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Contact voltage and magnetic fields as possible factors in leukemia--pilot study. (Update).

A recent Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) study investigated the correlation between magnetic fields and contact voltages measured in a pilot sample of residences. Results of the study appeared in Volume 23 of Bioelectromagnetics (2002) under the title "Contact Voltage Measured in Residences: Implications to the Association Between Magnetic Fields and Childhood Cancer." Researchers Rob Kavet and Lou Zaffanella also considered the extent to which physical contact with voltage sources could lead to measurable amounts of contact current.

The authors concentrated on two possible sources of contact current exposure: 1) the voltage between water fixtures such as faucets and the metallic frames of appliances, and 2) the voltage between water fixtures and the earth. The second kind of voltage, which from a health perspective appears to be the more significant one, could include a voltage between water lines and metallic drainpipes. A bathing child playing with a faucet or spout with a wet hand could complete a circuit driven by this voltage, which may vary from several millivolts to over a volt. Contact with the drain occurs via bath water, which is conductive. (In many homes with new construction, plastic pipes or nonconductive drains eliminate this exposure.)

Dosimetric modeling suggests that upon contact, a current of up to tens of microamperes could flow into the hand, producing a dose within the bone marrow of the arm that far exceeds the dose resulting from exposure to ambient levels of magnetic fields. In the pilot study of 36 residences with conductive plumbing, the voltage between water pipes and the earth was statistically significantly correlated with measured residential magnetic fields. Given this correlation, the magnitude of the dose to relevant tissue, and the possibility of exposure while bathing, the authors believe this exposure deserves further research attention as a factor that may help explain reported associations between magnetic fields and childhood leukemia.

(Adapted with permission from EPRI Journal[R] Online, a publication of EPRI.)
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Publication:Journal of Environmental Health
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Dec 1, 2002
Previous Article:Tools for environmental health.
Next Article:Extremely-low-frequency Electromagnetic Fields--WHO classifies the cancer risk. (Update).

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