included in our meta-analysis were case-control studies but variables like the magnetic flux density and the duration of the magnetic field exposure cannot be manipulated experimentally in these case-control studies. In vitro and animal studies could be relevant to clarify the role of these variables. Since most cancers are initiated by damage to the genome of the cells, several in vitro studies have been conducted to examine the genotoxic effects of magnetic fields on DNA and chromosomal structure. Furthermore, many animal studies have been performed to determine whether exposure to ELF-MF can increase the risk of developing cancer in mammals. Animal models provide the opportunity to investigate the carcinogenetic potential of ELF-MF experimentally and manipulate variables like the magnetic flux density and duration of magnetic field exposure. Nevertheless, there are many discrepancies in this research field. Therefore, we are performing a systematic review of the literature and a meta-analysis on the carcinogenic effects of ELF-MF based on studies performed with animals and in vitro to clarify the conditions under which ELF-MF can promote cancer and leukemia development.
Documents & Links
- Link to the article: Exposure to magnetic fields and childhood leukemia: a systematic review and meta-analysis of case-control and cohort studies (Brabant et al, 2022)
- Precaution with power lines remains necessary
- Power lines and health part I: childhood cancer (April 18th 2018)
- Advice of the High Health Council N° 9431 – Impact of the exposure to magnetic fields generated by the electrical grid on the population (May 2020)