Study type: Epidemiological study (observational study)

Childhood cancer and exposure to corona ions from power lines: an epidemiological test epidem.

Published in: J Radiol Prot 2014; 34 (4): 873-889

Aim of study (acc. to author)

The authors previously reported an association between childhood leukemia in Great Britain and proximity of the child's address at birth to high-voltage power lines that declines from the 1960s to the 2000s (Bunch et al., 2014). In the present study they tested whether the corona-ion hypothesis could explain these results.

Further details

Corona ions are atmospheric ions produced by electric fields of the power lines and blown away from them by the wind. The corona-ion hypothesis proposes that corona ions attach themselves to airborne pollutants and increase the charge on those pollutant particles. Thereby more of these airborne pollutants could be retained in the airways when breathed in and hence cause disease. Therefore in this context, children living downwind of high-voltage power lines would be at increased risk of childhood leukemia produced by the electrically charged airborne pollutants.
An improved model for calculating exposure to corona ions, using data on winds (wind direction and wind speed) from 8 meteorological stations in Wales and England was developed under consideration of the whole length of power line within 600 m of each subject's address.

Endpoint/type of risk estimation

Type of risk estimation: (relative risk (RR))



Exposure groups

Group Description
Reference group 1 no exposure and distance between residence and the nearest power line > 600 m
Group 2 calculated exposure: 1st quartile
Group 3 calculated exposure: 2ndt quartile
Group 4 calculated exposure: 3rd quartile
Group 5 calculated exposure: 4th quartile


Case group

Control group

Study size

Cases Controls
Eligible 53,515 -
Statistical analysis method:

Results (acc. to author)

Overall, 7347 children have been living within 600 m to power lines.
Corona-ion exposure is highly correlated with proximity to power lines, and therefore the results parallel the elevations in childhood leukemia risk seen with distance in the previous publication by Bunch et al (2014). But the model explains the observed pattern of leukemia rates around power lines less well than straightforward distance measurements. This does not disprove the corona-ion hypothesis as the explanation for the previous results, but nor does it provide support for it, or, by extension, any other hypothesis dependent on wind direction.

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