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Effects of hydro power lines on human health in Newfoundland

Petition: No. 211

Issue(s): Human health/environmental health and science and technology

Petitioner(s): Gerry Higgins

Date Received: 18 June 2007

Status: Completed

Summary: The petitioner is concerned about the effects of hydro power lines in many Newfoundland communities. He alleges there have been higher than usual rates of various diseases and conditions, including cancer, which are tied to the proximity of these towns to the hydro lines. The petitioner would like to know which government departments have a responsibility to safeguard the public from dangers caused by power lines and transformers and whether research or investigations have been conducted by these departments to establish whether transformers and power lines are causing ill health.

Federal Departments Responsible for Reply: Environment Canada, Health Canada

Petition

P.O. Box 157
Norris Arm, Newfoundland
A0G 3M0
Tel 709 653 2152

18 June 2007

The Auditor General of Canada
Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development
Attention: Petitions
240 Sparks Street
Ottawa, Ontario
K1A 0G6

Dear Auditor General,

This is my petition under the Auditor General Act.

My wife, Margaret, developed breast cancer at the young age of 39 years. We were living in the rural community of Norris Arm, Newfoundland where the air is clean and the environment is healthy. I became very concerned because of the large amount of cancer in the community and wanted to know what was causing it. I started to investigate why there was excessive cancer in the town and I found that out of sixty-two electrical transformers in Norris Arm, there were incidents of cancer located close to sixty of them.

I found that the closer people lived to the transformers, the more likely they were to develop cancer. I told the Mayor of Norris Arm about my findings and he sent letters to one hundred and fifty other towns located in the Province. Ninety towns responded and they all found similar results with more cancer cases the closer people lived to transformers. I found scientific research that indicates that electrical fields and electro magnetic fields cause cancer and these fields are generated from electrical transformers and power lines. Our home had power lines running very close to the house until Newfoundland Power moved them away to a safer distance.

During the last several years, I have spent a great amount of my time alerting the public and local, provincial and federal officials about the danger. I have asked government officials to research the problems and start an inquiry into the situation, but they have failed to act. After watching her suffer for many years, my wife died from cancer just before Christmas of 2005. The citizens of Newfoundland, my children and I deserve and request answers to several questions:

  1. Which government departments have a responsibility to ensure the safety of the public from dangers caused by powerlines and transformers? Are they aware of the links to cancer and other adverse health effects such as depression and suicide? Why are they not warning the public about these dangers?
  2. What did the Federal Department of Health and other responsible authorities do with the information, after they were notified about my discoveries and the findings of many other Municipalities in Newfoundland, about the links between cancer, powerlines and transformers in Newfoundland?
  3. Did the responsible authorities conduct any research or investigations to discover if my observations were correct and whether transformers and powerlines were causing cancer and other ill health? If not, why not?
  4. If no research has been conducted into the probable relationship between transformers and cancer in Newfoundland, would the responsible authorities immediately cause an investigation by credible, independent scientific and epidemiology specialists to determine if there is an increased risk of cancer from electrical transformers and powerlines?
  5. I request that the Federal Department of Health provide me with the ten most important documents that the Department possesses, which indicate that electrical fields and electromagnetic fields cause cancer and ill health.
  6. Has the Department of Health conducted studies that show the health effects of electro magnetic radiation on Canadians? If so, When? Please provide copies of any study reports.
  7. Has the Department of Health examined the mortality rate caused by transformers and powerlines being located too close to Canadian homes? How does this mortality rate vary across Canada? What has the Department done to mitigate the issue?
  8. Has the Department of Health conducted extensive review of all studies and evidence about electro magnetic radiation exposure, that either refute of support the fact that EMR causes harm to human health? What is their final analysis on this topic
  9. Because of the importance of how our environment is also being harmed and the obvious ties to human health, has the Department of Health and the Department of the Environment also examined reports that birds, bees and animals have been severely harmed by electro magnetic radiation? What steps are being taken to ensure safety of birds bees and animals from EMR exposure?
  10. Is the Department of the Environment aware of the harm to health that is caused by electrical fields and electromagnetic radiation? What has the Department done to warn Canadians about the danger and what protective measures has the Department put in place to ensure the future environmental safety of Canadians?
  11. Is the Prime Minister aware of the harm to health that is being caused by electro magnetic radiation? Has he been fully briefed about the serious dangers posed by EMR? If he has been briefed, who conducted the briefing and when? If not, which responsible authorities have failed to provide this important information, or has he chosen not to be made aware of the serious dangers to Canadian citizens? Has his Government any plans to protect Canadians from the terrible effects of electro magnetic radiation?
  12. Modern electrical appliances, electrical devices and house wiring systems cause varying amounts of electrical fields and electro magnetic radiation inside people's homes. Why have the responsible authorities not conducted educational programs to warn all Canadian citizens about the health dangers posed and provided mitigation information to ensure better public safety?
  13. Would the responsible authorities tell me what is the safe distance between a typical house electrical power transformer and living accommodation, to ensure safety from electrical fields and electro magnetic fields? How has that distance been decided and does it comply with the scientific precautionary principle? What are the established normal safe distances in other developed countries? Would you provide me with reports that substantiate the regulations that the Government of Canada has put in place to ensure the safety of Canadians from transformer and power-line EMR exposure?
  14. I have been advised that ground current electricity (also known as stray voltage) may be part of the electrical pollution problem that is affecting homes in Newfoundland. Would the responsible authorities explain to me what this is and what causes it? What percentage of electricity in Newfoundland flows back to sub-stations via the ground instead of the distribution system? What can be done to stop ground current from happening?
  15. What research has been conducted by the responsible authorities to discover and analyze the health damaging effects of ground current electricity? What were the results of any testing and what recommendations were made to control the problem and make citizens safer?

