Thursday, October 25, 2012
"Scientific Investigation Is Always Going On"
Russo brought a Glastonbury lawyer, Robin Pearson, to present an application to now approve this building. She explained to the Commission that the sole reason for the denial of "Building 9" was its proximity to electric transmission lines, the commission claimed in 2005 to be acting out of "an abundance of caution", and she urged them to consider information about electromagnetic fields that was not available 7 years ago.
Pearson introduced Peter Valberg, an environmental consultant with the Cambridge firm, Gradient. Valberg's credentials include a Harvard Ph.D. in physics, 5 years of teaching physics at Amherst, and 20 years of teaching and research at the Harvard School of Public Health.
Valberg explained the physics, biology, and epidemiology of electromagnetic fields, "It has been very thoroughly investigated." He said the fields were too weak to affect biological material.
"Even though you can't prove a negative, ... scientists have looked very hard and have not found an effect."
Commissioner Ken McClellan pressed Valberg to provide some numbers. Valberg said that the Earth's magnetic field has a strength of about 500 milliGauss (mG), a hair dryer might have a field as high as 20,000 mG, and residents directly under a high voltage transmission line would be exposed to 20 to 50 mG.
After listening to this, Commissioner Nick Fazzino asked whether the safety was completely proven, and no more research was being done. Valberg explained to the Commission that this was not how science works, "Scientific investigation is always ongoing."
But Valberg doubted that any scientist would encourage a graduate student to study the effects of electromagnetic fields on human health, because it would be so unlikely that such research would yield any findings interesting enough to publish.
The Commission was convinced and voted unanimously to approve Building 9.