Limits on electromagnetic radiation emissions by power stations in Argentina do not respect the precautionary principle.
Scientific uncertainty about the health impacts of electromagnetic fields is fueling worries among people in the Argentine capital who are demanding that energy power transformers be located far from their neighborhoods.
The World Health Organization (WHO) does not rule out the possibility that exposure to extremely low frequency electromagnetic fields could pose a risk to human health, even possibly being linked to childhood leukemia. But it says there is not enough evidence to warrant strict recommendations.
Since 2004, local residents living near the Rigolleau substation in the district of Berazategui, on the southeast side of Buenos Aires, have been demanding that the plant be moved, for fear of possible health effects.
And according to charges brought in court, another substation, operating since 1978 in the neighboring city of Ezpeleta, has driven up the rate of cancer among the people living near the transformer.
In 2000, a chemical company asked for an expansion of electricity supplies for its factory, and Edesur, the company that runs the substation, doubled its output.
But the local residents protested that the move also increased electromagnetic pollution.
The courts upheld the precautionary principle – which states that even if a cause-effect relationship has not been fully established scientifically, precautionary measures should be taken if the product or activity may pose a threat to health or the environment – and ordered that the transformer stop operating until the possible link to the increase in cancer cases was clarified.
But the substation is still generating electricity.
Based on the court precedent, residents of Berazategui are demanding that Rigolleau be relocated before it begins operating.
But their efforts have so far been unsuccessful, and there are suspicions that the transformer is already running.