November 24, 2009
Experts debate power line safety
BY COLLEEN O'DEA
NEWARK — Experts
disagreed whether electromagnetic fields from power lines cause cancer
or other health problems, as they testified Monday at the final state
Board of Public Utilities hearing on Public Service Electric and Gas
Company's proposed line upgrade.
Shortly after the discussion of EMFs, the utility and opponents of the $750 million,
Susquehanna-Roseland project wrapped up five days of testimony in front
of BPU Commissioner Joseph Fioraliso. The entire board is expected to
decide Jan. 15 whether PSE&G should be allowed to add 500 kilovolt
lines to the corridor, which passes through Morris County.
studies have proven that EMFs from power lines cause leukemia or other
health issues, testified PSE&G's expert William H. Bailey, a
scientist, although he did say some studies have found an association
between the fields and childhood leukemia.
Martin Blank, an
expert for eight municipalities, two school districts,
environmentalists and a citizens group opposing the project, said there
is much evidence that fields at lower levels than those expected on the
new line could lead to leukemia, breast cancer and Alzheimer's disease.
"Because of the wide range of biological systems affected, the low
response thresholds, the possibility of cumulative effects by
repetitive stimulation and the inadequacy of exposure standards, it is
urgent that the proposed power line be moved to a distance where the
anticipated magnetic fields will not pose a hazard to the community,''
Blank, a professor at Columbia University, said in his written
In response to a lawyer's question, Blank said there
has not been enough research to determine what a safe distance from
"All I know is, the farther away you can get, the better off you are,'' he said. Blank
studies that found correlations between cell phone use and head cancers
and an electrified railroad and Alzheimer's disease.
PSE&G's lawyer, David Richter, asked Blank about the criticisms
several international groups have made against a report Blank referred
to in recommending safe exposure levels of no more than 4 milligauss.
That's less than one tenth the maximum of 48.6 milligauss expected at
the edge of the line's right of way when using monopole structures,
which PSE&G plans to install exclusively on the eastern portion of
Kyle G. King, the utility's EMF expert, testified
that the median field measurement is expected to be 19.3 milligauss,
but it would be as high as 120 milligauss directly beneath the 500
Bailey said even that maximum level would be
below the limits recommended by two international bodies. Based on
numerous studies that looked for a link between EMF exposure and
cancer, Bailey said, "the evidence does not support a cause and
effect.'' He said, though, that there is a "statistical association''
between long-term exposure and childhood leukemia.
has not seen any proof that power lines are responsible for any cancer
clusters, Bailey also discounted the suggestion by the lawyer
representing the eight municipalities that the current line is to blame
for the cancers that have struck every family living on one street
along the line in East Hanover, saying, "Based on the weight of the
scientific evidence, I do not see a basis for that allegation.''
"It's not a coincidence,'' countered East Hanover Mayor Joseph
Pannullo, who attended the morning session. "Why not err on the side of
caution? We've given them an alternate route, out of Troy Meadows and
away from the homes. They're more worried about a delay.''
PSE&G recently offered to abandon plans for a new switching station
in East Hanover, but still support their chosen route along the current
230-kilovolt lines, from Pennsylvania to Roseland. as minimizing
More than half the line, on towers as
tall as 195 feet, would traverse Morris County, through Jefferson,
Rockaway Township, Kinnelon, Boonton Township, Montville, Parsippany
and East Hanover.