I have tried my best to inform the people of Newfoundland about the dangers of transformers, powerlines and electro magnetic radiation. I have often spoken on radio programs and have been reported in several newspaper stories in order to disclose the dangers. It is now time for the responsible authorities to answer questions on the health harm that EMR is causing in our communities. It seems that various government departments are failing to protect the public.

I have attached* several documents to help you to understand my situation better and to show you some of the dangers from electro magnetic radiation. If you would like to learn more about these dangers I recommend visiting the Internet web site www.powerwatch.org.uk . Please ensure that those government officials who are responsible for the safety and education issues of electro magnetic radiation properly address my concerns.

Yours sincerely,

[Original signed by Gerry Higgins]

Gerry Higgins


The petitioner added the following text to his petition

Disturbing Story about Transformers and Cancers

A few days ago I received a phone call from Mr. Gerald Higgins from Newfoundland. He told me a disturbing story about transformers and cancers and when I suggested that he send his story to some of the EMF newsgroups for circulation he asked if I would send it on his behalf because he's "new to email and is a slow typist".

I agreed. What follows is a much-abbreviated version of Gerald Higgins' saga.

Gerald Higgins bought a small house measuring 12 feet by 26 feet and skidded it to it's new home on a half acre parcel of land in Norris Arm, NL, Canada. He placed his home directly beneath a power line, moved into it in October 1980, and Light and Power duly hooked it up for him. The 13.8 kV power line was about 15 feet above his roof. He didn't know that this was not a good place for a power line and Light and Power didn't comment about it either.

In the mid to late 1990s the weather began to change as sleet storms became more common. Gerald Higgins was concerned that the power line might fall directly on his house after one of these storms so in 1998 be asked the power company to move the line, but they refused.

In May 2000, Gerald Higgins' wife, Margaret, was diagnosed with breast cancer. She was 39 years old and had no history of breast cancer in the family. She had months of chemotherapy in Grand Falls and radiation therapy in St. John's during which time Mr. and Mrs. Higgins stayed at Agnes Cowan Hostel. During the therapy sessions, Gerald Higgins spoke to well over a 4000 people and found that all but 9 of them lived within 100 feet of a transformer.

He talked to 7 married couples where both partners had bowel Cancer. He learned about a leukemia patient who was diagnosed at 18 years old and died at the age of 25. Two transformers were within 50 feet of his house. His father was later diagnosed with prostate cancer at the age of 52.

In Cornerbrook, a couple in their early 50s lived within 33 feet of a transformer. The husband had thyroid cancer and the wife had breast cancer. They were both blind.

Then there are horror stories of transformers crashing to the ground and dumping their chemical waste. In one such example in St. Stephens, a transformer fell in the fall of 1998 and splashed a nearby home and yard with its chemical waste. The husband was diagnosed with brain tumor in April 1999 and he died in August of that year. In June 2000, the wife was operated on for colon cancer. The brother-in-law who lived 50 feet away died of lung cancer two months later and the nephew who lived across the street and within 50 feet of a transformer developed stomach cancer and has since died. Light and Power dumped gravel in the yard and said there was no danger with the spill.

Gerald Higgins has hundreds of similar stories. After his wife developed breast cancer, Gerald Higgins put more pressure on Newfoundland Power and they moved the line 20 feet away and placed it on higher poles during the winter of 2002. The magnetic field on the roof immediately above the bedroom now reads 5.7 mG, so we can image how high it was when the line was directly overhead.

