REVOLT opposing unnecessary, excessive and intrusive powerline development

opposing unnecessary, excessive and intrusive powerline development

REVOLT Newsletter 185

Revolt news 04/05/2005

NEWS FLASH ... the Revolt committee has decided to work on informing the public about the emerging regional policy of concentrating wind farms on Hambleton District. The new planning frameworks are complex, and responses to Local Development Plans are required later this month, but the details of wind farm concentration are relatively obscure in background papers. A separate issue of Revolt news will take this up shortly. Revolt will not however take on a national co-ordinating role on wind farms, as that is admirably filled by Country Guardian 

1. Latest news of the "Draper report", i.e. a research paper of the CCRG Epidemiological Study of Powerlines and Childhood Cancer: The paper has now been accepted by the British Medical Journal. A provisional publication date of June 3 has been announced, but it could change.

2. In response to my call (news184.1) for re-classifying wind power as non-renewable, except for Good Quality Wind Power, John Etherington, former Reader in Ecology at University of Wales Aberystwyth, mentions an example attempting to create hydrogen for clean back-up generation in Norway. The many difficulties so far would make it very uneconomic. (APPENDIX 1). My note had mentioned an example in the Orkneys; it was actually on the isle of Unst in the Shetlands and was reported in news157.1 where it was wrongly described as in the Orkneys.

3. The Sunday Times has got the message. Its important leading article is at APPENDIX 2.

4. The NRPB has changed its name. It is now the HPA-RPD, that is the Radiological Protection Division of the Health Protection Agency. It has issued a "clarification" statement on EMFs. The background part of it is at APPENDIX 3 and refers to the role of SAGE. Mind you, the statement in respect of 0.4 microTeslaT that "This value is at the upper end of the distribution of the range of residential exposures." Is off the mark. It is not "at the end". There are many people living near powerlines where this value will be exceeded.

5. While the Draper report is awaiting publication in BMJ, another paper has appeared showing childhood leukaemia is rarer among children attending day care, from Gilham et al of the UKCCS

[reference BMJ, doi:10.1136/bmj.38428.521042.8F (published 22 April 2005)]. The finding supports an infection hypothesis. In my view this adds to the evidence that there are many factors affecting the immune system and how it deals with stresses which may lead to leukaemia. Social contact at day-care may strengthen the immune system and reduce leukaemia incidence. Also, electro-magnetic fields (EMFs), for example from power lines, may, through inhibiting melatonin and other means, weaken the immune system. However, some of the authors appear to have trespassed well beyond their findings to claim that other effects such as EMFs are insignificant. Alasdair Philips has replied (APPENDIX 4) to a report in New Scientist. My first comments on the BMJ paper are at APPENDIX 5.


APPENDIX 1 Wind power with hydrogen back-up in Norway (from John Etherington).

The only working example of which I have any detail is on Utisira, an island near Stavanger, Norway. There are 240 inhabitants and just 10 households are cabled to the project.

There are two turbines of 1.2 MW installed capacity giving at most a realised capacity of 0.36 MW (with a generous load factor of 30%).

The budget for this demonstration project was about NOK 40 million, over two years which is 3.3 million, so assuming all of the wind turbines' output could be used, the minimum capital cost per realisable MW on Utisira would be 9,167,000 !!! Or 330,000 per home!

In fact, not all of the output can be utilised so the cost per realised kW is actually much higher! This is because 10 households could not absorb an average of 0.36 MW - this would be 36 kW per home continuously! Neither can the 48 kW capacity of the electrolyser permit full electricity use when there is spare generation from the turbines. There is also a loss of efficiency associated with using wind electricity to make hydrogen and then hydrogen back to water to give electricity! Usually assumed to be about 50%.


APPENDIX 2 Leader from the Sunday Times 17.4.05

THE SUNDAY TIMES April 17, 2005 Leading article: Blow them away

The news that Britain's police forces are turning to a dash of cooking oil to power their squad cars may smack of a budgetary squeeze gone mad, but it is far from that. The police are prepared to put up with being called the "frying" squad, and to take all the jokes about driving around in mobile chip shops for good reason. The biodiesel being used by them and other enlightened motorists is environmentally friendly. Made from a combination of traditional diesel and vegetable and rapeseed oil, some of it indeed recycled from chip shops, it can cut carbon dioxide emissions by up to 5%. Ironically, the police have taken their lead from those in south Wales who a couple of years ago powered their cars on cheap, unadulterated cooking oil from Asda.

