UK electricity industry research

This page lists research supported by the UK electricity industry. See also research on EMFs generally.  The electricity industry recognises that, when it supports research, it is vital that the independence of the research is not compromised.  You can see an example of the contract used to ensure this here.

Research supported through ENA

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The Energy Networks Association runs an EMF research programme which we describe in detail here.

 

Research supported by National Grid

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In-house research

National Grid conducts in-house research, principally into sources of exposure and ways of categorising them. This has involved much work on net currents, which are the commonest source of exposure for the general public, and power lines.

 The EMF Biological Research Trust

Instead of supporting biological research directly, National Grid funds a research trust. The Trust decide which projects to support with no input from industry at all. The Trust gives details of the research it supports on its own web site and its objectives can be found on the Charity Commission website (search for "EMF research").

Electric Power Research Institute

National Grid belongs to EPRI, the main research organisation for utilities in America, and supports their EMF research programme.

Utilities Threshold Initiative Consortium

National Grid (and ENA) are supporting this Consortium.  The main activity is to fund research at Lawson Health Resrearch Institute into the thresholds for the acute effects in the body on which exposure limits are based, such as magnetophosphenes.

Other research projects

  • National Grid scientists have previously been active in investigating suggestions that electric fields from power lines or corona ions interact with airborne pollutants but now leave this subject to independent scientists.
  • National Grid has previously supported a group at the University of Surrey which specialises in the hormone melatonin and has looked for any links with magnetic fields.
  • National Grid has previously contracted with Microwave Consultants Limited to improve our understanding of tissue conductivities so that we can develop more accurate exposure standards.
  • National Grid and the rest of the electricity industry provided funding of £10,000 per year for four years to the WHO International EMF Project.

Major research projects supported by the electricity industry

The UKCCS

The United Kingdom Childhood Cancer Study (UKCCS) is the world’s largest ever study of its type into childhood cancer. It was originally designed to look at a number of things other than EMFs which were thought to be possible causes of cancer. The UK Electricity Industry provided the funding necessary (around £4M in total) to allow the study to include magnetic fields as well. The funding was provided via an intermediate organisation, the Leukaemia Research Fund, to preserve independence of the researchers from industry, and under a contract which guaranteed that industry would have no influence over the conduct of the study.
The UKCCS reported their results for magnetic fields in 1999. They concluded:

“This study provides no evidence that exposure to magnetic fields associated with the electricity supply in the UK increases risks for childhood leukaemia, cancers of the central nervous system, or any other childhood cancer.”

They have subsequently reported results for proximity to power lines, and for electric fields. More detail on the UKCCS results

Cohort of electricity industry workers

The electricity industry supports research into the health of its own workers. A database has been set up of everyone who worked for the then Central Electricity Generating Board (CEGB) in the late 1970s, over 80,000 people. All these people are being followed up to identify, when they eventually die, the cause of death. New techniques have been developed by National Grid for assessing people’s exposure to magnetic fields over their working life. It is then possible to see whether the cause of death is linked to exposure to magnetic fields. The analysis is done by the University of Birmingham  Institute of Occupational Health.

Analyses so far have shown no association between leukaemia, brain cancers or heart disease and magnetic fields.

CCRG study of power lines and childhood cancer

The Childhood Cancer Research Group (CCRG) at the University of Oxford has been funded by the Department of Health to conduct a computerised study of the incidence of childhood cancer in relation to power lines in the UK. The study looked at 35,000 cases of childhood cancer from the 1950s to the present, which makes it the largest study of this sort ever conducted. National Grid are assisting by calculating distances from each case to the nearest power line and then estimating magnetic fields from historical records of loads. more detail on the CCRG study

SAHSU study of power lines and adult cancer

The Small Area Health Statistics Unit SAHSU at Imperial College have performed a study of adult cancer in relation to power lines, published in January 2013. This was jointly funded by the Department of Health and the electricity industry, and National Grid calculated exposures in a similar way to the CCRG study.  more detail on the SAHSU study

Study of sources of high fields in homes

The electricity industry and the DTI supported an investigation by HPA into where fields in UK home of greater than 0.4 µT come from. More on this study