Magnetic fields and childhood leukemia; science and policy in the Netherlands

  • Gert KelfkensEmail author
  • Mathieu Pruppers
Conference paper
Part of the IFMBE Proceedings book series (IFMBE, volume 65)


Long-term health effects of extremely low frequency (ELF) magnetic fields are not very well understood. Scientific studies comparing groups of children living near and far from overhead power lines indicate a higher leukemia risk for children living close to the power line. The ELF magnetic field (50, 60 Hz) near the power line possibly plays a role, but there is no scientific consensus on a possible mechanism for ELF fields leading to childhood leukemia and animal studies fail to confirm an increased leukemia risk. Therefore, a causal relationship between exposure to magnetic fields and childhood leukemia remains unproven.

In the Netherlands public concern about the health of children living near overhead power lines, combined with the scientific uncertainty led to a national policy based on the precautionary principle. The Ministry of Housing, Spatial Planning and the Environment issued the policy in 2005 as an advice to municipalities and grid companies. The policy is restricted to new situations. Aim is to avoid, as much as reasonably possible, creating new situations involving the long-term presence of children in areas near overhead power lines where the (annually averaged) magnetic field exceeds 0.4 microtesla.

The presentation focusses on the scientific evidence for a relationship between childhood leukemia and power line magnetic fields and some details of the Dutch power line policy, and concludes with a short hands-on evaluation.


magnetic fields power lines childhood leukemia 


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Singapore Pte Ltd. 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.National Institute for Public Health and the Environment (RIVM)BilthovenThe Netherlands

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