25 May 2007

Train Drivers On Express Track To Leukemia

by Kate Melville

A Swiss study has linked extremely low frequency electromagnetic fields to certain cancers, a finding that may reignite the debate over the possible health effects of electromagnetic fields in urban environments.

The findings, appearing in Occupational and Environmental Medicine, are based on more than 20,000 Swiss railway workers, who were monitored over a 30 year period. The researchers opted for such a cohort as railway workers tend to change jobs infrequently and are exposed to much higher levels of electromagnetic field radiation than the general population.

The study noted that the level of electromagnetic field exposure varied depending on the employee's role. Train drivers were exposed to around three times the levels of shunting yard engineers and nine times the levels of ticket collectors on trains. Station masters were exposed to the lowest levels.

While there was no link found between electromagnetic field exposure and deaths from lymphoid leukemia, non-Hodgkin's lymphoma and brain tumors; there was evidence that higher levels of exposure had an impact on rates of myeloid leukemia and Hodgkin's lymphoma.

The researchers said that train drivers were more than four times as likely to die of myeloid leukemia, and over three times as likely to die of Hodgkin's lymphoma, as station masters. While they emphasized that passengers are in no danger, they did suggest that efforts should be made to minimize levels of exposure among train drivers.

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Source: British Medical Journal