28 September 2000 Edition

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Pylons threat revealed

A recent study has shown that death or serious medical problems can be caused by high voltage power lines of the type used by the ESB.

The latest report compiled by a research team in Bristol University in England, found that the electrical charge created by overhead power lines results in ill-health for people living or working close-by. According to the findings, they are exposed to three times the average daily dose of damaging chemicals from car and industrial emissions into their lungs. The research showed that the chemicals are charged by leaking electricity, making them more likely to stick to the lungs when breathed in, increasing the amount and impact of the pollution.

Previous studies have found cancer clusters associated with high-voltage power-lines. Those living in the vicinity have been found to have a higher chance of suffering from lung cancer and leukaemia. The latest research has also found that the older the power lines, the more leakage occurs and therefore the greater the health hazard. Anti-pylon campaigners say that even though the majority of scientific and medical research has been inconclusive, it is not acceptable that there should be any possible threat to public health when there is a solution available.

Insulated cables laid underground, while being more costly, solve the problem of electricity leakage - which is the primary cause of the health risks associated with overhead power lines.

The ESB has refused to acknowledge that there is a problem and are presently planning to erect new power lines in Cork and Donegal and have been adding to their network of pylons in Dublin.

Dublin Sinn Féin Chairperson, Aengus Ó Snodaigh, has issued a call for a halt to all such work, and for the state's electricity supplier to immediately re-route all high-voltage electricity cables underground in residential areas. In the USA and in Sweden, the electricity companies are prohibited from erecting pylons to allay public fears.

Sinn Féin is calling for a major health study of those living along the routes of power lines. ``This should involve the National Cancer Registry issuing its statistics on a ward-by-ward basis, so that clusters of cancers can be more readily identified in built-up areas, such as towns and cities,'' Ó Snodaigh says.


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