Gerald Higgins has become a man with a mission. He wants the government to fund a properly conducted, independent survey to assess the link between cancer and proximity to transformers. If people living near transformers have a higher risk of developing cancer then he wants the transformers moved. Support for Gerald Higgins is mounting. After he appeared on a talk show and was quoted in the local newspaper, The Herald, mayors and city clerks from around the island began to write to him with their own mini surveys. Here are a few of them.

Brent's Cove has a population of 283. Nine transformers can be found within 100 feet of houses. In one family, consisting of 15 family members who lived 54 feet from a transformer, only 4 are living. The rest had died of cancer within the past 10 years. Another person who lived 105 feet from the same transformer was diagnosed with cancer and has since died.

In Carmanville, the Justice of the Peace conducted a survey on October 6, 2002. He found people with cancer in 19 homes. Sixty percent (60 percent) of these homes were within 30 feet of a transformer and the rest were within 100 to 150 feet. In East Port, of the 51 cancer patients identified, 49 lived within 100 feet of a transformer and some lived "very close" to transformers according to one of the Councilors who conducted the survey.

The Mayor of Fleur de Lys said that during the past 10 years all cancer cases lived within 100 feet of a transformer. In five homes across the road from a fish plant with a large power source, 4 people developed cancer.

In Flowers Cove, of the 25 transformers near homes, 18 transformers were near homes where people had developed cancer.

In Hermitage, the Town Clerk conducted an independent survey and found that many of the cancer patients who died had transformers in their yards.

In Gaskiers and Point La Haye the Town Manager reported that 21 out of 23 people diagnosed with cancer lived near transformers on utility poles. So far 14 have died.

In Engelee, the City Clerk reported that out of 8 or 10 people with cancer most lived within 100 feet of a transformer. All but 2 have died.

Joe Batt's Arm has 40 transformers within the community and 33 are in close proximity to homes where people have died of cancer according to the Mayor.

The Mayor of La Scie reported that of 52 cancer cases 46 lived within 100 feet of a transformer.

There are 12 transformers and a population of 176 people within the community of Plate Cove. Of the 25 people diagnosed with cancer in this community, most live "close" to a transformer according the Mayor.

In Pools Cove, the Mayor reported that transformers were within 50 to 125 feet from homes where people had been diagnosed with cancer. In this small community during the past 20 to 25 years, 18 people have been diagnosed with cancer and 12 of them have died.

In Port Rexton, the Town Manager reported that within the past 10 years or so, of the 21 cancer-related deaths, 15 lived within 100 feet of pole-mounted transformers. Three cancer survivors still live within 100 feet of a transformer.

In Port Saunders, 19 of the 20 people diagnosed with cancer during the past 10 years lived within 50-100 feet of a transformer.

In Port Union, the Mayor reported 12 cancer cases within the past 10 years. All 12 lived within 200 feet of a transformer and 9 lived within 100 feet. Nine of these people have since died.

In Seal Cove West, the Mayor drove around to survey the 28 transformers and cancer cases. A total of 18 people developed cancer of which 11 have died and all lived within "close proximity" to a transformer.

The Mayor of St. Alban's reported that of the 38 people with cancer that he phoned 47 percent lived within 50 feet, 32 percent within 50-100 feet, 13 percent within 100-150 feet, and 8 percent lived beyond 150 feet of transformers.

In St. Lunaire-Griquet, the Mayor reported that of the 14 people with cancer, 11 lived within 30 to 50 feet of a transformer.

In St. Mary's, the Mayor was diagnosed with cancer and died recently. She lived "2 arm lengths" or about 12 feet from 2 transformers.

In Trespassey, a 33 year old, non-smoking woman who developed a tumor on her leg had a transformer in her yard.

Woodstock has a population of 300 people and a total of 16 transformers within the community, according to the Deputy Mayor. Within the past 10 years 8 people have died of cancer and 11 are living with cancer. All live within 50 to 100 feet of a transformer. There is also a transformer within 50 feet of the school that has a kindergarten.

In Norris Arms, 300 residents, almost 50 percent of the population, signed a petition to ask the Minister of Health to fund an independent study to determine the relationship between cancer incidence and transformers. They ask that the study be coordinated by the Public Health Department and that it be conducted at arm's length from NFL Power.

This request seems perfectly reasonable to me considering that scientific studies report a two-fold increased risk of childhood leukemia for children who live near power lines and are exposed to magnetic fields above 2 mG. Other research shows that electromagnetic fields may promote the growth of cancerous cells. These scientific studies in combination with the informal survey conducted by Gerald Higgins and the Mayors, Clerks and Councilors across Newfoundland are trumpeting a loud wake-up call to our public health officials. I trust they are listening.

Mr. Higgins is determined not to let this issue die. If you would like to contact Gerald he can be reached via email at GerryHiggins55@hotmail.com or by phone at 709 653-2152.

