Academic journal article Management Quarterly

EMF: Is There Cause for Alarm?

Academic journal article Management Quarterly

EMF: Is There Cause for Alarm?

Article excerpt

The days when power companies relatively easily bulldoze their way through right-of-ways to build high voltage power transmission lines across the countryside are gone.

Today there is stiff resistance to building new transmission lines "especially in my back yard." Some of the reason is property owners' belief that the transmission line's intrusion into their surroundings reduces their property value. Some people believe--fueled by attorneys specializing in "health risks" associated with transmission lines--that real or perceived health risks from electric and magnetic fields reduces their property value and threatens their health.

The latter is supported by a late 1993 New York State Court of Appeals ruling which basically says that property owners near high-voltage power lines can be awarded damages when "cancerphobia," resulting from EMF, lowers property values, even if there is no proof of a health risk. The original class action suit was filed in 1989 against the New York Power Authority which built a 345-KV Transmission line in Orange and Sullivan Counties, in New York state, creating what the plaintiffs called a "cancer corridor."|1~

To think the public's knowledge of this issue is limited to New York state or Florida--where state laws dealing with EMF are on the books, is wrong. In 1992 in northeastern Indiana, the issue came to the forefront when two large utilities made unsuccessful efforts to build transmission line across LaGrange County--a serene rural area with a big Amish population. A group of disgruntled citizens--unhappy with the way the power company had handled the case formed a group called FUSE--Friends United for Safe Electricity. The group got organized and hired an attorney who specializes in EMF issues. Headlines in the area daily newspaper played on the emotions of the issue.

* Power line project hits opposition

* Group opposes new high voltage lines

* Sen. Meeks' high voltage study bill advances.

* Families United for Safe Energy (FUSE) . . . chili supper to raise funds to educate the public concerning the probable devastating health hazards connected with power line electromagnetic radiation.

(above headlines from Kendallville, Indiana, NEWS-SUN)

* Power lines can hurt property--Fort Wayne Journal-Gazette, January 2, 1994

Not long after, that same newspaper distributed the USA Today Weekend tabloid which featured a significant amount of space dedicated to Electric and Magnetic fields in the home, workplace and with overhead power lines. In our area this triggered a few inquiries about the EMF. Fortunately, at Noble REMC we were prepared to respond to the inquiries, including making presentations at local service clubs. Are you prepared to deal with the unknowns and the real perceptions that the public is formulating about the subject and what you're doing to their health? If not, you need to be preparing for the EMF issue, because it is not going away. Your consumers are better informed about issues than ever before. Shouldn't they hear your side of the story? You're the professionals in the field. You're looked up to in your community and can, at least, diminish some of the fears generated by emotionally charged citizenry fueled by lawyers and media people who may have limited knowledge on the subject. They rely on "professionals in EMF" in helping them prepare their stories. Attorneys and environmental activists certainly are prepared to present their side of the EMF subject. You must be too!

We're breaking the study of EMF into three areas to give you a basic understanding of EMF. First, we'll look at "EMF--what is it?" Then you'll see readings in utility and home situations, and then a look at the health risk--real or perceived.

EMF--What is it?

Strictly speaking, the term EMF has evolved among professionals concerned about potential health effects only from power-frequency electric and/or magnetic fields, i. …

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