Environment News Service
May 23, 2005


JERUSALEM, Israel, May 23, 2005 (ENS) -- The top radiation official in
the Israeli Environment Ministry says schoolchildren should no longer
be permitted to decorate street level utility panels with paint
because the amount of magnetic radiation to which this exposes them
may potentially cause cancer. Wires carrying high voltage electricity
enter these panels for distribution to businesses and homes.

Dr. Stelian Ghelberg, director of the Noise and Radiation Abatement
Division, has called on the Ministry of Education to stop students
from painting electricity pillars throughout the country.

During the course of painting the pillars of the active electricity
grid, children are exposed to unreasonable and unjustifiable radiation
risk, warned Dr. Ghelberg in a letter sent today to the Health
Inspector in the Ministry of Education, Irit Livne.

Ghelberg wrote that based on years of research on the subject, "the
World Health Organization has determined that magnetic fields from
electricity facilities are 'possibly carcinogenic.""

The results of research studies have shown that children who were
exposed to magnetic fields exceeding 3 to 4 milligauss (mG) for
prolonged periods of time had twice the incidence of leukemia than
children exposed to lower magnetic fields, Ghelberg said.

The magnetic field in the immediate surroundings of a pillar of the
active electricity network exceeds 1000 mG. This means that exposure
of one hour in a two week period equals an average continuous exposure
of more than 3 mG throughout a two-week period.

A utility panel, or pillar, painted by Israeli schoolchildren. (Photo
courtesy Israel Ministry of Environment)

In order to prevent this unreasonable and unjustifiable risk according
to the precautionary principle, Dr. Ghelberg recommends painting the
pillars prior to their installation or prior to their connection to
the electricity grid.

In his letter, Dr. Ghelberg includes the results of sample
measurements undertaken on a day characterized by low electricity
consumption -- hence relatively low magnetic fields -- in the vicinity
of several painted pillars.

For example, in one location in Jerusalem, 690 mG were measured at the
site of an electricity pillar.

The World Health Organization (WHO) says on its website, "During the
past 20 years the general public has become increasingly concerned
about potential adverse health effects of exposure to electric and
magnetic fields at extremely low frequencies (ELF).

According to the WHO, "There is no convincing evidence that exposure
to ELF fields causes direct damage to biological molecules, including
DNA. It is thus unlikely that they could initiate the process of
carcinogenesis. However, studies are still underway to determine if
ELF exposure can influence cancer promotion or co-promotion. Recent
animal studies have not found evidence that ELF field exposure affects
cancer incidence.

The Israeli public has expressed concern in the past about the health
and environmental effects of electromagnetic fields. A proposed high
frequency radio transmitter for the Voice of America in Israel's Arava
desert, which would have been the world's largest radio station, was
blocked from construction on environmental grounds, in part related to
concerns about potential effects of radio frequency fields on
migrating birds. In February 1993, the U.S. government decided to
cancel the project in Israel and relocate the transmitter to Kuwait.

For more information about electromagnetic fields from the World
Health Organization, visit: http://www.who.int/peh-emf/about/en/

Copyright Environment News Service (ENS) 2005