Message from Prof. Magda Havas (written in 2003)


Minister's Response: Environment Canada

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1 November 2007

Mr. Gerry Higgins
P.O. Box 157
Norris Arm, Newfoundland and Labrador
A0G 3M0

Dear Mr. Higgins:

I am pleased to respond to your Environmental Petition No. 211, to the Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development, concerning the effects of electromagnetic radiation on human health and the environment. The petition was received in Environment Canada on July 3, 2007.

Your petition addresses a number of questions to various federal departments, some of which are specifically addressed to Environment Canada. My response to questions 9, 10 and 11 is enclosed.

I appreciate your interest in this important matter.

Sincerely,

[Original signed by John Baird, Minister of the Environment]

John Baird, P.C., M.P.

Enclosure

c.c.:

The Honourable Tony Clement, P.C., M.P.
The Honourable Maxime Bernier, P.C., M.P.
Mr. Ronald C. Thompson, Interim Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development


Environment Canada Response to Environmental Petition No. 211 Pursuant to
Section 22 of the
Auditor General Act

Q. 9. Because of the importance of how our environment is also being harmed and the obvious ties to human health, has the Department of Health and the Department of the Environment also examined reports that birds, bees and animals have been severely harmed by electro magnetic radiation? What steps are being taken to ensure safety of birds, bees and animals from EMR exposure?

Environment Canada provides input into the environmental assessment process when a project, such as the construction of power lines, requires that such an assessment be conducted. An environmental assessment identifies possible environmental effects, proposes measures to mitigate adverse effects, and predicts whether there will be significant adverse environmental effects, even after the mitigation measures are implemented.

In terms of ensuring the safety of birds, key considerations focus primarily on the reduction of impacts due to electrocution and collisions. The Department has not conducted work on the possibility of harm to birds, bees and animals due to electromagnetic radiation.

The Department administers subsection 36(3) of the Fisheries Act, which prohibits the deposit of substances harmful to fish into Canadian fishery waters. Subsection 36(3) reads as follows:

"…no person shall deposit or permit the deposit of a deleterious substance of any type in water frequented by fish or in any place under any conditions where the deleterious substance or any other deleterious substance that results from the deposit of the deleterious substance may enter any such water."

With regard to wildlife, the responsibilities of the federal government include protection and management of migratory birds as well as nationally significant wildlife habitat. Other responsibilities are endangered species, control of international trade in endangered species, research on wildlife issues of national importance, and international wildlife treaties and issues.

By and large, provincial and territorial wildlife agencies are responsible for all other wildlife matters. These include conservation and management of wildlife populations and habitat within their borders, issuing licences and permits for fishing, game hunting, and trapping, guidelines for safe angling and trapping, and outfitting policies.

Q. 10. Is the Department of the Environment aware of the harm to health that is caused by electrical fields and electromagnetic radiation? What has the Department done to warn Canadians about the danger and what protective measures has the Department put in place to ensure the future environmental safety of Canadians?

At the present time, Environment Canada has no regulations in place to protect the environment from the effects of electro magnetic radiation. As such, it is not involved in any related activities.

Q. 11. Are the Ministers of Health, Industry and Environment aware of the harm to health that is being caused by electro magnetic radiation? Have the Ministers been fully briefed about the serious dangers posed by EMR? If they have been briefed, who conducted the briefing and when? If not, what responsible authorities have failed to provide this important information, or have the Ministers chosen not to be made aware of the serious dangers to Canadian citizens?

Environment Canada is always concerned about our environment and the health and safety of Canadians. However, as stated above, Environment Canada has no regulations in place related to electro magnetic radiation.

 


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Minister's Response: Health Canada

29 October 2007

Mr. Gerry Higgins
P.O. Box 157
Norris Arm, Newfoundland and Labrador
A0G 3M0

Dear Mr. Higgins:

This is in response to your environmental petition no. 211 of June 18, 2007, addressed to the Interim Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development (CESD).

In your petition, you raise concerns about the effects of hydro power lines on human health in Newfoundland.

I am pleased to provide you with the enclosed joint Health Canada and Public Health Agency of Canada response to your questions.

I understand that the Minister of the Environment will also be responding to those inquiries that fall within the mandate of his department.

I appreciate your interest in this important matter, and I hope you will find the information useful.

Yours sincerely,

[Original signed by Tony Clement, Minister of Health and the Minister for the Federal Economic Development Initiative for Northern Ontario]

Tony Clement

Enclosure

c.c.:

Mr. Ronald C. Thompson, Interim CESD
The Honourable John Baird, P.C., M.P.


