The controversy is ongoing as to whether electric or magnetic fields have a harmful effect on people living near them. A look at the most recent studies, covering electromagnetic wave emissions and their effect on living cells seem to be inconclusive at worst and show no effect at best.
A recent study by the National Academy of Sciences/National Research Council Report: Possible Health Effects Of Exposure To Residential Electric And Magnetic Fields, in regard to people living near high-power lines found no higher risk for cancer or other health effects than in a normal population living away from such lines. A similar university study found that pastures and fields where a power line crosses had no measurable impact on the animals living in the area.
All electronic equipment produces some form of electrical or magnetic field. Even wire harnesses and custom cable installations put out an electrical field. Everyone is exposed at some point during the day to one of these fields which are present wherever we run power cables and use electronic devices. They are so ubiquitous in our environment we generally never notice them around us.
Starting in the 70’s a vocal group of people started complaining about high power transmission lines being built near their homes. People used anecdotal evidence to try and blame the electric field generated by the power lines for increased risk of cancer, and other medical problems. The power companies naturally were concerned, and sponsored studies and tests to try and prove whether the fields were safe or not.
One of the main illnesses that electromagnetic waves have been accused of causing is childhood leukemia. However there have been two studies, one by the National Academy of Sciences, and the other by the National Cancer Institute which found no correlation between exposure to high electromagnetic fields and the disease. The World Health Organization has issued a fact sheet that states there is no substantiated evidence to link the disease with ELF and EMF radiation.
These studies, done by leading research institutes and universities have so far shown no correlation between electric fields and human illness. Most of the cases that were used as proof were found to fall within the normal statistical variation for the general population for getting the illness.
This is not to say that all electromagnetic radiation is safe. At higher wavelengths these harmless waves can become harmful radiation such as x-rays and gamma waves. It is however, impossible for power lines to generate this type of radiation.
There are still those who worry, and who use anecdotal evidence to make a straw man out of power lines. The science however, does not support them. After the NCI studies were done the US government shut down a US department of Energy group looking into providing information and study into EMF stating that it’s services were no longer needed.
EMF is always going to be controversial, with one side clinging to their anecdotal evidence despite studies that prove otherwise. But it would appear that the verdict is in as far as the dangers of electrical and magnetic fields and that verdict is they are safe to be around.