The campaign against the proposed EirGrid plan to erect 750 high-voltage pylons across the country has reached EU level this week, after the European Commission was asked to investigate the potential health risks of overhead power lines.
Labour and Fine Gael MEPs called on the Scientific Committee on Emerging and Newly Identified Health Risks to urgently publish its opinion on whether exposure to electromagnetic fields can affect human and animal health. The committee had been due to issue its report last year, but publication was delayed until the end of January.
Speaking from Strasbourg, Labour MEP Phil Prendergast cited a study from the University of Oxford showing a direct link between overhead power lines and childhood leukaemia. She also expressed her intention to submit a case on the issue to the European Parliament’s Petitions Committee.
“It is a measure of the upset people in Ireland feel over this plan that 35,000 submissions have been made against it to the government. I’m sure the commission will take account of the sheer volume of complaints,” she said.
Ms Prendergast described the controversial EirGrid plan as the “rape of rural Ireland” and said the government should look to Sweden for alternative ways to develop electrical grids.
Meanwhile Fine Gael MEP Mairead McGuinness also urged the commission to publish the latest scientific evidence on electromagnetic fiends. However she took a more measured approach than her colleague, warning campaigners not to “stir up” fears about health risks.
She pointed to the example of Denmark, where a compromise agreement was reached in 2008 on expanding the power grid. The Danish government decided to keep three major 400kv power lines overhead, but put all low voltage cables underground.
There are currently two 400kv overhead power lines crossing Ireland from east to west, and Ms McGuinness said people living near these lines must also be given access to up-to-date scientific research.