Health Canada—Public Health Agency of Canada Response to
Environmental Petition No. 211:
Effects of Hydro Power Lines on Human Health in Newfoundland

Question 1

Which government departments have a responsibility to ensure the safety of the public from dangers caused by power-lines and transformers? Are they aware of the links to cancer and other adverse health effects such as depression and suicide? Why are they not warning the public about these dangers?

Health Canada (HC) Response:

As part of its mandate relating to maintaining and improving the health of the people of Canada, Health Canada continuously monitors scientific research on the potential health effects associated with different forms of electromagnetic energy including the extremely-low-frequency (ELF) electromagnetic fields (EMFs) surrounding electrical installations such as transformers and power lines.

Over the past decade, Health Canada has been an active international partner in the global effort to better understand the potential health risks of ELF-EMF. Health Canada scientists have participated in the International EMF Project coordinated by the World Health Organization (WHO), through attendance and organization of international fora and meetings and through the generation of new knowledge through scientific research of topics highlighted by the WHO EMF project. Please find attached a summary of studies conducted by Health Canada scientists (Appendix 1).

Health Canada's scientists are aware of the current scientific literature related to possible health effects associated with ELF EMF. To date, experimental and epidemiological studies have failed to provide sufficient evidence for a causal relationship between electromagnetic fields and adverse health effects. Several EMF publications are available on the Health Canada website at:

www.hc-sc.gc.ca/ewh-semt/radiation/cons/electri-magnet/index_e.html

It is the opinion of Health Canada that there is no conclusive scientific evidence that exposure to low-level ELF-EMF causes any adverse human health effects. As such, no public warnings have been issued as the Department does not consider this a significant public health hazard.

Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) Response:

The Public Health Agency of Canada was established to assist the Minister of Health in his duties and functions in relation to public health. These functions include health protection and promotion, population health surveillance, and disease and injury prevention. The Agency and the Chief Public Health Officer of Canada contribute to federal efforts to identify and reduce public health risk factors.

The Public Health Agency of Canada has conducted an extensive review of the evidence regarding exposure to electromagnetic fields and cancer. This review forms a chapter of a larger monograph on cancer and the environment. This monograph will appear in the Agency's peer publication entitled Chronic Diseases in Canada in early 2008. The authors of this monograph chapter concluded that there was no scientific consensus regarding whether exposure to electromagnetic fields increases the risk of cancer. Basically, scientific evidence to date is inconclusive regarding an association between adverse health outcomes and electromagnetic fields. Therefore, there has been no scientific basis on which the Agency would implement public awareness activities regarding any hypothesized link between adverse health outcomes and electromagnetic fields.

Question 2

What did the Federal Department of Health and other responsible authorities do with the information, after they were notified about my discoveries and the findings of many other Municipalities in Newfoundland, about the links between cancer, powerlines and transformers in Newfoundland?

HC Response:

Our review of past correspondence confirms that your letters describe only your observations concerning persons with cancer and their proximity to transformers. No mention was made about power lines. The letters were read by scientific staff of the Consumer and Clinical Radiation Bureau (CCRPB) and replies were prepared and sent. Given that the information was anecdotal and vague there was no further action that could have be taken by the CCRPB on this issue.

Question 3

Did the responsible authorities conduct any research or investigations to discover if my observations were correct and whether transformers and powerlines were causing cancer and other ill health? If not, why not?

HC Response:

While CCRPB does not carry out epidemiological investigations themselves, they continuously monitor the results of epidemiological studies published in the open peer-reviewed literature. In addition, they carry out fundamental animal and cell cultures studies on the potential health effects of EMFs. A bibliography of the research reports is given in Appendix 1. To date, the results of research carried out by the CCRPB and that of other groups throughout the world, when taken together on a weight of evidence basis, do not indicate health risks from EMFs originating from residential distribution transformers. Animal and cell-culture studies were conducted by the CCRPB using a controlled source of 60 hertz EMF at extremely high intensities compared to typical exposures from a transformer. The data thus obtained is pertinent no matter what the source is, whether from a transformer or otherwise.

PHAC Response:

While the Public Health Agency of Canada has not conducted new research into the issue of electromagnetic fields and cancer, it has conducted an extensive review of the evidence regarding exposure to electromagnetic fields and cancer. As noted above, scientific evidence to date is inconclusive regarding an association between adverse health outcomes, including cancer, and electromagnetic fields. In general, there is insufficient evidence of a causal link to warrant specific investigation for this community.

However, in response to the current petition, the Agency has looked at cancer rates in Norris Arm, Newfoundland. There is no pattern of excess cancer risk in the community as compared to Newfoundland.

