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Hazardous Energy and Electricity: Greater Risk of Cancers for Certain Railway Workers

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A new study published in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine suggests that some railway workers are at increased risk for contracting certain cancers. Engine drivers spend long hours exposed to high levels of extremely low-frequency magnetic fields (EMFs). EMFs surround common electrical devices such as computers and power lines, and they also occur in nature. But so far, normal exposure to EMFs has proven to be safe.

A recent study conducted at the University of Switzerland at Berne looked at 20,000 railway workers to see if there was a relationship between the excessive exposure from their jobs and their cancer rates. While most railway employees did not show a direct relationship between exposure levels and rates of cancer, railway drivers (whose jobs result in EMF exposure levels up to 20 times greater than those received by other railway employees) showed increased rates of myeloid leukemia and Hodgkins’ disease. The researchers recommend that equipment be redesigned to minimize exposure.

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