The use of biodiesel (and bioethanol, which can be used instead of petrol) is an example of good environmental practice. Nobody notices when a car is chugging along on bio-fuel. There is not even a faint whiff of fried potatoes. Everybody does notice, on the other hand, when somebody builds a wind farm in an area of unspoilt and beautiful countryside. This week the planning inquiry into the Whinash wind farm on the edge of the Lake District National Park will begin. Opponents include Lord Bragg and Sir Chris Bonington who rightly say that the farm, encompassing 27 400ft high wind turbines, will be a blot on the landscape visible for miles around. It amounts to no less than an "industrialisation of the countryside". The plan for these giant towers is backed surprisingly by Friends of the Earth and Greenpeace.

Wind farms are the electricity pylons or open-cast mining of the 21st century. They are ugly and destructive of birdlife and their contribution to Britain's energy needs is minimal. The solution to our relentless thirst for energy will mean much greater fuel efficiency (roll on the 300mpg car) and the development of more nuclear power stations with appropriate safeguards for the disposal of waste. There is a limited place for alternative sources, but it is difficult to see that there is anything very intelligent about the giant wind farms.


APPENDIX 3 Clarification from HPA-RPD (ex NRPB).

Up to 31 March 2005 the National Radiological Protection Board (NRPB) had a statutory responsibility for advising UK Government Departments on protection standards for exposures to ionising and non-ionising radiations. This responsibility now lies with the Radiation Protection Division (RPD) of the Health Protection Agency (HPA). As part of its responsibility, NRPB provided advice on exposure guidelines for EMFs from 0 Hz to 300 GHz, including the extremely low frequency (ELF) fields associated with the power frequency of 50 Hz. Following a comprehensive review of the science and advice from experts, NRPB placed a consultation document on its website in May 2003 and provided an opportunity for interested individuals and groups to submit comments. In addition to considering the views expressed in response to the consultation document, in December 2002 NRPB hosted a public open meeting in Birmingham to discuss EMF concerns about power lines. In March 2004, NRPB published its formal advice on limiting exposure to EMFs (NRPB, 2004a). This was supported by a review of the scientific evidence (NRPB, 2004b). This advice recommended adoption of guidelines from the International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection (ICNIRP) for limiting exposures to EMFs (ICNIRP, 1998). For occupational exposure to 50 Hz fields the guidance by ICNIRP is for a limit on induced current density in the brain and central nervous system (CNS) of 10 mA m-2. This is the same as previous NRPB advice given in 1993. For public exposure, the adoption of the ICNIRP guidelines represents a reduction over previous NRPB guidance from 10 mA m-2 to 2 mA m-2. These values for limits on induced current density are known as basic restrictions and cannot be measured in living tissues directly. Consequently dosimetric techniques are used to compute measurable external field values, termed reference levels, that are associated with the basic restriction values. The adoption of the ICNIRP guidelines results in a reference level for exposures to 50 Hz magnetic fields of 500 microTesla for workers and 100 microTesla for members of the public. A further consequence of adopting the ICNIRP guidelines is that the reference value for 50 Hz electric fields is 10 kV m-1 for workers and 5 kV m-1 for the public. These reference levels are not limits, but are values that should trigger further investigation into compliance with the exposure guidelines. The use of the electric field reference levels reduces the likelihood of perception of the field and of indirect effects such as microshocks. The consideration of scientific uncertainty and aspects of precaution had been specifically requested by Government as an input to the development of NRPB advice on EMFs. This advice acknowledged that at power frequencies there remain uncertainties with some areas of the science, particularly in relation to an epidemiological association found between an increased risk of childhood leukaemia and exposure to power frequency magnetic fields above about 0.4 microTesla (NRPB, 2004a,b). This value is at the upper end of the distribution of the range of residential exposures. NRPB therefore recommended that Government consider the need for further precautionary measures. Melanie Johnson MP, the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Public Health, welcomed the advice and was pleased to note the inclusion of the NRPB recommendation to Government on precautionary measures. A Stakeholder Advisory Group on ELF EMFs (SAGE) has been established. This is managed by the Department of Health and is exploring further the practical applications of precautionary measures.


APPENDIX 4 Alasdair Philips replies to New Scientist

Dear New Scientist,

I have recently read the article entitled "Day care protects against leukaemia" (Page 14) in the issue dated the 30th of April 2005.

The very first sentence reads "THERE is no association between exposure to electromagnetic fields and the risk of childhood leukaemia". I find this statement dumbfounding to say the least, as the study upon which the article is based only looks at childhood leukaemia with respect to early age day-care and other social interaction as a surrogate for infection.

At the moment there is stronger evidence for EMFs and childhood cancer, than this study provide for day-care, suggesting that electromagnetic radiation above 0.4 microtesla is significantly associated with a doubling of the risk of developing childhood leukaemia [1] and to suggest otherwise is simply bad scientific reporting and poor editorial oversight.