Question 4

If no research has been conducted into the probable relationship between transformers and cancer in Newfoundland, would the responsible authorities immediately cause an investigation by credible, independent scientific and epidemiology specialists to determine if there is an increased risk of cancer from transformers and powerlines?

PHAC Response:

The Public Health Agency of Canada will not initiate an investigation. There is no pattern of excess cancer risk in Norris Arm, Newfoundland. As well, there have been dozens of epidemiological studies of cancer and electromagnetic fields. According to the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), the evidence for cancer in adults is inconclusive. A recently published review of breast cancer and exposure to electromagnetic fields (EMF) concluded that "Overall, the weight of the evidence available today does not suggest an increased risk of breast cancer related to EMF exposure." [Feychting M, Forseen U. Electromagnetic fields and female breast cancer. Cancer Causes and Control 2006 May;17(4):553-8. ]

Question 5

I request that the Federal Department of Health provide me with the ten most important documents that the Department possesses, which indicate that electrical fields and electromagnetic fields cause cancer and ill health.

HC Response:

At present, it is Health Canada's opinion that there is no conclusive scientific evidence that low-level ELF-EMF exposure causes any adverse human health effects. This opinion is based upon a review of the entire scientific literature, not just upon a limited subset of studies. This is the only scientifically justifiable way upon which to base health risk assessment decisions.

A recent review of the issue of possible health effects of ELF-EMF has recently been published by the WHO and is available at the following website:

http://www.who.int/peh-emf/publications/elf_ehc/en/index.html

This document contains the most up-to-date information regarding all of the significant studies which encompass a complete health risk assessment.

Question 6

Has the department of Health conducted studies that show the health effects of electromagnetic radiation on Canadians? If so, When? Please provide any study reports.

HC Response:

Health Canada has not conducted any studies evaluating the health effects of ELF-EMF on human subjects. However, our scientists have conducted numerous research studies over the past 20 years evaluating the ability of power-frequency 60 Hz magnetic fields to influence DNA damage and/or cancer induction/promotion/co-promotion in animal studies. The results of these studies provided no evidence that ELF-EMF induced any adverse effects. These papers are listed in Appendix 1.

Question 7

Has the department of Health examined the mortality rate caused by transformers and power lines being located too close to Canadian homes? How does this mortality rate vary across Canada? What has the Department done to mitigate the issue?

PHAC Response:

Information is not available which would allow the Public Health Agency of Canada to examine mortality rates by proximity to transformers and power lines.

Question 8

Has the department of Health conducted extensive review of all studies and evidence about electro magnetic radiation exposure, that either refute or support the fact that EMR causes harm to human health? What is their final analysis on this topic?

HC Response:

Health Canada is an active member of the Federal-Provincial-Territorial Radiation Protection Committee (FPTRPC). This committee established an ELF Working Group to carry out a review of scientific literature in relation to health effects and exposure guidelines related to ELF electric and magnetic fields. In January 2005, the FPTRPC issued a review document on ELF fields, a position statement, and a response statement concerning childhood leukemia (www.bccdc.org/content.php?item=196). Health Canada's position on this subject, which is similar to FPTRPC's statement, is that there is no conclusive evidence of any harm caused by exposures at levels found in Canadian homes, including those located near power transformers and just outside the boundaries of power line corridors.

PHAC Response:

As indicated above in the response to Questions 1 and 3, the Public Health Agency of Canada has conducted an extensive review of the evidence regarding exposure to electromagnetic fields and cancer. This review concluded that there was no scientific consensus regarding whether exposure to electromagnetic fields increases the risk of cancer.

Question 9

Because of the importance of how our environment is also being harmed and the obvious ties to human health, has the Department of Health and the Department of Environment also examined reports that birds, bees and animals have been severely harmed by electro magnetic radiation? What steps are being taken to ensure safety of birds bees and animals from EMR exposure?

HC Response:

Health Canada does not deal with the effects of EMF on birds, bees and animals (except for standard laboratory animals used in studies to investigate possible health effects in humans).

Question 11

Are the ministers of Health, Industry and Environment aware of the harm to health that is being caused by electromagnetic radiation? Have the Ministers been fully briefed about the serious dangers posed by EMR? If they have been briefed, who conducted the briefing and when? If not, what responsible authorities have failed to provide this important information, or have the Ministers chosen not to be made aware of the serious dangers to Canadian citizens?

HC Response:

The Minister's office receives correspondence from the public on this topic. Departmental officials provide scientific information to the Minister's office to assist in the development of responses. As for details on briefings provided to the Minister, a petition is not the appropriate vehicle for such a request. This type of information could be sought through an Access to Information request. For information on the Access to Information Act and how to make request, visit: http://www.tbs-sct.gs.cs/atip-aiprp/indes_e.asp

Question 12

Modern electrical appliances, electrical devices and house wiring systems cause varying amounts of electrical fields and electro magnetic radiation inside people's homes. Why have the responsible authorities not conducted educational programs to warn all Canadian citizens about the health dangers posed and provided mitigation information to ensure better public safety?

