The building of new overhead power lines in Mayo must take into consideration a statement from the EU Commission Scientific body SCENIHR and International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) that the magnetic fields generated by powerlines are ‘possibly carcinogenic’. This was stated by Marian Harkin after she addressed the opening session of the public consultation process on electromagnetic fields organised by the European Commission in Athens yesterday.

Marian Harkin, who was invited to contribute to the conference emphasised the need for clear messages in the final SCENIHR report.

She said: “We as legislators need good information when we are making decisions, in this case about powerlines. The draft report by SCENIHR was misrepresented by very many commentators in Ireland who said that there was no risk and this is simply untrue. For anybody who takes time to read the report it is very clear that such a risk exists. The report states “the new epidemiological studies are consistent with earlier findings of an increased risk of childhood leukaemia”. It then goes on to state that they cannot explain these finding. In other words, they don’t know why this happens – but the crucial thing is that it happens and the studies clearly show this.

“It’s also worth noting that the scientific committee endorses the IARC assessment of magnetic fields from overhead powerlines as ‘possibly carcinogenic’. This is due to consistently observed increased childhood leukaemia risk in epidemiological studies.

“When we in Ireland are deciding on the location of powerlines, we must seriously consider the finding that the magnetic fields from overhead powerlines are ‘possibly carcinogenic’. To ignore this finding would be reckless and while I am not suggesting we can eliminate risk, we need to make every effort to minimise it”, Marian Harkin concluded.