Lebanon News

High voltage projects require caution: expert

BEIRUT: The Lebanese government should abide by international standard precautions in development projects that generate electromagnetic fields, Dr. Peter Noun, who specializes in pediatric hematology, told The Daily Star.

“There are reports of fatal accidents and harmful effects on human health from high frequency electromagnetic fields,” Noun said in reference to high voltage transmission lines such as those in the controversial Metn project.

While the Lebanese government has repeatedly said that the pylons carrying high voltage transmission lines of 268 amps are up to international standards, most of the pylons and transmission lines observed by The Daily Star in the Metn area are installed in close proximity to homes.

In May, the Council of Europe ratified Resolution 1815, which addresses the potential dangers of electromagnetic fields and their effect on the environment. According to the Article 4 of the resolution:

“While electrical and electromagnetic fields in certain frequency bands have wholly beneficial effects … other non-ionizing frequencies, be they sourced from extremely low frequencies, power lines or certain high frequency waves used in the fields of radar, telecommunications and mobile telephony, appear to have more or less potentially harmful, non-thermal, biological effects on plants, insects and animals as well as the human body even when exposed to levels that are below the official threshold values.”

The resolution also drafted a number of recommendations to reduce the dangers of electromagnetic fields to human health and the environment.

According to Article 5 of the resolution: “The precautionary principle should be applicable when scientific evaluation does not allow the risk to be determined with sufficient certainty, especially given the context of growing exposure of the population, including particularly vulnerable groups such as young people and children, which could lead to extremely high human and economic costs of inaction if early warnings are neglected.”

The transmission lines to be installed just a few meters from residential buildings in towns such as Ain Najm, Ain Saade and Dayshounieh, will transmit approximately 268 amps, based on the general plan by Electricite du Liban.

International standards dictate that exposure to electromagnetic fields be less than .3 microtesla, a unit measuring electromagnetic fields. This means that, based on calculations using Ampere’s Theory, transmission lines with a current of 268 amps should be 178 meters away from residential areas.

But according to new exposure standard recommended by the Seletun Scientific Panel of the International Electromagnetic Fields Alliance, a set-back distance should be calculated based on 0.1 microtesla from residencies, hospitals, schools and locations occupied by children.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on August 20, 2011, on page 3.

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