HC Response:

As part of its educational programs, Health Canada has published "It's Your Health (IYH)" documents to provide information for the general public on a wide range of health and safety issues, including:

Electric and Magnetic Fields at Extremely Low Frequencies www.hc-sc.gc.ca/iyh-vsv/environ/magnet_e.html

Safety of Exposure to Electric and Magnetic Fields from Computer Monitors and Other Video Display Terminals www.hc-sc.gc.ca/iyh-vsv/prod/monit_e.html

While Canadians are exposed on a daily basis to EMF generated by electrical wiring and household electrical appliances, there is no conclusive scientific evidence of any harm caused by exposures at levels found in Canadian homes.

Question 13

Would the responsible authorities tell me what is the safe distance between a typical house electrical power transformer and living accommodation, to ensure safety from electrical fields and electro magnetic fields? How has that distance been decided and does it comply with the scientific precautionary principle? What are the established normal safe distances in other developed countries? Would you provide me with reports that substantiate the regulations that the Government of Canada has put in place to ensure the safety of Canadians from transformers and powerline EMR exposure?

HC Response:

Because of the lack of consistent epidemiological evidence and supporting evidence from animal and cell-culture studies for a causal association between ill-health and exposure to power-frequency electric and magnetic fields, Health Canada has not issued guideline exposure limits. This has been outlined in more detail in previous answers. Where guideline exposure limits have been developed, such as for microwaves or ionizing forms of electromagnetic radiation, the limits are in the form of maximum allowable exposure intensities and not in the form of minimum safe distances. This is the only way such guidelines can be written to cover the range of possible exposure scenarios. It is then up to whoever implements the exposure limit to estimate minimum safe distances for a particular radiation source since each source must be evaluated on a case by case basis.

In the case of distribution transformers, the setting of a distance for which the magnetic field intensity is below a set value would be difficult for a number of reasons. For instance, a multitude of ratings exist for distribution transformers depending on the number of houses they must serve. Also, the magnetic field intensity at any point from a transformer is directly proportional to the load current and drops off with the cube of the distance. In addition, load currents vary significantly depending on what appliances are turned on in the house or houses served by that transformer. Beyond a certain distance that is determined by a number of physical and electrical parameters, the magnetic field intensities are largely due to the secondary wires connecting the transformer to the house. The magnetic field intensities drop off approximately with the square of the distance from the secondary wires and thus are usually the larger contributor to the magnetic field intensity at the premises.

To find out how other countries are addressing the issue of exposure to power frequency (60 Hz) electric and magnetic fields, please consult the World Health Organizations' worldwide standards database at the following website:

www.who.int/docstore/peh-emf/EMFStandards/who-0102/Worldmap5.htm

Health Canada's position on the issue has been formulated in concert with the Federal Provincial and Territorial Radiation Protection Committee (FPTRPC). The FPTRPC is composed of radiation experts from each of the provinces and territories as well as applicable federal departments. The committee has issued reports and position statements on exposure to power frequency (60 Hz) electric and magnetic fields, which are available at the following website:

www.bccdc.org/content.php?item=196

Question 14

I have been advised that ground current electricity (also known as stray voltage) may be part of the electrical pollution problem that is affecting homes in Newfoundland. Would the responsible authorities explain to me what this is and what causes it? What percentage of electricity in Newfoundland flows back to sub-stations via the ground instead of the distribution system? What can be done to stop ground current from happening?

Question 15

What research has been conducted by the responsible authorities to discover and analyze the health damaging effects of ground current electricity? What were the results of any testing and what recommendations were made to control the problem and make citizens safer?

HC Response to question nos. 14 & 15:

Ground current electricity or "stray voltage" as it is sometimes known occurs due to the grounding of the neutral wire on electrical distribution systems or from incorrect wiring on the electrical customer's premises. The former is an intentional practice, recommended by the Canadian Electrical Code to prevent the possibility of electrocution in the event a live wire falls to ground. However, by grounding at multiple points throughout the system, an alternate path for neutral currents to flow through the ground is presented.

