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Bernal Lecture

By Dr Michael Crumpton CBE FRS
Formerly Director of Research,
Imperial Cancer Research Fund

Electric power is an essential component of the world we live in and is key to the continuing growth of our technology-based society. In contrast to its overwhelming benefits, there is the possibility that the magnetic component of the environmental electromagnetic fields associated with power distribution and use (typically less than 10 microtesla in strength) has adverse health effects. The suspicion that these fields represent a health hazard, albeit a very small one, has profound economic implications for government, the electricity industry and society, as well as raising several serious scientific challenges. These challenges will be explored against a backcloth of recent epidemiological studies that have linked power-frequency magnetic fields as low as 0.4 microtesla (about one percent of the Earth’s magnetic field) to a small increased incidence of childhood leukaemia.