Scientific research points to a possibly increased risk of childhood leukaemia in children who live near overhead power lines. Because of statistical uncertainties and the fact that the disease mechanism is not known, it is not clear whether the magnetic fields of the power lines are the cause. Out of precaution, the Netherlands and several other European countries have developed policies several years ago that aim to reduce the exposure to magnetic fields from new power lines. Different countries deal in different ways with the uncertainties in the available knowledge and strike a different balance between scientific evidence and social, economic and political arguments.
These are the findings of an investigation by the National Institute of Public Health and the Environment (RIVM). The report clarifies the policy in the Netherlands on magnetic fields from power lines and compares it with the policies in four nearby countries (Belgium, France, Germany and the United Kingdom).
These countries differ in the applied limits and in the locations and types of electricity infrastructure to which the policy applies. For example, the policy in the United Kingdom is the most restrained and is aimed at informing the public and changing the connectivity (phasing) of power lines, for example in power stations, which weakens the magnetic field. Further measures are not deemed proportional to the possible risk. Germany applies a policy that aims to minimise magnetic fields from a broader range of electricity infrastructure, for example also for switch stations and the overhead wires of railways.