Public prepared to pay to help reduce risks of childhood leukaemia

03 May 2006

60 per cent of people surveyed say that they are concerned about the link between childhood leukaemia and exposure to electric and magnetic fields (known as EMF) and more than half of these are so concerned that they would be prepared to pay extra on their electricity bills to help fund measures to reduce exposure to EMF, a principal source of which is overhead electricity transmission lines.

Research published last year (Draper Report) demonstrated that children living within 200m of a high voltage overhead power line were at a 70 per cent greater risk of developing leukaemia. The survey results are published ahead of a Parliamentary Commission of MPs, chaired by Dr Howard Stoate MP, which begins next Monday (8th May).

The survey was carried out at the end of January by TNS for CHILDREN with LEUKAEMIA, the leading children’s cancer charity, which proposed the Parliamentary Commission. It asked 965 people:  How much extra would you be prepared to pay per month to fund action to reduce exposure to electric and magnetic fields?

On average people would be prepared to pay £3.66 extra per month on their electricity bills. Around 75% of respondents wanted some direct action on reducing exposure to EMF and 42% of these thought that burying power lines would be the best option.

Dr Howard Stoate MP, Chair of the Parliamentary Commission on Childhood Leukaemia and EMF said:
"Childhood leukaemia is a rare condition and the effect of EMF may well be small but clearly there is a high level of concern amongst the public. This is why, as parliamentarians, we think it is right to look at the issue in some detail to move the debate forward and to assist Government in coming to a conclusion about how to deal with this complex issue. We will circulate a report of our deliberations to Government, Parliament and all those concerned with the issue."

The Parliamentary Commission will examine the scientific evidence on the links between EMF and childhood leukaemia, review planning guidelines on the proximity of housing to power lines and give particular consideration to the public’s views on the appropriateness of the Government taking precautionary action to reduce exposure to EMF. Open meetings will be held during May and June, beginning on 8th May. In addition to Dr Howard Stoate, the other members of the Commission are Dr Ian Gibson MP, Michael Connarty MP, Sandra Gidley MP and Nick Hurd MP.

Chief Executive, CHILDREN with LEUKAEMIA, commented:

"This is a public policy matter of utmost importance. Childhood leukaemia is a devastating disease. It is already the most common childhood cancer and the number of new cases every year is growing – probably as a result of lifestyle and environmental factors. It is impossible to put a price on saving the life of a child and it would be wrong to base decisions on what to do about the EMF problem on financial considerations alone."

While it is a rare disease, leukaemia is the most common childhood cancer. Survival rates have improved from less than five percent 40 years ago to around 75% today. However the number of new cases of leukaemia is increasing each year and EMF is one of a number of possible causes. CHILDREN with LEUKAEMIA continues to fund an extensive programme of research into the causes of childhood leukaemia, including the link with electric and magnetic fields.


For further information please contact Catherine Nestor on 020 7930 3581 or, and after business hours on 07919 065567.

Notes to Editors

  1. TNS surveyed a representative sample of 965 people between 25-29 January 2006.

  2. The Draper report was published in the British Medical Journal in June 2005. It is the largest single study of childhood cancer. Carried out by the Oxford Childhood Cancer Research Group in collaboration with National Grid, it used the records of almost 30,000 children with cancer in England and Wales. The study found that children living within 200m of high voltage power lines had a 70% higher risk of leukaemia than those living 600m or more away.

  3. Power lines and/or exposure to EMF have also been linked with a number of other serious health conditions including depression, miscarriage, adult brain cancer and the degenerative brain disease, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis.

  4. An Early Day Motion demanding that the Government supports CHILDREN with LEUKAEMIA’s call for an immediate moratorium on new homes being built near power lines already has the support of 170 backbench MPs.

  5. CHILDREN with LEUKAEMIA is Britain’s leading charity dedicated exclusively to the conquest of childhood leukaemia through pioneering research, new treatment and support of leukaemic children and their families.

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