The Environmental Protection Administration (EPA) will evaluate health risks to schoolchildren posed by high-voltage power lines in 144 schools throughout Taiwan, EPA Administrator Chang Kuo-lung (
Chang told reporters that experts from the Ministry of Economic Affairs and the Department of Health will be invited to take part in the assessment and set up a standard for safety levels that is appropriate to people in Taiwan with respect to human exposure to electromagnetic radiation from high-voltage utility lines.
The EPA chief made the announcement after a study by Fu Jen Catholic University for the Ministry of Education found that 95 primary schools and 49 junior high schools in Taiwan are located within 20m of high-voltage power lines, exposing more than 18,000 students to potentially unhealthy levels of exposure to electromagnetic fields.
Noting that the International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection had set the limit of human exposure to such radiation at 833 milligauss, Chang said the level applied to a maximum sustainable exposure within a short time, and therefore could not be used as a safety standard for human health.
He said that Taiwan must conduct an overall evaluation of the issue to establish its own safety standard, and that to do so the EPA must first determine the frequency of electromagnetic radiation that is generated by the power supply network.
At the same time, the EPA will ask Taiwan Power Co (Taipower) to reduce the strength of electromagnetic fields by using existing know-how, such as isolation methods and increasing the distance between school classrooms and power lines. The EPA will also help Taipower acquire more sophisticated technology to help resolve the problems.
Meanwhile, Taipower also indicated that it will conduct a series of tests starting today in the 144 schools to ascertain whether its high-voltage power lines near the schools are generating excessive non-ionizing radiation that might pose a health risk.
The dispute over health risks posed by high-voltage power lines has been raging for many years, with a growing number of studies claiming that electromagnetic fields generated by power lines can cause cancer and other health problems in children and adults living nearby. However, other studies have argued to the contrary.