Some Orem residents believe action taken by the City Council on Tuesday will threaten their health, but city officials say there is little or no evidence to support the argument.
In a 5-1 vote, the council approved a conditional-use permit that will allow Utah Power & Light Co. to build a substation at 825 E. Eighth South. Neighbors believe an extra line, a backup power source for semiconductor manufacturer Signetics Corp., will increase electromagnetic radiation, which they think will increase their risk of cancer. They also fear future expansion at the site.UP&L spokesman Kent Jaffa said everything with electricity - televisions, electric blankets, can openers, lamps and power lines - has an electromagnetic field.
"But the consensus of the experts is their is no evidence the field causes a hazard," he said.
There were some studies showing an increased chance of cancer - from one in 10,000 to two in 10,000 - in people living near high-voltage power lines, he said, but the studies also showed an increased chance of cancer in people who lived near a busy road, in babies who were bottle fed rather than nursed and in people who sprayed chemicals on their lawns.
"There is no proof one thing causes the other," Jaffa said. He added that although the country's power consumption had increased by 500 percent since 1950, leukemia had decreased by 50 percent in the same time.
Resident Fred Dedrickson said other governments respected the power of electromagnetic radiation on the body.
"Equipment manufactured in this country has to have lower radiation if it is being sent to other countries. It bothers me to think the U.S. is behind in protecting its citizens."
Dedrickson said many of a body's functions are carried out through electrical impulses and extra electricity would "interfere at the most basic level with the nervous system and brain function."
He also said the study that showed living near high-voltage power lines increased chances of cancer from one in 10,000 to two in 10,000 had actually given the figures "per person year."
"If the average person lives to be 60, the chance of cancer increases from one to 60 per 10,000," he said.
Dorothy Bus, an area resident, registered nurse and cancer patient, said more research could prove electromagnetic radiation dangerous.
"When Agent Orange was sprayed all over Vietnam it was very low-key. They are now learning of the damage they have done. Saccharine was approved by the FDA and stayed on the market until babies were born without fingers and limbs.
"There is evidence electromagnetic radiation causes increased cancer, especially in children. Young tissue is very receptive to forces."
Bus told of a study that showed bees near power lines coated their hives with "a protective stickiness," offspring born to animals living under such lines often were born with mutations, and mushrooms and grass grew in a "line of mutation" under power lines.
Daryl Stacy, another neighbor and a doctor, said he would prefer the lines be run underground or some in from another direction, but it was unproductive to let emotions take over. Most information showed it was safe to live near power lines, he said.
"There is a mountain of evidence that has not supported the health effects alleged," Stacy said. "The author of the study mentioned admits flaws in his study - many of the people who agreed to talk to him had an ax to grind."
A motion to grant the conditional-use permit was passed with only Councilman Keith Hunt in opposition. Mayor Blaine Willes said that because there is no standard available that showed Orem's electromagnetic radiation levels were dangerous he had no legal basis of denying UP&L's request.
Bus said she will poll her neighbors on whether to take court action in the case.