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Electricity is transmitted from power stations to its place of use via a network of power cables and sub-stations (known as the national grid). This transmission equipment will usually be surrounded by electric and magnetic fields (EMF).
Over the last 30 years there has been a growing understanding of the effects that these fields have on our health. In 2004 the Government adopted new guidelines from the Health Protection Agency (HPA) which set a level for magnetic fields above which people should not usually be exposed. In addition, on the recommendation of the National Radiological Protection Board (NRPB) which has now merged with the HPA, the Government established a stakeholder process to consider and make recommendations on what further precautionary action should be taken to protect the public.
SAGE, the Stakeholder Advisory Group on ELF EMF, established in November 2004, was given the following terms of reference, 'to bring together a range of stakeholders to identify and explore the implications for a precautionary approach to EMF and to make practical recommendations [to Government] for precautionary measures.' The SAGE process has sought to engage key groups concerned with this issue but has not evaluated public opinion more generally on this matter. Taking account of public concerns should be essential so that Parliamentarians, as representatives of the public, are able to call for action on EMF as a demonstration of public opinion.
In June 2005 the results of the largest ever study into childhood cancer and electricity were published. A team from the Oxford Childhood Cancer Research Group in collaboration with National Grid Transco reported that children living within 200m of High Voltage Overhead Transmission Lines (HVOTL) had a significantly higher risk of leukaemia (69%) than those living 600m or more away (Draper Report). These results are particularly significant as the SAGE process moves forward.
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