It is true that the part of the UKCCS which looked at electromagnetic fields and cancer risk and found little direct effect, but Eve Romaon, whom you cite, Nic Day, the leading UKCCS researcher on the EMF analysis, and Jane Skinner were UKCCS co-authors of the Ahlbom et al meta-analysis and the UKCCS results are included in that analysis.

The truth is that at the moment we cannot say that all the causes behind childhood leukaemia are known, though evidence suggests very strongly that it is multicausal. A daily orange, fresh orange juice or banana also drops childhood leukaemia incidence by half. You could have mentioned that, too, as you strayed off the topics of day-care and infection. Despite being emailed regularly at the time, and running a full-page inside front cover paid announcement early in 2004, you chose not to report on the week- long international scientific conference on the causes of childhood leukaemia organised by CHILDREN with LEUKAEMIA in Westminster last year, where a variety of causes and prevention measures were discussed [2].

In early June 2005 the BMJ will publish a paper known as the Draper Report that has looked at 35,000 childhood cancer cases over 33 years in relation to 275kV and 400kV powerlines. That shows an approximate doubling for those born and living within 100 metres of such lines. I hope, at that time, that you will be able to present a more scientifically balanced article about the variety possible causes of childhood leukaemia, including electromagnetic fields.

There is currently a Department of Health senior stakeholder group (SAGE) looking at what precautionary advice on power-frequency EMFs should be given out to the general public. That was set up following IARC's classification of power-frequency EMFs as a possible human carcinogen (based on the childhood leukaemia data) and their knowledge of the forthcoming Draper Report that they funded together with National Grid Transco. The group has very senior people from all government departments, industry, academics and consumer interest groups. That is how seriously this issue is now taken.

Without the first sentence the article would have been reasonable, but it hangs there, in pride of place, as a definitive but incorrect statement, representing tabloid journalism rather than balanced scientific reporting.

[1] Ahlbom A, et al., A pooled analysis of magnetic fields and childhood leukaemia, Br J Cancer 2000 Sep;83(5):692-8 see [2] see  see also: 

Yours Sincerely, - Alasdair Philips Powerwatch Director 


APPENDIX 5 Comments on the UKCCS paper in BMJ, from Mike O'Carroll

I find the paper interesting and not in opposition to findings of association with powerlines. The findings need to be honed and replicated of course (and how often has that been demanded of powerline findings!) , but they do generate interesting hypotheses. The potential for involvement of the immune system (via damage through melatonin suppression by EMF or via strengthening by response to infection from social interactions) in the development of childhood leukaemia is reinforced by the findings; that reinforces the potential for a melatonin hypothesis.

I found nothing to say infection is the exclusive mechanism for Greaves's second hit, but even if it were, then melatonin suppression could still be a factor in the effectiveness of such infections. The paper only seems to me to increase the potential role of EMFs in this aetiology.

Having said that, the use of a proxy for social interaction is particularly rough. The paper says "We used a hierarchical variable based on these three exposures (social activity, day care, and formal day care) as an overall measure of social activity in the first year of life" and goes on to say "We assessed trends across the combined hierarchical variable by treating it as a continuous variable". That is too creative for me to set much store by the trend analysis. Also, the use of interviews with parents, perhaps by researchers not blind to the hypotheses to be tested, has the potential to affect the measures of isolation or interaction in favour of the hypotheses.

The authors appear to have made an error in respect of the counter- expectation result on groups with and without older siblings: "The odds ratio for formal day care was 0.61 (0.42 to 0.87)for ALL in children without older siblings and 0.38 (0.26 to 0.54)for those with older siblings, a non-significant difference in the opposite direction to that anticipated." I suspect they thought that overlapping confidence intervals (as in 0.42 < 0.54) meant it was non-significant, whereas it only means less significant than p = .05 squared (p = .0025). As the odds ratio for each group falls outside the confidence interval for the other (as in .38 < .42), the result is significant. No great shakes, but the idea bears further thought, and tends to undermine the validity of the metrics and assumptions used.

The infection hypothesis draws on the observation that "marked influxes of population into isolated areas are followed by transiently increased rates of childhood leukaemia". Thinking of Sellafield, might that alternatively be explained by the influx population including a susceptible subset not previously exposed to the local environmental exposure? Perhaps the infection hypothesis authors already considered that? Differences between Greaves and Kinlen are highlighted in the section on mechanisms, and they emphasise the different roles of susceptible subsets and infectious agents. Could it be that what the "influx" imports is the one (immunological susceptibility) rather than the other (leukaemogenic infectious agents)?


-- Mike O'Carroll




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