From a health perspective the issue of "stray voltage" originally arose in the context of dairy farms. The flow of neutral current in the earth, which gives rise to voltages between metal objects and the ground were implicated in the economic losses incurred by dairy farmers due to the effects of small electrical shocks experienced by their cows. The phenomenon has been extensively studied and documented for farm animals. It is essentially a direct effect of contact with an electrical conductor (the earth) and does not involve radiation. Humans are somewhat less at risk from the effects of stray voltage than cows owing to their higher resistance to current flow. However, electric current flow and electrocution in humans has also been studied extensively and a large bibliography on this subject exists. A reference on this subject is: "Applied Bioelectricity: From Electrical Stimulation to Electropathology" by J. Patrick Reilly, Springer-Verlag New York, Inc., 1998. This 560 page book contains approximately 1000 references to published work on the subject of electrical interactions with the human body.

In terms of responsibilities for ground current or stray voltages, each province has its own electrical safety organization either as a government department or agency that develops and enforces standards and procedures for preventing electrical contact hazards. In Newfoundland & Labrador, this is the responsibility of the Department of Government Services.

Question 16

The information that I have provided with this petition show that at least eighty-eight people have died and a great many others have developed cancer when living close to electrical transformers and powerlines in Newfoundland. How many deaths will it take before the responsible authorities take action and arrange for an independent study of the health risks associated with electrical transformers, powerlines and other sources of magnetic radiation?

PHAC Response:

As noted above, scientific evidence to date is inconclusive regarding an association between cancer and electromagnetic fields.

Appendix 1

ELF-EMF studies conducted at Health Canada
McNamee JP, Bellier PV, Chauhan V, Gajda GB, Lemay E, Thansandote A.
Evaluating DNA damage in rodent brain after acute 60 Hz magnetic-field exposure. Radiat Res. 2005 Dec;164(6):791-7.

Vijayalaxmi, McNamee JP, Scarfi MR. Comments on: "DNA strand breaks" by Diem et al. [Mutat Res. 583 (2005) 178-183] and Ivancsits et al. [Mutat. Res. 583 (2005) 184-188]. Mutat Res. 2006 Jan 31;603(1):104-6.

McLean JR, Thansandote A, McNamee JP, Tryphonas L, Lecuyer D, Gajda G. A 60 Hz magnetic field does not affect the incidence of squamous cell carcinomas in SENCAR mice. Bioelectromagnetics. 2003 Feb;24(2):75-81.

McNamee JP, Bellier PV, McLean JR, Marro L, Gajda GB, Thansandote A. DNA damage and apoptosis in the immature mouse cerebellum after acute exposure to a 1 mT, 60 Hz magnetic field. Mutat Res. 2002 Jan 15;513(1-2):121-33.

McLean JR, Thansandote A, Lecuyer D, Goddard M. The effect of 60-Hz magnetic fields on co-promotion of chemically induced skin tumors on SENCAR mice: a discussion of three studies. Environ Health Perspect. 1997 Jan;105(1):94-6.

McLean J, Thansandote A, Lecuyer D, Goddard M, Tryphonas L, Scaiano JC, Johnson F. A 60-Hz magnetic field increases the incidence of squamous cell carcinomas in mice previously exposed to chemical carcinogens. Cancer Lett. 1995 Jun 8;92(2):121-5.

Scaiano JC, Mohtat N, Cozens FL, McLean J, Thansandote A. Application of the radical pair mechanism to free radicals in organized systems: can the effects of 60 Hz be predicted from studies under static fields? Bioelectromagnetics. 1994;15(6):549-54.

Stuchly MA, Lecuyer DW, McLean J. Cancer promotion in a mouse-skin model by a 60-Hz magnetic field: I. Experimental design and exposure system. Bioelectromagnetics. 1991;12(5):261-71.

McLean JR, Stuchly MA, Mitchel RE, Wilkinson D, Yang H, Goddard M, Lecuyer DW, Schunk M, Callary E, Morrison D. Cancer promotion in a mouse-skin model by a 60-Hz magnetic field: II. Tumor development and immune response. Bioelectromagnetics. 1991;12(5):273-87.

Stuchly MA, McLean JR, Burnett R, Goddard M, Lecuyer DW, Mitchel RE. Modification of tumor promotion in the mouse skin by exposure to an alternating magnetic field. Cancer Lett. 1992 Jul 31;65(1):1-7.

Stuchly MA, Lecuyer DW. Exposure to electromagnetic fields in arc welding. Health Phys. 1989 Mar;56(3):297-302.

Stuchly MA, Ruddick J, Villeneuve D, Robinson K, Reed B, Lecuyer DW, Tan K, Wong J. Teratological assessment of exposure to time-varying magnetic field. Teratology. 1988 Nov;38(5):461-6.

Stuchly MA, Lecuyer DW. Survey of static magnetic fields around magnetic resonance imaging devices. Health Phys. 1987 Sep;53(3):321-4.

Stuchly MA, Lecuyer DW. Induction heating and operator exposure to electromagnetic fields.
Health Phys. 1985 Nov;49(5):693-700.