11 June 2005

Belfast Telegraph

Fresh plea on power cables near schools
Study leads to new fears on leukaemia

By Michael McHugh
11 June 2005

THERE were new calls yesterday for a halt to the siting of power cables near homes and schools after a study suggested the practice dramatically increased the chances of children devloping leukaemia.

Upper Bann Assemblyman Sam Gardiner was reacting to research carried out by Oxford University's Childhood Cancer Research Group which surveyed 9,700 children from England and Wales with leukaemia and found a 70% increased risk of the killer disease.

Residents in the Craigavon area have raised concerns about this issue in the past but the latest findings have established one of the most alarming links so far.

Mr Gardiner said the findings would worry thousands of parents until more analysis was carried out and called for a ban on the siting of power cables near homes and schools until that work is complete.

"I believe there should be a moratorium of siting power cables near houses and schools until an answer to this question is definitively obtained.

That would be a prudent and sensible response," Mr Gardiner said. "I believe this will involve new stringent planning guidelines."

The Oxford researcher, Dr Gerald Draper, said that a variety of other factors could cause leukaemia including damage to the immune system and exposure to radiation before the baby is born but his findings are being taken seriously by public representatives.

"The only answer is for the Government to commission well-defined research which is targeted at producing an answer to this problem," Mr Gardiner added.

"It is very worrying for many people because across the country (UK) around one per cent of all homes are estimated to be within 200 metres of high-voltage National Grid power lines.

"It is all very well saying to those people not to worry. It is a natural human reaction for people to be worried about their children."

"This research involved more than 29,000 children (suffering from many cancers) and that is a pretty large sample," added Mr Gardeiner.

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