Israeli Students Who Paint Electricity Panels Dosed With Radiation

JERUSALEM, Israel, May 23, 2005 (ENS) - The top radiation official in the Israeli Environment Ministry says schoolchildren should no longer be permitted to decorate street level utility panels with paint because the amount of magnetic radiation to which this exposes them may potentially cause cancer. Wires carrying high voltage electricity enter these panels for distribution to businesses and homes.

Dr. Stelian Ghelberg, director of the Noise and Radiation Abatement Division, has called on the Ministry of Education to stop students from painting electricity pillars throughout the country.

During the course of painting the pillars of the active electricity grid, children are exposed to unreasonable and unjustifiable radiation risk, warned Dr. Ghelberg in a letter sent today to the Health Inspector in the Ministry of Education, Irit Livne.

Ghelberg wrote that based on years of research on the subject, "the World Health Organization has determined that magnetic fields from electricity facilities are 'possibly carcinogenic.'"

The results of research studies have shown that children who were exposed to magnetic fields exceeding 3 to 4 milligauss (mG) for prolonged periods of time had twice the incidence of leukemia than children exposed to lower magnetic fields, Ghelberg said.

The magnetic field in the immediate surroundings of a pillar of the active electricity network exceeds 1000 mG. This means that exposure of one hour in a two week period equals an average continuous exposure of more than 3 mG throughout a two-week period.

pillar

A utility panel, or pillar, painted by Israeli schoolchildren. (Photo courtesy Israel Ministry of Environment)
In order to prevent this unreasonable and unjustifiable risk according to the precautionary principle, Dr. Ghelberg recommends painting the pillars prior to their installation or prior to their connection to the electricity grid.

In his letter, Dr. Ghelberg includes the results of sample measurements undertaken on a day characterized by low electricity consumption - hence relatively low magnetic fields - in the vicinity of several painted pillars.

For example, in one location in Jerusalem, 690 mG were measured at the site of an electricity pillar.

The World Health Organization (WHO) says on its website, "During the past 20 years the general public has become increasingly concerned about potential adverse health effects of exposure to electric and magnetic fields at extremely low frequencies (ELF).

According to the WHO, "There is no convincing evidence that exposure to ELF fields causes direct damage to biological molecules, including DNA. It is thus unlikely that they could initiate the process of carcinogenesis. However, studies are still underway to determine if ELF exposure can influence cancer promotion or co-promotion. Recent animal studies have not found evidence that ELF field exposure affects cancer incidence.

The Israeli public has expressed concern in the past about the health and environmental effects of electromagnetic fields. A proposed high frequency radio transmitter for the Voice of America in Israel's Arava desert, which would have been the world’s largest radio station, was blocked from construction on environmental grounds, in part related to concerns about potential effects of radio frequency fields on migrating birds. In February 1993, the U.S. government decided to cancel the project in Israel and relocate the transmitter to Kuwait.

For more information about electromagnetic fields from the World Health Organization, visit: http://www.who.int/peh-emf/about/en/