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Epidemiologists in Denver, Los Angeles and Sweden are asking us to believe that magnetic fields of 2 milligauss from power distribution lines are a serious cause of childhood leukemia. What started as a series of sensational articles in The New Yorker magazine by Paul Brodeur (later collected into a book), bringing the earliest of these studies to the attention of the general public, has turned into a new growth industry. Several government agencies, not to mention the private electric power industry, have already sponsored multimillion‐dollar studies of the problem; a number of small companies selling 60‐Hz gaussmeters have sprung into existence and are doing a land‐office business; and the public concern over this issue has become a bonanza to groups of people doing epidemiological and biological research on the effects of electromagnetic fields. Hastily contrived legislation in a number of states has legalized the status quo for fields from power lines, and the threat of still more ill‐thought‐out legislation is on the horizon—mandating, for example, warning labels on toaster ovens and television sets similar to those now found on cigarettes.
Do the all‐pervasive low‐frequency electromagnetic fields of modern life threaten our health? Most probably not, judging from comparisons with the natural fields present in the environment and in our bodies.