Researcher says substation below school could bring higher risks of cancer, other health risks


VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – There are fears a plan to build two substations in downtown Vancouver could expose students and staff at a school in the West End to dangerous levels of magnetic fields.

BC Hydro is proposing a new substation be built below a completely new Lord Roberts School Annex in an effort to save space and increase capacity.

“The closer you are to a substation, the higher the magnetic field. So building it (substation) near a school just does not make any sense,” says Dr. Magda Havas, an Environmental and Resource Studies professor at Ontario’s Trent University.

Andrew Leonard is the project manager for BC Hydro and says the proposed new school would not expose students and staff to any higher levels of magnetic fields than in the current building.

“There’s no health risk. Our substations are not a significant source of magnetic fields,” says Leonard, adding there are other schools near or under power lines where students and staff are exposed to around 100 milligals, a unit of acceleration used extensively in the science of gravimetry and commonly used to measure levels of magnetic fields.

Leonard says BC Hydro subscribes to Health Canada’s 2,000 milligal limit.

“And two thousand milligals is a conservative number. What we’re proposing here is really no different that Cathedral Square Park. Underneath that park we have an underground substation. We have the benefit of being able to go to an actual underground substation, stand on to of it and measure the magnetic field. And if you did that today you would get no more than a hundred milligals reading and a hundred is a far less than the two-thousand limit,” says Leonard.

But Havas says research contradicts those claims.

“They’ll (BC Hydro) tell you the guidelines that Health Canada sets for magnetic fields will not be exceeded and that’s a correct statement. But the guidelines that Health Canada has set are totally arbitrary, they have nothing to do with science and they’re certainly not protective,” says Havas, one of the country’s leading researchers on the topic.

“Those guidelines have been in existence for a long time and they have no relationship whatsoever with the scientific research that has been done on the health effects.”

“Children are particularly sensitive to magnetic fields. Having 100 miligals in a school environment where kids are spending six or more hours daily is not a good idea. So 100 milligals in a school environment is way too high. Studies that have been published on the effects related to cancer show that between two to four milligals has been associated with at least a doubling of childhood leukemia.”

The final open house is being held at 5 pm today at Elise Roy Elementary School.

Top Stories

Top Stories

Most Watched Today